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Game of Thrones Review: Dead Men Walking

by at . Comments

Game of Thrones is a challenging series to review.

It's based on a series of novels beloved by a number of viewers, many of whom judge episodes based on the source material and a result of which means even those of us unfamiliar with George R.R. Martin's work are aware that there's never really an end in sight.

So I didn't go into "Valar Morghulis" with any preconceived notion that any storylines would really be tied up, but I still came out of it disappointed in a Season 2 finale that felt a lot more like a Season 3 prologue.

Theon

Compare events here to those from last Sunday's epic, "Blackwater." That felt like a finale, with so many storylines of the season leading to an epic battle. It felt like a payoff, where as this installment came across a bit arbitrary, more focused on setting up next year's character arcs than tying anything remotely together.

As usual, I was most interested in the lives of those in King's Landing, all of which changed drastically after mere minutes this week. Sansa is no longer bound to Joffrey, but is she really out of danger?

Margaery Tyrell will have a chance to fulfill the goal she's made clear from the moment we met her, moving into the position of soon-to-be queen.

Tyrion continued to be the most fascinating, well-layered character on the series, this time abandoning any facade of bravery, admitting he loves the challenge of out-thinking stronger men and falling apart in the arms of Shae, who will remain by her wounded man's side, even if his position in the kingdom is tenuous at best; non-existent-to-the-point-where-his-sister-wants-him-dead at worst.

Robb is a man of one marriage oath and one broken oath, while he remains estranged from his mother and his sister is left wandering around for her family, as confounded as I am by the concept of "Valar Morghulis."

Stannis is still around (he wasn't captured?!?), reinvigorated by some fiery vision; and Theon has been dragged away somewhere, leaving one final death in his woebegone wake. RIP, Maester Luwin.

The former development is especially disappointing. Where did we really go with Stannis this season? When we met him, he was an angry, ambitious man on a quest for the Iron Throne and reliant on a mysterious redhead. Now? Well... he's an angry, ambitious man on a quest for the Iron Throne and reliant on a mysterious redhead.

The same can be said for Daenerys.

We closed season one with her dragons alive, her head held high and Westeros in her sights. We end season two after what felt like a somewhat contrived path that once again just finds her dragons alive, a bit more mature and her sights set on Westeros. I can't say I'm satisfied by the journey we went on with Dany this year. It all felt like a set-up for next year.

Finally, North of the Wall, Jon Snow is on his way to meet Mance Rayder, who we know will be a prominent character on Game of Thrones Season 3. And we were left with a visual even more stunning than Dany and her dragons from a year ago: that of White Walkers - seriously, A LOT of White Walkers - riding off to do... whatever it is White Walkers do.

Indeed, after 10 more sweeping, character-packed episodes, winter is most definitely here.

What did you think? Was this a rewarding a conclusion to this season? Or did it spend too much time setting up next season? Did Robb make the right choice in marriage? What is Varys planning? And, really, seriously, RIP, Maester Luwin.

UPDATE: Carissa Pavlica has posted her Novel Approach to the finale, in which she analyzes the show from the view of someone familiar with the source material.

Review

Editor Rating: 3.9 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (270 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Her sl this season has been so contrived. I hope to see more focus and better storyline for her next season. Overall a great season but two major flaws: extreme nudity which serve no purpose or sl and most sls are not tied down well. For eg: why do Bran have to fleee Winterfell? Arent the 500 men sent by his brother to protext Winterfell?

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It was a good episode but it felt more like a prologue than a finale. I just hated that the lannisters are back in power and the only lannister I like is made irrelevant. Tyrion had been the best thing about this season and I wanted someone to acknowlege what ge did for king's landing. It leaves a bad taste that good deeds are necer rewarded and the unworthy always win. Stannis is really an unnecessary character and left. no impact on me. Robb started out as a really strong character but ever since his love interest was introduced, his character lost direction. His sisters are captive in Kings landing which is being stormed by stannis and co. and his brothers are supposedly dead and Winterfell is at seige, Jaime has escaped and he spend the last two episodes on his marriage... that seriously weakened Robb for me. Dany remains onr of the best contenders for Iron throne...she is honorable and strong.She is gentle and yet so very attuned to reality. I love the scene when she meets Drogo again.It ached to see them interact but what I loved was she pulled away from matters of the heart and focused on reality. She would a great ruler... Her sl this season has been so contrived. I hope to see more focus and better storyline for her next season. Overall a great season but two major flaws: extreme nudity which serve no purpose or sl and most sls are not tied down well. For eg: why do Bran have to fleee Winterfell? Arent the 500 men sent by his brother to protext Winterfell?

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Loved season 1! Really hooked me. However Season 2 left me feeling blah. Seems like a lot of build up for nothing. I mean I loved how Arya Stark was learning the sword but aside from her killing that fat boy by accident why did they have her train with it for half of season 1? I loved the dire wolves....but not much done with them this season (I feel) other then some cool dreams from the boy. Robb Stark for as good as he has done in battle is a fool!! How will he get back home now that he will not be able to cross the bridge because he has broken his word? Being a prince he should have always know he couldn't ever marry for love!!! Come on! Not like he couldn't keep a lover as he is the King of the North. Oh no better to totally hose yourself and marry your love! Just give up the throne and the fight then or be a man! Just seems so out of character. Winterfall falling to 1 boat of men really? You leave so few behind you can't even police your own lands? Hell bandits could have sacked the town....I just don't buy it. With this great military mind you can't leave 100 guards? I could go on....season 1 was so much better (and logical). I do look forward to season 3 but they do need to speed things up. With only 10 eps. per season and a season is a YEAR with this show it needs to really cover more ground. I don't feel much of anything really happened this season besides 1 big battle (that kept things the same!). Really what needs to happen is 20-30 eps. per season to do things right but that will never happen with a cable show. I guess I just expected more. If season 3 is like season 2 I am done.

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(cont. because post was cut off in "submit") The fact Martin was able to make his human characters passably human is no proof of his talents as a writer. It's obvious to me that you are a vehement fan of Martin's work so there isn't a single thing that anyone could say that could make you open your mind to another persons point of view rather than seeing anything other than what you want to see. As for feeling the need to insult the intelligence of anyone who dares commit the evil crime of not thinking Martin's writing is, in your words, "the literary highlight of the last decade", you have no right to do that. I know what my IQ is. Do you?

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@Izzy: Pardon me, but I don't recall anyone in this discussion saying Twilight was any sort of literary highlight. You're the only one who has made that statement. Closeted Twilight fan are we and have to get our true feelings out some way? First, this "Rowland" you speak of. Perhaps you mean Rowling? Thought so. You know, I think you are right. Anyone who would compare Martin's writing to anything by Tolkien, Rowling or any other author for that matter has to be bonkers. That's like comparing lightening (other high fantasy writers) to lightening bugs (Martin). One is brilliant and the other weak. I'd hope that Martin's characters would show they have weaknesses and are inherently human. Characters that ARE human beings should display human characteristics. You wouldn't expect the Whitewalkers to act the same, feel the same and want the same things as the humans they oppose, now would you? The fact Martin was able to make his human characters passably human is no proof of his talents as a writer. It's obvious to me that you are a vehement fan of Martin's work so there isn't a single thing that anyone could say that could make you open your mind to anothers point of view rather than seeing anything other than what you want to see. As for feeling the need to insult the intelligence of anyone who dares commit the evil crime of not thinking Martin's writing is, in your words, "the literary highlight of the last decade", you have no right to do that. I know what my IQ is. Do you?

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@Izzy I will not even attempt to debate one author's work against another, but if you think that the characters of Game of Thrones - especially the TV version - are anything but one dimensional then you need to adjust your set. What is it with the fans of this program? It's OK to switch out of Martin Worship mode for a bit. You won't lose your membership cards or anything.

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I have read through the comments and read the review and am disappointed in both! I have read the books and watched since ep1 s1 and have to say that while they are changing some storylines, they are still doing justice to the brilliance that is Martin's work. People who are trying to compare this to Tolkien, Rowland or Meyer are completely BONKERS...I have read LOTR, HP and TWI series and can say that while characters from those series are either completely evil or completely good and are totally one dimensional, Martin's characters have all displayed shades of grey! They are multi faceted showing that they all have there weaknesses and ARE inherently HUMAN. These books are pure genius in that while it is fantasy, the characters and their motivations are utterly realistic. Both the TV and book series are maybe way too sophisticated for those people who think that TWILIGHT was the literary highlight of the last decade! These are not the same as other series where there have been a major story line or problem to solve per book, this is something new and exciting and much much more! It harkens back to feudal times with great precision...I could even compare Bran and Rickon's situation to that of the two Princes in the tower...think about it, wars started for family honour and avenging family members did happen rather than just because you are pure evil ala Sauron (LOTR) or Lord Voldemort (HP)...please people have a bit more appreciation for the wonderous world that is Westeros!!

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@Karl: (cont. because the form cut off my post at 'submit') But, then again, that's my opinion. If that displeases you, Joffrey, well, deal with it. If we all were forced to like the same things you'd be the #1 fan of that Harry Potter series you seem to dislike so much based on how vehemently you are defending this series.

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@Karl: I'm going to assume you are really Joffrey in disguise because it's apparent no one here other than you (and that even includes the reviewer!) is allowed to express an opinion. YOU might find the books and series to be nothing short of brilliant but there are many who do not. They are perfectly allowed to say so any place they choose on the web as long as site guidelines are followed. I've read the books and found them to be absolutely short of brilliant. No nothing about it. The books & series are seriously flawed IMO, in more ways than one. I've also read both the Harry Potter and Twilight (only one "L" in that word there, dear) series'. While Twilight is complete and utter garbage, Martin's writing, in my opinion, isn't anywhere near the caliber of Rowling's or other writers such as Tolkien, Piers Anthony, David Eddings, Fred Saberhagen and Anne McCaffrey. But, then again, that's my opinion. If that displeases you, Joffrey, well, deal with it. If we all were forced to like the same things you'd be the #1 fan of that Harry Potter series you seem to dislike so much based on how vehemently you are defending this series.

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@karl Perhaps it is you that needs to "grow up"... Since when is posting twice a crime? Should I take a hundred lines? 40 lashes? Maybe a rat in bucket strapped to my chest? Get a grip and stop being such a fanboi unable to deal with criticism about a set of fantasy novels. If you enjoy them so much, head back to your basement, curl up in your homemade iron thrown and read them now. As for the TV show, well, the fact that you found the finale "nothing short of brilliant" suggests that it likely your own intelligence that needs examining.

Game of Thrones Season 2 Episode 10 Quotes

My father is dead. And the only parent I have left has no right to call anyone reckless.

Robb

Would it be excessive of me to ask you to save my life twice in a week?

Tyrion