By Derek Kuhn
*CAUTION SPOILERS AHEAD*
There you have it folks — Season 4 is over. We lost many characters along the way, yet the scope is still expanding. We have Tyrion, Varys and Arya each crossing the Narrow Sea. The producers broke a “Game of Thrones” pseudo-season-ending tradition: Daenerys didn’t close the season — and I am glad because it was starting to get a little tired. It was Arya’s turn.
The youngest female Stark cashed in her iron coin given to her back in season 2 by the faceless man, Jacquen Hagar. Using this coin, she purchased passage to the free city of Braavos perhaps she’ll become a faceless (wo)man or water dancer next season.
But to get to that point, we were treated to an exquisitely brutal fight scene between the Hound and Brienne of Tarth. Unlike some who may have preferred the fight scene between Mountain and the Red Viper, I think I enjoyed this one more. For starters, it seemed much more balanced. From the sword play to Nature Boy Rick Flair-like low blows, Brienne was able match and best the Hound blow by blow. In fact, she finished the fight with a series of jarring blows to the Hound’s head as she wielded a fist-sized rock. Dazed (and possibly confused), the Hound tumbles down a steep and jagged hill — breaking his femur in the process.
Before the fight, Brienne tried to convince the Hound and Arya she was there to save and/or protect Arya — though her sword Oathkeeper was the tipping point of mistrust and led to the altercation. So after Brienne dispatched the Hound, she searched in vain for Arya. I wonder how this will play out next season. Will she continue her search for Arya or will she look for Sansa?
After the coast was clear, Arya made her way to the Hound. Coughing blood, having broken bones and a dislocated shoulder, the Hound pleads with Arya to give him mercy. When she won’t grant him a quick death, he tries to goad her into it by saying mean-spirited things about Arya’s friend, the butcher’s boy, who he killed, and Sansa to no avail. Honestly, I am a little surprised that she didn’t kill the Hound. After all, he was a name on her list. Perhaps this shows exactly where she is as a character.
In all likelihood, the Hound will die, but because this is “Game of Thrones,” you can never be completely sure. Maybe we will see him down the road, but I doubt it.
Before Arya closing out the season, we learn the fate of everyone’s favorite half-man. The night before the scheduled execution, Jaime, with the help of Varys, frees his little brother (pun intended). Before Tyrion makes his way out of King’s Landing, he decides to visit his father’s quarters. Lying in his father’s bed is the woman he loves — Shae. With a “Tywin … my lion,” Shae wakes to see her former lover standing stunned and hurt. Before Tyrion can do anything, the opportunistic woman grabs a knife. Seeing her do this enrages Tyrion. The woman he loves had already condemned him to death during trial, had intimate relations with his father and now has tried to kill him outright, so in a fit of hurt rage, Tyrion strangles her to death.
Naturally a little detached, Tyrion grabs his father’s crossbow and begins his search for the man who condemned him to death. He finds Tywin sitting on the privy. After some words with his father, Tyrion isn’t swayed and kills Tywin by shooting him twice with the crossbow. So Tywin — the richest and most powerful man in Westeros — dies in the bathroom, such an ignoble death for a regal man.
Following Tyrion’s killing of his father and his former lover, Varys seals Tyrion in a crate and has him loaded onto a ship bound for one of the free cities across the Narrow Sea. As Varys turns to leave the shipping docks, King’s Landing’s bells start tolling — meaning that Tyrion’s escape or actions have been discovered (possibly both). Regardless, Varys knows that he has no alibi and his part in Tyrion’s escape will be found out, so he prudently hops aboard the ship, too.
We finally get some resolution to Brandon Stark’s storyline, the boy and his companions have finally found the three-eyed raven. Under the weirwood tree, they meet the last greenseer (the guy looks like the offspring of a hippie who got too friendly with Mother Nature). Before they are able to get to safety, Jojen is killed by a skeleton warrior (skeletons!), and one of the Children of the Forest is introduced. Awesomely enough, the Child (not really a child) displays some most epic fireballs when she (he? it?) saves Brandon, Meera, Summer and Hodor. There is one really cool shot where one of the fireballs is reflected on the recently felled Jojen’s eyes. The fireball has a nice blue arc and gets larger as its color changes from light blue to orange right before it consumes Jojen’s corpse. It was a considerate move by the Child to spare Jojen’s body from being a pawn of some sort of necromancy.
Also in the North — the real North — Jon Snow entered negotiations with the King Beyond the Wall Mance Rayder. During their conversation, Stannis Baratheon catches the wildling army unaware and easily forces Mance to surrender. Jon reveals to Stannis that he is Ned Stark’s son. Stannis asks Jon what Ned would do with Mance, and Jon convinces him to take Mace prisoner and listen to what Mance has to say. Jon also convinces Stannis to burn the bodies of all the dead (although I don’t expect that was a hard sell considering Stannis worships the Red God).
Meanwhile in Meereen, Daenerys has to chain her dragons (how to train your dragons — “Game of Thrones” style) because the largest one, Drogon, has killed a child. Although the child-eater hasn’t been seen in a few days, the mother of dragons, in the meantime, has the other two chained up in the catacombs. This is kind of a down note for Daenerys as she weeps after locking her “children” up and hearing their screams.
Back in King’s Landing, it turns out that the Mountain is still alive. However, the Viper had poisoned his spear, and the poison is wreaking havoc on the Mountain. Maester Pycelle believes the Mountain is beyond saving and needs milk of the poppy. But excommunicated Maester Qyburn has a different opinion — he believes he can save him.
So it looks like Qyburn, the man who saved Jaime’s arm, is going to get to play a Dr. Frankenstein (that’s Fraunk-en-stein). I’ll wager the Mountain is back next season though he might be a little different.
Where do they go from here? This show keeps getting better and better. We most likely lost four characters, yet next season’s larger scope should make for interesting new additions and locations. The cinematography is ridiculously good — some moments mirror AAA video games. For instance, the opening shot of Jon walking out of the tunnel on the north side of the Wall was great. It was perfectly placed over his shoulder and truly conveyed the destruction and chaos of episode 9’s battle. If I could, I would give this episode 10 out of 10, but to me perfection is unattainable — close as this episode may be.
PLUSES AND MINUSES
+ The Hound versus Brienne
+ Skeletons, Fireballs, Children of the Forest and the last Greenseer
+ Can’t kill the half-man
- Too long to wait until next season