‘Game of Thrones’ Season 2 Finale Review

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Alfie Allen Game of Thrones Valar Morghulis Game of Thrones Season 2 Finale Review

Considering its lack of readily identifiable stars like Sean Bean and Jason Momoa (but really Sean Bean), Game of Thrones had its work cut out for it in season 2.

Yet somehow, with the added challenge of lacking a central character whose ideals and experiences audiences could cling to throughout the season (like those of Bean’s Eddard Stark), Game of Thrones has arguably managed to pull of the kind of feat most programs wouldn’t dare; that is, the series has exponentially expanded its world – geographically and otherwise – added to its cast of characters, and then spread them apart so that few, if any, actually have chance to interact.

Here, the sheer size of Westeros and the number of characters contained therein could have proved a logistical nightmare for David Benioff and D.B. Weiss – taking into account they had but 10 (or so) hours to tell multiple intertwining (and sometimes disparate) stories and make them work as a cohesive whole. In doing this, the writers crafted a solid second season that united its characters and their various story lines through the omnipresent threat of conflict.

Often times, the trouble with world building on this scale is the struggle to make such varied characters relate to one another, but in Game of Thrones the shared experience that has gripped nearly every kingdom acts like a bridge between stories. There are other elements at play; such as, the general knowledge that Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) knows what everyone, everywhere, is up to at any given time – or that Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) can be counted on as long as the end helps satiate his lust for wealth and power. The difference is these are attributes given to well-established characters that have a history long before the War of the Five Kings. To ensure Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) has as much reason to take up precious screen time as Jon Snow (Kit Harington) or Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), there must be a shared knowledge of current events to keep them all relevant. And if what Melisandre (Carice van Houten) says to Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is true, then the event that unifies the characters will be raging for years to come.

Here, the progression of the individual plays against the backdrop of something larger, and in having these smaller chunks of story be impacted by such a universal event – rather than directly influence it – the pressure to end in resolution is largely lifted. Where some programs attempting to utilize such styles of storytelling come off being clumsy or unsubtle, this series sees the tactic executed incredibly well.

And so, after the narrow focus on conflict that was ‘Blackwater,’ Game of Thrones is set to bring its second season to a close by spreading itself across Westeros once more in ‘Valar Morghulis.’

REVIEW

Iain Glen Emilia Clarke Game of Thrones Valar Morghulis  Game of Thrones Season 2 Finale Review

The episode largely serves as an appropriate epilogue for the ‘Battle of Blackwater’ while gathering steam for season 3. ‘Valar Morghulis’ has a lot of ground to cover, and thankfully it begins with the fallen Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who was last seen losing consciousness as his father and the Tyrells pushed back Stannis’ invading forces. Tyrion, thanks to his squire Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), is only slightly worse for wear – bearing a rather striking slash across his face, that he deems a worthy addition to his diminutive size. Tyrion’s wounds are more than superficial, though, as he learns, immediately upon waking to none other than Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover), that the position of the King’s Hand is no longer his; it has officially been bestowed upon Tywin.

In a moment of rare tenderness, Shae (Sibel Kekilli) suggests the two run away and live their lives doing what they do best. The plan sounds ideal except for the fact that Tyrion has finally found his place in the world: it’s not lazing about drinking and fornicating – it’s participating in the process that recently spat him out. It seems, for the time being, Tyrion has no plans to run from King’s Landing.

Unfortunately, the same can also be said for Sansa. Having turned down an offer from the Hound (Rory McCann) to return to Winterfell, she receives yet another opportunity to flee north, but refuses it, too. After Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), steps in to take the hand of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) – which takes the collective effort of his mother, Cersei (Lena Headey), and Pycelle to convince the teenage tyrant it’s best not to marry the daughter of a traitor – Sansa is ostensibly freed. Though this puts Joffrey into the hands of someone more equipped to handle his particular temperament, Sansa is warned by Lord Baelish (the newly-named lord of Harrenhal) that Joffrey is not one to give up his toys so readily.

Arya is barely touched upon, but she, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) have successfully escaped Harrenhal, thanks to Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), who offers to teach Arya the way to cross those names from her special list. Tempting as the offer must be, she turns him down, but Jaqen gives the girl his version of a business card – just in case she needs his services at some point down the road.

Meanwhile, Robb (Richard Madden) decides to marry Talisa (Oona Chaplin) in a slapdash ceremony that directly disregards his oath to marry one of Lord Frey’s daughters, not to mention his mother’s wishes. Given that Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is being escorted back to King’s Landing by Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) – courtesy of Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) – it seems a mother’s words no longer carry much weight with the King of the North.

John Bradley Game of Thrones Valar Morghulis Game of Thrones Season 2 Finale Review

Speaking of the North, ‘Valar Morghulis’ largely resolves the issue of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) occupying Winterfell, after a sympathy-inducing moment where he reveals that his fate at the hand of Ned Stark set the tone for his life as an outcast – and now he is truly a man without a home. Instead of running to the Wall, though, Theon is simply dispatched by his own men despite a stirring speech that’s tantamount to a call for suicide. The young Starks, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) emerge from hiding to find their home in ruin and Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) knocking on death’s door. Along with Osha (Natalia Tena) and Hodor (Kristian Naim), they set out in search of Jon at the wall.

Most impressive, though, is the way the episode takes the elements that have largely existed as the nonessential story lines (Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), and positions them to be the catalyst for season 3. In doing so, Dany is once more poised to become a major player. After a vision-filled journey through the House of the Undying that includes a glimpse of the Iron Throne covered in snow, as well as a brief interlude with her dead husband (Kahl Drogo) and child, she manages to recover her stolen dragons and use them to kill the warlock, Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore). The hasty, but satisfying victory finds her ransacking the home of Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anonzie), after entombing him in his highly-prized (but empty) vault.

Jon Snow’s journey is also just beginning, after he slays Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) in an effort to convince the Wildlings he’s a traitor to the Night’s Watch. Rattleshirt (Edward Dogliani) recommends they burn Qhorin; as he’s not one Jon would likely enjoy seeing walk the earth again. And on that ominous note, Game of Thrones ends with the sight of hundreds of reanimated corpses at the command of the White Walkers march on the Fist of the First Men, where Sam Tarly and the rest of Lord Mormont’s Night’s Watch battalion are stationed .

The climactic scene comes as the standout moment in a season filled with many highlights and powerful character moments. This was a truly exciting and well-made season, one that may actually trump its predecessor – a rare feat in both television and film. Here, though, the lion’s share of the credit is owed to the cast and production value of the series. Because of those efforts, Westeros has become a tangible and believable place, giving the story room to work without addressing plausibility. Game of Thrones doesn’t feel like a bunch of actors playing at fantasy; it feels like a world inhabited by real people. And that, after two stellar seasons, may prove to be the series’ biggest attribute.

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Game of Thrones will return for season 3 in 2013 on HBO.

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  1. finally get a good look at the white walkers and the dragons do something. great end to a great season of great television. this really is going to be a tough wait for season 3. i don’t know who thought tyrion was dead, must of been the same people who thought the stark kids where dead.

  2. My first ever comment on here! :D But yeah, omg. I’m currently reading Clash of Kings. I started reading the books late. But this episode, in my opinion, was perfect, everything just fit in and that finish at the end was epic!

  3. This series has forced me to now read the books. I just have to know what’s going to happen next. Can’t remember a TV series which has so many seperate stories, each on it’s own would make a TV mini-series. All are so differentand yet somehow they all come together and gel. It’s a great series.

    • The books are defiantly worth a read…but don’t be surprised when you discover that they differ significantly from the series….Season 1 did an excellent job of following the book. There were deviations, but they made sense and added to the overall TV experience. Season 2, on the other hand, starts gong way off and has things happening that either never occurred in the books, or were only hinted at. Several rings are out of sequence and often multiple encounters are squashed together into one. Also, while there has always been too much focus on the sexaul aspect, season 2 goes overboard.

      • A lot of the later portions of season 2 are also pulled from A Storm of Swords (book 3), so don’t be surprised if you get all the way through and realize they covered stuff in the show you didn’t see in the book. It will be in the next one.

  4. Fantastic end to the season. They could have ended with any of the last few scenes. For some strange reason, I was sooo mesmerised by that “burnt castle” hall Danny was walking through; looked so stunning!! Now, waiting for almost a year for Season 3…indescribable torture! Granted that’s enough time to reread those 900 pages of A Clash Of Kings.

    Signed: Valar Morghulis.

  5. I’m too excited for the next season as Storm of Swords was (by far) superior to Clash of Kings. Trust me, and read the books, Storm of Swords is the best.

  6. Trump its predecessor? I think not.

    Not a single moment of the season can compare to the death of Eddard Stark. That was when, emotionally, the series jumped the shark. From there on out, it is merely now a series about who betrays who, what selfish decisions characters make (Robb) and the aftermath of those poor choices. And of course…who can get the bloodiest revenge.

    Gone is the heart and soul of what a King should be….

    • It is clear you know nothing of true history and the behavior of kings. The part that is not fantasy in GoT is human nature.

      • I would have to agree with Dave. Although this season was good, it wasn’t great like last season’s finale. This season had some highs and lows for me. At times the series seemed to drag a couple of episodes, then pick up for a couple, then drag again but all in all it was an alright season. It may be just me but it seems like the book is more exciting and flows better than the TV series now. The 1st season it was on par but this season it just seemed slow for some reason. Hopefully it picks up the pace next season

        • wait till the second half of next season there are about 5 moments that can come close to matching that

          • I agree, like the Red Wedding. I’m not giving anymore details but that title. But moments in Storm of Swords were just as shocking as Ned’s death.

          • The Red Wedding won’t be until 2014, as Storm has been split in half due to the 1000+ pages they have to condence. We get the first 500 pages or so of Storm next year.

            • maybe the red wedding will be the season finale!! Who knows.

            • They need some sort of suspense/shock in the next season. Split book or no, they need some of those major plot points in the first half of the season. Whether’s it’s Joffrey and Margarey’s Wedding, Tyrion and Tywin’s “private” moment (see what I did there?) or the battle on the Wall. One of those HAS to be in the third season to give viewers some excitement.

        • Ned Stark was only the main character of the first season because you identified with his values. Of course Sean Bean was used to market the first season as he was the most recognizable of the actors, but you were made to know no more of Ned Stark than you were Tyrion, Baelish, or Cersei just to name a few. You are considering the death of Ned Stark in the wrong perspective, it should not be used a measuring stick for how good you believe the remainder of the series to be. Take that episode into the equation when you are judging it on its merits, not as some outlier or a stand alone moment. It was a great character, a shocking moment, a series defining moment in the sense that this show means business and truly does defy convention. Go watch House reruns if you want characters to have the always exciting “brushes with death.”

    • You Know Nothing, Dave

  7. This was by far the best episode of Season 2. I was floored and amazed by the developments. I absolutely LOVE this show!

  8. The ending just was so EPIC,man..it left me want for more !
    Fantastic !

    But a whole year between seasons to wait..is really bad !
    And just 10 Eps pro season is not good as well,12 would be a nice number !
    Anyway..its a great show ! Good work all at HBO and Thanks

  9. Great end to the second season! Not as good as the first was for me but still really cool. The scene with dany at the iron throne was insane; the burned down chamber and the rain of ash was just too cool. The scene with maester luwin was pretty sad and a good translation from the books.

  10. another great episode.. that leaves you wanting more.. a year is a long time to wait..

    just a awesome show..

    with regards to finale.. who burned down winterfell? they where surrounded by 500 men of the north, who and why would they burn it down when Rob offered free passage to all who surrender.. most be more to it then they showed… ????

    anyways– love the show, one of just a very few that I watch.. keep it up HBO– (cough)extend the season from 10 to 13 episodes(cough) :)

    • I think it’s implied that that Ironborn set everything to fire and ransacked the place before slipping out.

      The real question is why the Maester doesn’t advise the kids to just walk out and meet up with the Stark forces, that would seem like the more sensible advice.

      • You should reread your comments and put them together, even though I have read the books the burnt castle means something, but the show alters a lot of things. You are on to something that has occurred. Bran has one line, “What/where are you going or doing” to Osha. They have been hiding longer than the shows let on. Things have happened. Enjoy the suspense and readers also have to.

        • My guess is the burnt castle means she is seeing the future. Her Dragons burn the castle to the ground.

    • You know, this was one of the most disappointing deviations from the books…..the sacking of Winterfell was one of the significant betrayals in this story and sets up earth shaking events later in the story…. I fear the TV series is developing into a totally different tale…..

  11. yeah…its really great, i was really anxious waiting for season2, i guess my almost-a-year waiting is not a waste…can any answer me if game of throne has a novel?

  12. That’s clearly not snow that the iron throne is covered in…that’s ash.

    • Considering she moved from that room to the wall, the appearance of the White Walkers at the end of the episode, and the fact that winter is coming, it’s snow. Also, way too pristine and white to be ash.

      • It might be snow but it really looks like bones she is reaching for. Bones sitting on the iron throne.

        • Looked like sword pommels to me.

  13. Brandon, I wrote a companion piece to the show with spoilers. It’s tentatively called “a song of ice and fire”.

    • HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  14. Absolutely fantastic finale and a solid if not spectacular season…can’t wait for season 3…

  15. The reveal of the “Faceless Man” was awesome and subtle. I loved every minute of the whole second season. Cannot wait for next year. Please no spoilers but I have heard that Book 3 is fantastic. I just wanted somebody’s opinion about it.

    • Book 3 is fantastic IMO. It should make for an interesting season 3 if done right, LOL

    • My favorite books in the series are 3, 5, 1, 2 and 4. Book 3 had me cursing/loving Martin. Can’t wait for Dorn and a certain bodyguard with a long handled axe!!!

    • Book 3 is my favorite. I heard the book might be split into two seasons. Can’t wait. I have to say I really enjoy reading everyone comments too. My full thoughts on this episode are on my Game of Thrones blog.

  16. I am floored by the production quality of GoT. HBO spares no expense in it’s beautifully fleshed out fantasy world. Wow, just wow.

  17. this sounds promising-

    Break out the fine Arbor wine, some celebration is in order. Benioff and Weiss have renewed their deal with HBO to continue as Thrones showrunners for two more seasons. The agreement doesn’t automatically mean Thrones will receive a fourth season pickup, mind you, but fans don’t have any reason to worry on the renewal front anyway. Thrones is cresting a cumulative 10.3 million viewers per episode this season, making it the third most popular HBO series of all time.

    http://www.aceshowbiz.com/news/view/00051148.html

  18. This was a great final episode. Love the scene with the faceless man. The ending with the white walkers was amazing. I loved how the the whole show moved and kind of touched upon every character and their decisions that will effect their future. Bravo HBO.

  19. I really enjoyed the finale, but did Theyon Grayjoy’s men “dispatch” or simply knock him unconsious? That was a funny moment in his mostly frustrated life.

  20. I also thought Dany was in snow….she was shivering by the time she saw Khal Drogo and the baby.

    I almost felt it was a little anti-climatic. I’d much rather see fewer characters per episode, sometimes it feels frenetic and not as enjoyable. Also, if they did fewer characters per episode, they’d have to extend the number of episodes per season.

    Lastly, if HBO is going to advertise 1 hour, 10 minute episode, then do that instead of showing HBO ‘commercials’ for 3-4 minutes before and after the episode!

    • It seemed to me that she walked out the door, then gate, of The Wall. That may explain the shivering. She does like it warm.

  21. As a season finale it was an improvement on season 1 though not by much. Last weeks episode was one that felt like a true season finale. It was only the last 5-10 minutes of this week, that gave me a reason to hold out for season 3.

    Season 2 overall wasn’t bad at all, there were great moments , some epic , some bizarre. There were gladly more darker, supernatural elements brought in that weren’t really built on. (Again these may be seen more in the future) But the season as a whole just lacked a central story that you could really feel compelled to watch. The power struggle between the Stark’s and Lannisters from season 1 was largely missing this time round and the season suffered as a result. Too much focus on characters that don’t seem significant to the main events.

    I know many have read the books and know whats to come in the future. I know I’ll be accused of being impatient and not realising that there is bigger scheme of things behind Game of Thrones.

    I speak as a person who hasn’t read the books and I’m judging it solely as an individual television series, not a screen adaptation. Season 3 really needs to pick it up – please, please a more prominent role for Daenerys, actually attempting to take the Iron Throne and more dragons. More Starks vs Lannisters – less Jon Snow, Ayra and Bran. Let’s see Robb actually be a leader of his army. And yes it was a stunning sight to see the White Walkers – so please let’s see plenty of them in action, marching on whoever’s army that’s relevant and finding out what their purpose is.

    Looking forward a lot more to Season 3 now , thanks to that last scene, but in my humble opinion, Game of Thrones is still lagging behind Spartacus Vengeance for a truly compelling storyline and spectacle of a television show.

    • Well, Winter has come. With white walkers now marching Jon snow will be much less of a side charachter. And GoT is much better than Spartacus btw

      • IMO Spartacus Vengeance is way better. The action alone sets it apart. GOT is a close 2nd for me but Spartacus is the only series that gives you that “wow” factor for me at least.

        • You kidding, right?

          • Nope, I love it

            • They are both great shows that bring different entertaining experiences to the table.

              • No they’re not comparable indeed. Spartacus is flashy, shallow, and a joke. I can see it as a guilty pleasure but it’s “spectacle” is nothing more than that: pure spectacle. Not saying it ain’t entertaining. It’s got action alright, but it’s simply not on equal footing with A Song of Ice and Fire. There is no subtlety whatsoever in Spartacus. Its thrills come in boobs, muscles, and swords while GoT’s come in wits, strategy, and subtlety (and now end-of-the-world foreboding). Spartacus’s human elements being relatable only in the most superficial sense and scarcely goes deeper than male bravado, sadness, and revenge.

    • Actually the fact that season 2 didn’t dwell on the same Stark/Lannister plots is what makes it far more interesting to me. And season 3/4 (book 3) just continues to up the anti you’ll find out.

      I think this is what gives the series as a whole its true strength. As more and more of the world comes into play so do new faces, new schemes and plots, and more importantly new impacts to the existing story and it’s characters. It creates a more organic feel, as if it could be a reality somewhere.

      George Martin has been pretty careful about these new paths and “loose ends”. When and how he chooses to reveal and tie up things together are nothing short of a true master storyteller. I’ll say as a reader of the books, all the plots and characters do interweave and has a purpose. You’ll find out next season (in book 3) some of things that haven’t been address since the first season (book 1). Things like, who really sent the dagger to kill Bran? These tidbits of questions and revealings come exactly when they need to, and again George is an absolute genius at doing this.

      More importantly and the true strength of Game of Thrones (A song of Ice and Fire) is the characters, not just who they are, but how they change and why they change. Again because of the true strength of how the series progresses instead of dwelling on the same plot. You’ll grow to love the ones you’ve currently despise and come to hate some of the ones you presently admire. That’s the underlining entertainment value to this story where the plot has a good backseat to hold everything up in.

      Don’t worry, right now some characters or plotlines may seem like they have nothing or offer nothing. But in seasons/books to come, just like the characters, that also changes and you’ll realize the story would never beable to continue without these additions.

  22. Hey, how about that: you start with “Game of Thrones” and you end with, almost literally, “The Walking Dead”. This season had some strange episodes, but it was undoubtedly awesome, and what an incredible closing episode. This will be a long, hard wait till 2013 indeed.

  23. There is too much in the books for them to pile into the series.

    Truth be told, the books sometimes drag on as well. I’ve read them all and sometimes you’re reading a chapter of someone you’d really like to just skip, but you read on anyway. I love the books, and the series, I’m a big fan. But I get why some people are feeling the way they do about the second season, there is a lot of build up they have to do, a lot of “waiting around”.

  24. I didn’t know about the books until I watched from the very first episode in season one and was hooked !!! This series is truly awesome and in a way I wish I hadn’t read the synopsis of each book. Now i know what happens to a lot of the characters, and the red wedding…whoa…!!! that’s all i’m going to say on that. This series will be going prehaps for a decade or more.

  25. I was bit disappointed with the changes made this season. I didn’t like the how Dany’s dragons were taken (never happened in the books) and I didn’t like how they changed the illusions that she saw. They should have shown the illusion of Rhaegar with his wife and son. That would have been interesting to see. While the one with Drogo and Rhaego was nice, the one with her brother and his family I feel is important. Also, the woman Robb Stark married was never in books. He married a woman named Jeyne Westerling and what her mother does in the next book is important so I don’t understand why they would change that. One other change made was the storyline of Winterfell. What you saw in the season finale did not happen like that in the books. Theon’s men remained faithful to him for the most part. Some ran away. Others were willing to fight with him against the army Robb sent to retake Winterfell. However, the Boltons betray the Starks and destory the army, burn Winterfell and take Theon prisoner. They tell the realm that Theon burned it and that he is dead. Overall, I was just disappointed with this season especially since the first season remained pretty faithful to the book with minor changes.

    • I havent read the books- so, with regards to Danys visions i interrupted them as a test.. first one, the iron throne.. is that all she wanted, and was it worth the destruction and death it will take to get it. second- with Drago and her unborn son.. are these more important to her then the dragons? each time she spent dwelling in those visions you hear the dragons cry.. once she hears them, she leaves those ‘visions’ to search for them.. FOR ME, those scenes showed me- she was nothing other then, the Mother OF Dragons.. Nothing else matters to her.. not the throne not her moon and the stars or her unborn son.

      again for someone who never read the book, i was left to my own interruption, and it was a powerful one..

      as for Rob – yeah, no clue.. not sure how i feel about that one.. heard he marries for honor not love.. and for me that would make more sense, seeing how his father/Ned was all about honor.. we’ll see how that plays out in season 3..

  26. Can we have more Tyron in Season 3? Please? And more Arya? Peter Dinklage and Maisie Williams deserve every accolade that comes their way. I have read all the books and the casting of those two actors is perfect.

  27. Can someone please explain the birth of that demon, at the end of the 4th episode this season? I made that connection that the same demon assassinated the king that was queer, but still don’t understand where the women came from (who gave birth to the demon), who knocked her up, etc.

    • The ‘woman’ you are referring to is a Red Priestess who is a benevolent follower of The Lord of Light. She converts Stannis Baratheon & his court from worshiping the Seven Faces of God to worshiping The Lord of Light. I can’t think of the episode off hand, but at one point she seduces Stannis from his wife with the promise of a son & they consumate there arrangement on his council table.

      The ‘demon’ is a manifestation of Stannis himself, which you can see when it stabs his younger brother Renly & kills him. The resulting death of Renly leads to his Bannerman moving to align with Stannis. With the exception of the Tarell’s who appear in the finale alongside Tywin Lannister outside the ‘Mud Gate’ to drive back Stannis’ invasion.

  28. totally addicted!!!!!!

  29. Let this be out of my mind : all the main characters are acting foolish all the time, with the exception of Thyrion and Arya. And Jamie possibly.

    This should be called : “a hindsight into the Middle Ages era when incompetence and simple cravings ruled, plunging regularly enormous numbers into war, horror and hunger while archaic technology and communication means made it impossible to think of anything on the long run”.

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