Review: GAME OF THRONES S3E10, MHYSA (Or, You Took An Extra Ten Minutes And This Was The Best You Could Do?)

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
Another season of George RR Martin's epic Game Of Thrones has come to an end and in this season's anticipation inducing, nail chewing, big shock cliffhanger ending ... nothing at all happens. Nothing. At. All. With the arguable exception of Gendry being released none of the major plotlines advance so much as an inch, beyond a trio of interesting character moments - Tywin sending Joffrey to his room, Arya killing Bolton's man, Ygritte peppering Jon Snow with arrows - we're treated to little more than a character montage show that stops just barely short of having characters wave to the camera and say see you next year, the messianic tint to Danaerys' brief appearance takes on a weirdly racist and pro-colonial overtone (look at those poor, dark savages and how much they love their blond savior!), and a good block of the extra ten minutes given over to the run time is given to characters that we haven't seen all year doing nothing at all interesting. In all seriousness, am I the only one who took a moment or two to even recognize Balon Greyjoy thanks to his total absence this year?

When they announced a ten episode season for Game Of Thrones I expected ten actual episodes. This was a placeholder that seemingly had no interest at all in advancing the story forward or piquing interest in major events brewing for season four. Probably because those major events are THE SAME DAMN ONES teased at the end of season two that still haven't actually gotten around to happening yet. As season finales go this was kind of crap, and it's a kind of crap so disinterested in actual storytelling that there's not much of anything at all to talk about. Bleh. Not at all how I wanted to be left feeling going into the wait for season four.

[Twitch has been tracking Game Of Thrones from Season One, Episode One from the perspective of someone who has not and will not read the books at all until the series has come to an end so that it can all be experienced for the first time on the big screen. Discussion of the current episode and what has come before is welcome and encouraged but PLEASE avoid spoiling anything that lies ahead in the novels so that those of us who haven't read can experience everything fresh. Also, you can check the links below for discussions of episodes in which things actually happen.]
Around the Internet:
  • I am still reeling from Sir Davos finally learning to read, that was one tense thread this season.

  • darrenjh

    I thought this was one of the best shows of the season precisely because it didn't leave us on a stupid cliffhanger. There were many important scenes in this. Tywin and Tyrion's conversation regarding the Red Wedding. Rob escaping from the Ygritte and the wildings. Ayra's revenge. Finding out who is torturing Theon. If you don't think all of this is moving forward then you're a fool or just plain impatient when it comes to developing a story..

  • Daniel Elijah Sloane

    Psht, this set up next season and was full of amazing imagery and dialogue. You must not understand the series if you think only episodes with a ton of plot movement are good.

  • Estelindis

    I'm gonna disagree with you here. A large amount of storylines were wrapped up, and wrapping something up is certainly advancement. After all, when a plot thread is set up but doesn't turn out as we expect (as often happens on Game of Thrones, see last week for instance), it looks very different. Jaime got back to King's Landing. Sam, Gilly and baby reached Castle Black. So did Jon. Gendry escaped Dragonstone. Arya and the Hound got away from the Twins. Daenerys was accepted gratefully by the slaves of the city her soldiers took. Bran and co. received weapons to fight the White Walkers and got through the Wall. None of those things should have been taken for granted, given what happened to Robb, Cat and Talisa in episode nine.
    Beyond wrapping up, there were some actual new storylines. Yara decides to rescue Theon. Stannis listens to his advisors and decides to help the Night's Watch instead of continuing to fight for the Iron Throne.
    The rest either focused on small character moments or reactions to the Red Wedding (an event that should certainly be felt by the characters in the world).
    I thought it was a great episode. Most of all, it helped to show that honour isn't always punished. Sometimes things can turn out well. In spite of what happened at the Red Wedding, the audience can still hope.

  • Joe Foolio

    While I agree that the white walker storyline does get ignored and that is rather annoying, I will still defend them.

    Think of the name of the series "A Song of Ice and Fire", think of the Stark moto "Winter is Coming". It seems to me that the whites need winter to arrive before they will/can push beyond the wall. And in my best guess that will be when Danaerys and the dragons show up to save (and win the hearts of) Westeros.

    The way I see the show is these are mostly bit players leading up to a grand event. I wouldn't be surprised if only a handful of the characters we've been introduced to will survive. The stage is being set (albeit painfully slow) for big changes in Westeros and the battle for the iron throne has just been filler.... Winter is coming. :P

    Bran getting beyond the wall is fairly significant, it just seems insignificant because of the way it is portrayed on TV.

    Also...

    "Arya killing Bolton's man" They were Frey's men. They had a twin tower standard and were wearing the typical Frey helmet/armor.

  • harumph

    The White Savior nonsense wth Dany is doubly insulting because we already had this scene with the Unsullied. Either the show is going to have to jump ahead a novel and a half, or Dany fans are about to get very, very bored and frustrated for the next two seasons.

  • It takes THAT long for her to get on a damn boat?!? That's INSANE! She's got an army! She's got her dragons! She's in a port city! They offered her enough ships to transport everybody, so clearly everything she needs is right there! That's madness.

  • Joe Foolio

    Her army is nowhere near big enough to challenge for the Iron Throne. She only has like 12,000 max (unsullied and the newly acquired sell swords), she wouldn't last long with an army of that size. She still has to build up her army as well as making a name for herself, none of the kingdoms would dare align with her for fear of being destroyed, she might be a Targaryen but she is still only a young girl. It has been stated that the Lannisters can muster 60,000 men at short notice and that is only 1 of the many kingdoms.

  • Chuck

    Well to be fair when going from book to show we are missing a lot of the internal struggle that Dany has with what she is currently doing. I suppose they will go into it more next season but she decides to stick around for some time over there to learn how to rule before she is willing to set up to the West. Also, and I can see this is sort of set up from the last episode, when they start calling her "mother" it stirs the motherly nature of her and she feels like she NEEDS to protect all these people she has freed.

    I can see how this was a sort of anti-climatic ending for the season and yes the Arya kill in the show was pretty freaking dumb, the person she kills in the book is a lot more meaningful to her storyline and I am suprised they didn't do the same in the show!

  • harumph

    Well, it's not really a spoiler to say that Dany doesn't even appear in the novel that's to be adapted after the next season concludes, so I really think that the show's creators are going to have to cobble together Feast For Crows and Dance With Dragons into one season in order to avoid the tidal wave of criticism that hit the fourth novel when it was released.

    I think we're supposed to be feeling some building sense of hope/excitement/dread/whatever as Dany cuts a swathe across the East. But to me--both as a reader and a viewer--it just feels repetitive (and racist). So much of what happens with Dany in Storm of Swords just feels like treading water. Probably because what we're really waiting for is for her dragons to get huge. I think Martin said that at some point he realized he was going to have to jump ahead in the timeline in order to get to that point, but unfortunately he just kept rambling on with umpteen other characters that we don't really care about for another couple thousand pages.

  • Oh, they said ages ago that they were going to be blending the books to keep all the storylines going simultaneously.

  • Kurt

    Book Blending, Timelines and adaptation philosophy in GoT: http://insidetv.ew.com/2013/06...

  • harumph

    Interesting article. I think it's obvious that the show will catch up with the books after a few more seasons. We have a third of Storm of Swords left over for next season, which will probably overlap into the Feast For Crows/Dance With Dragons mash-up. So then season five will likely be whatever remains of Dance With Dragons (I feel like Feast For Crows will provide enough raw material for only a handful of episodes), and then if we're being really optimistic we can say that Martin will have finished the sixth novel by that time. Which means that the shows producers will be forced to jump ahead after that point, because there's no way that Martin will be able to keep up then.

    Not to mention that the younger actors will all be too old in a few more years, unless Martin finally does his 5-year jump cut that he should have done after Storm of Swords.

  • Simon de Bruyn

    No, it's Sparta. Heh.

  • Ruben Rosario

    I'm in total agreement with Todd and I felt extremely disappointed with this season finale. In comparison, there's always been something for us to grasp onto to leave us wondering, Danny's dragons and the massive White Walker army, but this was just terrible. If this was going to be the case, they should have just ended the season with the Red Wedding and called it a day.

  • Stella Maris

    I love the show and have read the books. I agree that if they weren't going to hit us with the Red Wedding in this last episode, they should have given us something else to keep us pining for Season 4. This episode was rather weak.

  • Simon de Bruyn

    Sounds like the Red Wedding would have been the perfect way to end the season.

  • Kurt

    Nope. Game Of Thrones writers wisely end each season on the promise of the next season, not an OMG! cliffhanger...While this episode was not a Hitchcock lesson in high suspense, nor a bloodbath, it is a pretty great bit of positioning for all the friction and noise in the next season. I like me a good promise of things to come.

  • What promise? They're still promising the EXACT SAME STUFF that they promised at the end of last season. They've made no actual progress whatsoever.

  • Kurt

    They promise 'NEW JAMIE LANNISTER' and how he is going to react to his sister/father/brother in the new season.

    They promise 'Danaerys is becoming a religious Icon as much as a leader, and that her 'conquer Westeros' strategy is probably going to change because of it.

    They promise Arya as an Assassin-in-training.

    They promise Magic-Bran vs. White Walkers.

    They promise Stannis' ever evolving strategy just go interesting when he will instead re-enforce the Crows.

    They promise some interesting Greyjoy North - Civil war action, hopefully by sea. This I'm rather keen on, actually.

    They promise Sam as a growing confident leader in training.

    They promise Tywin/Tirion philosophical split just as Tywin makes a naked play for power.

    They promise a Cersei utter break from the family, probably after, I suspect, Tywin offs Joffrey.

    (I've not read the books, but these are my thoughts...)

    They accomplish a deceptive amount of stuff in this season finale, albeit without the major flourishes of violence in the other episodes...(Arya murderousness notwithstanding).

  • Kracker

    I agree with Kurt. There's no way to satisfy when we're having to take a nine month break after getting only halfway through the third book and only making a halfbook of progress in the story. While the last episode had everyone thinking things were over and losing hope, this one opens up things to come in the next season, the further development of Arya, Bran, Jon and Sam, even Stannis and Greyjoy's change in direction and then there's Jamie new change of character. The show being over for the year isn't a pleasant thing. Sorry you didn't like the closer but I personally wasn't expecting a whole lot out of it at all.

  • You're kind of making my point for me, Kurt, in that other than Stannis EVERY SINGLE ONE of these points was made in a previous episode with a great many of them having been in the works for ages now, some literally going back to previous seasons. Even the big Bran reveal - and, in my opinion, Bran is looking likely to be the single largest development of this season - came last week. This is recap, not progress. This is the writer's room essentially employing the soap opera trick of 'Make people look busy and hopefully nobody will notice that the story hasn't actually progressed at all.'

    Recap is fine and all, but the appropriate place for it is at the beginning of the season. The end of the season is where you bring in the note that's going to drive the NEXT season to hook people and keep them involved.

    The big issue, as well, is that all of the things you bring up are micro scale points rather than macro. There's a structural problem in this season in that on the macro level they shot their wad last week. There were huge macro changes in this season - namely acknowledging that the War Of Five Kings was essentially a diversion from the main story / threat and putting a bloody end to it - but they dropped them too early. And so when you get to the end of the season, what do you have? 'Hey, guess what! Danaerys is STILL trying to find a way to cross back into Westeros and the White Walkers are STILL marching towards the wall, JUST LIKE THE END OF LAST SEASON!'

    This episode does nothing but to reinforce the fact that there has been absolutely ZERO progress in the larger narrative. On the macro scale, where we end this season is EXACTLY where we ended LAST season, which makes the whole thing feel like kind of a waste of time. Where if you end on the Red Wedding it's BANG, the rules of the game have just changed ...

  • KL

    I think ending the season with the Red Wedding would have been too much of a cliffhanger/WTF moment. I liked the "recap" of the other characters as a reminder that their arcs (particularly the upcoming events at the Wall and beyond it) are still important to the story, even though they, as you say, haven't changed much since the finale of season 2, except that other groups of people besides the Nights Watch know that they are happening. Episode 10 let the viewers know that there are many reasons to keep watching the show, instead of leaving them with the BANG moment of hopelessness given by the Red Wedding.

    What I DIDN'T like about this episode was that they chose Dany's scene to be the final one, when they could have chosen another particular scene (I've read the books). But that may be my bias towards not liking Dany's arc, except the lone fact that she has dragons. Jon Snow and his arc are my favorite, and much will be happening in the North and at the Wall that needed everyone's attention in this final episode, hence the anti-climax. I think many non-readers are excited about season 4 even though Robb (the favorite of many fans) is dead and Dany (the other favorite) is busy being the beautiful white savior of the brown masses (not a fan of the racial undertones as well).

  • yuwonosigit

    IMHO, saying 'exact same stuff' is kind of strong. Since book 3 is being split into 2 seasons, there are some plots that need time to resolve because they all happen at the same time, while some other plots already concluded, much to everyone's dismay.

    As for promise for the next season, there's Yara with her Ironborn sets up to rescue Theon. And also the potential conflict among the Lannisters in King's Landing, other than those already mentioned by other commenters.

  • I don't think it's strong at all. Danaerys is still just poking around on another continent killing time (the season one stinger) while the white walkers are apparently taking a nap somewhere on their way to the wall (the season two stinger). HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO WALK TO A WALL? Sam is the slowest person on two legs, he's had several side diversions, he's taking care of a woman and baby and even HE managed to beat them there! Sam beat Jon Snow, who was with a wildling raiding party that exists for the sole purpose of getting to Castle Black as quickly as humanly possible! That's ridiculous! They've accomplished nothing.

    And, seriously? I'm supposed to take the Theon storyline seriously? Yara was completely tossed aside for THE ENTIRE SEASON and now I'm supposed to care that she's going to rescue her brother? Where was the concern months ago? For that matter, given that Stannis and Bolton are both rather pissed with the Ironborn in general for taking lands in the north, where have the Greyjoys been in general in this season? I'm supposed to consider Baylon a credible force in Westeros when there's been only one sideways reference to him up until now in the entire season? That's poor plotting ...

  • Estelindis

    Todd, the Greyjoys were pillaging the North for most of this season. The letter sent by Ramsey to Balon and Yara says as much. As excruciating as it has been watching a few too many torture scenes with Theon, I think that a few added pillaging scenes would have been even worse.
    As for where Yara's concern was months ago, she's been showing Theon from the start what it means to be Ironborn. You shouldn't be concerned with proving yourself, just try to take what you want - and, fail or succeed, *own* your choice. She told him to come back to the Iron Islands, to leave Winterfell before he got himself killed, but he was so focused on proving himself to a daddy who doesn't love him that he couldn't bear to go, Even though Yara doesn't feel the need to beg for her Father's approval, by now, seeing what's happened to Theon, she's clearly reached the point where even she can't help but feel pity for him. If he'd just died at Winterfell, she would have felt sad but moved on. But what's happening to him now is another story. She's decided that she wants to put an end to it, so she's going to try. Ironborn way: take what you want, with or without your father's permission.

  • That's just bad storytelling. If there have been important events happening, you need to show those events. Balon Greyjoy has had what? Ten or fifteen minutes of total screen time on the entire series? Of which maybe two are in this series? You can't ignore a supposedly major character wholesale like this, then just trot him out when you feel like it and expect people to care. We have no reason to be emotionally invested in Balon or Yara's story AT ALL because we haven't been told any of it.

  • Kurt

    I don't think the GreyJoys knew exactly where Theon was all this time. The Bolton sausage boy finally got around to telling them there even WAS a hostage situation.

  • yuwonosigit

    I think it should be clear by now that Daenerys seems to be more interested in liberating the slaves than reclaiming the Iron Throne, which she has no memory of at all. Everything she knows about Westeros, she heard it from her brother and that merchant who sold her to Khal Drogo.

    I agree about the walkers, they do love to take their time...as for Sam vs Jon Snow, Sam took the straight path and went under the wall, while Jon Snow has to circle around and climb some thousand feet, and travel back to Castle Black from the south.

    I think The Greyjoys will get more roles in upcoming season, after all, someone has to fill the gap the Starks left. But I could be wrong.

  • Rat Bastard

    So, Stannis deciding to head north to reinforce The Wall isn't a big deal? Jon Snow getting back to Castle Black to warn it of the impending wildling attack isn't a big deal? Arya getting her first (grown man) kill isn't a big deal?

  • I'll give you Stannis. But Jon? No. Not really. That's been progressing VERY SLOWLY for a VERY long time now. That plot line is effectively in the same point now as it was last week. And, no, Arya killing someone isn't a big deal in the overall story. The person she killed was meaningless, a Red Shirt in Star Trek parlance. When she kills someone that matters, then it'll matter.

    In my head the Stannis stuff is more or less rolled in to Gendry being released, but that's the only storyline that is tangibly ANY different at the end of the episode than it was at the beginning. Everything else is more of the same ...

  • Rat Bastard

    I don't know about you, but I would think a 11-12 year old girl transforming into a ruthless killer to be at least a little bit significant in her character arc.

  • That's been in progress from the moment she picked up a sword is series one.

  • harumph

    Plus she's already killed a young boy, so it's not as though were supposed to be shocked by when she finally gets a chance to shiv somebody. She's been promising to for a long time now.

  • And she's ordered the killings of several others.

  • harumph

    Exactly. So she's already tasted revenge too, which is the only other element missing from the stable boy incident. I think this new scene was less about her killing somebody than it was about who she didn't kill. She managed to steal the Hound's knife, but she didn't use it on him. That's the significant part of the scene.

  • yuwonosigit

    After last week, I'm just glad Ygritte didn't kill Jon Snow lol
    On a more serious note, this week's episode shows Arya resolution, hinted by the coin given by Jaqen H'qar.

  • Jesse Thomas Cook

    Agreed. Shit is weak this week.

  • otterboy

    It should be pointed out that this ending season and the next are being adapted from the same book. I think all the material being covered was just way too much to organize for Benioff and Weiss. There should have been some bookends involved to at least some of the plotlines, definitely.

  • derpina

    I think that yes, its a lot of material to put in one season, but.. i think the decision to not show anything new and the multiple filler episodes this season only means one thing. MONEY, they know they have one of the best shows on tv so why have good pacing when people will watch absolutely anything they show us. I may be cynical, but I fully beleive they are in the "stretch this out for as long as possible" mode.

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