[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 5 Finale, Episode 10, "Mother's Mercy"

Courtesy of HBO
In which things come to ends. Lives, plots, and my patience for the sharp turn this season took towards sub-par storytelling. For the first four seasons, this show had a spark, a fierce sense of identity and purpose. This season dropped that like a gecko shedding an arm. This season was unfocused, passive, unimaginative and miserly with it's pacing and developments. Why, out of no where, this drop off? If is the inevitable fatigue setting in? Or is it a sign of a greater problem?

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers which do their duty.


If you go back and read my first episode review of this season, you'll see the words of a hopeful man. A man who believed that this season held great promise, because this was the season that threw off the shackles of Martin's books, and begin to forge it's own identity. Partly out of necessity, but partly because it had been earned. Almost immediately, the problem with this revealed itself: the producers and writer weren't up to that challenge. Without the explicit text of Martin's novels to guide them, they floundered. Yes, the series had put their own unique spin of storylines before, but never so far that they left the footpath of established events. They gave Robb a different wife, but it still lead to the Red Wedding. They paired Arya with a greater variety of foils over the course of her journey, but it still lead to Bravvos. The changes were minor details that failed to change preordained events. The butterfly didn't cause a hurricane.

This season, the producers set out of their very own, originally conceived narratives. And the landed on their faces. Almost all of them attempted to stick to what little of the novels was left, taking wide births around a story element, only to then contrive a convergence with the literary side. Others languished in inactivity until they suddenly burst into a fury of developments that seem extreme and miscalculated. the only storyline that felt strong, the only one that had weight and carried an arc from beginning to end, was Jon, and it was the only arc that stuck nearly 100% to the books. The rest of the storylines all seemed to be pacing, waiting for the opportune moment for the writers to check off a list of events from the novels that they still feel the bizarre need to adhere to.  Cersei is an excellent example. Her shame-walk through King's Landing is a pivotal character moment for her, and the writers were clearly working towards it all season. But the journey to get there was drawn out, for fear of having her do something that might take her off the path that lead her to a prison cell.

The only conclusion that I feel that can be drawn from that is that the producers have proven themselves top notch adapters. They were able to give voice and physicality to Martin's vision unlike anyone else could have. They clearly knew from day one how this show wold look and act and feel. What this season has shown is that they have no vision of their own. That when given the chance to do their own thing, they don't know what to do. They don't have a plan for things to come, beyond what someone else has laid out for them. That is sad, because it means that the show will never be anything but what it was, and what it might have been. All the more so as Martin continues to distance himself from it.

Martin didn't write an episode this season. He won't be writing one next. Logically, this has been explained as him wanting to finish the next novel, a worth endeavor. But given how adamant he has been on the literary side of no one else touching Westeros, even torpedoing fan-fics, and securing copyrights to ensure there won't be any revivals after he dies, that he would be comfortable with the producers taking the show in new directions. When he was on set, when he was working with them, when he himself was making the changes to the show, that was his hand guiding or giving blessings. But as he disassociated himself with the show this season, as the show coincidentally began to loose focus, more and more it started to feel like exactly the sort of bland, lifeless imitations of martin's work that he has been working so hard to avoid. It has always been Benioff and Weiss' show, but Martin has always been a part of it. And I don't know if it is coincidence that now that he isn't, the show has tripped up over itself.

This episode brought an end to several storylines, as a finale should. However, unlike in previous years where it felt like the characters were getting ready for the next stage of their journey, this episode felt like just more of the same. Instead of being shifted into a new paradigm by their various climaxes, this episode just shuffled them along their plot line. Or, threw something bizarre and grandiose at us and expected that to cover up the fact that the characters haven't done much this season. Take Brienne. She spent all season pining for Sansa, standing guard over Winterfell. Her arc, such as it was, was geared towards protecting Sansa. So, when the season concluded and their stories never intersected again, and the grand conclusion they gave her was against Stannis. Stannis too got a bums rush of a storyline, spending most of the season fretting and hugging and trying to sort things out. then, in two episodes completely deflated. It was like the writers suddenly realized they didn't have the actor signed for another year, and needed to get rid of him quick.

This year was a muddle, and the long term effects of that will be that next season will begin in a muddle. Unless the writers spend the next year really putting themselves to task, I'm afraid that the best years are behind this once mighty series, and now will become a shadow of it's former self. Gods, I hope I'm wrong.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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