Spoilers are here.
After the battle of Castle Black, the season finale episode of Game of Thrones 4×10: The Children could have lacked a lot of things but it didn’t. Instead it covered all loose ends preceding the next season for a complete game changer in almost every front. There’s very little that stays the same after this episode, and almost every character has a new scenario.
We’ll begin at the Wall, and I’m already losing here. I didn’t think we’d see the wall again. We literally start right where we left last week, with Jon Snow marching away from the Wall and into Mance Rayder’s camp. Someone explain to me how he doesn’t get beheaded, stabbed and arrow-ed on sight. That being said, Mance is not a dictator. He doesn’t want any more of his people to die. He wants the protection of the wall… because Winter is coming. That means the White Walkers (the Others for us book readers) are on their perennial march towards the Wall. Mance agrees to parlay with Jon and they even share a drink to their dead. Jon gets caught eyeing a knife, which tells Mance what his true intentions are. I don’t see Jon breaking the rules of hospitality after he’s been welcomed inside Mance’s tent and share a drink. He might be able to kill a man in battle, but backstabbing? I mean this is Jon Snow, not Walder Frey.
Before the wildlings can get to dealing with Jon, riders approach. The wildlings have cover of the forest but the army attacks them from both sides. It’s Stannis Baratheon, the only king that actually came to help the Night’s Watch, and my respects for that – although we know that if it wasn’t for Melisandre, he would have never heeded the call. Later on, the Night’s Watch burn their dead while Jon and Melisandre exchange a glance. If there’s a person that can sense Jon is more than what he seems or destined for something greater, it’s Melisandre.
After a meaningful talk with a captive Tormund Giantsbane, Jon Snow decides to burn Ygritte’s body north of the wall by a Weirwood tree. It’s a short but meaningful scene that I didn’t expect the series to have. Things are going to be different at the wall. It’s not all over for Mance Rayder, as Jon has asked Stannis to keep him as a prisoner. It’s reassuring to know that Stannis remembers Ned Stark. Some people do care about legacies in Westeros.
Across the Narrow Sea in the former slave city of Meereen, Daenerys Targaryen deals with a former slave who wants to return to living under his Master’s roof. Things have been starting to crumble for the Mother of Dragons. She’s finally faced with a greater consequence of her decisions as she meets the next supplicant, a shepherd who has lost his little girl, her bones charred black by the fire of Drogon. With no way to contact the largest and meanest of her dragons, Dany does what she can. She chains her two remaining dragons up in the catacombs. This is a band-aid of a solution, you can expect the Khaleesi to face a possible revolt very soon.
In King’s Landing, the Mountain is dying. Oberyn Martell did poison his blades! It’s some consolation to the fans of the Red Viper of Dorne. Grand Maester Pycelle has nothing that will save him but Qyburn has some un-maester methods that will bring him back, although he might be “changed”. Cersei approves as long as the Mountain remains strong. She goes to see her father to let him now she won’t marry Loras. Tywin insists on closing the issue but Cersei brings up his worst nightmare – and lets him know the rumors of her and Jaime being true. It’s the first time that Tywin is not in control, he obviously has tried to play deaf to the rumor but this shakes him to the core.
A victorious Cersei goes over to see Jaime. She tells him about the meeting with Tyrion and she’s willing to continue their incestuous relationship. She has him take her right on the table. Something tells me the idea of this scene is to erase Jaime’s past blemish. I can only guess that now it should be clear that the past non-consensual scene was supposed to be angry sex, just as this one puts Cersei as the seducer once again. I think Jaime and Cersei are past romance at this point. This is Cersei once more making sure Jaime remains on her side, and sex is just a manipulation tool. For Jaime’s redemption to actually be real, this has to end . We’ll return to King’s Landing later on.
North of the Wall, the young adventurers Bran Stark, Jojen and Meera Reed and Hodor find the Weirwood tree that they’re supposed to find. They are attacked by wights – skeletons that rise from the snow. Bran is forced to worg again and use Hodor, but the numbers are against them and these guys are fast. Jojen gets stabbed despite his sister’s efforts. Suddenly one of the Children, a race of ancient beings older than the First Men, appears. He/she is capable of producing fireballs and urges them all to enter the cave under the Weirwood tree. She also tells Meera to choose leaving her brother or dying with him. She mercifully kills him before running for safety. A fireball destroys his body, just as his eyes started to signal his turn (you might have to rewatch this moment to see it). The wights are not able to cross into the cave. Bran finally meets the Three Eyed Raven, an elder man who appears to be fused to the Weirwood tree’s roots. The Three Eyed Raven tells Bran he will not walk again, but he will fly. Once can presume he means as a worg.
Back on the Eyrie, Brienne wakes up to find that the horses have vanished. As she sends Podrick to grab their stuff, she sees Arya Stark… and we come to a scene I don’t remember from the books. Which is still fine, because it brings us a confrontation we would otherwise never have. Podrick appears and immediately makes Sandor Clegane. Brienne quickly deduces the girl in front of her is Arya Stark. Brienne reveals her vow to protect the Stark children, but the Hound calls on her motives recognizing she’s carrying Valyrian steel. There’s no way to avoid it – Sandor Clegane draws, Brienne of Tarth draws, and get two fan favorites battling each other. Eventually it seems that Brienne is about to lose but she manages to overpower the Hound and knock him off a cliff. Is he done? He’s done for this battle. Arya circles around while hiding from Brienne and meets him at the bottom. Rather than a road straight down, he’s tumbled down ridges but the damage is done. He pleads Arya to finish him off but she just takes his money and leaves him there. Whether or not we’ll see the Hound again, we’re not going to see him with Arya.
Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion is broken free by his brother Jaime. He takes him through a series of underground tunnels, leading him to a passage that will eventually get him to Varys. Apparently, the Master of Whisperers still has an interest in Tyrion being alive, which makes a huge difference.
But Tyrion takes a detour to the Tower of the Hand. He finds Shae on his father’s bed and strangles her to death before she can stab him. He then grabs a crossbow and a tool which we’ll later find out is a reloader (sorry if that’s the wrong term, I’m not up to date on my medieval weaponry). He finds Tywin on the privy. It’s the most vulnerable we’ll ever see the head of House Lannister, as he insists on discussing whatever needs to be discussed back at his chambers. Tyrion tells him that he loved Shae, who Tywin calls a whore. Tyrion warns him not to say that word again but as Tywin keeps talking, he does it again. At that point, Tyrion shoots an arrow aimed at his Father’s heart. Then he calmly reloads and adds another one on the shoulder. That he is actually committing murder is not unexpected but still, shocking and sad. Tyrion has accepted a world in which murder is an option. This is a unique scene in which I feel more pity for the killer than the victim.
Tyrion finally goes back to the secret passage and marches up to find Varys who already guesses what he’s done. The last we see of Tyrion is when Varys puts him in a box, not unlike the one he used to bring the enemy sorcerer from his past. The box is then loaded onto a ship destined to cross the Narrow Sea. As Varys hears the bells ring in the distance, he seems to take the decision to board the ship as well. Last we see him, he’s seating beside the box that has Tyrion inside it. Not much is known about Varys in this time from the books, so this is a bit of a surprise.
Back in the coast near the Eyrie, Arya approaches a ship and tries to buy passage to the Wall. Instead, the captain tells her that no coin will get him to alter his course. They are going to Braavos. Arya produces the iron coin given to her by the Faceless Assassin, Jaqen H’ghar. She then pronounces the words, “Valar Morghulis” as instructed. As we last see Arya, she’s on board a ship headed for Braavos.
Highs: The brief conversation between Brienne and Arya where they discuss sword fighting. The duel between Brienne and The Hound. Jon burning Ygritte’s body was a meaningful and heartfelt moment spared on a series known for brutal deaths. Tyrion’s escape and revenge. I can’t justify Tyrion killing Shae or Tywin. Both are crimes of passion, although I don’t think he expected to see Shae on his father’s bed.
Lows: The whole scene with Bran and his companions at the Three Eyed Raven’s lair was a little too fantastic for me. Then again, the whole pilgrimage beyond the Wall is quite esoteric. I want Jaime and Cersei to be done with suggesting that their relationship has any romance left. I think Jaime is deluding himself and hopefully he’ll wake up by the next season.
Coming up next season…
Arya is destined to become the most impressive fighter/assassin so chances are high we’ll get to meet the Faceless Men again. Or perhaps we’ve already met some of them. Who knows. Jaime is destined to have a falling out with Cersei because she’ll sure suspect him for Tyrion’s escape. Jon Snow has to become Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch sooner or later. Tyrion is bound for one of the Free Cities. There’s a chance for him to run into Daenerys Targaryen who’s actually got her hands full right now. Drogon is going to come back for sure, and chance are he won’t be friendly.
That will do for now.