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Game of Thrones Review: Dead Men Walking

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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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But the invincible creatures looked a bit too alive If you ask me.. The darkness element to them was not there.. I expected darker, more frightening, faster and definitely much more white walkers.. Kind of like they were introduced in the first place... Only larger in numbers.. Again maybe it's just me and maybe this scene was true to the book more than what I would've had in mind.

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I have never read "A song of ice and fire".. And in fact never knew of it before I started watching Game of Thrones.. But again.. I'm not much of a reader. I'm not a series fan either.. Rather more into movies.. However Game of Thrones was the exception.. From the opening scene of season 1 I was hooked.. It is the greatest series ever made in my opinion. And as a viewer I can easily say season 1 overall takes the cake.. It was epic and surprising from start to finish. I couldn't wait for season 2 and maybe another glimps or hint of the white walkers' presence... Season 2 was still very good.. Black water especially. However I must say I'm a little disappointed with the season finale.. Particularly the ending.. The sound of the horn going off 3 times sent chills up my spine.. I was craving that horrific feeling that hooked me to the story in the first place.. But disappointedly I wasn't.. I think the plot for the white walkers appearance could've been staged much better... But the invincible creatures looked a bit too alive If you ask me.. The darkness element to them was not there.. I expected darker, more frightening, faster and definitely much more white walkers.. Kind of like they were introduced in the first place... Only larger in numbers.. Again maybe it's just me and maybe this scene was true to the book more than what I would've had in mind.

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For some reason I can't help but read your reviews, especially seeing as I constantly want to yell at you and tell you WHY the show plays out the way it does, so I will just say this... READ THE GOSH DARN BOOKS!!! Trust me, you will still be able to review every episode as thoroughly as you do now even though you already know the outcome from the books perspective.

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Sansa dear, you gotta go, wanna go but can't go... Tough ! Liked the way she laughed, thinking she was free. How wrong she was... Little Finger, a man she shouldn't trust AT ALL . The way she got "repudiated" in front of everyone...damn ! Cersei... hate that woman !
Tyron, wow, so many emotions ! Hope he'll get better, but yup, the man loves the game ! That's gonna cost him though...
Robb and his word...doesn't mean crap. And That Jamie Lanister, whether use him properly or just kill the man, but please DO SOMETHING !
Master Luwin...that was sad... And Winterfell FELL (lame but the truth). The Greyjoy bro, LOL, "his" people had enough of him ! Good his gone, but well, felt strange...
All in all, the episode wasn't really Finale worthy, but nonetheless, good and enjoyable episode ! Cannot wait for next year's season 3 !!!!!

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Yoooooooooooo, that was AN AWFUL LOT of Night-Walkers !!!! Damn ! Sam, hun, hope you'll still be alive... I like u waaaayy too much !!!
Seriously, I can't believe Joffrey is not dead yet ! Isn't there anybody out there who wants to kill him and actually act on it ?!
Dany Dany Dany...this season was not your friend...But brownie point for bringing back Khal Drogo, as sad as it was. The Dragons and her, wow, Awesome stuff, wanna see more of that magic ! Woulda killed the maid but hey, Dany sure didn't need to have her blood on her hands ! B**ch !
Jacquen H'gar, gosh I love the guy, glad they put the changing-my-face part ! Hope we'll see him(1st face) soon !
I too, thought Stannis to be captured...but well, I do not like his character AT ALL, and the red whatever she is, grr, can't stand her ! I feel like they are useless...
Jon killing that man was weirdly handled. I thought it was part of a plan too, but the way it was played didn't feel the same...
Sansa dear, you gotta go, wanna go but can't go... Tough ! Liked the way she laughed, thinking she was free. How wrong she was... Little Finger, a man she shouldn't trust AT ALL
Tyron, wow, so many emotions ! Hope he'll get better, but yup, the man loves the game ! That's gonna cost him though...

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Every Sunday I look forward to GOT...I have to say, as much as I have enjoyed the season, I felt a bit "deflated" in that, I truly wanted to see some concrete closures to some characters and the ones that they did "close." I was bitterly disappointed. i.e. The ending of Jaqen...I am still in the process of reading the books,henceforth, ignorant of what Martin has written...
Tyrion touched my heart, especially with his "breakdown" with Shea...I have not doubt that he will re-bound. Fearful for Sansa, yet relieved she won't have to marry the monster "Child-King" Joffrey...Speaking of which,he has met his match with Margery...
Overall, my disappointment more lies to the fact that the season is over do not have it to look forward to next Sunday...

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BEST EPISODE TO DATE!

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CONTINUED: -Too much Joffrey talking, walking, living, breathing. Get rid of this annoying bug. -Jamie Lannister? Who? Oh yeah...that guy that was absent for half the season and then spent the rest of it making wisecracks from the end of a dog leash. -The end of the finale will have some fans crowing "epic" and "awesome" but I saw it as just more fantasy filler - this Martin person seems to thrive on silly dungeons and dragons cliches. Much like the battle of Blackwater, the White Walkers looked good visually but amount to very little when it comes to leaving a mark. An "epic" and anticlimactic flop.

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The S3 finale is a shining example of what I've been feeling about Game of Thrones all season. It's a bloated, meandering mess lacking focus or any real direction. -Rob and Jon have been sidelined to such an extent that both characters now feel pointless and boring. I could not care less if either appears in the next season. -Dany has become a whining child. I cringe whenever she's on screen. Terrible writing and terrible overacting. This "mother of dragons" & "sun and stars" garbage dialogue needs to stop, too. -I'm tired of so many children - except for Bran (and that youngest kid) since he seems to be the only one with an enjoyable personality. -Can't the adults do anything but screw and scheme? Why is it so difficult to care about any of them? Surely a few are meant to be the good guys? -Peter Dinklage carried the show all season. As a result I've become tired of his character. -Lena Headey is the only villain of any worth and she's being wasted. -Too much Joffrey talking, walking, living, breathing. Get rid of this annoying bug. -Jamie Lannister? Who? Oh yeah...that guy that was absent for half the season and then spent the rest of it making wisecracks from the end of a dog leash. -The end of the finale will have some fans crowing "epic" and "awesome" but I saw it as just more fantasy filler - this Martin person seems to thrive on silly dungeons and dragons cliches. Much like the battle of Blackwater, the White Walkers looked good visually but amount to very little when it comes to leaving a mark. An "epic" and anticlimactic flop.

Richard3

@Matt: I think part of the difficulty of translating Jon and Danny's stories to the show are that much of what is interesting about them is internal to the characters. It's about Jon struggling with where he belongs in the world and about Danny learning what it means to be a ruler. With the casts fairly limited around those two it isn't as externally intriguing as compared to Kings Landing where the full on "game of thrones" is going on.