Game of Thrones' fourth season ended last night and, befitting for a finale that aired on Father's Day, it focused on the love and devotion that the Lannister kids have to their father Tywin, a man who doubtlessly owns several "WORLD'S GREATEST DAD" coffee mugs.
Also fighting happened. Spoilers after the jump!
Saved by the Stannis Last night’s finale began exactly where the previous episode had ended, with Jon Snow walking out into Wildling territory to kill Mance Rayder. Snow eventually found the King-Beyond-the-Wall, and was received as if he were an envoy negotiating terms of surrender. After a brief chat, Jon Snow pulled a blade on Mance, but the whole thing was rendered moot when, suddenly, lots of guys on horses showed up out of nowhere.
Stannis, everyone’s least favorite king, actually responded to the raven the Night’s Watch sent him and decided to protect the realm. You know. King stuff. This has always made me like Stannis more. He's an asshole, but he also knows that he has certain obligations as a king. The Wildlings were defeated, Mance was taken prisoner, and Stannis is now calling the shots in the North.
So many of the characters on Game of Thrones operate in isolation from each other that it’s oftentimes weird to see them interact. Seeing Jon Snow and Davos Seaworth in the same frame almost felt like two different shows were crossing over, and it was similarly strange to see Arya, Pod, Brienne, and the Hound all together in the same scene later in the show. This episode very much disrupted the status quo of which characters were where and doing what. Stannis, previously holed up on an island, now has the Night’s Watch and is a possibly a player again. I’m sure that Melissandre has opinions about all of the ice and darkness.
The Mountain is only mostly dead. Mostly. The big guy was seriously wounded and poisoned by Oberyn Martell and he’s now on death’s door. Pycell thought it would be more merciful to just kill him. However, the not at all creepy and utterly unFrankenstein-like former maester Qyburn was like, “Nah, I can totally mad science this shit.” I’m sure that Gregor Clegane will be totally fine.
Cersei also told Tywin that all of the rumors about her and Jaime were true. He said he didn't believe her but, c'mon. Deep down in his icy heart he totally believed her.
How to Train Your Dragon to Not Kill People For Daenerys, ruling continues to be difficult. An old guy had an audience with her and explained that, as a slave, he got to live in a nice house and he had a cushy job teaching a rich guy’s kids. He wanted his old gig back and asked Dany to let him be a slave again. She said no way, but said that he could enter into a contract with his old Master. Barristan assured her that allowing for arrangements like that would almost certainly be abused by the masters.
By the way, did that old guy who wanted to be a slave kinda remind anyone else of Firs, the anti-emancipation manservant character in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard? Just me? Okay.
Dany also found out that her dragons have moved on from sheep and are now torching kids. She locked up two of her (now fairly large) fiery pets and bound them with chains. OOH! I bet this is a metaphor! Just like how Dany is tied down by ruling in Meereen, her dragons are tied down with chains in a basement! That’s totally a metaphor or symbolism or something, guys.
Bran: Now kind of interesting! Bran and company were continuing their vision quest up North (Why were none of them wearing gloves? Don’t they have cold hands?) when suddenly they found a weird tree and got attacked by Skyrim skeletons. Having undead suddenly show up was jarring, even though zombies and such have been in the show several times before. It’s easy to forget that this is a fantasy show, and walking corpses are just par for the course. Despite having a Hodor, Bran and company got well and thoroughly trounced by the skeletons, losing Jojen Reed in the process. Everything was looking dire when suddenly someone cast Fireball and made the zombies go away.
Bran, Hodor, and Meera were saved by one of the Children of the Forest, sylvan elf things that most fans forget exist. Beneath the magic tree Bran found a whole series of roots that kinda-sorta resembled LV-426, and then he met Gandalf.
Underneath the tree was a Magic Beard Man who told Bran that he’ll never walk again, but he will fly. Okay. I guess they found the dude they were looking for. Hodor.
Like father, like son. After spending most of his time in jail this season Tyrion finally busted out of the slammer with the help of Jaime and Varys. But, simply walking out of prison would have been far too easy and it had been maybe five or ten minutes since anyone died on the show, so Tyrion made his way to his dad’s quarters.
Where he found Shae. Tywin Lannister had been fucking his son’s girlfriend. That is all kinds of gross. Shae immediately pulled a knife on Tyrion, they struggled, and he strangled her to death. I’ve always been squicked out by this scene in the books, and I was again when I saw it in TV form. Eeesh.
Tyrion grabbed a crossbow, walked down the hall, and found his father sitting on a toilet, catching him quite literally with his pants down. Tywin claimed that he’d never let Tyrion be actually executed, and I almost believed him. After a tense exchange about Shae, Tyrion shot and killed his dad, the most powerful man in Westeros. He dropped the crossbow, met up with Varys, and got in box to be FedExed to Essos. One of the most successful politicians in the show got killed on the toilet. Not a great way to go.
Brienne Versus the Hound: FIGHT! The tussle between Brienne and the Hound was better and more interesting than the whole of all of the action at the Wall. There are some thematic similarities between the two characters. Neither of them, despite their martial skill, are technically knights. Both of them have off-putting appearances (Brienne’s a woman in armor, the Hound has dramatic burn scars) and each of them follows a sort of self-taught moral code that exists outside traditional notions of chivalry. And last night they beat the shit out of each other. It was amazing.
Each of them wanted Arya Stark. Brienne because she swore an oath to protect her, and the Hound because he’d actually grown fond of the girl he’d been giving murder lessons to. For a moment I actually wondered if they would solve their problems by using their words, but no. It came to blows and it was sword-swingingly, armor-punchingly brutal. Both of the highly likeable characters sustained a fair amount of damage and Brienne, the one who’s ostensible filled with honor and oathkeeping, pulled a Tyson and bit the Hound’s ear off before stabbing him in the leg and knocking him over a cliff.
By the way, none of this was in the books but I don’t care because it was cool.
Despite winning the fight, though, Brienne did not recover Arya. Everyone’s favorite kill pixie hid, found the dying Hound and then, proving that she’s become a cold, cold thug, refused to kill him. He was in obvious pain, he wanted to die, and he even taunted and insulted her in hopes that she would get mad and slice him. Nothing. Arya Stark just stared at a dying man and let him suffer. She took the Hound’s cash and walked away, leaving him to bleed. He’s taught her well. The season ended with Arya on a boat to Braavos, sailing off to new adventures that probably involve death.
For those of you who’ve read the books: I was very surprised that Lady Not-Appearing-In-This-Episode didn’t appear in this episode. I was almost certain that was going to be the ending stinger. Next season, I suppose.
Speaking of which, Game of Thrones is about to make its way into uncharted territory. The show has already started incorporating material from books four and five and George R. R. Martin’s concluding books still have not appeared. As a professional Game of Thrones-ologist, I have some advice for fans wringing their hands about the nonpresence of the last books, and the direction that the show is going in:
Accept that we’re never, ever getting any new books, and let the show be its own thing. Accept GRRM’s five weighty tomes for what they are, the inspiration for a TV show that is a superior piece of culture. In all likelihood, we are never going to read another word from Martin. That’s okay, though. We’ll still get the ending that actually matters.