An eventful, controversial year of “Game of Thrones” comes to an end with “Mother’s Mercy,” an eventful, sure-to-be-controversial finale.

Episode MVPs

After the first few episodes of Season 5 aired, some fans complained that the show was moving too slowly. That can’t really be said of the last several episodes, which have frantically toppled the dominoes set up during the first half of the season.

“Mother’s Mercy” pushed things into overdrive as several characters competed for the spotlight. Was the death of Stannis Baratheon, a character still alive and well in the novels, the highlight? How about Arya Stark’s murder of her old enemy Meryn Trant, a scene that pushed the envelope for brutality? And what of Cersei Lannister’s walk of atonement, a moment that paid off the character’s series-long flirtation with hubris and made a convincing case for giving Lena Headey an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress?

The obvious stand-out moment was the final scene, in which Jon Snow was killed by a group of disgruntled Night’s Watchmen. On one level, the scene was shocking. Jon Snow, after all, is the closest thing the show has to a hero. On another level, it was only to be expected. “Game of Thrones” has been killing its lead characters since Season 1, when Ned Stark fell to an executioner’s blade. The show has made a lot of changes to its source material this year, but its willingness to play off our expectations in the service of making great TV has remained intact.

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Our watch for next year begins

Save a few stray plot strands, “Mother’s Mercy” marks the moment when “Game of Thrones” officially caught up with the published books. Until author George R.R. Martin completes a new novel in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, fans who’ve never read the books know as much as those who have devoured them several times over. When winter comes next year, we can all face it together.

Author’s notes

Although fans routinely ask his opinion on the increasing number of changes made as “Game of Thrones” gets adapted from the page to the screen, George R.R. Martin recently reiterated that he “cannot control” anything the producers do, and is instead focusing on completing “The Winds of Winter,” the next book in his cycle of novels. Hopefully, the show’s rapid pace will inspire him to get “Winds” out before Season 6 premieres.

As the editor in chief for Winter Is Coming, Dan Selcke spends his time writing about the latest Game of Thrones news and preparing for the long night that will have no end. Read more of him at winteriscoming.net.