A season of television should tell a complete story. Seasons of TV need to stand alone but be able to exist in the grand overall story too. "Mhysa" contained a few cliff-hangers, enticing teasers, and never offered any resolution for any of its stories, except for one or two. Of course, season three and season four are telling the story of A Storm of Swords, which means Weiss and Benioff had the task of finding an endpoint for this season.
The task isn't difficult, though. Last week's Red Wedding happens a little more than halfway through the book, and there's the triumphant scene of Dany being celebrated as mother by the freed Yunkish. The finale's a very good episode because of the terrific writing, the various teases and cliff-hangers, but what stands out is the focus and emphasis on two of the most underserved stories since season two: Bran's and Stannis' stories.
The writers have a difficult task with Bran. Bran's with the Reeds who are mysterious for a good bit until Jojen starts opening up to Bran about what they have in common. Bran barely did anything for the first half of the season. He had some dreams, he woke up and then had his dreams explained to him by Jojen. The last few episodes have defined Bran's story more clearly than earlier in the season. Now, he's Beyond-The-Wall and headed into the nonsense in hopes of meeting the three-eyed crow. (The nonsense is the wights and white walkers walking around). His meeting with Sam in the Nightfort is a highlight of the episode, but it's another frustrating scene for fans who'd like characters to reunite. I'm among those fans. Bran's committed; hopefully the viewer is as committed. Commitment to Bran's story is essential, I think. While there's more definite direction and purpose, the specifics remain vague. The other highlight of Bran's story is his little story about the rat cook. The gods cursed this cook for killing a man under his roof, which should resonate with audiences just one week after The Red Wedding.
I think Stannis' story has been underserved for nearly two seasons. Stannis' motivations are clearly stated, and Melisandre's involvement, i.e. her helpful bits of exposition, have been clear as well; however, how many people feel invested in Stannis' story? Of course, Stannis is a difficult character to care about, to feel invested in. He never smiles, he's a stalwart for justice, he murdered his brother, and he almost murdered his most loyal friend, Davos Seaworth. The show's challenge is getting the audience to care about his story in some way. Stannis is at his most unlikeable for most of the episode. Davos bonds with Gendry as Stannis commits to sacrificing his nephew for the sake of an entire kingdom. Sam's return to Castle Black changes the course of events in Dragonstone, though. Aemon's crow delivers news from Beyond The Wall. Melisandre looks into the flames and sees that the war of the five kings is unimportant. It remains to be seen whether or not the king and the other lords of Westeros will take the threat as serious as Melisandre, Stannis, and Davos do. The message from The Wall saves Davos life. Davos helped Gendry flee Dragonstone before the sacrifice. So, the new mission, as it were, is a start, at least, for more viewer investment in Stannis' story. He's still a stern son of a bitch, hard to like or care about in anyway, and Melisandre is a pill though incredibly sexy, but Davos is awesome. I suppose Davos would be enough at this point without the new direction for Stannis in season 4 to care about this whole story.
The other stories throughout the finale continue to build for the fourth season payoffs. There were complaints about the Theon storyline since it began. Folk didn't like the constant torture episode after episode. Theon's story sped up considerably. The nameless torturer is Bolton's bastard, Ramsey, and he's doing what he's doing because he's a sadistic psychopath. Ramsey gives Theon a new name, which worked well with the heavy subtext of identity throughout the episode. Roose is just fine with it, too. Theon's body parts will be sent to the Iron Islands as a threat. Balon doesn't give a damn about threats and disavows his son, but Yara gathers men and boats to rescue her brother. Joffrey is an asshole during the small council meeting, gleefully celebrating Robb's death, calling for Robb's head to present to Sansa at his wedding feast, insulting Tyrion and Twin, and going as far as to tell Tywin he hid from the rebellion under Casterly Rock. Tyrion tells Joffrey to watch his mother since kings seem to be dying at a steady pace. The scene transitions into an acting showcase between Charles Dance and Peter Dinklage. Tywin pressures Tyrion about bedding his wife;
Tyrion wonders how she'll receive him upon hearing about her brother and mother; and then Tywin curses his son's birth.
Two short scenes with Arya are the best of the episode. Maisie Williams face as she sees what's been done to her brother's corpse was devastating--she conveyed everything Arya felt in that moment, thoughts about what happened to her dad, how close she was, and the hopelessness she feels now that her brother is gone. Arya's changed irrevocably. She kills a man on the road for mocking her brother and mother, and she then stares at her coin that Jaqen gave her and repeats his words, "Valar morghulus" or "all men must die." Oh yeah, Arya Stark's getting badass again.
Now the wait begins for the fourth season and the resolution to the many story threads of season three.
-Great episode for Hodor.
-I'm rather tired right now and can't think up any other thoughts, though I know I have thoughts about Cersei, the Ironborn stuff, the Varys/Shae scene, and the Mhysa scene. My eyes are weary, though. So, until next season, good day.
-David Benioff & D.B. Weiss wrote the episode. David Nutter directed it.