Surprise! The 'Thrones' finale unleashes dragons, White Walkers and a resurrected warlord

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June 04, 2012 at 01:11 AM EDT

So soon?

Yes, the end is here. It seems like only nine weeks ago that the second season of Game of Thrones started. Actually, it was nine weeks ago. But damn, those weeks sure went by fast.

Tonight’s finale has miles of storytelling to cover and only an hour to do it. Wait, what’s that on my DVR? Seventy minutes? Even better. Take all the time you need, Thrones.

After last week’s Battle of the Blackwater blowout, one might wonder if the finale could live up to the intensity of the previous episode. Once we have a giant green wildfire explosion and castle-wall storming, can we just return to our regular-sized drama and still feel satisfied? Of course. The battle spectacle was fun, but it’s the characters and storytelling that drive this show, and we want to know what’s going to happen next to Dany, Jon, Arya, Theon, Robb and the 257 major characters in this tale.

So let’s get to it. Tonight’s finale is full of surprises — even to devout readers of George R.R. Martin’s novels.

In the credits we see the great Alan Taylor directed this episode. Sadly, Taylor is not expected to direct any episodes next season since his work on Thrones helped land him Thor 2 — the turncloak. (Kidding, kidding. Who wouldn’t be tempted by the opportunity to direct Chris Hemsworth’s hair?)

King’s Landing: We open to a bleary eye. A bandaged Tyrion. He tells Podrick — and worried fans — that he’s very much alive. You didn’t really think Tyrion was dead did you? Then again, Thrones does have a reputation. Pycelle informs him that he’s no longer Hand of the King. Since Tyrion had Pycelle thrown into the Black Cells earlier this season, the maester looks rather pleased to deliver this news. Yes Tyrion, it’s devious and ungrateful jerks like this that you risked your life to save.

Throne Room: Cowardly King Joffrey, backlit by hellish red, gets to magnanimously bestow rewards on his subjects.

First up is Tywin Lannister, whose horse poops on the floor. He’s the new Hand of the King (well, Tyrion was really only serving the role in Tywin’s absence in the first place, but I guess the Lannister patriarch has now taken it back). Tywin is called the “savior of the city” and that is accurate. He rode into the battle with the Tyrells and drove off Stannis. Tyrion deserves a whole lot of credit for rescuing the city as well, but what are the chances he’ll get it?

Next is Littlefinger. It was the Master of Coin’s idea for Tywin to join forces with the Tyrells. He’s given that dragon-wrecked castle Harrenhal where Arya was kept prisoner. The place is a dump, but it’s still considered a great reward, sort of like any piece of Manhattan real estate.

Ser Loras Tyrell is given the opportunity to make a request. He offers up his sister, Margaery, who he claims “remains innocent” after her brief marriage to Renly.

NEXT: Sansa off the hook! (Or is she?)

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