Last week’s Game of Thrones was super-focused: we stayed with the Battle of Blackwater for the duration, and all the other plotlines were left to wait. Now, in the season finale, we pick up on each and every one of them, bringing all the various arcs to a close while setting them up for where they’ll be going next.
In King’s Landing, we see the aftermath of last week’s battle, and the show gives us a very clear visual right at the beginning to sum it all up: horse shit. Although Tyrion pretty much single-handedly saved the city, it’s Lord Tywin who gets all the credit. Without so much as a “thanks, nice job, guy,” Tyrion’s tenure as Hand of the King comes to an end, and all he has to show for us is a nasty, not-particularly-well-stitched-up gash across his face. Bronn’s been relieved of his position with the City Watch, and Grand Maester Pycelle’s back to his old spot on the Small Council, offering Tyrion a coin for his troubles—a little bit of comeuppance for how Tyrion had dismissed him before. If Tyrion wore a beard, you know Pycelle would have pulled that off, too. Shae’s still around, and she, at least, is sticking with Tyrion, and offers that they flee King’s Landing for her homeland, where they could eat and drink and sleep and screw to their hearts’ content. But Tyrion’s all about the game now. He’s good at it and he loves playing it, so they’re not going anywhere.
In the court, Margaery Tyrell gets her greatest wish: as reward for the Tyrells’ allying with the Lannisters in the battle, King Joffrey agrees to marry her, joining their houses and making her The Queen. Poor Sansa, who didn’t actually leave with The Hound last week although she really, really should have, is out. With her no longer engaged to marry Joffrey, things in King’s Landing are likely to get even lousier for her than ever before, but the newly-enriched Littlefinger, who still has a crush on Sansa’s mom, offers to find a way to eventually get her back home.
Speaking of back home, how are things going at Winterfell? Not all that great, really, for Prince Theon. The place is surrounded by Stark men, and one of them has a vuvuzela or something that he just. Won’t. Stop. Blowing. Maester Luwin, there to advise the Lord of Winterfell, whoever that Lord may be, suggests to Theon that he get the hell out of there, run away and join the Night’s Watch to make amends for all that he’s done. Theon won’t have it, though, because this is Theon, and Theon is not capable of making good decisions. And come on: could you really see this guy taking a vow of celibacy? So Theon gives a rousing speech to his men, that although they are outnumbered 12-to-1 and face certain death, they are men of the Iron Islands and should fight. But men of the Iron Islands, brutal as they are, aren’t stupid, so Dagmer clubs Theon over the head and they get the hell out of there, burning Winterfell and killing everyone inside as they go. How exactly they’re able to escape while the place is supposedly surrounded isn’t made clear, but I guess we’re just letting that slide for now. Bran and Rickon, hidden in the crypts, are okay, though. As he lays dying, Maester Luwin entrusts Osha to protect the boys and to take them north to The Wall, where Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch will be able to keep them safe and reunite them with their family. Osha the Wildling knows north is not the direction anyone wants to be headed these days, with winter coming and all that, but all the warring going on to the south leaves them without any better options.
As for that family: Robb and Catelyn have a heart-to-heart over Robb’s wanting to be with Talisa even though he’s supposed to marry a Frey girl. Catelyn stresses the political importance of the alliance with the Freys, as well as the need for a king to stay true to his oaths. Then she offers the example of herself and Ned, who grew to love each other quite deeply even though their relationship began as an arranged marriage. But Robb’s in love, so he marries Talisa, politics be damned. I suppose we’ll be seeing the fallout from that next season. Meanwhile Arya, who escaped Harrenhal with Gendry and the Fat Kid, catches up with Jaqen. Jaqen offers to take her to Braavos and train her in the arts of assassinry, but Arya defers, needing to find her family first. So instead he gives her a token, so that if she ever needs him again all she needs to do is show it to any Braavosi and say “valar morghulis.” And then Jaquen goes and Changes his Goddman Face Like It Ain’t No Thing, because he isn’t just a cool mysterious assassin, he’s a cool mysterious magic assassin.
Talking about magic, of course, brings us across the Narrow Sea to Daenerys’s storyline. She enters the House of the Undying to get back her dragons, and what she gets are mysterious visions. First she’s in the throne room of the Red Keep, only it’s been pretty much destroyed, with snow pouring through the gaping holes in what used to be the ceiling. Then, she’s north of the Wall, where she finds a hut with her dearly departed husband, Khal Drogo, and their son Rhaego, who looks nothing like the stillborn monstrosity described by that witch last season. It’s a touching scene, and it’s great to see Drogo again, but Dany knows none of it’s real and so she finds herself back in reality, where her dragons are chained up and then—magic!—so is she. You see, with her dragons back in the world, the Warlocks’ magic has gotten much stronger than ever before. The dragons love their “mother,” and when she’s around they make even more magic possible, so Fake Voldemort wants to keep them locked up together for, oh, ever. But this is Daenerys we’re talking about, and just like last year, after nine episodes of wandering around unsure what to do it’s time for her to kick some serious ass. All she has to do is look at her dragons, and they burn Fake Voldemort, their chains, and the whole House of the Undying to the ground. Then it’s time to deal with Xaro Daxos. She locks him in his not-all-that-surprisingly-empty vault, and then it’s a free-for-all as Dany’s crew empties Ducksauce’s mansion, netting themselves more than enough to afford the ships and men Dany needs to go to Westeros.
Meanwhile, in the frozen north, Qhorin just keeps on goading Jon Snow into a fight, until Lord Skeletor of the Wildlings is all “Okay fine, let them kill each other.” And sure enough, Jon ends up killing Qhorin, who with his dying breath reminds Jon of his oath to be a “watcher in the night.” We know Qhorin’s intention was to set Jon up as an inside man with the Wildlings; what’s unclear is whether dense old Jon caught on to the plan before or after he put his sword through Qhorin’s gut. Either way, they’ve arrived at Mance Rayder’s encampment, though we’ll have to wait until next season to finally meet the “King Beyond the Wall.”
And then we check in with Samwell Tarly and the Night’s Watch Irregulars, who hear three horn blasts, signifying… White Walkers. The other two guys book it, leaving Sam hiding behind a rock on his own. And then, zombies. So many zombies. Thousands, an army of zombies. And at their head, atop a dead horse, an actual Walker—a blue-eyed, frost demon-looking guy, who sees Sam and just doesn’t care. It’s what we know has been coming from basically the first episode of the series—everyone in Westeros has been fighting among themselves over who gets to be King, while they really should have been paying more attention to the growing threat north of the Wall. And now there’s an army of zombies headed directly for the Wall.
And with that, season two comes to an end. See you in nine months!