This post contains SPOILERS for all aired episodes of Game of Thrones, including last night’s Season 4 finale, episode 10, “The Children.” Enjoy!
Nothing says “Happy Father’s Day” like a crossbow bolt to the belly, right? Last night, Tyrion Lannister took revenge for a lifetime of slights and contempt by his father, killed his ex, and escaped from Westeros with Varys. Meanwhile, Brienne let another Stark girl slip through her fingers, Bran found a creepy older mentor to replace his exploded friend Jojen, and Jon Snow lived to fight another day.
We open at the Wall, where Jon embarks on his kamikaze mission to kill Mance Rayder before Mance’s army takes the Wall from the depleted Night’s Watch. It’s taken Mance the better part of two seasons to show up onscreen again, but I’ll forgive that because Ciaran Hinds is just that charismatic. Mance lays out the Wildlings' motivation for coming South of the wall (the Wildlings are seeking the Westeros equivalent of Florida, so they’re kind of like snowbirds, but with more fear of dismemberment and less concern about heating bills.) I wished last week that the show had spelled out their motivation a bit more, rather than focusing on the Thenns and their brand of bald evil.
Apparently all Mance wants is for Jon to open the gates and let the Wildlings pass through; if Jon refuses, then Mance will kill the Night’s Watch. He couldn’t have asked nicely in the first place, instead of sending cannibals to sample the North’s all-you-can-eat Long Pig buffet?
Jon is spared the decision by a sudden attack against the wildlings, led by Stannis Baratheon. Apparently he used that loan from the Iron Bank to buy a whole bunch of knights and new, less dingy banners. (So, at the end of last season, remember that Davos was finally able to read the letter sent out by Jeor Mormont and Maester Aemon begging for help? Stannis’s turn to the north, saving the Night’s Watch, is ultimately thanks to Shireen teaching Davos how to read. How cool is that? Shireen for Queen, I say!)
Mance and Stannis compete for the title of Westeros’s Stiffest Neck: Mance refuses to kneel and Stannis wants to execute him until Jon Snow intervenes, introducing himself as Ned Stark’s bastard. Stannis has fond memories of the only guy besides Davos and a couple of nameless extras who supported Stannis’s claim to the Iron Throne without bribery, and so spares Mance at Jon’s request.
Jon advices Stannis to burn the bodies of everyone who died, which Stannis sensibly doesn’t argue about. I guess when your mistress drops leeches into fires and then the people you’ve named the leeches after drop dead, you’re okay with the supernatural. Over the flames, Melisandre makes eye-contact with Jon Snow. Uh oh! He has a thing for redheads, and she has thing for innocent lambs. Just make sure she doesn’t bring the leeches, Jon!
Then Jon goes to see another redhead, Tormund Giantsbane, who looks pretty good for all those wounds and asks about Wildling funerary rituals. Tormund asks how he’s going to die, and tells Jon that he’ll never be a kneeler because he spent too much time with the Wildlings. He also asks Jon if he loved Ygritte, because Ygritte loved him. Tormund tells Jon that Ygritte belongs in the real North, beyond the Wall, and so Jon takes her body and burns it by himself near a weirwood tree. Somehow the sight of Jon building her pyre with his own hands was actually more poignant and moving than her actual death.
In King’s Landing, Pycelle and Qyburn are hovering over the body of Gregor Clegane, who is only mostly dead, because Oberyn poisoned his spear in the duel. Pycelle is convinced that nothing can save the Mountain now but Qyburn is either more optimistic or more conversant with necromancy because he assures Cersei that Gregor will not only recover but come back bigger and stronger than before. (Oops, a little Ironborn got into my King’s Landing.)
With the certainty that her #1 Thug is not doomed, Cersei decides to visit her father and refuse the marriage to Loras Tyrell that he’s arranged for her. I wondered when we’d get back to that! Tywin learns how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have incestuous twins, because Cersei reveals that his vaunted legacy is a lie, because Tommen’s and Myrcella’s father is not Robert Baratheon but her brother Jaime. Tywin looks completely shocked which makes no sense to me, since he told Jaime at Tyrion’s trial that the price of Tyrion’s life was Jaime fathering children with the surname “Lannister” which at least hugely hinted that Tywin knew exactly what was going on between his golden children.
Anyway, I find it extremely difficult to believe that Tywin wouldn’t immediately call Cersei “Power is Power” Lannister’s bluff here: if Tommen isn’t Robert Baratheon’s son, then he has no right to sit on the throne, and Stannis is the rightful King, and what would Cersei then gain from the revelation of his true parentage, while losing the Tyrell alliance that keeps Tommen safe? Apparently the pleasure of rendering her father gobsmacked outweighs any of these considerations for Cersei, though.
After her confrontation with Tywin, Cersei visits Jaime in the Kingsguard Headquarters, and proceeds to seduce him after telling him that she’s defied their father and that she wants to be open about their relationship. That’s all it takes for Jaime to succumb to her charms, and they have sex on the big table just like Mel and Stannis did back in Season 2 (although this is a considerably smoother surface.) I guess Jaime doesn’t care at all that Cersei was gloating over Tyrion’s imminent demise and Oberyn’s grisly death two episodes ago.
In Meereen, Dany has an audience with her subjects again. Apparently not everyone likes that she abolished slavery. One former slave begs Dany to let him sell himself back into slavery, which is deeply confusing to Dany. She concedes that freedom means allowing people to make their own choices (which is sort of contradicted by the fact that she’s an absolutist monarch with dragons, but who’s quibbling!) She lets the guy sell himself by contract for the period of a year, so I guess it’s just indentured servitude, and Barristan tells her that the Masters will take advantage of her decision and the men serving them will be slaves in all but name. Way to be a killjoy, Barristan! Then things get worse: a man approaches with a bundle in his arms, and tells about how a black shadow came from the sky and took his little girl, as he unwraps the burnt skeleton of a three-year-old child. Apparently the black dragon, Drogon, knew he’d done a bad thing because he took off and hasn’t been seen in days. Dany decides to chain the other two dragons up inside one of the pyramids. Hey, they didn’t do anything wrong! Poor Dany has gone from the “breaker of chains” to the “chainer of dragons.”
From fire to ice: Somewhere in the North, Jojen Reed continues to guide Bran towards his destiny with the three-eyed crow. He’s in bad shape, and falls, much to his sister’s concern. Meera thinks they aren’t going to make it, but they’ve actually arrived at the mystical weirwood tree that is Bran’s destiny. As they trek towards the tree, a bunch of skeletal hands popping up out of the ground; Captain Barbosa’s crew has gone to ground, waiting for fresh meat to show up their way. From the looks of them, they’ve been waiting a long time. Bran wargs into Hodor, who along with Meera Reed, fights against the skeletal wights. Jojen is mortally wounded in the fight and things look bad for our friends, but some mysterious grenade flinging children join come out to save Bran. It’s too late for Jojen, whose throat Meera slits to save him from a grislier death.
Meera, Bran, Hodor and Summer follow the children into a cave filled with roots where the spokeschild explains that the wights can’t follow into the cave, but function as some kind of alarm system. Spokeschild tells Bran that “he” is waiting for Bran; he’s finally found the three-eyed raven, who turns out to be a creepy old man hanging in the roots of a big tree. He says that Bran has “come to me at last;” great, so now Sansa is not the only Stark child with a creepy older mentor. The old dude tells Bran he’ll never walk again, but he will fly. I have a bad feeling that Three-Eyed Raven is a job like Dread Pirate Roberts, and Bran is next in line for a promotion!
Back in the vicinity of the Vale, where Pod has managed to lose his and Brienne’s horses, just in time for them to encounter Arya and Sandor, who have mysteriously had no problem announcing Arya’s identity to the knights of the Vale and then heading on out of there. Surely someone might have cottoned onto the fact that a girl claiming to be the presumed-dead niece of Lysa Arryn should be kept at the Vale? Or at least told Littlefinger? (I guess the lower-level knights of the Vale are no smarter than their lordlier counterparts, who completely bought into Littlefinger’s incredibly lame “Lysa committed suicide” story.)
Brienne and Arya have a nice chat about being swordfighting badass girls in a man’s world. Brienne introduces herself to Sandor, whom Pod recognizes, which in turn means that Brienne recognizes the girl as Arya. Brienne tells Arya that she swore a vow to Catelyn to find her daughters. During this entire conversation, I’m wondering about the fate of Hot Pie’s wolf bread that he made for Arya. I bet Pod ate it. Meanwhile, in actual events, Sandor recognizes the lion head’s-hilt of Brienne’s sword as Lannister gold, and accuses Brienne of seeking the bounty on his head. Brienne begs Arya to come with her, but can’t lie about who gave her the sword so neither Arya nor Sandor has any trust in Brienne. Sandor and Brienne have a giant swordfight, that ends with Sandor tumbling down a cliff. Arya uses the opportunity of the fight to disappear; Pod, who is probably the single most incompetent person Jaime could have saddled Brienne with, doesn’t know where she’s gone. They head out to look for Arya, and Arya slips around to find a wounded and dying Hound, who tells her to go with Brienne. (Couldn’t he have made that assessment before the fight?)
Sandor tries to get Arya to kill him, and put him out of his misery, but instead she takes the silver he stole from that farmer and disappears, leaving him to die alone and in pain. I can’t tell if that’s mercy or a sign that Arya never really took the Hound off her kill-list. Rory McCann and Maisie Williams are amazing in this scene.
In King’s Landing, Tyrion awaits his execution, but he’s forgotten that he still has two friends left in the world. His brother Jaime comes down to get him out of his cell, towards a ship headed towards the Free Cities of Essos. Varys is waiting for Tyrion at the top of a landing to help him go. Jaime and Tyrion embrace, Tyrion thanks Jaime for his life, and then, for some reason that’s not entirely clear to me, Tyrion decides to pay one last visit to dear old dad. How can he be sure that Varys will wait for him when he comes back? Or that he won’t get recaptured by Tywin’s guards? (In the book, thanks to a piece of information that Jaime imparts to him—ignored on the show—Tyrion has an overwhelming burst of pure rage that causes him to make this poor decision, but I truly don’t understand why he decides to jeopardize not only his own escape, but the lives of Jaime and Varys, who would be considered traitors for helping him, by paying this visit to his father.)
Despite the lack of a logical reason for Tyrion to visit his father on the show, rather than escaping, the scenes that follow are certainly powerful. Tyrion finds Shae in his father’s bed, and strangles her with her necklace when she comes at him with a knife. I assumed the kinder, gentler Tyrion of the show wouldn’t kill Shae at all, but they softened his motivation into self-defense, rather than jealous rage. Then Tyrion grabs a crossbow off the wall, and goes to find his father in the privy. Tywin tries some of his ninja mindgames on Tyrion, telling Tyrion that he’d never let them execute him, that Ilyn Payne would never take Tyrion’s head because he’s a Lannister and Tywin’s son. Tyrion tells Tywin that he loved Shae, and confesses that he murdered her with his own hands. Tywin tells Tyrion that it doesn’t matter, because Shae was a whore. Tyrion says he can’t go back and chat in Tywin’s chambers because Shae is in there, and Tywin taunts Tyrion that he’s afraid of a dead whore. Tyrion shoots Tywin, who then tells Tyrion he’s no son of Tywin’s. “I am your son,” Tyrion says, as he shoots Tywin again. “I have always been your son.”
“The Rains of Castamere” plays mournfully over the soundtrack as Tyrion returns to the waiting Varys, who loads him into a box and gets him on the ship as Jaime promised. From the docks, Varys hears the bells tolling for Tywin, and decides discretion is the better part of valor, getting on the boat with Tyrion.
Elsewhere, Arya has apparently had no difficulty reaching a port where she takes ship. First she asks to go North, but the captain refuses her, telling her that they are traveling to Braavos. Arya has a brainwave and shows the captain the coin Jaquen H’ghar gave her at the end of season 2. “Valar Morghulis,” Arya tells the captain. “Valar Dohaeris (all men must serve)” he replies, with a salute, and tells her that of course she will have a cabin. We close with a shot of Arya’s ship setting out to sea! (And a part of me hopes they’ll encounter Gendry, last seeing rowing away from Dragonstone, because how awesome would that be?)
Last season ended with Danaerys and the Lannister lions ascendant; this season ends with the dragons chained, the head lion dead, and the surviving Stark children in seemingly better circumstances. Is it possible that next season will be a time for wolves? Tune in in ten months to find out!
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.