After the emotional turmoil unleashed on Game of Thrones fans during last week's Red Wedding, the HBO series' Season 3 finale was almost certain to disappoint on some level. The wedding robbed other unresolved story lines of precious screen time and left quite a mess in its wake. So we were treated to the narrative equivalent of run of the mill housekeeping like reuniting Jamie with his suddenly poorly-matched sister/lover and finally revealing the identity of the sadistic bastard (literally — he's Roose Bolton's bastard son) who castrated Theon Greyjoy. Still, it wasn't all paperwork and the shuffling of slippers and fur-lined boots: When all was said and done, Daenerys finally had her moment. And while she won't be sitting on the Iron Throne any time soon, she was all but crowned as a true and rightful queen.
We've not seen much of Daenerys this season, but when she has dared to show her platinum locks on our small screens, she's been commanding armies, tricking warlords, and amassing legions of loyal followers at a rate that should leave the boys in Westeros in pools of their own fear-laden sweat. When Joffrey timidly (well, as timidly as Joffrey can ever do anything) asked his father if the rumors of the Mother of Dragons are true, it was hard not to feel as if our Khaleesi's increasing power had cast some sort of energy over the realm.
And it's that energy that took center stage by the end of Game of Thrones' relatively shocker-free episode. (Shocker-free, unless we're counting the way in which the Bolton bastard let Theon think, for a split second, that he'd cooked the recently separated littler Theon for dinner.) After Daenerys freed yet another colony of slaves, she earned a new regal name making her Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi, and "Mhysa" or "mother" to her newly freed peoples. Her command, while confined to her remote location, feels somewhat infinite as her people hoist her on their shoulders like she's some sort of saint.
True, this episode didn't rock us. It didn't leave us in tears. I didn't have to ask my roommate to leave the room for a second so I could fully process the events of the evening. But it is something of a small, if fleeting, bright spot in a completely despondent world.
In a place where women like Sansa are forced to marry men against their wills (and be bedded before they're even mature enough), where women like Shae must accept that being reminded that she's nothing is a "kindness," where slaughtered kings are paraded around with severed dogs' heads fastened to their corpses, where a father would allow his son to be tortured to death rather than give up his warpath, there is still light. Mhysa is doing everything in her power to do things the right way: where her future competitors are slaughtering each other like dogs and scrambling about like petulant children, Daenerys is building armies of people who adore her. She's creating a foundation, and she's doing so by stepping on only the wicked. It's noble and it's a world apart from the disheartening onslaught of events in Westeros.
Of course, proving that point isn't as visually-stimulating or as rousing as a bloodbath or a wave of white walkers slowly stalking past characters whose lives we cherish. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss did what they could to create a moment that felt as momentous as it should be, without the benefit of mountains of raw material. Still, they did pull off one monumentally important piece of any finale worth its salt: leaving us with the unrelenting sense that we simply need more. It's just too bad that serving is about 10 months away, and until then we're stuck in a limbo where Daenerys is queenly but Jon Snow might be dying from arrow wounds, the Lannisters are winning, and Arya Stark has blood on her tiny, little hands.
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