HBO, 3 June 2012
In the aftermath of the battle at King’s Landing, the losers lick their wounds while the victors secure their positions.
There was no way, following the impressive, cinematic ‘Blackwater’, that the second season Game of Thrones finale could top that penultimate episode. It shouldn’t be seen as disappointing that it is very much business as usual in ‘Valar Morghulis’ as business as usual on Game of Thrones is head and shoulders above most other current shows.
The various strands, geographical and political, are pulled together although (as is fitting for what is clearly an on-going serial) little is resolved: indeed more complication is piled on, especially given the final shot of the season. A horde of undead ‘white walkers’ heading south for the wall is sure to add even more complexity to the continuing battles for the iron throne.
Some story lines have been weaker this season (Qarth, for example), while others built nicely after a slow burn (the Night’s Watch north of the wall). Unexpectedly central (at least to those who have not read the books) were the events at Winterfell. Amid a uniformly great cast a few names stood out, especially Peter Dinklage and Maisie Williams (who more than held her own in scenes opposite Charles Dance). It looks like a host of fresh faces are likely to be added once more next season.
Perhaps a lesson to be learned from this very successful season is that this show can support the occasional (two or three per season, maybe) episode that focuses on a single storyline or group of characters, rather than dashing all over Westeros. The current approach gives variety to each episode, but as each storyline is only moved on slightly, it can make for some frustrating viewing: no sooner is the viewer getting into the episode than it’s all over.
One thing that has to be increasingly obvious is that this TV series is not the books, but a version of those stories more suited to television drama. It’s a skilful reshaping of the material to make the most of HBO’s commitment to uninhibited properly grown-up fantasy drama.
Verdict: A low key conclusion following the previous episode’s pyrotechnics, this finale sets up the next season nicely.
Episode 10 ‘Valar Morghulis’: 8/10
Brian J. Robb