The "Game of Thrones" Season 5 finale had a lot storylines to wrap up, and it pretty much answered every question with more death. It seemed like no storyline was spared in "Mother's Mercy" and only a few characters had anything resembling something of a victory in this episode. There were several scenes that could have "broke the Internet" and Jon's fate is quite the cliffhanger.
Warning: "Game of Thrones" Season 5 spoilers and "A Song of Ice and Fire" discussion ahead.
For The Watch Happened
Things were going so well for Jon Snow. Sure, he didn't have many allies as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, but he was a great leader. He forged an alliance with the Wildlings and is one of the few people who truly understands the looming threat of the Night's King and the White Walkers.
Jon Snow recalls the events of Hardhome to Samwell Tarly and how the Night's King just had to lift his arms to create an undead army. One common thread spread across the "Game of Thrones" Season 5 finale is leaders burdened with tough decisions. Whether it's what happens when you try to gain power or stay true to yourself, there's always a group just waiting to oppose everything for which you stand.
Sam wants to become a Maester and asks Jon to travel to the Citadel with Gilly and the baby. Sam's training at the Citadel would give him the ability to help the Night's Watch and Jon after Maester Aemon's death. Sam does not want to fail Gilly and would rather face a whole army of White Walkers than see disappointment in her eyes. Their relationship is a rare glimmer of hope this season and has given Sam more agency: He is no longer the coward of previous seasons.
With Sam's departure, Jon has no true ally left at Castle Black. Melisandre arrives at Castle Black after leaving Stannis before the siege of Winterfell. Ser Davos finds out Shireen was sacrificed. After reading a few letters, Olly tells Jon a Wildling saw Benjen Stark alive, but it's a trap to lead him outside. Faced with a sign that says "traitor," members of a group led by Ser Aliser Thorne take turns stabbing Jon in what is known by readers as For the Watch. Olly delivers the final blow.
This event is quite the cliffhanger. For readers, For the Watch was similar to the Red Wedding and I'm sure fans will be left wondering if Jon is really dead. "Game of Thrones" Season 6 is shaping up to be something special if series creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff provide a few answers to Jon's fate.
Cersei's Walk Of Shame
Cersei remains in her cell and finally confesses. She admits to having an affair with Lancel Lannister, but does not confess to a relationship with Jaime Lannister or to the murder of Robert Baratheon. Her confession does not free her from a trial. The High Sparrow announces she has to atone for her sin, which means a penance walk. Cersei is stripped and her hair is cut short before her walk from the Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep. As she walks, citizens begin yelling slurs and throwing food at her while Septa Unella rings a bell while saying "shame." Cersei is humiliated and can barely hold back her emotions as she completes her walk of atonement.
Cersei's feet are bleeding. She barely reaches the gates of the Red Keep before crying. It's a heartbreaking scene and one where we genuinely sympathize with a character we've hated for the last five seasons. Lena Headey delivers a powerful and nuanced performance that concludes with a transformed Cersei.
Qyburn finally covers her up while Maester Pycelle and her uncle, Kevan Lannister, look on. We learn what Qyburn's been up to -- a resurrected Ser Gregor Clegane that will serve as Cersei's monstrous kingsguard protector.
Stannis' Siege And Ramsay Bolton's Victory
At the beginning of the "Game of Thrones" Season 5 finale, Melisandre approves of the weather and it seems like the sacrifice of Shireen has pleased the Lord of Light. The weather has turned in Stannis' favor, but he is still burdened by the decision to sacrifice his daughter. Stannis gets even more bad news when half his army deserts him. As if Stannis needed to receive any more bad news, his men alert him to Selyse Baratheon's suicide.
Despite all the losses, Stannis' army remains formidable. The Boltons are gearing up for war at Winterfell and Sansa tries to escape in the chaos.
The Bolton army rides out to meet Stannis' troops in a huge open field battle. Stannis' army is surrounded, and it's pretty much a slaughter: a whole season of buildup to see Stannis' column get flanked by the Boltons.
Stannis is surrounded by his dead bannermen, and he staves off one attack, but his bad day gets worse when Brienne finds him wounded. She recites her vow to Renly Baratheon to avenge his death and kill Stannis. She sentences him to death. The scene ends as Brienne raises Oathkeeper and lets out a scream.
It looked like Sansa Stark would once again be thwarted in her attempt to escape the Boltons and flee Winterfell. Pod sees Stannis' army marching to Winterfell and Brienne turns away before she can see Sansa's signal.
Sansa remains trapped in Winterfell and the Bolton army has returned after their victory. Myranda finds her and Theon/Reek finally does something useful. After Theon throws Myranda off the walkway, he grabs Sansa and the two jump to safety. While it may not be as satisfying a conclusion as many would have wanted after Sansa was raped on her wedding night, she and Theon/Reek are now out of Winterfell. It'll be interesting to see how "Game of Thrones" Season 6 handles Sansa's escape and her next moves.
Arya Stark Fails To Be No One
Ser Meryn Trant is abusing three girls in the brothel. The third girl is Arya Stark with a new face. She gets her vengeance for the death of Syrio Forel, but she is punished by the Faceless Men. Arya kills Meryn, but she is supposed to be "no one" and stole a life from the Many-Faced God. For her treachery, Jaqen H'ghar poisons himself. It turns out to be a corpse with an endless supply of faces and Arya's real punishment is soon revealed. As Arya looks upon her own face on the body, she slowly loses her sight.
A Dornish Farewell
Myrcella Baratheon, Jaime Lannister, Prince Trystane Martell and Ser Bronn leave Dorne for King's Landing. It seems like everyone knows about Jaime and Cersei. The kingslayer tries to reveal his secret and Myrcella stops him, saying she's proud to have him for a father. That means, Mycella, Bronn and Ellaria easily figured out that Cersei and Jaime were lovers. Jaime and Myrcella finally embrace as father and daughter, but the young princess is bleeding from her nose, a sign that she's been poisoned by Ellaria and the Sand Snakes.
Two Old Faces To Rule Meereen
Tyrion, Daarion Naharis and Jorah Mormont are sitting on the steps of the throne room and are dejected. The trio of advisers come up with a plan to rescue Daenerys. After some bantering, it's decided Jorah and Daario will try and find Daenerys while Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei stay behind in Meereen to rule the city. Varys returns to Tyrion's side and the two friends are reunited. The Master of Spiders will advise Tyrion as he tries to govern Meereen.
Drogon is wounded and it looks like he's in no mood to fly back to Meereen. As Daenerys wanders around unfamiliar territory, she is surrounded by a khalasar.
The "Game of Thrones" Season 5 finale was definitely memorable. The confirmed body count is relatively low -- Stannis' army and Selyse -- but the number of possible deaths is impressive. Jon, Stannis and Myrcella may all be dead and, coupled with Arya's blindness and Cersei's walk of shame, there will be plenty of discussion about what's next after "Mother's Mercy."
"A Song of Ice and Fire" Discussion
-- Readers and viewers are left in the dark regarding Jon Snow's fate. "A Dance with Dragons" had the For the Watch scene, but there was some uncertainty about his fate. With his final breath, Jon says, "Ghost," and many believe he warged into his direwolf. "Mother's Mercy" did get Melisandre to Castle Black, which means Jon could be resurrected.
-- Stannis' defeat is somewhat surprising. It was never a contest, and Brienne appeared to fulfill her vow by killing Stannis. That scream could be her delivering a powerful blow or getting attacked from behind. We won't know until "Game of Thrones" Season 6. There's plenty to think about if this is also Stannis' fate in George R.R. Martin's series.
-- Dorne finally became interesting in the "Game of Thrones" Season 5 finale. Myrcella's poisoning is an interesting departure, but I wish the show would give Prince Doran Martell some more material. In "ASOIAF," Prince Doran reveals his carefully plotted revenge against the Lannisters, but he remained on the sidelines while the Sand Snakes looked on with Ellaria.