After the horrors of the Red Wedding, this week’s Game Of Thrones finale was always likely to be a calmer affair, but it was by no means anticlimactic.
So far in its three seasons, the show has followed the usual HBO pattern of having the shocks and spectacular set-pieces in the penultimate episodes rather than the last ones (think the execution of Ned Stark and the Battle Of Blackwater) and it was very much the case this time.
There was never likely to be anything to match that this week, so the episode filled the dual role of showing reactions to the deaths of Robb and Cat Stark as well as setting us up for Season Four.
We were even ‘treated’ to some more of the aftermath of Walder Frey’s horrific revenge at the start, with Roose Bolton surveying the massacre of the last of the Stark men, while Robb’s headless corpse was paraded with the head of his direwolf sewn on top. What other TV show (or film) would have something like that in it? It was gut-wrenched to watch.
What made it even more so was the sight of poor Arya seeing her brother’s body being descrated and mocked, and Maisie Williams was brilliant (as ever) in this episode. The numb way she murdered someone she overheard boasting about his role in the wolf-sewing was brutal and affecting.
Sophie Turner‘s expression when Sansa’s new husband arrived (too late) to break the news to her was also spot-on, but the prize for ’emotion of the week’ went to Rose Leslie as Ygritte for her heartbroken face watching Jon Snow fleeing with her arrows in his back.
It wasn’t all heartbreak though. The producers presumably realised that we’d all need some soothing balm, so Joffrey’s emasculation at the hands of his grandfather, Theon’s sausage incident and Sam’s encounter with Bran all lifted the spirits a bit.
And then there was Daenerys having her Jesus moment at the end. One thing about the finales of each season so far is that they have been epic moments all about the long game, not the short one. We’ve seen the Khaleesi hatch her dragons and we’ve seen an army of White Walkers, but neither of them have made it to Westeros/Over The Wall yet.
Dany has had the means to turn her enemies to dust since the end of Season One, but ends Season Three crowd-surfing on a bunch of freed slaves on the same side of the sea as she started. It was wonderfully shot and scored, but you do begin to grow impatient to see her join the action.
At least we seem to be getting closer to the White Walkers causing real trouble, with even Melisandre recognising that their threat renders the power struggle in Westeros irrelevant. We saw what they can do in the very first scene of the very first episode. The prospect of Winter finally Coming in Season Four is a tantalising one. But the promise of anything in Season Four is tantalising enough after a hugely impressive Season Three.