Season 5 came to a close Sunday night in a cold-blooded finale, where - in true "Game of Thrones" fashion - no one was safe. Yes, if past seasons have taught us anything, it's that no character is too big or too good to meet their untimely end at the end of a sword. Yet, somehow, that knowledge doesn't serve to dull the shock, when yet another of our favorite characters is left dying on the ground in Westeros, moments before the credits roll.
"Mother's Mercy" saw things go from bad to worse for the Starks. It showed us that characters, who once seemed untouchable, are actually far from it. And it left the "Game of Thrones" on shakier ground than it's been in quite a while; with far more hurdles for our favorites to overcome, far fewer men in their backing armies, and far fewer players overall. In fact, it seems the only army that closed Season 5 stronger than it began it, is the army of the dead.
Many deaths behind us. Many spoilers ahead. Venture on at your risk, Thrones fans.
Setbacks for Stannis
At the start of the episode, we see an embattled Stannis in the aftermath of his decision to sacrifice his daughter to the God of Light. And while the Red Lady may have insisted that Shireen Baratheon's death would lead Stannis to sure victory at Winterfell (King's blood being such powerful stuff), it appears Stannis' men did not love watching their leader burn his only child alive. And as such, half of those men deserted the cause before dawn... with all of the horses. To make matters worse, Stannis' wife, Selyse Baratheon, is discovered just moments after he receives word of the aforementioned mutiny, hanging from a tree. Stannis orders his remaining men into marching formation, regardless of the setbacks.
The most hated man at Castle Black
Next, we see Jon Snow, recovering from his battle at Hardhome. After a brief recap of the fact that Valyrian steel can apparently kill White Walkers, he has a heart-to-heart with Sam, in which he grapples with the fact that he's the first Commander of the Knight's Watch to ever put sworn men in harm's way to save the lives of wildlings.
Sam then asks Jon if he can go become a Maester. And though allowing Sam to leave means he'll officially have no friends left at Castle Black, Jon says yes; even offering a few lighthearted parting words about Sam's relations with Gilly: "I'm glad the end of the world's working out well for someone."
Lady Stark and the Lady Knight
Brienne of Tarth has been loyally keeping watch outside Winterfell for half the season, with her affable squire, Podrick, in tow. Several episodes back, she sent word to Sansa Stark that she should light a candle in a specific tower window, if she ever needs help. Well, in the Season 5 finale, Sansa finally breaks free of her chambers and takes Brienne up on that offer.
Sadly, though, Brienne's attention is diverted just moments before Sansa's light can be seen. You see, Podrick was out collecting firewood, when he spotted Stannis' flaming heart banners marching toward Winterfell, and now Brienne is on a mission to avenge her beloved Renly.
When she succeeds in locating Stannis, half of the work has already been done for her. Stannis leans up against a tree, wounded and somewhat defenseless. Brienne asks him if he killed his brother in the form of a shadow, and when Stannis says that he did, she sentences him to die. "Go on. Do your duty," he says, and the swish of Brienne's sword takes us to the next scene.
Bad guys finish first
Then, we see Ramsay Bolton victorious on the battlefield. "I surrender! I surrender," cries one of Stannis' men, as he lies on the ground before him. "And I accept your surrender," replies Ramsay with a smile. Then, he puts a sword in the man's back.
Ramsay wouldn't show mercy anywhere else in his life. Why would he show it on the battlefield, right?
Ramsay's wife vs. Ramsay's girlfriend
On her way back from lighting a candle in the tower, Sansa Stark runs smack into Ramsay's girlfriend, Myranda, with a bow and arrow in her hand. The girl simply has no luck.
"If I'm going to die, let it happen while there's still some of me left," Sansa tells her, but Myranda only laughs. Kill her? Myranda was apparently only planning on maiming her.
Well, after weeks of watching Sansa endure torture at the hands of the Boltons, this is the straw that breaks the camel's back and finally pushes Reek over the edge. Or rather, what causes Reek to lose his cool and push Myranda over the edge to her death.
Then, as if that wasn't shocking enough, Reek and Sansa join hands and jump from a rather significant height into the snow together. Let's just hope she makes it, and we don't have to mourn yet another Stark.
Bravo in Braavos
Meanwhile, in Braavos, Arya Stark crosses another name off her kill list in impressive fashion. Posing as one of three girls that Meryn Trant is paying to torture at a whorehouse, she neglects to scream when he whips her; then turns the tables on him by whipping out a dagger and stabbing him in the eyeballs.
"I'm Arya Stark," she says. "Do you know who you are? You're no one. You're nothing."
Unfortunately, Jaqen H'ghar doesn't find this kill scene as awesome as most viewers probably did. Upon Arya's return to the House of Black and White, he tells her that she has taken the wrong life, and only death can pay for life.
He then swallows a vial of poison and drops to the floor. When Arya starts to cry for him, however, it's revealed that Jaqen H'ghar is not actually the person who died after all. Arya pulls layer after layer off of his face, until she sees her own likeness lying dead on the ground. Then, her vision goes black.
We don't choose who we love
Jaime Lannister finally succeeds in getting his niece/daughter, Myrcella Baratheon, safely (or so we think) out of Dorn. On the boat ride home, the two share a touching moment, in which she tells him that she has always known he's her father, and she's always been happy about it. Lest you think George R. R. Martin would allow such an unabashedly touching moment to transpire in a season finale, however, Myrcella's nose starts bleeding. And it immediately becomes clear that Ellaria Sand poisoned her, when they kissed goodbye on the dock.
Daenerys and Raegon
After selflessly rescuing his mother from certain death at the hands of the Sons of the Harpy last episode, Aegon is back to being a volatile teenage dragon. Daenerys wants him to fly her back to Mereen - or, at the very least, hunt them some dinner - but Aegon is much more content to sleep and lick his wounds. So, Daenerys wanders off to find her own food and runs right into Dothraki.
Cersei breaks down and finally confesses to the High Sparrow. Well, she confesses to sleeping with her cousin, not to sleeping with Jaime. And as a result of this confession, the High Sparrow decides he will permit her to go back to the Red Keep - after her atonement, that is - because the Goddess is "merciful."
As her atonement, Cersei has her hair chopped into a pixie cut. Then, she is forced to walk through the streets naked, while the commoners curse and spit at her. By the time the Queen Regent makes it safely home, she is in tears and her feet are in tatters. Luckily, an enormous new member of the King's Guard is there to lift her off her feet and carry her to receive medical attention.
Finally, as if Cersei's walk of shame wasn't horrifying enough, Jon Snow is lured out of his chambers by an oh-so-innocent Olly, who claims that one of the Wildlings has seen his uncle Benjen alive. When he runs outside to verify the claim, he's surrounded by his men, who take turns stabbing him "for the watch." Olly, of course, finishes him off.
And Season 5 ends with an image of Jon Snow bleeding out into the snow.
Tell us: What did you think about the "GOT" finale?