If you haven't seen Game of thrones and in particular have not witnessed the recent season don't read this review. Let's dive into this Season's Ups & Downs and focus upon the finale itself.
Let's begin with Stannis Baratheon and his attack upon Winterfell. After Episode 9 and the uncomfortable sacrifice of Stannis' only heir Princess Shireen, many a fan of the show has lost hope in him. The opening of the finale sees that his sacrifice last episode has done him well as the snow is melting allowing him to march onward. However near half his army has left him. We can assume this is their lack of faith in a king who kills his own child at the stake. But the mentioning of sell swords being the majority who fled suggests they may have been bought off. Never the less Stannis is left alone especially after his wife is found to have hung herself, guilt ridden most likely. The wife is a undefined character in the show as she has no real clear opinion on most of the action. The majority of her time on screen has been to judge Shireen for being a daughter and for having Grey scale. yet witnissing her daughter's death last episode she is overcome with emotion we never were previously shown she had. Making her death this episode a mere waste of time for the audience. She is a tool to showing Stannis is in the corner alone. Melisandre looks distraught at the collapse of Stannis' fall from grace. She is the one who persuaded him to do most of his actions yet she flees herself back to Castle Black. Did you have sympathy or empathy for Stannis this episode or had he lost credibility prior?
One underwhelming moment in the whole finale was indeed the battle for Winterfell between Baratheon and Bolton. After such a grand spectacle in the fighting pits last episode and the battle of the Wall last season Game of Thrones has shown itself to many that it can make an epic battle sequence. Yet here we see the charge of the Bolton's cavalry and Stannis marching unafraid. We then cut to see Sansa watching this action and as they two armies are about to meet we cut to the aftermath. Sadly a feeling of un-satisfaction befell me. If this is to be Stannis' final stand we deserve to witness something. The cut to the aftermath comes across as the show taking a step back as this same cut has been used back in season 1 with Tyrion and in Season 2 with the Starks attacking the Lannisters. After what this show haas shown it is capable of most would hope to see some form of action. The cavalry charge felt exactly like Stannis' cavalry charge in season 4's finale against the Wildlings and happened at a similar point in the episode.
Is Stannis killed by Brienne? I for one will say he isn't until we see the body hopefully in Season 6's first episode. Till then we shall sit in quiet wonder at what will now occur after his death. Brienne has indeed taken a back seat this season and for me that is a sad notion. She has been a strong character physically and honorably since day one of her arrival onto the screen. Season 4 ended with her beating the Hound in an attempt to save Arya. This season in her return has been now to save Sansa however her plot has been left. We got given the occasional shot of her looking to the broken tower in Winterfell awaiting signal for aid. The hope is now to have her be a bigger part in season 6. But she missed her chance to get Sansa who lit the candle in the tower. Brienne was given a chance to redeem herself by killing the man who killed her King, Renly Baratheon.
Reek shows his stronger side. Could this moment show Sansa he wants redemption? He saves her from a crazed jealous Myranda by throwing her from the top of the walls at Winterfell down to the stones below. This is a moment of pure brilliance as we see Reek standing up for what's right. Sansa her self is strong in this moment. The trailers show the line from this scene "If I'm going to die, let it happen while there is still some of me left." which leads on to both Reek and Sansa jumping of the battlements to the ground below. We do not see them land. Again like Stannis we will need to wait another year to see what has happened to them. Did they jump so they would die or jump to try and escape? Either way they are getting away from the Bolton's. We do get a moment with Ramsey just before this with him indulging in killing Baratheon soldiers. But who else but Ramsey for that job.
Arya after abandoning the Hound to die up in the hills travelled to Bravos home of her sword dancing teacher, Syrio Forel. Her story has been slow and building to a conflict that was satisified in the finale. Killing Meryn "Too old" Trant the man who killed Forel by stabbing him in both eyes and slitting his throat. This death was coming after Trant's appearance in Bravos last episode and the season would not wait till next year to show his death. However this death showed the darkest side to Arya viewers had yet not witnessed. We early this season hear her speak of guilt for leaving the Hound to die alone yet here she brutalizes a man in a torturous way then kills him. Yet she would leave a man who has actually saved her life to die slowly. It does show you her development and understanding of what needs to be done to the people on her list. However her punishment for taking Trant's life is blindness. Is this symbolic of her being blinded by revenge? Or merely a penance needed to be payed?
The Dorne plot line has been for better a word not the best the show has ever given us. Two great characters that of Jaime Lannister and Bronn are pushed to the side despite that most of the trailers for season 5 consisted of talks about the Dornish sending a threat and wanting a war. However we have been witness to some great action and dialogue between the Dornish leader, the Sand Snakes and Jaime and Bronn. This finale gives us our farewell to Dorne for now with Jaime and Bronn leaving for King's Landing with Myrcella the Queen's daughter. Now we are given one emotional confused Jaime who tries to explain his relation to Myrcella. Myrella's acceptance and love back to her Uncle/Father is a beautiful moment cut short by poison induced by a goodbye kiss.
After last episode in the fighting pits with the Son of the Harpy and Daenerys flying away on top of Drogon we are left in Meereen with Tyrion, Jorah, Daario, Grey Worm and Missandei. Some great back and forth between Tyrion and Jorah, humor becomes threats and eventually leads to Tyrion being left in Meereen to advice over it. What remains of the Harpy? They could be a larger threat to Meereen now given the Mother of Dragons has fled. We find Daenerys with an injured Drogon scared and fearful for her surroundings. We meet a new clan of Dothraki. They surround her and we are left with her in a quite ambiguity. Will she be accepted as a Queen or as a Slave.
Next we have the pay off of Cersei being in the hands of the High Sparrow. Her walk of forgivness the "Mother's Mercy" is one of the most uncomfortable scenes shown in Game of Thrones. Lena Headey is a strong actress and the commitment she has in this sequence is unmatched this season. Cersei has gone on an emotionally crushing journey this season from being mocked by her daughter in law to being jailed for the crime of incest. She is forced to walk naked through the streets of King's Landing being "Shamed" and having the most disgusting parts of life thrown at her. The delicacy taken in the camera work to show close ups of Cersei's face are fantastic capturing every moment of her strong persona being broken down slowly step by step. The moment we witness her blooded feet is a damaging moment for the audience as we see the woman who seemed incapable of harm be broken in front of thousands. The demoralizing moment stands out to be when she finally comes to the doors of the Red keep and she breaks down to tears. What should we expect from her next season? Revenge or acceptance?
Just after this we are given a quick reveal to what has happened to Gregor 'The Mountain' Clegane after his treatment. Is he resurrected?
Finally we are given what looks to be for most fans an unbelievable act. "For the Watch" is the last reminder for the audience of how far Jon pushed his own men away. The foreshadowing constantly appeared throughout the season. Olly always glaring at Jon, and talks of Jon not having many supporters at the Wall. Then the leave of Sam and Gilly this episode was the cherry on the cake damming Jon. A Shakespearean end to the Bastard of the North in constant references to Julius Caesar who climbed high and was pulled down by those he surrounded himself with. Our final image of the season is a bleeding out and dying Jon Snow by a "Traitor" sign slowly accepting his fate after the final blade is driven into his torso by Olly.
In conclusion the finale has been a questionable episode. It leaves so many ideas up in the air. Is Stannis really dead? What will Cersei do to the High Sparrow and his followers? Why did Melisandre return to Castle Black? Will Sir Davos retaliate after his knowledge of Princess Shireen? And is Jon gone for good or will he be back? And how?