This season of ‘Game of Thrones’ debuted with the tagline “All Men Must Die” and boy did it deliver. From episode two, “The Lion and the Rose,” some of the show’s most iconic and popular characters met their end. Those who were spared endured trials from King’s Landing and beyond. One of the major concerns going into this season was that the show was finally catching up to Martin’s narrative. As of this post, George R.R. Martin has published five of the planned seven novels in the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series. Martin has released a few chapters from the sixth novel, Winds of Winter, but no release date has been set. It could be several years before Martin finishes the book and let’s face it, the show must go on. Many of the characters—including Theon Greyjoy, Bran and Daenerys—have all ready embarked on the character arcs laid out for them in the fifth book in the series, ‘A Dance With Dragons.’ With the exact content of season five still up in the air (will the show follow the geographical divide Martin created in books four and five, or will it condense the stories into one cohesive narrative), last night’s finale, “The Children,” raised a lot more questions than it answered.
North of the Wall
The episode begins with Jon Snow entering the Wildings camp to speak to Mance Ryder. For those who do not remember, last week’s episode focused entirely on the Battle of Castle Black. When Jon meets with Mance, the two men drink to Ygritte’s death and discuss strategy. Jon wants Mance dead, but the Wildling King demands the surrender of the Night Watch. If the brothers in black open their gates to his men, Mance will make sure that no one else gets killed. Before they could discuss things further, their discussion is interrupted by the arrival of Stannis Baratheon (only took him ten episodes). Stannis’ army make quick work of the Wildings and demands Mance’s surrender. The Wildling King refuses to take a knee. Jon reveals himself as the son of Ned Stark and Stannis respects him for that. He asks Jon what Ned would do if put in the same situation. Jon suggests that they imprison Mance and see what he knows. I really liked this scene. Stannis needs all the help he can get if he wants to sit on the Iron Throne and taking the advice of others and trying to emulate the honorable actions of men like Ned Stark is a step in the right direction.
Jon warns Stannis that he needs to burn the dead bodies. You know, because they have a zombie problem in the North. Anyway, as they burning bodies, Melisandre gives Jon a knowing look. Later, he consults one of the imprisoned Wildlings and promises that he will not be killed and tortured. The Wildling says that Ygritte should be taken to the North where she belongs. So Jon builds a pyre for her in a remote location and burns her body. He cannot watch however and walks away with a heavy heart. He might not have vocally professed his love for Ygritte, but his emotions are written on his face.
So the Mountain may have won the battle with Prince Oberyn, but the Red Viper did not die without one final act of revenge. It turns out that his blade was laced with poison. Even in death, Prince Oberyn comes out on top. Grand Maester Pycelle pronounces the Mountain dead but doctor Qyburn insists that there is a way to save him. Cersei, who is present for the whole affair, dismisses Pycelle and tells Oyburn to do whatever it takes to keep the Mountain alive. She doesn’t care if his personality is altered, as long as he is strong.
Cersei then confronts Tywin and tells him that she will not marry Loras Tyrell. In a surprising twist, she confesses to Tywin about the relationship between her and Jamie. Tywin refuses to believe it. I know that Cersei thinks Tywin didn’t believe the rumors, but I think there was always a part of him that did. In fact, in a strange way, I think that motivated his hatred to Tyrion. The youngest son is his only true heir to the throne and quite possibly the only decent child he has. Once she tells Tywin, Cersei sees Jamie and professes her love for him. Looks like everything is great again between the Lannister twins.
Dany sits atop her large throne and listens to the plights of her people. One man wants to return to slavery while the other delivers the burnt bones of his three year old daughter. It turns out Dany’s dragon Drogon killed the child. She later finds out from her advisors that Drogon is missing. Afraid of upsetting her people, Dany tearfully locks up her remaining two dragons in the catacombs of the palace. The scene is quite touching. No matter how untamed and wild the dragons are, they clearly love their mother, which is evident by their cries of anguish when she leaves them in the catacombs.
Somewhere in the North
Bran, Hodor and the Reeds are on their way to meet the Three-Eyed Raven. Just as they reach their destination, Wights (reanimated corpses) spring from the ice and attack the travelers. Bran uses his power to embody Hodor while Jojen and Meera fight some wights. Unfortunately for Jojen, he is killed. Meera tries to save him but Jojen is okay with his death. Meera slits his throat and joins Bran and Hodor who have just been rescued by a girl from a race of creatures known as the Children of the Forest. The girl takes Bran to the Three-Eyed Raven. While he tells Bran that he will never be able to walk again, he promises the young Stark that he will fly.
Brienne and Pod are continuing on their journey to find the Stark girls when they stumble upon…well, one of the Stark girls. Arya is doing some “Needle” work when Brienne spots her. The two have a pleasant exchange. Arya is in awe of the knight. Brienne is everything she aspires to be. The moment is ruined when the Hound shows up. Pod recognizes him and suddenly everything changes. Brienne suddenly realizes that the girl she has been talking to is Arya Stark. She tells her that she made a promise to Catelyn to take her home, but Arya is resistant. The Hound feels like he is more fit to protect her which prompts an epic knockout, drag-out fight between him and Brienne. It ends with Brienne pushing the Hound over a cliff.
Arya comes upon his body. Though dying, the Hound encourages her to go with Brienne but Arya insists she is better on her own. The Hound then begs for death, but Arya shows no mercy. She steals his silver and walks away.
I’ll say this for the showrunners, they know what their audience wants: Tyrion, Tyrion, Tyrion. The youngest Lannister is in his cell when Jamie comes to the rescue. While Cersei chose Jamie earlier in the episode, the Kingslayer chose the Imp. He tells Tyrion that Varys is waiting to take him away. They part and when Tyrion goes through the secret passage, he discovers Shae in his father’s bed. Overcome with anger, hurt and betrayal, Tyrion tearfully strangles his former lover to death. Then Tyrion takes a crossbow off the wall and confronts Tywin in the privy. Tywin insists that he and Tyrion talk things over in his chambers, but Tyrion isn’t having it. He is upset about a lot of things: Shae, his sentence and mostly, his father’s contempt for him. Tywin tries his best to convince Tyrion that he was never really going to let him be killed. Wisely, Tyrion (and the audience) does not believe a word he says. Tywin repeatedly goes on to call Shae a whore and Tyrion shoots him dead with the crossbow. He abandons the weapon and meets Varys. Tyrion is then packed into a crate and loaded onto a ship. For a moment, it looks like Varys might stay at King’s Landing, but when he hears the horns sound after Tywin was discovered dead, he decides to accompany Tyrion.
I think it’s quite ironic that this episode was aired on Father’s Day. I’m sure murder wasn’t exactly the gift Tywin was expecting. Both actors were superb in this scene. Even while on the toilet, Tywin was stoic and confident. Tyrion, meanwhile, is a sight to behold, a man with conflicted emotions.
The show ends with Arya on horseback, heading towards a dock. There is a boat going to Braavos and she wants to be on it. Initially, the captain shuns her but then she shows him the coin the Faceless Assassin gave in season two. She says “Valar Morghulis” (all men must die) and they let her on the boat.
And that’s all for ‘Game of Thrones’ Season Four. It’s been quite the ride. While I thought “The Children,” was the best season finale yet, I think book readers will agree with me when I say that it would have been much better if they ended the show with a glimpse of a certain “stony” woman.
I had a blast recapping ‘Game of Thrones’ this season and will be back for Season Five. Until then “Valar Morghulis.”