|Jon Snow looks hot/pouty while Mance Rayder looks weary/sleepy|
Warning: There will be spoilers.
“Game of Thrones” ended its fourth season in its own spectacular fashion of killing off as many characters as possible in an hour-long show. The finale “The Children” wrapped up a number of this season’s storylines, which I’ll review below.
The episode started with picking up off of last week’s exciting battle at the wall, with Jon Snow heading off to face (and possibly kill) Mance Rayder, the leader of the wildlings. If you’ll recall, the wildlings got some help to bolster their numbers from the cannibal Thenns in episode one. Jon Snow had returned from the wildlings, saying he traveled with them to gather information. Snow and others thwarted a group of mutineers at Craster’s Keep, saving his own brother, Bran, and his crew in the process without even knowing it (a diversion from the books, I’m told). Master-at-arms of the Night’s Watch Alisser Thorne grew weary of Snow’s increasing leadership or impetuousness, depending on how you look at it, but Snow proved to be right about sealing the tunnel beneath the wall, which was breached by a giant during the wildlings invasion of the wall, during which Snow’s ex-lover and wildling Ygritte was killed. In the finale, Snow believes killing Rayder will split up the wildlings, but he is somewhat disarmed by Rayder’s decidedly unbarbaric nature.
|Ser Davos tries not to fall asleep while Stannis Baratheon practices frowning|
But before anything can really happen there, everyone’s favorite bore Stannis Baratheon shows up with a newly bought army after Ser Davos, the Onion Knight, convinced the bank of Braavos to give them the funds to do it. Why was he there? The episode didn’t make it very clear, but paying attention/re-reading old episode guides lets us know Melisandre, the red priestess, had visions of a great battle in the north and basically goaded him into going, in order to protect the people (“death marches on the Wall, and only you can stop it,” she says). We see Melisandre eye Jon Snow through the fire as the bodies of the dead are burnt, less they become undead, and we’re left with Mance Rayder in chains, Stannis the seeming new lord of the north, and a whole lot still up in the air.
|Hodor fights off some skeletons!|
Just as this storyline starts to drag a bit, we’re off to see “The children,” as this episode is named after, which refers to Bran, the ogre Hodor and siblings Jojen and Meera. They’ve been trying to reach this so-called three-eyed raven for mysterious reasons. Here’s where the deaths start. Just as it seems they’ve reached their destination, they’re attacked by vicious skeletons in one of the most unexpected and exciting battles of the season as we see Meera show off her weapon skills and Bran inhabit Hodor to bash some skeleton skulls. Sadly, Jojen is killed just as a feral, childlike creature appears and dispatches the remaining skeletons with thrown fire. Safe in a cave, Bran meets the raven, a sage-like old man who says he’s been watching the children all this time.
Daenerys has spent the season travelling the Eastern continent, freeing the city of Mereen and becoming its ruler. However, as was hinted early in the season, her dragons have become large and unmanageable. While undergoing her usual, seemingly tiring and morally pointed requests by her people, one man reveals a dragon has burnt his child to death. In tears, the mother of dragons shackles her babies. This seems like a moment that will come back to bite her (or burn her).
The Hound and Arya Stark have left the Vale after finding out that Arya’s aunt and ruler of the Vale, Lysa Arryn, is dead, having been thrown out of the moon door earlier in the season by new husband Littlefinger (little does she know her sister, Sansa, sits in the Vale, perhaps cozying up to Littlefinger). The Hound’s quest to return Arya to the Vale, hopefully for a ransom, seems to have been for naught, so they wander and stumble upon Brienne of Tarth and her squire, Podrick. Arya and Brienne have a moment of kinship, a female knight and aspiring woman warrior. Then The Hound gets in the way and it’s an all-out, vicious battle between Brienne and The Hound, who just sees her as a tool of the Lannisters (she’s got their Valerian steel sword). After pulling a Mike Tyson and biting off The Hound’s ear (pretty much all that was left of his face anyway), Brienne barely prevails, leaving The Hound mortally wounded. She looks for Arya while Poddrick stumbles along uselessly, and Arya comes to The Hound, who tells her he should’ve raped Sansa when he had the chance. Maybe that’s what pushes Arya, who seemed to have been warming to her protector/captor, over the edge. She leaves The Hound to rot, even taking his wine, steals one of Brienne’s horses and takes off, ditching any and all adult supervision. A ship about to set sail agrees to take her to the North when she shows him an iron coin. This was another head-scratcher for those not taking copious notes or who haven’t read the books—you may recall the assassin Jaqen H'ghar who helped Arya escape captivity earlier; he gave her the coin, a symbol of the Faceless Men group of assassins he’s part of, as a sort of passport (the handshake of an assassin carroes a lot of weight).
Since there was no mention of the Boltons, the Ironborn or Theon/Reek, that just leaves the meatiest storyline—the Lannisters and King’s Landing. You may recall that King Joffrey Baratheon was poisoned and killed at his own wedding. Though somehow both dame Olenne Tyrell and Littlefinger took the credit, Tyrion got the blame and was jailed. His father and hand of the king Tywin Lannister would have had him tried and sent off in exile, but Tyrion, sick of his father’s hatred and scheming, threw the whole mock trial but insulting all of King’s Landing and demanding a trial by battle. Tyrion’s sister and queen regent Cersei picked the aptly named Mountain to fight against Tyrion’s champion, Oberyn Martell aka The Red Viper. Despite an impressive fight, The Red Viper lost in a literally head-crushing defeat, perhaps the fault of his own pride and desire for vengeance, leaving The Mountain mortally wounded. In this episode, first we see that the Mountain may be saved by some dark magic guy. Jaime Lannister, the only of Tyrion’s brethren to seemingly give a shit about him, engineers his escape, despite cozying up with sister Cersei again—oh yeah, Cersei also told her dad to go shove it, she’s not marrying Loras Tyrell and leaving King’s Landing, and that it’s true what people say about her and Jaime. Before Tyrion escapes with the help of Varys aka The Spider, he daringly/stupidly stops to tie up some loose ends. It’s unclear if he was after her from the outset, but he finds his ex, Shae, laying in his father’s bed. He gets on top of her and she tries to stab him, so he strangles her to death. So no more Shae; I feel like I gotta say her turning on Tyrion after he admittedly tried to send her away feels a little forced, but whatevs. So then Tyrion finds Tywin in the shitter, defenseless and without dignity—much in the same way Tyrion has continually had his dignity shredded by his family. Tywin tries to reason with Tyrion, and it seems like it may be working until Tywin calls Shae a whore. Even though he just killed her, Tyrion’s still conflicted about that one. He puts two crossbow bolts through Tywin and probably kills him. Just before sending Tyrion off in a box on a boat, the bells ring through King’s Landing, signifying that some shit just went down. Varys puts two and two together and hops on the boat with Tyrion, lest he lose more body parts for his involvement.
And that’s it! A satisfying finale, to say the least, and one that leaves us with quite a few less characters to keep track of. My vote for best storylines goes to Arya travails while traveling with the Hound, along with, of course, Tyrion’s trial at King’s Landing. Worst goes to the somehow always boring Stannis Boreatheon as he, like, gathers money and troops. But all in all, this has been one of the best seasons of one of the best shows ever, showing us fantastic battles on a scale we’ve never seen on TV (and only bested by “The Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars” series on film), as well as nuanced, allegorical of tales of politics, war, love and, especially in this season, loss of innocence. Now we just have to wait a year or so for next season, which should hopefully debut around the spring, if we’re following previous seasons’ conventions. Will the show overtake the books that George RR Martin hasn’t finished? (Probably.) Will the show runners increasingly have to take liberties with the stories because of that? (Yes.) Will fans cry foul? (Yes.) Will they probably do an amazing job, all things considered? (Most definitely.) Sigh. Back to binge-watching “Orange Is the New Black.”