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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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Can we please get a different reviewer for Season 3?
Not that any of us mind someone with a particular point of view, but there are 2 reasons for the request:
1) in order to review a TV episode, you have to PAY ATTENTION to it, so you don't have silly remarks like "Stannis is still around (he wasn't captured?!?)"
2) many people like certain aspects of a show more than others, BUT a reviewer needs to approach the show as a whole, not just as a 'King's Landing enthusiast'. For GoT, ALL aspects of the show; ALL viewpoints mean something, not just your precious Kings Landing (and how so drab to mention it in neasrly EVERY write-up) All questions but 1 were answered: the burning of Winterfell. I do hope they touch on that (and I assume they will) when Rob gets back from his battles, or with a report from men when they get back to the field. I also do admint that Jon Snow's arc was a tad lacking in a few spots, but that doesn't take away fro mit's importance.
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.

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I liked the LOTR Nazgul King leads The Walking Dead mash up at the end.

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AWESOME! Loved the white walkers.

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Most of the questions in the review and these comments are answered within the HBO series if you paid attention:
1. In "Blackwater," Stannis' lieutenants dragged him off, telling him that he had to retreat (he didn't want to). So he survived (no, not all the ships were destroyed, obviously) and was not captured.
2. The White Walkers and their wights (zombies) are NOT with Mance Rayder. Remember the guy in this episode ordering them to burn Halfhand's body so he WON'T come back as a zombie? So they're not allies.
3. At Winterfell--remember Robb's offer (they even repeated it in "Previously on GOT")? AMNESTY FOR ALL IF THEY LEAVE EXCEPT THEON. So they traded Theon for an exit (or at least planned to). So who burned Winterfell? Must be the Bolton troops, no? But we're supposed to be left wondering WHY (and waiting for Season 3 for an answer).
4. There is an end of the overall story in sight, Matt. Martin has already told Weiss and Benioff how the story ends (both so that they will not change anything that would make the ending have to change and so that they can finish if GRRM dies without completing the last two books). But within that framework, each season is a book (or next season, half a book), so SOME things are concluded (episode 9 both years) and some continue forward (episode 10 both years).
5. Oh, and Dany's plot can't rush too fast because HER DRAGONS ARE STILL BABIES AND CAN'T DO A HARRENHALL YET! So she's stuck in a holding pattern and in the meantime will need to find herself as a leader just like the Stark kids have to figure out who and what they are/will be.

Fortyseven

Season 1 was much better. Lot of cool stuff in this episode. Great to see Margaery again. Great special effects for the White Walker Horde and the House of the Undying.

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Honestly you cant use the phrase set up for next season when a show is based on source material. I mean its not like anything was resolved after first season, everyone just became disjointed. I agree that Dany's arc in book 2 wasnt that great but dont worry theres good stuff to come I wont spoil. So when you say this ending felt like a set up, its going to continue to be that since this is based on an on going series of 7 books. This was Dany's arc in book 2 and she will have another in book 3 but these are not stand alone books. Its not like Harry Potter where there is a conclusion at the end of each book with some plot points to come especially after goblet of fire. The books in A song of ice and fire dont end with how well its definitive, you get to the next one and continue from where you left off. So you have to take the show knowing that otherwise I am sure others will be disappointed as you were. I on the other hand loved the finale and cant wait for next season.

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Oh and the white walkers, the creature that looked at Sam, hate all living things. So from that it can be said that no they are not with Mance Rayder.

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thats what i want to know what happened with stannis how did he come bk
who burned winterfell
robs wedding was annoying..
i thought they killed all of Daenerys people..??
oh and Varys the fat guy wats his story

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On a side note, I have to agree with you that the penultimate episode of Season 2 fits the bill of a finale better than this one. After ending on a high last week, this episode did not leave up to expectations, despite it being a thoroughly impressive hour of entertaining television. I was rather disappointed with Danaerys and her dragons' progress this season as her storyline seems to be toying around in an endless cycle, getting her no where, until maybe now. The dearth in any real character growth for Danaerys relegated her scenes to a subsidiary role in the series (at least for now), and I'm really sad by it, seeing that she is my favourite character. Nonetheless, what her dragons did there was nothing short of awesomeness. Can't wait for season 3 as I hope to see more action from the characters that have been in the peripheries this season, and of course to usher in the new characters as well.

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I agree with the reviewer - there was definitely some pizazz lacking in this season's final episode. That said, there were a few scenes that still gave me the chills: 1) when Jaqen did the 'face switch' for Arya, 2) when the dragons lit the sorcerer on fire and 3) when the White Walker King looked right through Samwell and screamed. The empty vault was a pretty cool touch as well. Disappointments included: the lame forced ranger battle with John Snow being released from bondage immediately after. He basically went from prisoner to honorary Wildling in two minutes. The entire John Snow story arc this season was poorly done actually... and where did his wolf go? And did I miss something with the *cough* battle of Winterfell? At night there's 500 men surrounding it, then by morning it's a smoldering ruin and everybody is gone. Like wtf? Were did the 500 northern men go? Why did the writers even bother... although Theon's speech did provide some comic relief. In any case, GOT is still great TV. My overall season two rating is 4.5/5 stars. Can't wait until next year.

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
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