Game of Thrones: Inside The Episode “Valar Morghulis” (S02E10)

Game of Thrones Review/Recap: “Valar Morghulis” Season 2 Finale, Episode 10 (Episode 20)

In the aftermath of the climatic, “Blackwater” episode, the second season finale wraps up some storylines but mostly sets up intriguing possibilities for Season 3. I’ve put together some quick thoughts and reactions to this episode.

King’s Landing

Tyrion lives! After strategizing to use wildfire against Stannis’ fleet and leading the attack at the Mud Gate, Tryion should have earned the respect of his father Tywin. His reward for his bravery … losing the position of Hand of the King! Tyrion’s heroics won’t be mentioned in the history books much less acknowledged by King Joffrey. His own family is his worst enemy, especially Cersei who arranged to have Ser Mandon assassinate him. Varys is wisely distancing himself from Tyrion or risk getting caught in the crossfire. With the unscrupulous Bronn notably absent, only his cupbearer Podrick and whore Shae are standing by his side. I initally had my suspicions on Shae, after all she is getting paid to be with Tyrion. However, in “Blackwater”, she risked getting raped (or worse) by waiting for Tyrion in Maegor’s Holdfast rather than fleeing with Sansa. When Shae suggests they should escape to Pentos together, Tyrion refuses because he lives to outwit and outplay his enemies. The fact that Tywin has gone to great lengths to buy out the Hill’s tribe, replace Bronn as commander of the Gold’s Watch and keep his son alive under the care of Maester Pycelle most likely means he has plans for his son and Tyrion won’t have much of a choice.


The strongest characterization of Season 2 belongs to Theon Greyjoy. Like Tyrion, Theon makes a decision to stay in the city knowing it will likely lead to his demise. The conversation with Maester Luwin shows that although he recognizes the severity of his actions, Theon is not looking to make amends or be absolved of his crimes by joining the Night’s Watch. He is owning his decisions and most importantly his identity as Iron born. As funny as it was, it’s a bit puzzling why Dagmar would knock out Theon. Dagmar has been with Theon every step of the way; in deciding to take over Winterfell, encouraging the beheading of Ser Rodrick Cassels and conspiring to kill the farm boys. Couldn’t he try to convince or at least talk to Theon about other options? The other Iron born were ready and willing to die after the rousing speech by Theon (possibly a best-supporting actor performance for Alfie Allen?) now they’re going to run? Since Winterfell is a fortress, their best chance is to fight or die defending the city as true Iron Born rather than be branded as cowards. Later, Osha and the Stark boys emerge from the tombs to discover an abandoned, burnt down Winterfell. Did the Iron born soldiers escape? Where are the 500 men that were suppossedly surrounding Winterfell? Did the dying Maester Luwin walk to to the Gods wood, despite knowing the children were in the tomb? One possibility is that the Northerners agreed to let the Iron Born leave if they gave up Theon, as ordered by Robb Stark but why burn down the city? Too many loose ends and questions to wrap up this story arc. I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to find out the fate of Theon and what really happened.

Qarth/House of the Undying

Dany’s journey this season was not as compelling as season 1 where we gradually saw her become empowered. We did finally get explanation of why the warlock, Pyat Pree, stole the dragons and wanted Dany to come to the House of the Undying. In case it wasn’t clear, the birth of dragons are the source of the warlock’s renewed magic abilities and the dragon’s are strongest with their mother. Good thing Dany trained her baby dragons to breath fire when commanded. I would have loved to have seen a close up shot of Pyat’s face get melted off! In the dream-like sequence, we see how resolved Dany is when she passes up on the Iron Throne and leaves Khal Drogo & baby (great to see Khal Drogo again!). She’s does not settle for a lie. She’s very much grounded in reality and understands what it will truly cost to win Westeros even it means never finding love again or having children.

Beyond the Wall

In the HBO featurettes at the beginning of the season, series executive producers talked about how Qhorin would be a father-figure to Jon. I would really wish they would have explored this aspect to make us feel the weight of Jon’s inner turmoil of having to kill somebody he looked up to. Qhorin gave up his life so that Jon would be accepted by the Wildings and Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall. Not enough time or scenes were devoted to their relationship, as a result Qhorin’s death was a just plot device rather than something that could help us understand and explore Jon’s morality.

As exciting as it was to see the White Walkers for the first time since a brief glimpse earlier this season, it felt a bit tagged on to the season finale to leave fans wanting more. The strength of Game of Thrones are the complex characterizations where the good guys don’t always make the right decisions and villians are not dressed all in black. For example, in “Blackwater” many viewers were conflicted in rooting for Stannis in hopes he would kill Joffrey and cheering for Tyrion who is defending King Landing and therefore Joffrey. However, the White Walkers represent an absolute evil in a world of grey. We probably won’t ever get to see a story from their perspective (as they don’t seem to talk). Other than crossing the Wall and taking Craster’s baby boys, what do the White Walkers ulitmately want? Certainly not the Iron Throne.

Watch Inside the Season 2 Finale of Game of Thrones.

Dialogue To Die For

Tyrion to Varys: “Don’t want to swim too close to a drowning man?”

Varys: “Nothing dangerous down there.”

Shae: “Eat. Drink. F*ck. Live.”

Luwin to Theon: “You’re not the man you’re pretending to be.”

Khal Drogo: “These are questions for wise men with skinny arms.”

Arya: “Valar Morghulis” (which translates to All Men Must Die, in high Valyrian.)

Posted on June 4, 2012, in Game of Thrones, Television and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. The white walker will play a bigger role in the future. Bran will have a connection to them as well.

  2. They are not all white walkers. The white one riding on the zombie horse is the White Walker but the zombie guys walking are called Wights.

    • That’s a good point. The wildlings mentioned they should burn Qhorin’s body .. because they don’t want him resurrected as a Wight (ie. zombie) .. which is different from a White Walker.

  3. Just to point put that the other Iron born were certainly not willing to die for Theon. They were basically humouring him – one even remarks on how he thought Theon would never shut up!

    I didn’t like that the other Iron born literally just decide to leave and then torch the place before walking off – weren’t they surrounded? What about Rob’s offer that they could go home unharmed apart from Theon? That implied it was going to be a choice between surrendering before being allowed to leave or staying to fight and die and instead they just say “let’s go home”.

    Also, what the hell is the Stark army doing? If the Lannisters had to go back to defend King’s Landing can’t the Stark army just march un-opposed right to the gates?

    Shame about Tyrion not getting any respect from his father (not surprised at all Joffrey blanket him) – btw loved the fact Tywin’s horse took a dump all over the floor before he rides in to get his rewards, thought that summed things up perfectly and was a nice touch from the director.

    And finally the White walkers – yes impressive (anyone else see Dany’s dragon kicking some major ass there in the future?) but why didn’t they kill that fat Knight’s Watchmen (sorry I can’t remember his name)? The leader dude appeared to look right at him (when he starts sobbing) and then they just carry on? How unlikely?!

    Anyway bring on Season 3!

    • Now that you mention it I can see how all the Iron Born were pretending to go along with Theon during his speech, not just Dagmar. Quite an elaborate ruse. I’m glad you mentioned some of the loose ends that I hope will be addressed in Season 3 including why Robb didn’t personally go back to save his brothers and retake Winterfell.

      Haha, I was thinking the same thing about Tywin’s horse.

      I rewatched the scene with fat Sam and in one shot a wight is clearly walking by. It did appear that the White Walker stopped and stared at him, but when the camera pans out revealing the army of wights, I could see one large rock but no signs of Sam. It might have been a trick in editing to make it seem the two were in front of each other … he’s too fat to hide under the snow … with so many wights he should have been spotted.

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