By Katie M. Lucas
Sunday's season finale examines "the inability to escape the people our parents, whether by birth or by choice, made us," The Washington Post expounds. Although Jon Snow is a man of the Night's Watch, he is still Ned Stark's son, an important fact to Stannis Baratheon. "Ned was the one who informed Stannis about his rightful claim to the throne," David Benioff explains in this week's Inside the Episode, "so Stannis has respect for Ned's family."
Perhaps no one is more reverential of the Starks than Brienne of Tarth, who meets Arya and the Hound in the Vale. In an interview with HBO.com, actress Maisie Williams shares her initial impression of the encounter: "There's actually a direction in the script in between their interaction about how they named their swords and learning how to fight. It says: 'Arya smiles. She likes this weirdo. Brienne smiles. She likes this weirdo.' " Williams continues, "I remember reading it and thinking, 'That is it. It's perfect.' It's the most happy Arya has been in forever."
Unfortunately, the heartening moment is cut short… by an epic fight. Watching the brawl "was a good reminder that this woman once faced against a bear," New York Magazine notes about Brienne. "She’s so regal and composed lately, it’s nice to be reminded of the rough side we first came to love her for." Entertainment Weekly marvels, "In a show full of epic fights, this could be one of the best we've had."
Cast members Rory McCann, Gwendoline Christie and Maisie Williams take you behind the big scene in the video below:
Not only is Arya's father-figure left behind, "just about all of the great patriarchs of the Seven Kingdoms are dead, as well as a few of the matriarchs," The A.V. Club observes, referring to Tywin Lannister's murder. Time details the fatal confrontation: "What was striking about the final scene between son and father, sold convincingly by Charles Dance and Peter Dinklage in performances that conveyed decades of history, was that it could have played as fist-pumping payback but instead was simply, deeply sad."
Darker yet, according to Entertainment Weekly, was the moment where "Tyrion strangles Shae with her gold chain necklace (marking the second time a necklace has proved fatal this season)." As Tyrion flees, "he's locked in a box literally and figuratively," Rolling Stone argues, "set to stew in rage, resentment, and regret most likely for the rest of his life."
Tyrion's dark exit is juxtaposed with Arya's uplifting one. The Washington Post observes: "Arya did what children are supposed to do, and which children are so infrequently permitted in Westeros: She grew up and left all of those families behind to seek out new adventures."
Icing on the Lemoncake
• Rolling Stone relives some of the season's best moments.
• In an interview with the New York Times, actress Sibel Kekilli discusses filming her curtain call: "He’s crying and I was almost crying, too, but I couldn’t, because I had to act really angry and scary at that moment."
What were your thoughts on the finale? What's next for Arya and Tyrion across the Narrow Sea? Share your theories in the comments. (No book spoilers, please.)