I’ve seen a curious bit of complaining about last night’s season finale of Game of Thrones and how it was the worst, or it sucked, or it was underwhelming.  It wasn’t, and I’ll explain why I think it wasn’t.

Episode nine ended with the biggest shocker ever, the Red Wedding, and it was there that everyone had reached their low point.  The Starks were destroyed and scattered to the wind.  The episode began with the conclusion to that massacre, with the Stark’s army being butchered by men loyal to the Freys and Roose Bolton.  The war at this point is seemingly over.

So what do you do with this episode?  You set up season four, obviously, but you also bring back some possible hope for a lot of characters.  Season one ended much the same way too, after the death of Ned Stark (though, ending with “motherfucking dragons” kinda helps): characters start moving in directions that will lead them elsewhere, hopefully for the better. (Season two, meanwhile, ended with the march of the White Walkers and the impending sense of doom, which played out exactly as it should have this season.)

Season three does the same with a lot of characters.  Bran is crossing the Wall to go north.  Sam Tarly and Jon Snow are reunited at Castle Black, both surviving the madness of the season.  Jamie Lannister returns to King’s Landing and has found his way to Cersei.  Yara Greyjoy vows to retrieve her brother Theon, broken by the machinations of Ramsey Snow.  Arya may have found her ability to gain revenge.  Stannis has a new mission to claim the seven kingdoms as his own.  And, lastly, Daenarys has become the liberator, the “mother” of more than just dragons.

In essence, this episode brings hope for a lot of characters.  Not for all, it would seem: again, Theon is broken.  Sansa, who was briefly accepting of Tyrion, is now repulsed after finding out the Lannisters had a hand in her mother and brother’s deaths.  And Tywin, as the rest of the Lannisters are discovering, is wielding too much power.

But there’s hope, and after the depressing end of episode nine, it’s a welcomed change to have people actually looking forward to the future.  You don’t end a season with a massacre, as some people claim should have happened.  You end it by moving forward, by moving pieces around, and by also giving people a reason to live.  There are some problems with the episode, sure, but it works well.  It’s a satisfying conclusion to the season, and now I’ll await patiently for season four next spring.

Note: one thing I suggest people do: watch episodes nine and ten again, but without interruption.  I think the thematic elements will jump out more.