It was almost jarring to see them end a season on something other than a big “creature reveal.” That’s not a complaint-and not that there’s anything wrong with big creature reveals, because of course there isn’t. But I really like when seasons (or series, for that matter) end with a central character boarding a vessel or entering a vehicle and going somewhere. It’s a beautiful if obvious metaphor for consuming a serial narrative and also for characters during a “hiatus.” This ending reminded me of the ends of Freaks and Geeks and Six Feet Under, which left me with an unsettling feeling given that those two were series finales. I’m certainly glad I’m aware that Game of Thrones has already been renewed for at least two more seasons.
It is somehow easy to forget or take for granted what an astoundingly gorgeous show Game of Thrones really is visually. At least once every episode I find myself saying aloud how beautiful a particular location or shot was. This episode had at least a half-dozen of such moments. The use of natural light in particular in this episode was worth noting. The fight between Brianne and Clegane in particular was quite well lit, in a addition to being one of the best and most brutal fights I’ve seen on television since Dan Doherty fought Captain Turner on Deadwood (the one with the eye gouge).
In an episode that dealt a great deal with loss, I have to say my favorite scene from this episode and one of my favorites of the season was when Jon Snow lit Ygritte’s funeral pyre. A beautifully composed shot with some fine acting from Mr. Harington, I really loved it.
This episode was a good finale to a good season, but unfortunately the thing that sticks out to me the most from this episode and this season is that the rape of Cersei by Jaime has seriously compromised their arcs, in relation to each other and otherwise. I don’t buy for a second that Cersei the rape victim runs back to Jaime the way she did in this episode. The rape has not been addressed in the narrative whatsoever since its occurrence and looking back now on the season as a whole it makes no sense within the larger story. It’s bad enough to use rape as a hollow narrative tool, but it strikes me as even worse to use it seemingly arbitrarily without even making it relevant to the story being told.
In most ways though, I think Game of Thrones grows stronger with every season. Benioff, Weiss, and company have mastered a unique form of serial narrative on television. True Detective remains the standard bearer for television in 2014, but this latest season of Game of Thrones, like the three that came before it, was solid to say the least.