Game of Thrones kicked all kinds of butt in Season 4, so all I wanted from the finale was a non-horrible hour of television, to ensure that the strengths of the season could live on during the cruel dark ages known as "the boring part of the year when Game of Thrones isn't on." Really I was just praying it wouldn't end with Dany crowdsurfing on a bunch of recently freed slaves.
To my delight, "The Children" was the series' best season finale so far, providing twists and deaths rather than keeping to tradition and mopping up after a huge ninth episode. So much drama, you guys! I wondered how this episode would squeeze in all the stories it needed to cover in just one hour, but not only did "The Children" successfully weave in almost everyone, I felt like it spent a respectful amount of time on the stories that needed it most. The episode never felt rushed, it just felt dense—like a two-week-old loaf of Hot Pie's special direwolf bread. Speaking of which, where was the bread!? I bet Brienne ate it herself.
Take a quick bathroom break and then let's discuss what happened in "The Children."
"We're not in the Seven Kingdoms and you're not dressed for this weather." —Mance Rayder
After last week's battle at the Wall, I didn't expect Game of Thrones to return to Jon Snow's storyline. It was only the "Next on..." promo that gave it away, and "The Children" opened with Jon Snow waltzing into the wildlings' camp. In fact, Jon walked almost all the way up to the front flap of Mance Rayder's tent without announcing his intentions, and was met with absolutely zero resistance, which makes me wonder if someone called a time out and I didn't hear it. I mean, he got face-to-face with Mance before letting everyone know he was sent to negotiate with the wildlings. Try not letting the enemy walk right up to your leader next time, dummies! Maybe that king of the giants was trying to negotiate when he went into the tunnel at the Wall, and what did the Night's Watch do? KILLED HIM DEAD. Yet Jon walked right up to Mance's place like he owned the joint.
Anyway. Jon came at Mance with some simple terms: Turn around and run. Mance countered with the fact that he was about to kill all of Jon's men no problem, because the Night's Watch had exhausted all their supplies with the opening slap fight. Point, Mance. Mance did say something to the effect of, "Hey let us through and we won't hurt nobody," because really, everyone—be he a member of the Night's Watch, a wildling, or a mammoth—should be scared of White Walkers the most. Mance just wanted to "hide behind your wall" like Jon and everyone else south of the chunk of ice, because what's coming is a whole lot scarier than a bunch of sexually frustrated teenagers throwing rocks at them from above.
But Jon and Mance would not come to an agreement, because King Lobsterman, Stannis Baratheon, learned his lesson from Tywin Lannister's book of war and showed up with massive reinforcements at the very end of a fight. YEAH! Go Stannis, go! Stannis didn't do a whole lot this season except take out a loan, but this was a game-changing move on his part. Melisandre saw his future in the flames, and the fire told him to go north where the real war would be waged. Idea: Stannis and Mance form an alliance and kill the White Walkers and then move south and take the Iron Throne. Give Mance and the wildlings the north, and Stannis keeps the throne. Game over!
Meanwhile, as a postscript to the Jon and Ygritte love story, Jon romantically set her corpse on fire and Tormund told Jon that Ygritte loved him because all she could do was talk about killing him. How lovely! I know we were all rooting for them to grow old together and have a million babies, but c'mon. They wouldn't have lasted the winter. She's too fiery and he's too sensitive. It was a good fling though, like a summer-camp romance.
"Lady, your stupid dragons torched my baby daughter to death." —One pissed-off Meereenese guy
First of all, does Messandei have to recite Dany's super-long string of titles before each person Dany meets with? Half of those titles are made up. "Unburnt?" "Breaker of Chains?" If you look at my byline, it doesn't say, "Tim Surette, Senior Editor, Guy Who Just Ate a Chocolate Chip Cookie He Found on the Floor." That bench Dany sits on can't be that comfortable, and the more time Messandei spends spouting off titles, the greater the chance that Dany's touchie is going to develop some horrible hemorrhoids. Will Messandei add that to her list of titles? "Daenerys Stormborn, Queen of the Andals, Possessor of Enormous Ass Warts."
Anyway, the first guy she met with essentially told her he was happy being a slave and asked permission to go back to his old master. These Meereenese are so ungrateful. She said, "Sure," and it was another case of Dany being a pushover to anyone who asked for something. Remember that other guy from an earlier episode who got to take his father down from a sign post because he asked? Dany needs to be firm with these people. Slaves are going back to their masters and those who were punished for being slave masters are shown mercy. She can't seem to stick to a platform. Ruling is hard. If I were her, I'd be like, "I don't even want the Iron Throne anymore, this queen stuff is way too hard."
Things got even tougher when the next guy showed up. Thankfully, he was spared Dany's incredibly long name, which was probably good because when it came to the "Mother of Dragons" part he probably woulda lost it. This incredibly pathetic man brought in the charred bones of his three-year-old daughter and was all, "Dragons." Apparently Drogon had been flying freely across Slaver's Bay causing mayhem and frying children for fun because that's what unleashed dragons do. He was last seen three days ago. That's entirely irresponsible pet ownership on Dany's part. I get upset with people who let their cats be outdoor cats, but a dragon!?!?!? Don't call yourself a "mother" if you don't know where your "children" are for half a week.
The knowledge that her dragons were terrorizing the land forced her to lock up the dragons she did keep tabs on, and you were probably all sad about it. "Awwww, those poor cute dragons are being chained up in the catacombs." Well I'm sure that little girl used to be cute, too. That is, before her flesh was melted off her bones by one of those dragons. Chain 'em up I say! Maybe not in the dark catacombs, though, that seems a bit cruel. And yes, how ironic was it that the so-called "breaker of chains" was putting chains on her pets? About as ironic as her letting a slave she freed go back to being a slave. Dany is learning the hard way that you can't make everyone happy.
"I've been many things. Now I am what you see." —The Old Man in the Tree Roots
Ummm, what the fudge happened here? Remember when Bran would show up on the screen and we'd all collectively groan because his story was the lamest? Not anymore. Let's get straight to it: Bran found the tree! And as he got closer and closer to it, animated skeletons like the ones from Jason and the Argonauts started popping out of the ground and attacking the group.
WHAT THE!? We're getting to a point in the series that's beyond what I've read in the books, and I don't know if this was in the books or not, but WHAT THE!? This whole sequence was awesome and honestly almost a bit too much for me to handle. It's the most Dungeons & Dragons that Game of Thrones has ever been. Skeletons sprang up from the ground and started attacking! And they weren't crusty old bones with rigid fighting styles, these guys (and/or gals; I didn't get a good look at the pelvic bone) were dodging and weaving like Ali. But obviously the best part was Bran warging into Hodor and wrecking shop. The relationship between Bran and Hodor is fantastic. Hodor is but a gentle soul who wouldn't hurt a churchmouse, but when he gets possessed by a teenage boy full of angst, he's the bringer of death. Wait, I take that back, the best part was Meera fighting. That girl can bring it.
She was also tough enough to finish off her own brother once she realized he was doomed. Poor Jojen got stabbed in the gut by some bones, so Meera killed him quickly. I mean seriously guys, what was going on in this scene? Jojen died? I was so not ready for that. I was still perplexed over the scary skeletons coming out of the ground.
But that wasn't even it. This happened:
Now this show is telling me that there are kids who live under trees who can shoot supernatural grenades from their hands? Sure, okay. Now is not the time to start questioning the feasibility of this series. Season 5 could start off with a talking donkey and I'd be on board, because there's no turning back now.
This little kid was one of "The Children," a race that pre-dates the First Men. It seems like all the cool stuff that happened in this universe happened a long time ago, and that the world got more and more boring with each generation. Game of Thrones used to be about jousting. Now we have some squirt lobbing magic missiles at undead warriors in front of a brilliantly colored tree, while an old man sits in its roots and talks about teaching Bran to fly. I have no idea what's going on here, but I love it.
"There's no safety, you dumb bitch." —The Hound
After watching this episode, most people will be talking about Tyrion's escape and his two stops on the way out, but call me when you discuss this brutal scene with Arya and the Hound. In another encounter that wasn't part of the books, Brienne happened upon Arya, interrupted the Hound's dump (which would make any man very irritable), and then Brienne and the Hound had words and got into the kind of fight that makes you want to jump into your television screen and break things up because both characters are so great, you don't want to see either of them get hurt.
I'm almost man enough to say that this fight was better than the much-hyped bout between the Mountain and the Viper because if you aren't a moron, you saw this as a knockdown drag-out brawl between two awesome characters you liked. There was no one to root for because that meant you'd have to root against his or her opponent. Every blow that landed—and there were many—vibrated through my body as I begged them to stop. And the evolution of the fight from noble swordplay to nut punches to backhanded smacks to BRIENNE BITING OFF THE HOUND'S EAR only added to my suffering. It was like watching two of your best friends beat each other up.
Brienne's dirty tactics (this is fact, she fought dirty) earned her the victory, and as the Hound topped over the edge of the ledge my heart stopped. I didn't get mad when Ned Stark died. I didn't get mad when Robb Stark died. But I draw the line at killing off the Hound. Not cool, show! And sure, we don't know whether he's actually dead because Arya just robbed him and walked away, but even he thought he wasn't going to make it and spent several painful minutes asking Arya to kill him. I adore these two together, so of course I got very emotional while the Hound was begging to get the pointy end. For me, this was one of the series' hardest scenes to watch. Now I'm going to hold an unfair grudge against Brienne.
Arya decided she'd be better off on her own than with Brienne, and found a ship headed to Braavos. She gave the captain that coin that Jaqen gave her and muttered that magic words: "Valar Morghulis," and the captain said, "Well why didn't you say so?" and put her up in first class on a one-way trip to Braavos. Arya is going to be one well-traveled girl by the time this is all done.
"You're a Lannister, you're my son." —Tywin Lannister
Cersei told off her dad and then had sex with Jaime, but I'm going to skip ahead to the end of the events in King's Landing. Jaime stepped up and rescued Tyrion, just another reason that Jaime Lannister is awesome and haters can suck it. On his way out, Tyrion stopped by his dad's room via secret passageway and found Shae lounging about. UGH Shae. There's no telling how long she'd been working with Tywin or if she ever loved Tyrion at all, but my lord, could there be a character who was easier to hate than Shae? She is the absolute worst. I'd rather be stuck on a Greyhound bus with Joffrey as my seat partner. How long has she been sleeping with Tywin? And she had the nerve to pull a knife on Tyrion? She is vile scum, so I was overjoyed when we got this:
Choked out on Lannister gold! How appropriate for a gold digger like Shae. Good riddance, you lying, cheating, annoying bitch! And how about Tyrion showing zero hesitation in murdering her? This scene made me so happy that I've decided to have it play on a small monitor on my tombstone. "Here lies Tim Surette, he really hated Shae." Thank f'ing god. In some ways I'm sad because I'm going to miss saying, "UGH Shae," but in other ways I'm doing cartwheels, because UGH Shae, right?
Tyrion continued his goodbyes by hunting down his dad, who was in the bathroom, making room for breakfast. For as lavish as the Lannisters live, I'd expect a little more from the Hand of the King's bathroom, but near as I could tell it was just a hole in the ground. Tywin was literally caught with his pants down, and after Tywin tried out every tactic to save himself (flattering Tyrion's bravery, claiming family bonds, threatening him, and then disowning him) Tyrion plugged his dad twice with crossbow bolts. Happy Father's Day! Dying on the toilet is a lousy way to go. So embarrassing! Someone is going to find him like that, you know. Dangly bits just dangling about. The silver lining is that when death forces him to release his bowels, he'll be in the perfect spot. And at least he can say he died on the throne.
Varys helped Tyrion escape in a crate on a ship to the Free Cities, and once he heard the bells alerting everyone that Tywin had been murdered, he figured it was best to join Tyrion because stuff was about to go down. And so we end Season 4 with characters all headed in different directions and new places, and with power and control in limbo. The Lannisters are considerably weakened, Stannis has gained power in the north, Dany has her hands full with dissatisfied citizens and unruly dragons, and Littlefinger is plotting away at the Eyrie. Season 5 can't get here soon enough.
Each week, I'll rank the episodes of Season 4 from best to worst. But remember, these are just my opinions! Feel free to post your own in the comments!
This week: An amazing end to an amazing season. "The Children" was the best finale of the series, and Season 4 was easily the best season so far. But I'm still going to say that "The Children" wasn't the best episode of the season, though it's awfully close.
1. "The Lion and the Rose" (Episode 2)
2. "The Children" (Episode 10)
3. "Mockingbird" (Episode 7)
4. "The Watchers on the Wall" (Episode 9)
5. "The Mountain and the Viper" (Episode 8)
6. "First of His Name" (Episode 5)
7. "Breaker of Chains" (Episode 3)
8. "Oathkeeper" (Episode 4)
9. "Two Swords" (Episode 1)
10. "The Laws of Gods and Men" (Episode 6)
– I have a lot of respect for that one wildling who tried to attack Stannis but was chopped down by that cavalry. He tried.
– Every time I see Melisandre and some version of her theme song plays, I get the chills! In "The Children," Jon saw her across the flames and those eerie four chords began to ring out.
– All you book readers who were upset that Season 4 didn't end like A Storm of Swords did (that epilogue!), please shut up. You did not get ripped off. This is the show. This is not the books.
– The Mountain is alive! Barely. Oberyn nicked him with some powerful poison, and now he's being worked on by an experimental doctor? The doctor warned Cersei that whatever he was doing might "change him somewhat," but we never learned how. What's going on there?
– Now everyone is going to think that Tyrion is even more guilty of poisoning Joffrey. The Lannisters will be on the lookout for him, Sansa, and Varys. Sansa and Varys can blend in with the crowd, but how is Tyrion going to hide?
– Thanks for reading my late-night ramblings, everybody!