Season two of Game of Thrones came to a typically excellent conclusion, as all the major surviving players saw their individual stories advance. In King's Landing, Tywin rode in on a pooping horse to much acclaim, earning the title Savior of King's Landing and finally taking his place as hand of the king. Meanwhile, the king was his usally shitty self, forsaking Sansa in favor of Margaery, who is mourning the loss of her dead gay husband by getting hitched to the biggest asshole in the seven kingdoms. That left Sansa to silently cheer, before Littlefinger made his creepy presence known. Meanwhile, Tyrion, the true savior of King's Landing, has an interesting new scar and has found himself thrown back into the bottom of the game of thrones. Elsewhere, Robb married Florence Nightengale and Theon got a long deserved blow to the head as Jon dove deeper into the world of the Wildlings– perhaps in a way he'll never be able to escape– and Sam witnessed some deeply unsettling sights. And the girls of Westeros held their own, as Arya continued her daring escape and learned Jaqen's true nature and Daeny kicked major ass. Also, dragons.
Paul Brian McCoy's Brew of Choice for the Evening:
It's the end of Season Two and things are getting heavy for everybody. So what better brew than Sam Adams' Wee Heavy? This 10% ABV Imperial Scotch Ale pours a deep reddish walnut and pleases the palate with rich, yet subtle, sweetness. But what really makes it special is the fact that it is brewed with a peat-smoked malt found only in Scotland. That smoky body makes this not only extremely suitable for Game of Thrones, where smoky bodies have littered the narrative, but is reminiscent of my favorite Scotches. This is a beer with a complexity that reflects the varied storylines all coming to a head this week. And there's even a dragon on the label. Something for everyone!
Game of Thrones Episode 2.10- "Valar Morghulis"
Nick: Last week's Game of Thrones was incredibly focused by the standards of the show, turning a spotlight on King's Landing and the forces gathered against it– internal strife, Stannis and his troops, cowardice– and in the process creating what Dylan termed "the closest this show will ever get to a bottle episode." But the finale took an entirely different tactic, reaching out to all corners of the story and functioning more as a preview of what to expect next season rather than a final statement on this one.
Dylan Garsee: It set up the dive into madness that next season will be.
Seriously, I finished the third book, and later that day I had to go to the hospital because my body was so stressed out.
While this is most likely due to many undiagnosed mental disorders, I'm putting the blame on A Storm of Swords.
This episode set in motion all of the amazing things that will happen next year, and I am very sad that there's nothing to watch for ten months.
Nick: This show has always excelled at making its viewers ridiculously anxious for the next season, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that, unlike so many other television programs' second season finales, this season finale saw the audience GROW. But let's get down to the specifics. The episode kicked off with a hilariously disarming bit of nastiness, as Tywin strutted into the Iron Throneroom on horseback, with the camera zooming in on the bit of manure said horse had just deposited.
Dylan: Of all of the small details and plots removed from this season, I giggled like a little girl when his horse pooped.
Nick: Nothing gets Dylan going like poop.
And he does know a lot about horses.
Dylan: Also, "the bit of the manure said horse had just deposited." Yes, quite.
Nick: It was a nice diversion and I felt that, as slight as it might seem, that scene added to the episode in an almost indescribable way. It was a merciful touch of levity before the real shit went down.
Dylan: Real shit.
Real metaphorical shit.
Nick: Like what I did there?
But I think what we both mean by real shit is pretty obvious: Joffrey.
Dylan: "Hey Joffrey, we got you a new smokin' wife with money and a not-destroyed kingdom"
Nick: "Also, she's cool with incest."
Dylan: "Well, I was on the fence until you said something about incest. Sign me up!"
Dylan: But seriously, nothing good can come from the merging of Tyrells and Lannisters. As much as I love the Tyrells and their magical flower knights, joining forces with the Lannisters never has nor ever will be a good move.
Nick: I'm sure that we'll soon see just how bad of a move that is and I can't imagine that everyone in the Tyrell clan is happy about it, especially not amongst those of the floral persuasion, which leaves the potential for a betrayal from within. But the worst element might actually be Petyr's sudden promotion to lord of Harrenhal and the creepy move he made on Sansa immediately after.
Dylan: They gave the skeeviest skeev in all of Westeros the skeeviest
city. Seems fitting.
Nick: I do have to wonder about that promotion, since Cersei seemed all too willing to slit Petyr's throat not too long ago. But given Tywin's sudden flight out of Harrenhal– which infamously led to the "salvation" of King's Landing– I suspect Petyr is in for more than he bargained for.
Dylan: Cersei has all but lost any sort of power she once had. Joffrey is over his head, Tywin doesn't and won't take any of her shit, and Margaery Tyrell has her eyes set on power and will stop at nothing.
King's Landing is somehow in a worse place than it was at the beginning of the season, and things only look worse from here on out.
Nick: I'm going to confess that I'm baffled by Tywin's decision to take on his Hand duties. I can't see what possible benefit there would be for him to leave the war front and tend house in King's Landing, especially when the war is not going in his favor. Unless it's meant as a cocky, very visible gesture that Robb won't be able to ignore responding to. But even so, I feel that it will exasperate the internal tensions that are already at a boiling point within King's Landing, particularly where Cersei and Tyrion are concerned.
Dylan: No one is on top for long in Westeros, and Tyrion– who spent this whole season pretty much owning everything and everyone– has already started his fall. And in "people we really didn't want to see again" news, Maester Pycelle is back.
Nick: I wonder if Pycelle got a beard transplant, because boy, those whiskers sure did grow in quick.
Dylan: Are you questioning beard science in the same world where a shadow babby came out of Tori Amos?
Nick: Are shadow babbies responsible for beards?
Can shadow babbies have beards?
Dylan: Can Shadow beards have babbies?
Nick: Find the answers to all these questions and more on Westeros Answers
Shadow babbies and their beards aside, I think that next season we're finally going to see Cersei's downfall, as it seems clear to me that Tywin is going to be even less willing to tolerate Joffrey's bullshit than Tyrion was. Tyrion may appear to be at rock bottom now– and good god was that scene between him and Shae heartwrenching– but I doubt he'll be there for long. If anything, the events of the season finale may have been the straw that broke the camel's back in regards to where his and Varys' loyalties lay. Since we've gotten so little insight into his recruitment policies, the scene between him and Ros must have some importance and I'm willing to bet it's an early indication that he's ramping up his actions against Littlefinger and the Lannisters.
Dylan: If Game of Thrones was like any other show on television, the season would have ended on the whiz bang extravaganza that was "Blackwater." But this show is smarter than 99% of television, and instead spent the final episode setting up for the gangrape that will be the next season. What other show would end with (not really but close enough) the main character just laying in bed delivering monologue after monologue?
Nick: Each of Game of Thrones' season finales have been more like a preview of what's to come rather than the more expected cliffhanger style of ending so common to epic serialized dramas. Some loose ends were of course tied up– Tyrion is alive! So is Stannis 🙁 Robb married Florence Nightengale! Joffrey ditched Sansa 🙁 — but even more loose ends were provided, like the revelation that Jaqen is a shapeshifter.
Dylan: As if Jaqen H'ghar couldn't get any cooler…
The road the producers are taking Arya's plot down is interesting, keeping at the same pace as the book, yet slowing down her character development. However, with the introduction of Valar Morghulis, I now know exactly what is going to happen, and my little gay heart is beyond happy.
Nick: The trick's on you. Next season they plan on introducing a roving tribe of murderous Latinos who actually turn out to be loving grandkids merely looking to ensure the safety of their elders, not knowing the lead grandpa is actually Jaqen in disguise.
Dylan: That was the most Family Guy sentence I have ever heard.
Dylan: You heard what I said.
Nick: That was a dramatic reenactment of my reaction through the use of emoticons.
Dylan: That was better than 90% of the acting and writing in Prometheus, don't worry.
Nick: Speaking of terrible disappointments, did Theon's Winterfell invasion go south quickly or what?
Dylan: You know everyone cheered when Theon finally got the smack across the head that's been coming to him the whole season.
But damn if Alfie Allen isn't a magnificent actor.
The small intimate moments in his chambers and the the bombastic pep speech were great feats of "Master Thespian" levels of ACTING! of the highest order.
Nick: If only they could have smacked Joffrey in the head at the same time, then it truly would have been the best episode ever. Now the question is whether they're selling him to Robb, or to his own sister, who will certainly spank him…in a manner that may be corporal or sexual or maybe even both.
Dylan: I'd watch Robb and Theon spank each other all night.
"My face is more off-putting! Look at how far apart my eyes are!"
"No mine is, can't you see how my face bizarrely looks like a 12-sided die!?"
That sounds like an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race.
Nick: I'm sure that a Drag Race will be a subplot next season. Brienne dresses up as Jaime. Jaime dresses up as Cersei. Then he fucks himself.
Nick: Speaking of getting fucked, who the hell burned down Winterfell?
Dylan: The same cows that burned down Chicago.
Nick: They have cows in Westeros? I thought boars were the only source of meat available.
Dylan: Hodor has some meat available.
Nick: It didn't seem like the Greyjoy sailors know much about scorched earth tactics, so my assumption is that some other force is responsible, and I can't imagine that they're Lannister related. But since we're talking about scorching things, I suppose now is when we should discuss Daeny and her dragons, because that's how every season has to end, apparently.
Dylan: Readers may not know this, but I started every episode with "well, I'm okay with the changes they made with the story, as long as they don't fuck up the House of the Undying scene."
So naturally, the show fucked up the House of the Undying.
But damnit, when Daeny saw Khal Drogo, it was pretty emotional.
Nick: I have no idea how that scene unfolded in the book, but I thought it was well constructed and made for great television, particularly in the way it paid off the slow development of that storyline, from both a narrative and emotional standpoint.
Dylan: Honestly, there were so many changes with Daeny's plot that there was no way they could have adapted that scene exactly.
So with the changes they made I feel they ended her arc excellently.
Nick: I can't comment on the changes, but I can say that the cyclical nature of the finale with regards to her plotline felt like a great way of making the show stand out from the book while still remaining faithful to its ambitions and intent. It made it clear that ultimately, this is Daeny's story, and the connective tissue between Daeny birthing her dragons through fire and now those dragons repaying her in kind was far stronger than any rollercoaster cliffhanger could be. And then her disposal of Xaro was almost as icy as those horse-equipped White Walker warlords we saw.
Dylan: What she did to Xaro Xohan Daxos was beyond brutal, and kind of awesome.
Nick: He did it to himself, Dylan. HE DID IT TO HIMSELF.
Dylan: THAT'S RACIST. What's going to happen to the King of Quarth, the greatest city that ever was or will be?
Nick: Well Dylan, eventually the air in that vault will run out. I'm not sure if that will happen before starvation kicks in and he's forced to eat that woman, but either way, he will eventually suffocate. And once that happens, the bacteria in his body will break his flesh down and over a period of months he will be skeletonized.
Dylan: Thank you.
Nick: Here's a video representation of it, but with a cute bunny, so that you don't get too sad:
Dylan: Xaro Xohen Daxos is not a bunny.
Nick: So before this review similarly decomposes, what are we rating this episode? And how about the season on the whole?
Dylan: I'm going to give it a . It was a great season finale to an slightly uneven season that as a whole I'd give a .
Nick: I'm actually in the same camp as you. Great season finale and a pretty good season that had very few stumbles, with really only one lacklustre episode.
Dylan: Now what are we going to do Sunday nights? Veep ended tonight and Girls ends next week.
Nick: Newsroom starts up soon, right?
Dylan: Oh yeah.
Nick: I heard it has beheadings.
That's all I look for in my HBO dramas, really.
Dylan: Is that why you hated John from Cincinnati?
Nick: It definitely failed to meet my decapitation quota.
Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on twitter @garseed.
When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set and functioning as the Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and has contributed to No Tofu Magazine, Performer Magazine, Port City Lights and various other international publications. By which he means Canadian rags you have no reason to know anything about. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon and you can follow him on twitter @Nick_Hanover