GAME OF THRONES 5.10 ‘Mother’s Mercy’ Review

GAME OF THRONES Season 5 Episode 10

Episode Title: “Mother’s Mercy”

Writers: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss

Director: David Nutter

Previously on Game of Thrones:

Episode 5.09: “The Dance of Dragons”


After the first few minutes of the Game of Thrones fifth season finale, I assumed that I’d kick off this review by talking about that major death. But instead, I’ll have to talk about that other major death first.

Before that, let me say this to the Game of Thrones novel readers: Thank you. I have had so many of the biggest events of this TV series spoiled for me ahead of time. Ned’s death, the Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding…even Arya’s fate in this episode was spoiled when I did a google search!

But I didn’t see the episode-ending murder coming, nor was it spoiled for me ahead of time. For me, that made it the most shocking scene in Game of Thrones history. And I really appreciate that nobody went out of their way to ruin that.

From this point on, there are full spoilers ahead for “Mother’s Mercy!” You’ve been warned.

“For the watch.”

Watching Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) get stabbed to death was very upsetting. I knew that there had to be some blowback for bringing the Wildlings into the North, but I never suspected that Jon was up for a brutal death. I always thought that he’d play a big role in the endgame for this series.

One of the reasons I wasn’t initially worried is that I assumed that this was just a season ending cliffhanger and that Jon would survive. Subsequent comments by Harrington and the Game of Thrones showrunners seem to indicate that Jon Snow is really dead and Harrington is off the show. And I have a problem with that. Jon Snow carried the Night’s Watch storyline for five seasons. I don’t think it can work without him.

Plus sending Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) off to Oldtown completely removes any sympathetic characters from the Wall. Are we going to start following Ser Alliser (Owen Teale) and Olly (Brenock O’Connor)? I don’t think so.

And yet, I’m still not entirely convinced that Jon Snow is gone for good. The arrival of Melisandre (Carice van Houten) at Castle Black seems like the perfect setup for a resurrection, even though Melisandre previously showed her astonishment that such a feat was even possible. Harrington also said that he won’t be back “next season,” but does that mean that he’ll never be back? I was actually looking forward to learning who Jon’s mother was, and seeing him interact with Daenerys at some point in the future. That may be off the table now.

Now on to the Fall of the House of Baratheon. I think they’re all gone now. Renly had no heirs and Stannis (Stephen Dillane) had his only child burned at the stake as a sacrifice for the Lord of Light. And for what…a little warmer weather? Even Melisandre seemed to realize that this wasn’t a good bargain and she left Stannis behind when she saw how badly things were going. The mercenaries abandoned the man who would murder his own daughter, while his fanatical wife, Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald) killed herself.

To cap it off, the “military genius” rode on to Winterfell despite his depleted army and he was subsequently defeated by the Boltons. That was not a satisfying end for Stannis’ story, and it felt rushed just so the producers could get it out of the way this season. Even bringing in Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) to avenge Renly and presumably finish Stannis off couldn’t cover up how sloppy this was.

At the very least, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Reek (Alfie Allen) are out of Winterfell. If anyone was going to die in this finale, I was expecting it to be Sansa. Given that Sansa and Reek escaped by jumping from the castle walls into the snow, there is some possibility that one or both of them didn’t survive the fall. But that would be even cheaper than Stannis’ apparent demise, and I hope that the Game of Thrones creative team isn’t going to do that again.

But the only real eye-rolling moment of the episode came when Ellaria (Indira Varma) planted the obviously poisoned kiss on Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) at Snore. Yeah… totally not suspicious at all. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Myrcella did have a good scene in which she acknowledged him as her father, but it was clearly setting up her impending demise. Benioff and Weiss are usually better writers than this.

The duo did a much better job on Arya (Maisie Williams) and her storyline in Braavos. The way that she killed Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) was impressively brutal… to the point where it became difficult to watch. Arya’s subsequent confrontation with Jaqen (Tom Wlaschiha) and the Waif (Faye Marsay) was also bizarre in a way that reminded me of The Prisoner. I loved the idea that there is no Jaqen. Whoever Arya met in the second season may not have even been the man that she knew this season. If the Waif can become Jaqen then anyone of the Faceless men can.

Blind Arya was another one of the unfortunate things that I learned about before I stopped googling character names for Game of Thrones. “Arya Stark Blind’ is apparently a common search. I’m interested to see where the story is going with Arya’s blindness. But given how the show usually treats misfortune, she may actually be blind for good.

In the east, it seems like a step backwards to make Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) a captive or a slave of a Dothraki horde. But I love that Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) are now essentially going to be running Meereen. That’s perfect. Those two characters play off each other so well that I’m already looking forward to seeing them handle the Sons of the Harpy next season.

The other big plotline in this episode revolved around Cersei (Lena Headey) getting a form of parole from the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) by confessing to only one of her sins. The mercy that he grants Cersei forces her to walk back to the palace naked while the citizens of King’s Landing harass her and throw things at her. As far back as season 2, Tyrion warned Cersei that the people hated her. I don’t think she ever cared about that until now. Nor do I think that Cersei took any kind of real lesson from her ordeal. She’s already demonstrated an inability to move on from past slights, and this was far worse than any mere insult. I don’t have any sympathy for Cersei, but this was another uncomfortable scene to get through.

A lot has been made about the fact that Lena Headey’s head was CGI-ed on top of a different naked woman’s body. The effect wasn’t always convincing, but it was a necessary evil since Headey was pregnant at the time. From a story perspective, it wasn’t important whether the body belonged to Headey. What mattered was the way that Cersei reacted to it, and Headey’s face did an excellent job of conveying that.

Even though there were aspects of this episode that seemed rushed, it was one of the most thrilling season finales that Game of Thrones has ever done. If Benioff and Weiss are serious about wrapping up the series after seven seasons then they have a lot to do in the twenty episodes remaining. They’ve earned my trust that they know what they are doing. I can’t wait to see what’s next.