Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Game of Thrones 4.10: The Children

Hello and welcome to the final week (sob) of our season 4 Game of Thrones posts. As always, I'm joined by Christopher Lockett, who, if faced with a crossbow pointed at his head, wouldn't give a shit (snort). And you can expect many more of those high-brow toilet jokes as we run down this epic episode of Game of Thrones. Chris, start us off!!

Christopher: Well, as finales go, this one was pretty sweet. One of the first responses I read claimed to have found it “underwhelming,” and all I could think was “were you watching the same episode as me?” SO MUCH happened, and with the exception of the fight between Brienne and the Hound, it was all more or less faithful to the novels. Brienne and Sandor’s confrontation is nowhere to be found in the books, but I thought it was a brilliant invention. And one awesome, knock-down, drag-out fight.

My notes have a lot of all-caps and exclamation points.

But more on that later. Before I start by talking about the opening sequence at the Wall, it occurs to me that it might be useful to take stock of where we are in the books. While watching the episode, I realized that Bran’s storyline has just about reached the limit of what has been written, almost to the end of his thread in A Dance With Dragons (book five). Which raises an interesting question: does this mean we don’t get any Bran next season? Or will the series race ahead of the novel? Will the series end up being a spoiler for the novel? I say this on the entirely reasonable assumption that GRRM won’t have produced The Winds of Winter before next April. But I invite George, nay, beg him to prove me wrong on that point …

Jon Snow isn’t anywhere near the end of his story yet—there’s room left in A Storm of Swords (book three) and quite a lot to get through in Dragons. Ditto for Stannis, as his storyline is now basically interlaced with Jon’s. Brienne’s case is a bit harder to discern, as her encounter with the Hound is invented; but I’d say she’s about halfway through A Feast for Crows (book four), which is actually quite far along, as she only features in Dragons for about a nanosecond.

The King’s Landing crew have a lot of story to go, as we’ve basically come to the end of Swords. There’s a lot of Jaime and Cersei to get through in Crows, and Tyrion still has all of his story in Dragons yet to come. Daenerys et al are now about a quarter of the way into Dragons; and Arya has just finished Swords, so she has all of Crows still to go. Theon is about halfway through Dragons; and … I think that’s all? Dear gods, but there are a lot of characters in this series.

All right, enough accounting! to the Wall! Turns out I was dead wrong in predicting that Jon Snow disappearing through the gate would be the last we’d see of him this season (though as one of your commenters pointed out, that much was made clear in this episode’s preview. Oops). And we FINALLY see Mance Rayder again. Ciaran Hinds is so good in the role, it’s a shame they’ve used him so sparingly: his entire parley with Jon Snow was understated but powerful. I seem to recall repeatedly using the term “gravitas” to describe him last season, and that is still the case. He’s got Morgan Freeman levels of gravitas.

The scene between Jon and Mance unfolds more or less the way it does in the novel, with Mance being surprisingly calm when he sees the man who betrayed him. He does not behave peremptorily or rashly, but sits down to the parley as if with a guest, and drinks to the memory of Ygritte. We soon learn the reason for his calm: he knows now just how weak the Watch are, and is confident in his eventual victory. But he also raises a terrifying truth that has been lost in the buildup to this battle: that the wildlings do not seek conquest, but “to hide behind your Wall.” Mance was able to unite his factious army because they are all terrified of what is coming. And he makes Jon an offer that is at once reasonable and impossible: let his people come through the gate, and he promises peace.

Of course, it isn’t long before Mance gleans Jon Snow’s true intent, just in time for the deus ex machina to descend. Stannis! I didn’t mention it last week, but the simulated crane shots have been extraordinary: last week we were treated to a god’s-eye view of the Wall on both sides of the battles; this week, a beautiful shot of Stannis’ forces trapping Mance in a pincer maneuver.

I’m curious: how much of a surprise was this for people who haven’t read the novels? It’s a surprise in the book, but one where you remember an earlier scene and think “Oh, right …” While Davos is learning to read, he reads one of the pleas for help the Night’s Watch sent out to the Seven Kingdoms, and so we know he brought it to Stannis. Was there a similar moment I missed in the series? Or was there no hint that Stannis et al would be heading north?

Thoughts, Nikki?

Nikki: It was a COMPLETE surprise to me. I’d like to preface my part here by saying I’m on vacation in San Francisco right now, and ended up having to watch the episode on my laptop at an airport gate in Detroit, gasping and clapping my hand over my mouth and trying to cover the screen because my travelling companion has only seen to the end of season 3 and I didn’t want to reveal anything. So my bits this week might be unfortunately short because I’m trying to fit them in between sightseeing, but I do hope we’re able to spark some interesting conversation amongst all of you, and I hope to get involved in that with you!

Anyway! Back to the episode. YES it was a complete surprise and thank you for mentioning the overhead shots, Chris; I actually paused to write in my notes: “overhead view of the army’s approach is GORGEOUS.” I’ve really enjoyed the CGI overhead views, even if they are a wee bit sped up (if you consider the actual speed of the movement from the air, they should be moving a little slower than they are, but they have them moving at about 300 miles per hour. As they approached the Wall last week they were going about 100 metres per second) but otherwise it’s just amazing.

Ciaran Hinds is amazing, as you say. He tells Jon Snow that his people have bled enough, and when Stannis’s army comes barrelling into the forest, he screams it and demands his men stand down: “I said my people have bled enough, and I meant it.” Davos does his usual bow before the one true king of the Seven Kingdoms spiel, but Mance will have none of it, telling them in no uncertain terms, “We do not kneel.” But then Stannis sees Jon Snow, and when he discovers exactly who this man of the Night’s Watch is, he speaks to him with respect; a respect that is returned by Jon.

And from there we move to the Lannisters. Cersei demands once and for all that she not be betrothed to Loras, because she needs to stay with Tommen. For everything we’ve thought and said about Cersei all along, for everything she has done and all of the misled actions she’s taken (not the least of which is her hatred for Tyrion and the utterly ridiculous origin of it), her impassioned speech about her children and what they mean to her, and how she will NOT have Tommen taken from her really made me sympathize with her. She might be a terrible sister and a complicated lover and a terrible wife, but she is a devoted mother, and always has been. In that, she has never wavered.

And now she will do anything to keep them, including coming clean with Tywin and finally telling him what he did not want to hear: that she and Jaime are lovers, that the children all belong to him, that not a one of them is a Baratheon, and “YOUR LEGACY IS A LIE.” A brilliant scene that was a long time coming, that even had some humour in it when Tywin begins one of his fables and Cersei cuts him off, sying, “I’m not interested in hearing another one of your smug stories about the time you won.” Ha!! A lot has been done this season to make us sympathize with her in the face of her demonizing her brother and putting him on trial, and this scene was the best.

However, it’s sandwiched between two other scenes: a mysterious scene where they seem to be Frankensteining The Mountain back to health, where Pycelle is begging them to stop and Cersei and her medic kick Pycelle out of his own laboratory.

And then after Cersei has done her bit to reanimate The Creature, and does her best to give Tywin a stroke (and, in the moment, put a nail in her own coffin, I thought) she goes to visit Jaime to tell him what she’s just done. As he tries to push her away she tells him that she loves him, that she wants to stay in King’s Landing with him, that she will not marry Loras and the two of them will raise Tommen. And Jaime melts before her, immediately throwing her down upon a table and having her the way he once did. Is she manipulating him? At this point she’s pissed off Tywin epically, and needs someone on her side, and who better than the Kingslayer, even if he only has one hand? The Lannister stories this week were obviously the biggest game changers, consisting of the Cersei arc contained in these three scenes, followed by... well, we’ll get to those ones.

Just as things are shifting in King’s Landing, Daenerys has more people complaining in her court, realizing she’s brought more destruction and hardships to the people through her “freedom” than they perhaps lived with before. What did you think of these scenes? And is it just me who watches these dragons and thinks they act like my cat? ;)

Christopher: Oh, I’ve always thought the dragons are catlike—which makes them all the more terrifying. I’m totally a cat person, have loved cats all my life, but have few illusions about the fact that the only thing that prevents my cat from eating me is that he’s too small (which isn’t to say he doesn’t try). It was a bitter finale for Daenerys: confronted with her failings as a leader and compelled to chain up her children. I actually threatened to tear up a bit as she walked out of the catacombs: she knows exactly what she’s doing, what she has to do, but that isn’t exactly something that’s going to be clear to the two dragons she’s just put iron collars on and left in the dark. It’s a lot like that confused look your cat gives you through the cage door of his carrier when you leave him at the vet (yes, almost exactly like that).

But the problem of dragons rampant—which, after all, was not exactly unpredictable—is actually the lesser of Daenerys’ problems this episode. She’s learning a hard lesson that any casual student of history could have told her, namely that revolutions have a bad habit of turning into their opposites, and the more radical the revolution the more violent the regression. She has upended a way of life centuries old—it’s not going to conform to her idea of how it should be just because she demands it.

 This is one of the places where George R.R. Martin is at his most discomfiting: in making Daenerys the champion of freedom and scourge of slavers, he gives us what appears at first blush to be an unequivocal good. We are so primed by popular culture to reflexively celebrate any and all chain-breaking—and how can we not?—that it’s an easy narrative trick. It’s why Django Unchained is so viscerally satisfying but, on reflection, so deeply problematic; and it’s why so many narratives of this sort, from Glory to Mississippi Burning function more as symbolic salves to white guilt than any sort of substantive discourse on race and the unhealed wound of slavery. Both GRRM and Game of Thrones have come in for criticism on this front, as last season seemed to leave us in an all-too-typical white saviour story, with silver-haired Daenerys literally afloat on a sea of adoring brown bodies.

It was a cringeworthy moment. But to GRRM’s credit, he doesn’t end there, as so many of these narratives do—Daenerys has her triumphs, but now has to face the uncomfortable fact that simply saying “you’re free!” doesn’t automatically make everyone’s lives better, but opens up a whole bunch of new cans of worms. The plight of the elderly tutor speaks directly to this: what is he to do now? Daenerys’ new order, he laments, is the domain of the young. And even if she is able to better police her city, what use is freedom to a man who has never known anything but bondage? It is a quandary more fully described in A Dance With Dragons—the fact that, while many slaves have labored in pain and monotonous torment, many others have led relatively privileged lives as tutors, servants, and concubines and courtesans. Still others are the Mereen equivalent of gladiators, and have known fame and glory in the fighting pits. All of which is further confused by the simple fact of a culture-wide version of Stockholm syndrome: the elderly tutor, he avows, has grown to love the children he teaches and the family that owned him.

And Daenerys is also learning one of the other cruel lessons of leadership: soul-destroying compromise. She allows the man to effectively sell himself back to his former owners, with the proviso that it is only for a year—an entirely symbolic gesture, as Barristan is quick to point out, saying that “the men will be slaves in all but name.” The sequence of her locking up her dragons bitterly echoes her compromise with the old tutor, with its long, lingering shot of the chains she’ll use to imprison her children—the breaker of chains resorting to chains.

Meanwhile, north of the Wall, Bran and company finally arrive at their long (long!) sought-after destination … and in the process give us some truly thrilling moments as a small army of really dessicated ice zombies burst from the snow. This is where caps and exclamation points really start peppering my notes: “Ice zombies! SKELETAL ice zombies! HODOR! FIREBALLS! WTF?” (as you can see, my measured and thoughtful responses to any given episode only come when I’ve had a lot of time to reflect). What did you think of Bran’s “arrival”?

Nikki: Jeebus Creebus. My notes are: “Bran – Hodor – WTF moment!!” I have no idea what the hell any of that was, and it was clear this will be the new thing that will be explained more next season (they always drop one of those babies in there for us in the finale). I thought the image of the tree was breathtaking, with the leaves moving in an almost unearthly way, with the sun hitting them just right.

And then, of course, the path to that tree was fraught with Skeletor’s outcasts. What. The. Hell. Was anyone else thinking Ray Harryhausen in that moment?

I thought the scene itself was spectacular; the fight scenes were extraordinary (my GOD they’ve kept all their big-budget stuff til the end of the season, haven’t they?! As you pointed out, we also got the tabby dragons). As Jojen gets mortally attacked and Bran transfers his soul into Hodor to fight the baddies, we suddenly get Firestarter standing in the mouth of the cave, shooting fire bombs at the skeletons and ending them.

Who the heck is she?

Why did she wait so long to fight back?

How does she know who they are?

Are the children a group of supernaturals who remain perpetually young like little fire-throwing vampires? I’m really looking forward to finding out.

“The first men called us The Children, but we were born long before then,” she tells Bran. When they came into the cave and the Flamethrower told them that Jojen knew all along he wasn’t going to make it, and that he was leading Bran to the thing he’d lost, I half-expected to see Ned Stark sitting in the winding tree (I’ll admit a tiny bit of regret when he wasn’t). Instead we see an ancient man who has been watching him “with a thousand eyes and one” all their lives, who tells him that he will never walk again, but he will fly. Bran’s story is at times the most boring and uneventful in both the books and the show, but it also leans to the supernatural the most (along with the Wall stories), and this twist sent it into a new realm of possibility.

As did the scene with Arya/Hound/Brienne/Podrick. I’m disappointed that the Hound and Arya were just back wandering the countryside, and as you said last week, that they weren’t actually taken up to the Eyrie. You pointed out that they never get that far in the books, so now it becomes some clumsy writing served to get Arya super close and take it away from her again.

But you know what, none of that matters, because how much did I love Arya and Brienne meeting for the first time?! FANTASTIC.

I loved last week’s battle, but frankly I think the throw-down this week between the Hound and Brienne was FAR more fun to watch. And it was tense, because I kept hoping that one of them wouldn’t die, that he’d gain respect for Brienne’s fighting skills, or that Arya would see she’s a good person or Podrick would speak to Arya or SOMETHING but it was still amazing to watch. I mean... she bloody well Holyfields him, for goodness’ sake!!

I think I could hear you cheering as I watched it, Chris. I’m sure you adored that fight scene as much as I did.

Christopher: Of all the changes the series has made to the books, this one was easily the best. And it was heartbreaking … however much the Hound has, against all odds, ended up being Arya’s protector, I doubt there is anyone who would doubt that Brienne would be better. Their initial conversation before the Hound shows up shows just how good a fit they would be—women who reject the role the world would impose on them and embrace a life of fighting and violence. Brienne’s story about her father actually brings a smile to Arya’s face … and then the Hound appears, and it becomes obvious that a fight is unavoidable.

Brienne’s moment of recognition is a wonderful bit of subtle acting by Gwendoline Christie. “You’re Arya Stark,” she says softly, and her voice and facial expression are both wondering, even a bit awestruck. However seriously she takes her oath to Catelyn, she of course recognizes what a fool’s errand this quest to find the Stark girls is. And yet, here is Arya—and she knows a moment of triumph she never has in the novels (thus far), only to have it snatched away by Arya herself.

Because of course nothing is simple. We know precisely how honourable she is (she has Stark-levels of honour), and how dedicated she would be to keeping Arya safe. Jaime Lannister himself wants her find the Stark girls and keep them far, far away from his sister and the dangers of King’s Landing. But the very name of Jaime Lannister is toxic and poisons beyond repair any hope Brienne had of winning Arya’s trust—as does the simple fact that she failed in her job to protect Catelyn.

BRIENNE: I wish I could have been there to protect her.
ARYA: You’re not a Northerner.
BRIENNE: No. But I swore a sacred vow to protect her.
ARYA: Why didn’t you?
BRIENNE: She commanded me to bring Jaime Lannister back to King’s Landing.
HOUND: You’re paid by the Lannisters. You’re here for the bounty on me.
BRIENNE: I’m not paid by the Lannisters.
HOUND: No? Fancy sword you’ve got there. Where’s you get it? I’ve been looking at Lannister gold all my life. Go on, Brienne of fucking Tarth—tell me that’s not Lannister gold.

A meta version of this scene might include Brienne cursing the name of George R.R. Martin for having made these interwoven stories so complex that there is no easy answer to the Hound’s accusation. Yes, it’s Lannister gold. But no, I’m not in their pay. Though when you get down to it, I’m out here looking for the Stark girls because Jaime Lannister urged me to. And he’s actually not so bad a guy when you get to know him. Did I mention he saved me from a bear? And he gave me this priceless Valyrian steel sword because he was pissed off at his dad? Which … oh, this is awkward … it’s actually made from your dad’s sword, Arya. Oops.

Yeah … kind of a hard thing to talk around.

And then there’s the Hound, whose motives are pretty inscrutable at this point. What precisely does he want? He’s pretty much out of ways of monetizing Arya at this point. He could sell her back to the Lannisters, but that would mean his own death; he could take her to the Wall and Jon Snow, but there’d be no payday for him. When Brienne promises to take Arya to safety, he all but laughs in her face: “Safety? Where the fuck’s that? Her aunt in the Eyrie is dead. Her mother’s dead. Her father’s dead. Her brother’s dead. Winterfell is a pile of rubble. There’s no safety, you dumb bitch. You don’t know that by now, you’re the wrong one to watch over her.” And is that what the Hound is doing, Brienne asks with an incredulous curl of her lip. “Aye, that’s what I’m doing.”

Is that what the Hound is doing? Does he honestly now see himself as her protector? Would a more caring relationship have developed? Is he genuinely protecting Arya from what he believes is a Lannister flunky? Or is he just so vindictive when it comes to the Lannisters that he can’t countenance letting them have the victory of capturing Arya? We will never know.

The fight that ensues is at once thrilling and horrifying, with none of the finesse of Oberyn’s ninja-like leaps or Syrio’s elegant water dancing. This is sheer strength and brutality, and is likely far more realistic than anything you’re likely to see in popular film and television … and when it comes down to life and death, there are no holds barred. The Hound grasping the blade of Oathkeeper while the blood runs down over his wrist was nothing if not a representation of the lengths he’ll go to win, and Brienne’s long, sustained scream as she repeatedly pounds the rock into the Hound’s face sent chills down my spine.

And the ear-biting? Yikes. I’m very glad, in hindsight, that I did not see this bit of interview with Gwendoline Christie earlier in the season, or I’d have been wondering precisely when the ear-biting would happen in this episode. I’m rather glad that came as a surprise.
And she loses Arya, who unsurprisingly doesn’t trust her … but who also seems to prefer to strike out on her own. And we see here just how cold Arya has become: calmly watching the Hound suffer, not flinching at all the terrible things he says in an effort to goad her into killing him … or possibly make her feel less guilty about killing him? He knows he’s dying, that there is no saving him “Unless there’s a maester hiding behind that rock.” But she doesn’t move, just watches him, as he passes from trying to anger her to encouraging her to end it, and finally to abject begging. But Arya chooses to let him die slowly, and I think a lot of us died a little inside to see that she has learned to be cruel.

Which is only appropriate, as the final shot of the season is her on a ship bound for Braavos, presumably to seek out Jaqen H’ghar and start her apprenticeship as an assassin …

Which brings us to the last two big scenes of the episode. Tyrion is rescued by his brother, and sent on his way to freedom in the Free Cities by Varys, who finally makes good on his promise to remember Tyrion’s heroism in saving the city. This is a slight deviation: in the novel, Varys is forced by Jaime.

The larger deviation is how Tyrion leaves things with his brother. Remember way back, when Tyrion told the story of how he impulsively married a village girl named Tysha when he was thirteen, but after a week of connubial bliss, Tywin caught them and revealed that she was a whore Jaime had paid so Tyrion would lose his virginity? And then had an entire guard-room of Lannister soldiers take turns with her for a silver a fuck? And made Tyrion go last and pay a gold piece, because Lannisters are worth more? Remember that horrifying story?

In the novel, just before they part, Jaime reveals to Tyrion that Tysha wasn’t actually a whore—she was just what Tyrion had believed her to be, a girl who had genuinely fallen in love with him. Jaime had lied to him back then at Tywin’s behest. So … well, their parting in the novel is somewhat more acrimonious.

But then, Tyrion does not go directly to Varys, but detours instead through the chambers of the Hand. Aaaaaand I think I’ll turn it over to Nikki for the wrap-up, as this is one of those moments eagerly anticipated by readers of the books when we get to see those who haven’t read them lose their shit.


Nikki: The viewers weren’t the only ones who were losing their shit. (And no, that’s not the last of the Tywin-on-the-toilet jokes I plan to make.)

WOW. What an ending. First, Tyrion ventures into Tywin’s bedroom and finds none other than Shae entwined in the sheets, which actually made me think of the Tysha story in that moment (perhaps that’s how they were trying to bring that story back into the fold but keep Jaime a sympathetic character?) Just as Tywin took Tyrion’s new bride and then had his soldiers gang-rape her, now he has brought her back to King’s Landing just to have her betray Tyrion, break his heart, and make him lose any desire for living, before taking her back to his chambers and turning her into his own whore, with her lying languorously on the bed and purring “my Lion,” thinking it was Tywin who had come back into the room.

But it’s those two words that prove her undoing. For as much as Tyrion might have been able to forgive her for what she did in the courtroom — after all, the last time he’d seen her he told her he didn’t love her and she was nothing but a common whore — seeing her turn to his father and sleep with him as willingly as she’d ever slept with Tyrion is the final blow. Not only does he kill her, but he does so with his own hands, using the very gold that Tywin had no doubt laced around her neck as a reward for betraying Tyrion.

And Tyrion’s not done. He goes to Tywin and finds him in the “privy,” in a very vulnerable position. And then his Number Two son points a crossbow at him (I told you I’d get another toilet joke in there...). Just as Cersei tried to unnerve him earlier by telling him that his legacy was dead and that his only two “honourable” children were in fact incestuous lovers who’ve given life to three children — one of them a monster — Tywin looked calm, and simply said it wasn’t true. He didn’t leap forward or grab her by the throat . . . that’s not Tywin’s style. Nah, he was just going to send some men out later and have her done away with, or poison her (unlike Mance Rayder, I could see him pulling such a “woman’s weapon” on her), or worse, find out something that gives him the upper hand, and then force her to sit by while he slowly takes over as the true king of Westeros and just uses Tommen as his puppet.

But Tyrion isn’t going to give him the chance. He finds him on the toilet and tells him that he just killed Shae with his own bare hands. Tywin practically rolls his eyes as he tries to pull up his pants, once again dismissing one of his children as being useless. Cersei never had the guts to fight back at him as he sent Myrcella away or calmly lectured Tommen on what makes a good king while standing over the corpse of her other son. She had no say when he demanded she marry Loras. Jaime takes the verbal blows from Tywin on a regular basis, begging for Tyrion’s life and banishing himself to Casterly Rock, the way his father needs him hidden away because of his physical deformity. And Tyrion has been brought down again... and again... and again... and AGAIN... by Tywin, and never fights back.

Not any more.

Tyrion: All my life, you’ve wanted me dead.
Tywin: Yes, but you refused to die. I respect that, even admire it. You fight for what’s yours. I’d never let them execute you, is that what you fear? I’d never let Ilyn Payne take your head. You’re a Lannister. You’re my son.
Tyrion: I loved her.
Tywin: Who?
Tyrion: Shae.
Tywin: Oh, Tyrion, put down that crossbow.
Tyrion: I murdered her, with my own hands.
Tywin: Doesn’t matter.
Tyrion: Doesn’t... matter?
Tywin: She was a whore.
Tyrion: Say that word again.
Tywin: And what, you’ll kill your own father in the privy? No. You’re my son. Now, let off of this nonsense—
Tyrion: I am your son, and you sentenced me to die. You knew I didn’t poison Joffrey, but you sentenced me all the same. Why?
Tywin: Enough. Go back to my chambers and speak with dignity.
Tyrion: I can’t go back there. She’s in there.
Tywin: You afraid of a dead whore—


When that first arrow zinged out of the crossbow, with Tyrion looking no more unnerved than Tywin ever does, I gasped out loud and clapped a hand over my mouth. Tywin can’t believe it. With his pants still around his ankles, he falls off the commode and onto the floor as Tyrion calmly loads his weapon a second time. “You shot me!!” Tywin says, completely shocked. Finally, one of his children has the guts to stand up to him, but it’s only to send an arrow through his heart. “You’re no son of mine,” he hisses. “I am your son. I have always been your son,” Tyrion says, then sends a second, fatal arrow into his father as the mournful strains of “The Rains of Castamere” begin to play in the background.

Sorry, I just have to say it: Tywin is having a truly shitty day. 

An absolutely astounding scene that changes everything. Who will be the Hand of the King now? Will it be Jaime? Will Cersei and Jaime be able to do something better for King’s Landing with Tommen as king? Or will it be worse?

Varys greets Tyrion with a tense, “What have you done?” before quickly leading him into a shipping crate. “Trust me, my friend. I’ve brought you this far.” He loads him onto a ship and begins to walk back to King’s Landing before hearing the alarm bells go off. And then he quickly calculates the hope he has of surviving there with all of the death throughout the castle — ie, none — and walks onto the ship to sit next to Tyrion’s crate.

Tyrion has been let go, and any outsider will take one look at Tywin’s chambers and believe Tyrion really was the monster they said he was. Cersei wanted Tyrion dead, and she’s now aligned with Jaime, but it was Jaime who broke him out. How will that go? Where is Tyrion headed? Will Brienne ever find Arya? If she does, will Arya be too far gone by that point? Will Daenerys be able to find balance in her benevolent power?

Will Hodor ever learn a second word?

A brilliant, spectacular ending to an incredible episode.

Thank you to everyone who has been following us thus far. We’ve written some pretty long posts here, and maybe next season we’ll aim to shorten these puppies a tad. I really appreciate everyone tuning in to the trials and tribulations of Westeros. We will meet again for season 5.

Valar Morghulis.


Anonymous said...

What a great finale - thanks for doing these reviews for us all season!

First off I totally didn't expect Bran to be saved by the mini-Tim the Enchanter there and his fire tricks. I had to wonder where the death-rabbit (with big pointy teeth) and Brother Maynard with the Holy Hand-Grenade of Antioch were. At least the showrunners were smart enough to severely condense his story. I hope the same happens with Arya next season.

I can't wait to see Cersei and Margery try and run Westeros. Should be great fun.

Also - was Melisandre already thinking of burning Jon Snow? She works fast.

On a side note - damn Nikki you take a lot of sweet vacations! Much more than we can afford on our teacher & fireman salaries! We're officially jealous! :)

-Tim Alan

Jazzygirl said...

Thank you, Nikki and Chris, for all your hard work. Please don't make the posts shorter!! Lol
I wanted to second the above comment about Melisandre

Jazzygirl said...

Argh my comment posted before I was done. Anyway, the way she was looking at him almost lends itself to the fan rumors that Jon is a Targaryen and therefore the rightful King.
Very confused by the Bran story...and if that's at the end of what's been written in the books, hopefully they don't do book spoilers next season.
I have to say, because I can't trust GRRM at ALL, in every scene, I found myself saying "OMG is ___ going to die?!" I was so afraid for Brienne. But that was definitely a cheering scene if ever there was one. Yeeaahhh!! Go, go, go!!! Lol
So was I surprised by Stannis? Yes...and no. And the n is due to the "previously on GoT" at the beginning. I've noticed that they will

Jazzygirl said...

Damn phone! I've noticed they serve as reminder of certain things because it will crop up in this new episode. They showed Stannis then so I knew he'd show up somewhere. I think in the future I'm going to try to not watch those. How, I'm not sure...but they are almost spoilers.
And lastly, Tyrion...wow...I kept saying "THIS is what it looks like when someone truly snaps" I feel so bad for him. Now what? Where will he go? Without the power of his family name and money, what will happen?

kkindler said...

I so agree with you, Jazzygirl! Despite how horribly Tyrion was treated by his father, Cersei, most people in Westeros, and even his brother at times, he takes so much pride in being a Lannister. If only Tyrion had left with Shae when she asked him to run away with her. Tyrion refused, "I'm a Lannister, I don't have a choice in the matter"he said. Now that Tyrion no longer has the positional authority associated the Lannister name, I hope he doesn't end up performing for children as some sort of jester, as he feared.

Another thing: What good is it for Dany to chain the two dragons? If past behavior is any indication, the dragons can burn/fire breathe through those chains. Then they'll really express their displeasure!

Thank you Nikki and Chris for all of your wonderful comments!

Nikki Stafford said...

Tim: Tim the Enchanter, hahahahahaha!! "Some people call me.... Tim?"

And oh dammit, you just reminded me of one question I meant to ask Chris in the post. If you're reading this, Chris, without any spoilers obviously, should we have noticed that strange look between Melisandre and Jon? I found it unsettling, too.

kkindler: Agreed on Dany chaining the two dragons and what will happen should they ever get free. Like cats, I don't think dragons forgive very easily. ;)

Joan Crawford said...

During the fight between my fantasy husband and fantasy wife, my real life husband kept saying "Pick a side! You must pick a side!". It was all very emotionally tiring.

Thanks for these recaps, guys! I will be back later!

Suzanne said...

Nikki and Chris,

I sure hope you two don't feel like you need to write shorter posts next season. I love yours the way they are! This site is by far my favorite when it comes to reading about Game of Thrones each week.

I thought the finale was great and can't wait until next season. I fear that Tyrion won't be the man we have all come to love after this, though. Murdering Shae in particular, had to change him a lot. Maybe he and Arya will meet up and be able to "heal" each other in some way. They both need something positive in their lives.

Loved your potty jokes!

Kiki said...

I agree that the length of the posts do not bother me. Heck, I read GRRM books, so lots of words don't scare me! I love the watcher and reader perspectives. Chris does a wonderful job of pulling in the info and loved his "accounting" about where all the characters are in the books. I am planning on reading Dragons this summer.

For me, watching Arya with the wounded Hound, I felt she was more detached, not cruel. I think she was considering the Hounds request but didn't want that action to haunt her. And she didn't fall for his trick of trying to make her angry and do it. I felt like it was her inner conflict between all the terrible things he had done along with her scratching a name off her prayer list and her not wanting this blood on her hands. I was thinking about every thing he taught her about survival on the road and, even though it was for money, trying to reunite her with her family. After they found out Lysa was dead, he could have killed her and been done with her. But they did form a bond. And it was up to Arya about how she wanted to break it and move on. She is no longer the young, naive girl that was in Kings Landing before all the kerfuffle.

Thanks again for the great recaps!

Blam said...

@Nikki: // wouldn't give a shit //


I don't watch The Mentalist, but if the Starks' slaughter at Walder Frey's is known as the Red Wedding then I think we can refer to Tywin's privy here as the Red John.

@Christopher: // the elderly tutor, he avows, has grown to love the children he teaches and the family that owned him. //

I'm not sure I'd consider that Stockholm syndrome. From what he said he had a genuine bond with the children and was doing something to better them as well as drawing a sense of purpose or self-worth in doing it. Of course there are parallels to the limited options freed slaves had after emancipation in the United States, and yes the issue overall is a thorny one to say the absolute least, but if part of the problem of this new paradigm is what is to be done with or by the former slaves it doesn't make sense to entirely rule out renegotiating "owner/owned" into "employer/employee" on a situational basis.

@Nikki: // Was anyone else thinking Ray Harryhausen in that moment? //

You couldn't not. It's always fun — and something of a surprise — when Thrones indulges in all-out fantasy, since the supernatural is rather kept in the background most of the time or made very earthily physical, like the dragons and giants and mammoths, rather than spellcasting and whatnot.

@Nikki: // I loved last week’s battle, but frankly I think the throw-down this week between the Hound and Brienne was FAR more fun to watch. //

Totally... In fact, I had virtually that same thought jotted down in my notes, except that it was so visceral, felt so real, that I'd probably consider it more exciting or heart-pounding than flat-out fun.

Arya not going with Brienne was utterly disappointing from our perspective, because we know the complicated truth behind the blunt facts that the Hound elicited and how awesome a pairing they would make. Her playing the coin and getting passage on a ship to Braavos, however, was quite an awesome little consolation prize. I've been wanting to see more of the place and it looks like with a few different characters headed there we'll get just that next season.

@Joan: // It was all very emotionally tiring. //

Now you know how we feel about you.

Blam said...

A few thoughts on another subject, prompted by a post over at Teebore's, where his blog-partner recaps the series:

Y'know, I respect the whole "free folk" thing of not having a king, sharing food and drink and tents and lovers, and generally being a bunch of snowbound hippies — hippies who are really, really good at killing people — but maybe some kind of state visit by Mance Rayder to Castle Black, asking for parley with representatives of the Seven Kingdoms, might've been the way to go before slaughtering whole villages. I get that there's distrust between the "wildlings" and the "crows" that goes back generations, tales of nearly (?) mythical proportions that have them considering one another subhuman. It's just that I figure a truce in return for safe passage seems like the kind of thing you should open with before there are hostilities to end in the first place.

People who've read Martin's books and short stories, which I gather have lots of historical and contextual information on the world of Ice and Fire, may well have a list of reasons why that would never have worked. As may people who have better memories of Game of Thrones than I; As may people who possess better memories of Game of Thrones than I; honestly, since I have yet to rewatch any of it, I know there are running threads and big-picture connections that I miss.

Blam said...

It just occurred to me that the race is on in the "Lannister" family for another heir since they've already had to move to the spare. Either Cersei gets knocked up by Jaime again so Tommen has a baby brother or Margaery ramps up her midnight visits to the boy king's bedchamber.

Blam said...

Sorry… "Lannister" should be "Baratheon".

Cairistiona60 said...

Tyson was a pretty crappy father. He treated Tyrion like shit. He was an asshole. Is that enough toilet humour?

Cairistiona60 said...

I meant Tywin but for some reason Google plus changed it to Tyson.

Batcabbage said...

@ Blam: I don't watch The Mentalist, but if the Starks' slaughter at Walder Frey's is known as the Red Wedding then I think we can refer to Tywin's privy here as the Red John.

Well, I do watch The Mentalist and all I can say to that is HA! BRILLIANT! Also, Tyrion could be the Red John! You know, 'cause of patricide and hookers! Johns? No? Ok.

@Joanie: If the Hound is your fantasy husband, you might want to google a vid of a porridge ad that he did several years ago. You might be.... intrigued... by it. :)

Batcabbage said...

@Joanie again: Matter of fact, screw googling it - just copy and paste this link:


I warn you, though. You may start craving porridge. Or something.

Joan Crawford said...

@Blam - Like all children who act out, I'm just happy to have attention!

@Batcabbage - Oh man! I just want to climb him. Thanks for the link; my fantasy just got a whole lot more complex... and nutritious!

Joan Crawford said...

I was a little surprised that Arya didn't kill Sandor, not because I thought it would fit her character at this point, but because before she had something along the lines of "I am going to push a sword through your eyeball and out the back of your skull" to him earlier. And we all know GRRM cares more about the "Aha! She said she would and by God, she did!" reaction than he does people's feelings.

I read her robbing him and leaving him to die not as cruelty or coldness but as stone-cold compassion. Kinda like when Sandor slapped her. I think Arya learned from Sandor not to let softness nor cruelty get the best of you.

Joan Crawford said...

@Blam - Turns out GRRM is a big comic nerd, like you!


Except he stopped writing fawning letters to them when he was a teenager...

Sooze said...


THAT'S the Hound?!?!?!? Holy cow, he's quite handsome!

Don't shorten your recaps/reviews guys, they are great just the way they are!

I hardly comment, but always read!

Blam said...

@Batcabbage: // You know, 'cause of patricide and hookers! //

I'm just glad that the Hound never did all those things to Sansa he said he should've done when he was trying to goad Arya into ending it. Even for this show, I think the Red Bedding would've been too much.

@Joanie: // my fantasy just got a whole lot more complex... and nutritious //

Thanks. I just hit the recommended daily allowance of throwing up in my mouth.

I love that you call him "Sandor".

@Joanie: // Except he stopped writing fawning letters to them when he was a teenager... //

I stopped writing letters to comics in college — when I started getting paid to write about comics. Don't knock it.

Joan Crawford said...


And this is why I will forever adore you :D

Marebabe said...

Hey, all! Like Sooze, I would always read but not comment for two particular reasons. First of all, I have an absolute horror of bumbling and accidentally spoiling people, like so: “I thought XXXX was supposed to XXXXX when they went to the XXXXXXXXXX.” And the second reason has to do with my oft-repeated chorus of “I completely forgot that!” You’ve all heard enough of that from me. I’m currently on my second reading of the books, nearing the end of “A Clash of Kings”. I don’t know if I’ll be in a better position to weigh in on the discussions of S5 next year, but I’ll add my vote to the “Don’t Change a Thing” ticket. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of your epic discussions, and never once thought they were too long.

And thanks, Batty, for the delicious and nutritious video link!

Anonymous said...

Great recap and love the comments! I seldom comment, too, but visit the site regularly. You guys are S-M-R-T. I am a humble fan.

I had a non-book reader thought: could Melisandre be Jon's mother? Perhaps she is TOO young? The Red Woman seems to prefer the kingly high borns. Maybe she loved ole Ned too? Just a silly thought.

I'm a little sad there is no random spam on the comments yet. What happened to Sophie? Did she get her Suv? Is it driving ok? ;-)

Can't wait until season 6!

-Lilypad Mom