Was it enough to make up for the tone-deaf moments? I’m not sure. The show’s previously been careful to maintain a heterogeneous look for most of the cultures Daenerys encounters in her travels through the eastern continent of Essos, so the uniformly brown skin tone of the freed slaves worshipping the blondest possible savior figure was surprising and disconcerting – doubly so since, in the books, much is made of just how many different kinds of people had been forced into slavery by Yunkai and then freed by Dany when she took the city. This uncomfortable contrast kneecapped what could otherwise have been the most purely uplifting and cathartic moment in the series so far. Plus it gave the episode its title and was, you know, the final shot of the season – a rough one to go out on.
The “Mhysa” sequence will receive the most scrutiny, and rightfully so, but Dany’s triumph outside the gates of Yunkai came with its fair share of visual and narrative warning signs that we’re not to take it at face value. There’s that conqueror/liberator exchange between Dany and Jorah, which sounded like something you’d hear on a Meet the Press interview with Dick Cheney circa March 2003. The grinning joy on her face was carefully contrasted with Jorah’s concern; yeah, that could have been simply his regret that the khaleesi now has tens of thousands of admirers just as ardent as he, but it can also be read as fear that it won’t all be crowdsurfing and dragon flyovers forever. Add in the separate conversations between Tywin and Tyrion, and Stannis and Davos, about whether the ends (victory in the War of the Five Kings, peace in the realm) justify the means (the Red Wedding, burning some poor kid alive), and I half expected Drogon to be trailing a “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” banner behind him.
I reviewed the Game of Thrones season finale for Rolling Stone. A compelling, sometimes stunning, sometimes troubling episode.