Game of Thrones Finale Recap: The War Ends, the Battle Begins [Updated]

game-of-thrones-season-3-finale-300Warning: This Game of Thrones recap contains spoilers from the Season 3 finale. All those who haven’t seen it, you are hereby banished north of The Wall. Everyone else, proceed…

After last week’s harrowing episode, Game of Thrones had to work pretty hard to finish its third season on a memorable note.

A dismembered phallus? Yeah, that’ll do.

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Though the episode had nowhere near the flash or gravity of last week’s Red Wedding, it held a few small reveals and some absolutely stellar scenes between a few of our favorites, and it moved all the pieces into place for next season. Bottom line, I liked (not loved) it – though judging from the poll results so far, many of you don’t agree. So let’s get down to it and review what happened in “Mhysa.”

HOUSE GREYJOY | Theon’s torturer, whom I’d been calling Georgelgänger, turns out to be Roose Bolton’s bastard son, Ramsey Snow. And yes, he most decidedly emasculated Theon a few episodes back but no, that thing he’s eating when we first see him is not Greyjoy’s missing appendage. (Side note: Gross.) My new name for a dejected Theon: Lord Greyjoyless. But Ramsey’s got a better one: Reek, because all of this torture and penis-losing has given Theon that not-so-fresh aroma. As Ramsey beats Reek into accepting his new moniker, little Theon is making its way to Papa Greyjoy in the Iron Isles. If the Ironborn don’t skedaddle from the north, Ramsey promises, Theon will die in a very painful way. Balon pretty much says, “Meh,” but Yara gathers a boat and a crew and sets off to save her brother.

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HOUSE STARK: MINI-MURDERER EDITION | Arya wakes up from the Hound’s blow just in time to see Frey’s men parade Robb’s body, which has Grey Wind’s head sewn on where her brother’s head should be. (A few side notes: First, totally disgusting and horrifying. Second, that is Martha Stewart levels of efficient crafting. Robb’s been dead, what, five minutes?) On the road a few days later, Arya overhears one man in a camp boasting that he was the one to do the grisly stitchery. Ned’s daughter plays innocent until she can get close, then plunges the Hound’s knife into the man. Her captor/rescuer jumps into the melee and they kill all of the gang, then Arya pulls out her coin and utters the phrase valar morghulis, which we’ve come to know means “All men must die.”

HOUSE STARK: HEADED-NORTH EDITION | Bran, Meera, Jojen and Hodor spend the night at Nightfort, where they run into Sam, Gilly and the baby. One look at Summer, and Sam realizes that Bran is Jon’s kin. “If you’re his brother, you’re my brother, too,” the portly Night’s Watchman tells him. Though he’s dubious that Bran is at all equipped to fight the beasties up north, Sam gives the Stark group the rest of the dragonglass weapons and shows them the way past the wall. Then, Tarly and his companions make their way to the wall, where Maester Aemon (still alive!) welcomes them back and has Sam draw up some ravens’ notes about the undead apocalypse bearing down on the south. (Side note: Gilly naming the baby after her savior was a sweet touch.)

HOUSE LANNISTER: KNOW-YOUR-PLACE-BOY EDITION | Tyrion and Sansa seem to be getting along well, if the companionable air between them on an afternoon walk is any indication. I’d even say they’re cute together, if I didn’t think Shae – who’s along for the stroll – would cut me for it. They’re interrupted by Podrick (the ladies murmuring about him as he passed gets a “heh” from me), who summons Tyrion to a meeting of Joffrey’s small council.

The boy king is vibrating with excitement at a coded message conveying the deaths of Robb and Catelyn Stark. He wants Robb’s head sent to King’s Landing, because “I’m going to serve it to Sansa at my wedding feast.” I don’t know which makes me love Tyrion more: when he says that will not happen because “She is no longer yours to torment” or when he replies to Joff’s calling him a monster with, “Monsters are dangerous, and just now, kings are dying like flies.” Tywin has even less patience for his psychopathic grandson, telling him that “Any man who must say ‘I am king’ is no true king.” Because he has no hooker handy to riddle with arrows, Joffrey channels his frustrations by calling the Hand of the King a coward – which gets the boy sent to bed like the impudent toddler he is. He even yells out, “I’m not tired!” just like every 5-year-old I ever babysat.

Tywin dismisses everyone but Tyrion, launching an amazing exchange between Papa Lion and his least-desired offspring. Tyrion figures out that Frey’s massacre was backed by the Lannisters, and his father says he did it — essentially ending the war — first and foremost to protect the family. There’s a lot of back and forth about the good of the family name versus the good of its members: Tyrion refuses to create an heir with Sansa by force, and then challenges his father to name one time where the “good of the family” wasn’t also the good of Tywin himself. The day of Tyrion’s birth, the older man answers. “I wanted to carry you into the sea and let the waves wash you away. Instead, I let you live.” Oof.  Well, Tyrion, you asked.

HOUSE LANNISTER: GUESS-WHO’S-BACK EDITION | Tyrion goes to tell Sansa the bad news about her family, but when he finds her, her tear-streaked cheeks signal that she already knows. Unable to comfort her (though I might’ve liked to see him try, given the growing closeness we witnessed earlier), he drinks with a very overserved Pod. Cersei interrupts them to exhort Tyrion to get Sansa with child, and quickly, as a way to save the girl. Though her own children haven’t made her very happy, Cersei admits, “They are the reason I am alive.” It’s the softest, most honest we’ve seen the queen regent in some time, and it’s a lovely scene.

Meanwhile, at the gates of King’s Landing, Jamie and Brienne are being treated like human garbage by some low-level officials. I know I’ve already waxed enthusiastic about the shorthand that Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau have developed as these two unlikely friends, but I’m gonna do it again — the look of sympathy she aims at him when the guard fails to recognize Jaime is just perfect. Later, Jaime finds Cersei alone in her room, and neither of them can tear their eyes away from his missing hand. I’m very interested to see how next season is going to go for those two.

HOUSE BARATHEON | Ser Davos bonds with Gendry, who’s being held in Stannis’ dungeons, about their shared upbringings in the Flea Bottom slum of King’s Landing. The best part of the scene is Gendry’s reasoning behind getting naked with Melisandre: “Big words, no clothes. What would you have done?” (Ha!) When the Red Priestess in question decides that Gendry’s blood is so powerful he must die as a sacrifice – and Stannis is on board – Davos springs the blacksmith loose and sets him in a rowboat bound for his hometown. Stannis and Melisandre then decide that Davos must die for his treason, but he mentions the note he received from Sam’s raven and argues that Stannis will need strong advisors in the upcoming trying times. Though Stannis isn’t very open to the idea at first, Melisandre burns the piece of paper, stares into the flames and is all, “Yep, it checks out” – thus saving the life of the man she’d previously wished dead (and vice-versa).

HOUSE TARGARYEN | Though it looks for a moment like the slaves of Yunkai won’t join Daenerys, they eventually do. She gives them her standard, empowering stump speech, and they all start calling her “mhysa” — or “mother.”  Feeling the love, she steps out among the masses. Before long, she’s crowd surfing like it’s Lollapalooza 1992 and she’s Anthony Kiedis.

THE WILDLINGS | Ygritte catches up to Jon, who says she must’ve always known who he truly was, then adds that he loves her — and that he knows she loves him. The redhead gives us one last “You know nothing, Jon Snow” for the season before landing three (!) arrows in her beloved. Girl does not mess around. On a serious note, the fact that both of them are so upset during this conversation is a cool call-out on the turmoil their affection for each other has caused. Jon eventually does make it back to The Wall, where Sam and the other brothers care for him.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Grade it via the poll below, then sound off in the comments!