Not Jon Snow!
I get that "Game of Thrones" has a penchant for killing off main characters. Understood. But why did it have to be Jon Snow?! There are so many characters to choose from. Like, say, Ramsay Bolton. Or Cersei. Or, really, anyone else.
Jon – along with Daenerys, Tyrion and Arya – is one of the four main characters that make the story work. Without him, the main anchor for all storylines in the north is gone. Who are we going to follow at The Wall now? Please don't say Alliser Thorne.
To recap: In the Season 5 finale called "Mother's Mercy," Jon Snow is the victim of a mutiny. He is stabbed multiple times by his own men of the Night's Watch, and left to die bleeding out in the snow.
On the show – and in the books – this is an unresolved cliffhanger. I have no idea whether Jon will, indeed, die (in the books I recall him being stabbed many more times) as it appears; whether he will somehow be saved; or whether Melisandre will use her dark magic to bring him back to life after death.
But if I had to bet, I would wager it's not the last we see of Jon Snow.
It may be the last we see of Stannis, however.
The episode opened with the death of another would-be king. Stannis, the child-murderer, is planning to ride on Winterfell now that the storm has broken. He's gone too far, of course, last week when he had his own daughter burnt alive, hoping for better weather. Now half his men have deserted him and his wife has killed herself. But at least he has Melisandre, right? Wrong. She rides off too.
But he has the better weather he wanted, so he rides off with his small army to Winterfell, where his men are promptly slaughtered. (Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.)
Stannis meets his end slumped against a tree with Brienne of Tarth giving him the coup de grace for his assassination of Renly, his younger brother. I guess there is some justice in the world of "Game of Thrones" after all.
Now, of course, we didn't actually get to see Stannis die. So, like Jon, there's a remote possibility he somehow didn't. But I think this killing was really a killing.
Near the end of the battle, Sansa Stark and Theon Greyjoy escape from Winterfell by jumping off a wall into the snow. At least I think they escaped. They could have died in the fall. We'll see.
Meanwhile, in Braavos, Arya is honing her assassin skills, and kills Meryn Trant, a pervert who is beating young women at a brothel. She stabs out his eyes. She says this is payback for him killing her first trainer, Syrio Forel. (Love Arya!)
But back at the House of Black and White, Arya's trainers say she had no right to kill, and cause her to go blind.
This last bit is true to the books. Don't worry. I'm betting it's all just part of Arya's journey to become a super-assassin.
In Dorne, Jamie and Myrcell have a heart-to-heart and she tells him she knows he's her dad. "I'm glad you're my father," she says. But just then, she begins bleeding out of her nose and falls over, poisoned by the Sand Snakes. There was a lot of death this episode, but Myrcella's character was never developed enough for me to care much about her. Plus, no one likes the Lannisters anyway.
Meanwhile, Cersei is punished by the weird cult the Sparrows. They cut her hair short, strip her naked and force her to walk the city's streets, where a mob spits on her and throws stuff at her. This was terrible, terrible stuff. If it were anyone else, I would have felt bad for her. But I have nothing but ice in my heart for Cersei.
When she finally arrives at the castle in King's Landing, she meets the latest member of the Kingsguard: A chemically enhanced, monstrous version of The Mountain. (The Mountain!)
In Essos, Dany and her dragon are stranded in the middle of nowhere, when she gets surrounded by an army of horsemen. Cliffhanger!
It was a strong final episode to what was a strong season – perhaps the best since Seasons 1 and 3. The last three episodes in the season were particularly strong, as opposed to some other seasons where all the action was in the penultimate episode.
Several plotlines on the show have now overtaken the books, which means us book-readers can enjoy the plot developments just as much as non-readers. And I'm actually really happy about that.
So, take your time, George R.R. Martin. No need to hurry with that sixth book.
Episode grade: A