If you think that this has a happy ending, then you really haven’t been paying attention (Ramsay Snow), never have these words rung truer in Game of Thrones, and after being so closely tied to all of the core characters throughout the Forrester ordeal, the season finale The Ice Dragon is a heart-breaking, anxiety trip filled with blood-shed and tragedy. It was never going to be a happy ending for the Forresters, not without forsaking the tone of the Game of Thrones universe, and though there will be those who criticise the finale for its set-in-stone ending regardless of the decisions you have made, in this case the journey is far more important and exciting, than the destination.
Minor spoilers are contained within this review. You have been warned!
As the Whitehills march on Ironrath, the remaining Forresters rally together to defend their home, while beyond the wall Gared learns the true secret of the North Grove and Mira fights for her life as her enemies in King’s Landing start to surround her.
“The North Grove must never be lost”; the words that have haunted Gared since the season’s beginning, and finally he discovers it’s secret, but not the one you were expecting. Rumoured to be a safe haven that houses an ancient power, the North Grove seemed to be a place more at home within the world of Harry Potter, rather than the understated, more subtle approach towards the supernatural and magic in the realms of Game of Thrones. And although there is certainly something magical about the North Grove, its real secrets are the two people that Lord Gregor Forrester hid away from the world – his bastards. It’s a sigh of relief to discover this reveal is more in-keeping with the tone of the series, rather than being faced with some mythical Ice Dragon which was rumoured in earlier episodes. Yet, though thankfully there are no Ice Dragons, the power of the North Grove remains a little too fantastical, even for a world inhabited by White Walkers, Wargs and Dragons. It feels a little too deus ex machina, yet has virtually no bearing on the wider threat to the Forrester family (or at least as far as Season One goes). The fact that it is barely explored and left undeveloped similarly weakens its value and importance, and considering that one of Gared’s crucial choices is grounded in the player’s belief of this power, the anxiety that should be felt in this moment is greatly reduced. That being said, the two new characters that we meet at diverse and interesting and hopefully get more exploration if they return for the now confirmed second season.
Meanwhile, after meddling in the affairs of King’s Landing, it was only a matter of time before Mira got herself into real trouble, and with very few friends left to protect her, her struggle becomes very desperate. Because of this, her sequences are very linear, at least in the beginning. Past decisions have little bearing on her finale – for instance, I kept the knife after killing the Lannister guard and turned out it made no difference either way. Her story does however contain a well-placed, well executed plot twist that brings the toughest decision for her character all season. You are torn between making the decision that is right, and the decision that will keep you alive, and since this is the finale, you are no longer safeguarded by the valar morghulis on-screen that takes you back before you chose poorly. If Mira dies, she dies, and ultimately it’s all about how much you care for her. There is a great sense of finality with each decision you make and begs to wonder how they will carry over to the next season.
By far, the most impressive aspect of Episode 6: The Ice Dragon is how your decision from the penultimate episode impacts your personal story for the finale. Both Asher and Rodrik have major scenes that are tailored specifically to their survival. Though again, the outcome will be the same, the approach that each brother takes in striking back against the Whitehills are stark contrasts to one another and open up new possibilities, making for a satisfactory excuse to replay the rather lengthy two-hour finale with the other brother. In fact, the amount of pathways for this episode is quite astounding and if you are a player who wants to discover every outcome, I daresay you’d have a difficult time unpacking it all. Regardless, the amount of content that is on offer here more than makes up for the fixed ending.
The Ice Dragon never gives you the illusion that victory is certain. The dire position of the Forresters and the scale of the Whitehill army should be enough to quell any aspirations of total victory. This is Game of Thrones after all. The struggle and turmoil of the finale comes through fighting to keep as many characters alive as possible, and finally get some justice on those that have been tormenting you all season. And though some will be disappointed by the inevitability of the ending, the opportunity to get revenge on certain characters is arguably more satisfying. The tension is ramped up and at too many points becomes unbearable, keeping you on your toes until the very end. Just as you think you may have succeeded in your chosen pathway, something happens that makes you doubt your previous decisions and tries to prohibit your ideal conclusion. The finale may have the same ending regardless of the choices you have made, but the tension and anxiety that comes from these final moments makes it impossible to be confident in who lives and who dies. And if that’s not an experience you can be satisfied with, I don’t know what is.
Game of Thrones – Episode 6: The Ice Dragon is not perfect. The same old combat mechanics favoured by TellTale Games are still there with no variation, but the increased stakes make you fight harder. As far as the story goes, it is a fitting conclusion to the Forrester arc. Where stories aren’t wrapped up, they are set up for the future and I for one cannot wait until I am back in the land of Westeros to discover what has happened to the season’s protagonists.
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