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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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matt, i feel like you're missing the point...yes we all have our favourite characters, but try see the characters as part of something bigger than just what you'd like to see.frankly the goings on at kings landing are part of something bigger and it just feels like you're a tad obsessed with that part of the story and missing out on other parts...

Richard3

Overall I was a little...deflated...after this episode. Here are my nit-picks 1. I wanted to see the Bastard of Bolton to get some face-time at Winterfell. Maybe next season (although since book 3 is spanning 2 seasons I could see him not being introduced until beginning of season 4). 2. I wonder at how they depicted Jon Snow killing Halfhand. It looked more like he actually got pissed at the insults and really went after him, instead of acting out the plan to infiltrate the wildlings. Maybe they are keeping it ambiguous...has Jon snow really turned his cloak sort of thing. 3. King of Qarth?: Generally I like what they've done with Qarth, but not sure I liked the reveal of Xaros being poor. I guess it gives him ultimate motive to enact the plan he did through the season.

Richard3

I thought this episode did the same as the season 1 final ep...setup the next season. It's going to be interesting to see how the audience handles this sort of thing season after season with nary a wrap up in sight. Also I agree with the "isn't Stannis captured" sentiment. I've read the books so I knew he wasn't captured, but I don't think the show did a good job at showing that. Too difficult to tell who was and wasn't on his side.

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I will miss the original Jaqen, really enjoyed his role this season. Is there anyone maisie doesn't mesh well with on screen??? She's the MVP of the series. Can't wait to meet mance, jojen and meera next season! Very worried about Robb's bad choice. Will be tough to wait a year. Thanks for the reviews!!

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For those of you disappointed with Dany's progress...GET USED TO IT! For the next few books it will be the same; a different place, different adversaries, but no progess. I don't want to spoil anything so I won't say anything other than you are going to be waiting a LONG time for Dany to cross the Narrow Sea.

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Bring on Season 3! Now please :)

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sister that he took to raise to hide who he was) My only annoyance was them not showing/explaining what happened to Bronn. They said he was no longer in charge of the Knightsguard but does that mean he left Kings Landing or did he stay for Tyrion? I hate to think that everyone but Shae and his faithful steward left him since obviously his family still hate him. I thought his dad had learned to at least respect him but his lack of caring about his son showed I was wrong. Tywin is a jerk. Poor Bran and Rickon. They've lost everything now including their home and Master Luwin! He was their only parental figure since their dad and mom left. Now all their siblings are gone and they're going to wander around until they get to the wall. And Jon Snow isn't even there! Hopefully they will still take them in and protect them until Jon returns.

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I couldn't disagree with you more! This was a fabulous episode to tie up the season. Of course it left you hanging on so many stories because most shows end with cliffhangers. Since this was based on books I'm assuming the book ended with the cliffhanger too. But this episode showed us where EVERYONE was at the end of the season. We needed to know everyone's status before the season ended rather than having people scattered everywhere and no knowledge of what's going on. Daenerys showed that she truly is a badass character once again after a season of doing nothing but whining. And yay - Khal Drogo visit! I think the main thing is when she was searching for her dragons she found the iron throne and left it, found her husband and child (in some dream state I assume) and left them, etc to find her dragons. It showed she was willing to risk everything for the dragons. I also think the snow was key to Jon Snow. I honestly think he's her nephew (the son of her brother and Ned Stark's sister that he took to raise to hide who he was) My only annoyance was them not showing/explaining what happened to Bronn. They said he was no longer in charge of the Knightsguard but does that mean he left Kings Landing or did he stay for Tyrion? I hate to think that everyone but Shae and his faithful steward left him since obviously his family still hate him. I thought his dad had learned to at least respect him but his lack of caring about his son showed I was wrong. Tywin is a jerk. Poor Bran and Rickon. They've lost everything now including their home and Master Luwin! He was their only parental figure since their dad and mom left. Now all their siblings are gone and they're going to wander around until they get to the wall. And Jon Snow isn't even there! Hopefully they will still take them in and protect them until Jon returns.

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@Loren
Thanks a lot. You have answered many questions left by the season finale. Great season for Tyrion and Arya story lines. Disappointing with Snow, Danerys and Robb story lines. Nice way to end with the white-walkers. Specially the guy on the horse looks super creepy. Finally we have Danerys moving to the right path as well. Her story was a bore fest whole season. Can't wait for season 3. Have to start reading the books too btw :)

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...continued.
Daenerys' part in the show is paramount - you better pay attention because there is a reason we have dragons back after such an extended period without them.
Again people, this is not a typical 'procedural' show, and it does follow an already written and highly successful book series (NONE of which I have read or been spoiled on). I am VERY psyched on next season's potential and cannot wait to get back to the story.
One last thing to remember - PAY ATTENTION TO EVERYTHING; with only having 10 episodes per season, even whispers are explanations for something.

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