The penultimate episode of “Game of Throne’s” third season was about despair, the kind of soul-crushing despair that only a horror like the Red Wedding could bring about.
But the season finale was about hope -- hope in the form of Daenerys Targaryen, the last of her name, who has emerged as the show’s conqueror and abolitionist.
As a bloody civil war tears Westeros apart, Daenerys has freed the slaves of multiple cities in Essos, that continent to the east full of warlocks, Dothraki nomads and mysterious sellswords.
For this, she is becoming beloved.
As the episode ended, the now-free people of Yunkai hoisted her up upon their shoulders and chanted, “Mother, mother, mother.”
It was not the thrilling climax of episode nine – “Thrones” season finales never are – but the episode did a fine job of setting up the pending battles and storylines of future seasons. All the main characters got their due, and Dany's closing scene -- which ended in a spinning, spiritual way -- was moving.
If Daenerys ever crosses the sea to retake the kingdoms her father once ruled, she will be joined by tens of thousands of loyal subjects. And she will be returning as Essos’ Great Emancipator, a beloved leader whose army fights not out of duty, but out of loyalty.
And she will have three dragons, who are quickly growing into the giant beasts her ancestors once rode.
I can see the boy-king Joffrey peeing his pants at the sight of them.
The episode began where last week’s left off, with more despicable horror at The Twins. Arya is forced to watch as some lowlife soldiers parade around Robb Stark’s mangled body with Grey Wind’s severed head sowed on top. (Classy, Westeros. Classy.)
Arya gets her revenge later in the episode when she and The Hound happen upon some soldiers on the road from the castle. One of the men is boasting that he helped defile Robb’s body. Arya approaches the group innocently, and then stabs the man multiple times in the throat. (She’s becoming quite the little assassin.) The Hound does the rest, easily killing the overmatched opponents.
“Where did you get the knife?” The Hound asks.
“From you,” she replies.
She says this is the first time she's killed a man, but methinks she stabbed one to death in her escape from Harrenhal (or was that only in the books?).
At the capitol city, Tywin Lannister tells Tyrion of the role in played in the Red Wedding, orchestrating the massacre from afar.
“Explain to me why it is more noble to kill 10,000 men in battle than 12 at dinner?” Tywin asks.
Tywin names Roose Bolton, who thrust the fatal stab into Robb Stark, ward of the north.
And a handless Jaime finally makes it back home.
One wonders how he will fit in with his fellow Lannisters now that he has a conscience.
At The Gift, Bran and his crew meet up with Samwell and Gilly. They inform Sam that they have to go north of The Wall, so Bran can act upon his (unknown) destiny in the coming war against the White Walkers.
Sam tells them he killed a White Walker, which Meera says hasn’t been done “in thousands of years.” He tells them the secret to killing the frozen zombies is to stab them (or shoot them in Meera's case) with dragonglass.
Sam shows Bran the secret pass under The Wall, and then he and Gilly arrive at Castle Black, where he’s greeted by Aemon Targaryen. Aemon tells him to send out 44 ravens bearing news of the pending war north of The Wall.
Meanwhile, Ygritte and Jon meet back up – and Jon tells her he loves her (they do make a good couple). But she’s hurt and emotionally wounded and views him as a traitor. She shoots him three times with arrows, nearly killing him.
Snow rides to Castle Black, and falls off his horse, wounded badly. As the episode ends, he’s clinging to life but it appears that he will recover.
Not to self: Don't get involved with wildling women.
Bolton’s torture chamber
After Ramsay Bolton permanently maimed Theon – cutting off his, ahem, manhood – Theon is begging to be killed.
Bolton decides he’s going to alter Theon’s identity and begins to beat him until he changes his name to “Reek.
Eventually, Theon gives in. “My name is Reek,” he whimpers.
Ramsay sends Theon’s severed member to his father, Balon Greyjoy, who we learn had cut a deal to betray Theon. But the act angers Theon’s sister Yara (Asha), and she sets sail for the Dreadfort to rescue Theon.
Now, I hate Theon, but this Ramsay guy is downright detestable. Let's hope Asha gets there pronto.
At Dragonstone, Gendry and Davos bond over their humble beginnings in an impoverished part of King’s Landing called “Flea Bottom.”
Stannis is debating whether to throw Gendry into the fire, as advised by Melisandre, as part of some dark magic designed to place Stannis in power.
“The boy must die,” Stannis concludes.
Davos, however, can’t stand by idly while an innocent boy is slaughtered and breaks him out of jail.
Angered over the betrayal, Stannis orders Davos to be put to death. But a letter comes from the Night’s Watch, warning of White Walkers.
Melisandre advises Stannis to keep Davos alive while Stannis’ forces head north to help in the war at The Wall.
Stannis may not be a great leader, like Daenerys, but in agreeing to head to the battle at The Wall, he’s making a decision that could well save the human race.