GAME OF THRONES Season 4 Episode 10, “The Children.”
Although I am crippled with depression at the thought of waiting until next spring to sit with my notebook patiently waiting for baby-eating dragons to fly across my TV screen, I will attempt to write you a recap so we can all think about what we learned this year. Reader, it was a good season, wasn’t it? PS—any suggestions as to how I can fill the gaping hole in my TV-watching schedule and/or what show I should recap next?
The final episode begins with Jon Snow, dirty-faced and marching away from Castle Black, neatly picking up where we left him last week, when he declared that he would go talk to Mance Rayder and heroically strode away sans direwolf. He plods through the snow where last night’s fires still burn and crows (ravens? Gothic sparrows?) peck at the body of the giant we saw tragically arrowed in the head during the battle. Where is the mammoth? Anyway, there goes Jon Snow. Walking. It’s a great scene of walking. La la la la walking. Into the snowy woods, but then he’s surrounded by Visigoths wait no Wildings and Thenns, and he puts his hands up and there’s Mance Rayder! I barely recognized him it’s been so long. Is he doing something different with his hair? Mr. Rayder observes that Jon Snow is wearing a black cloak. Got to get up pretty early to get one past him. Jon explains that he’s there to bargain. He and Mance Rayder have a little sit-down and drink what looks like a delicious milk punch, toasting to Ygritte and the last giant and the boy who killed the giant. Mance is concerned about impending winter. When was the last time I heard ‘Winter Is Coming?’ He explains that he and the wildings want to hide, not conquer; they’re only seeking shelter on the other side of the Wall. He suggests that Jon Snow acquiesce to this request or he’ll kill everyone else at Castle Black. Decisions, decisions. Jon, possibly still thinking that if he kills the head vampire all the other vampires will go away, makes some slight move to his sword, but is quickly stayed by Rayder’s men. In the midst of this face-off, horns blow: outside, there are horses and riders in pretty formations with banners and swords and battle-axes, cutting down anyone who tries to slow them on their path. The army seems simply massive, which makes it even more dramatic when the commander is revealed as Stannis Baratheon, the one true grim stone-faced king! Mance throws down his swords. Stannis cracks a bit of a smile greeting him. “You’re not dressed for this weather,” Mance observes. He is ON IT with the noticing what people are wearing today. Stannis gets all puffed up and starts wanting to see some people kneeling, Mance says nah I don’t kneel, Stannis says kneel, and so on. He doesn’t kneel. Jon Snow, when called upon to explain what the hell he’s doing there talking to Mance Rayder, drops the fact of his parentage and then he and Stannis play a rousing game of WWNSD. In Jon Snow’s opinion, Ned Stark would take Mance Rayder prisoner and hear him out, and he would burn all the bodies by nightfall so that they don’t reanimate and eat Gilly’s baby. Stannis Baratheon takes Ned Stark’s son’s advice.
Meanwhile in King’s Landing, Cersei and Polonius I mean Cersei and Maester Pycelle are watching the new doctor Qyburn attend to a giant stinking festering insensate Mountain. It seems that Oberyn Martell’s blade was poisoned and now the Mountain’s wounds, uh, they don’t look good at all. “Manticore venom,” the Maester declares. “Usually Mantari in origin. Nothing to be done.” What a windbag. Sergio and Queequeg both roll their eyes. Qyburn believes that the Mountain is not completely done for and Cersei seems intrigued at this idea. She kicks a protesting Maester Pycelle out of his own laboratory when he tries to argue that the Mountain is beyond medical, uh, measterly help. “The process may. . . change him somewhat,” cautions the un-maestered Qyburn. “Will it weaken him?” Asks Cersei. “Oh, no,” Qyburn assures her. That’s comforting. Gregor Clegane will return probably even more terrifying than he was before. Buoyed by that good news Cersei flaps into another room to tell her father that she will not be marrying Loras Tyrell after all. You will, he says. I won’t, she says. You will, he says. Blah blah family blah blah promises blah blah. Cersei actually accuses someone else of being smug, so that was pretty funny. She is determined to get her way, which is staying in King’s Landing at the right hand of her son the king sans gay husband, and threatens to go public with the truth about her family if that’s what it takes. What truth, Tywin asks. Really, Tywin? Yes, really. “Everything they say about Jaime and me is true,” Cersei says, “your legacy is a lie.” After getting the last word in she flaps back out of the room and into yet another adjacent chamber where Jaime is doing some light reading and pondering the imminent death of his little brother. They immediately get into it regarding the death of Tyrion. Jaime’s not pleased with Cersei and her mean, stupid ways but then Cersei basically waves her vagina at him while proclaiming her love and he stops arguing. She even kisses his metal hand. We know well that Cersei never does this kind of thing without some sort of ulterior motive, but unfortunately we will have to wait until next season to figure out what she has hidden up her incredibly capacious sleeve.
Cut to Daenerys Targaryen’s throne room in Mereen where Missandei clues a visiting citizen in as to all of Dany’s various titles and accomplishments. Does she have to say this every single of the thousands of petitioners? Little wonder Dany doesn’t have time to mother her dragons. Before Daenerys Stormborn is Fennesz, once a slave belonging to Master Mighdal, now a free man in the city. As a man of advancing years, he is not finding and/or enjoying the mess halls and barracks the Mother of Dragons has provided for the freed people of Mereen. Fennesz has lost the purpose in his life, which was tutoring his master’s children. He wants to go back. “Why can’t the master just pay him?” I asked the TV. Bam, problem solved. Dany agrees to let the man return to his master for a period of one year. “The masters will take advantage of this situation,” Selmy counsels her, “the men serving them will be slaves in all but name.” This is an acute assessment, but any further conversation on this is cut short by the approach of a man holding a fabric-wrapped parcel in front of him. The Queen invites him to approach and he begins to cry, explaining that “he came from the sky, the black one, the winged shadow” and he opens the parcel on the ground in front of Daenerys to reveal the blackened bones of a small child, “my little girl,” he cries. The queen’s rogue dragon Drogon has presumably killed and eaten a child named Zala, only three years old. That’s a big political fuckup if I’m not mistaken. In response to this, she chains the other two dragons (dragons! Playing with each other like giant lizardy kittens!) in the catacombs of the city, crying as she fastens the collars around their adorable dragon necks. Then she walks away, as they screech and cry. Sad. THEY didn’t eat babies, and she is supposed to be the breaker of chains, not the fastener of chains. Unfair.
Back at the wall, Maester Aemon is giving the customary last words to the men of the Night’s Watch who died in the battle. They light a gigantic pyre as Stannis Baratheon looks on and through the flames, Melisandre and Jon Snow get a good look at each other. We do know he likes redheads. Jon Snow goes to visit Tormund in his cell, asking if there are any burial rites for the wilding dead. There aren’t, but. . . Ygritte belongs in the North, the real North. Jon burns her body alone, on a pyre under a godswood tree. He sets it alight, and puts his back to it.
In a snowier region of the North, Jojen, Meera, Hodor, Summer and Brandon are doing some hard walking (or wheeling, in Brandon’s case.) Meera is imploring them to stop and rest but it turns out they have reached their destination—a giant, glowing godswood tree across a canyon from where they stand. As they cross the icy gorge, hand bones shoot up through the ice and grab Jojen’s ankle. Meera runs to his aid, but to Hodor’s extreme Hodor, in a matter of seconds they are attacked by grasping skeleton demons that burst out from under the ice to grab and run and swing swords and make strange guttural gaspy sounds that I don’t understand because I don’t think these creatures have lungs. No muscles, and no organs, but they appear to have eyes. Ok, fine. Despite Brandon possessing Hodor, they’re not doing a great job of fighting off these creatures. One of them is stabbing the hell out of Jojen. Luckily, fireballs! They knock the skeletons right out of their shoes (yes the skeletons are wearing shoes.) The Childlike Empress from the Neverending Story appears and says “Come with me, Brandon Stark!” and implores them to leave poor dying Jojen and follow her into the caves under the godswood tree. Jojen tells them to go. Meera does him a last mercy, and runs for the cave with her friends. The skeletons all explode when they try to follow, hitting some invisible barrier at the entrance to the cave. “The power that moves them is powerless here,” the girl says. Who is she? She is one of what the first men called the Children, although the Children were born long before them. “Come,” she says, “he waits for you.” Deep under the godswood, a man who doesn’t look anything like Gandalf or remind me of Gandalf in any way sits waiting for Brandon Stark. He might be the three-eyed raven. He has been many things. Now he is a man that doesn't remind anyone of Gandalf. He comforts Meera, telling her that Jojen knew that he would die in this journey. He died so you could find what you have lost, he says, which Brandon thinks means he’ll walk again. The man tells him he won’t ever walk again—but he will fly. Looking forward to that.
On a green and craggy mountainside Britomart and Podrick Payne argue about where the horse might be. As Brienne heads off in a random direction for a look-see, who happens to be water dancing on an adjacent crag but Arya Stark! Arya and Brienne geek out on swords for a little bit. Arya is clearly overjoyed to see a lady who’s not a lady, like herself, and I wish they could discuss this at length but unfortunately their meeting is cut short by the arrival of the Hound. He growls. Pod recognizes him at once. Brienne realizes that she’s been talking to Arya Stark. She tells Arya about the oath she swore to Catelyn Stark, and offers to “bring her to safety” but not only is Arya not interested in going, the Hound has a very good question for Brienne: “Where the fuck’s that?” Brienne and the Hound argue about who’s best to watch over Arya, until Brienne finally draws her sword and they start some intense fighting that begins as a perfectly mundane swordfight but then devolves to hand to hand combat including
-kicking in the stomach
-punching in the face
-punching in the balls
-kicking in the vagina
-ear biting off
-ear spitting on the ground
-screaming whilst repeatedly hitting opponent in the head with a fairly large rock
-knocking opponent off small cliff
Brienne wins! Meanwhile Arya has hidden herself away, still not interested in buying what Brienne is selling. In a minute after Brienne and Pod are distracted looking for her, Arya goes to where the Hound is crumpled and bloody—but still talking mad shit! “Big bitch saved you,” he sneers. “I don’t need saving,” she answers. “No, not you. You’re a real killer. With your water dancing.” he scoffs. She asks if he’s going to die, and he says that barring unforeseen circumstances, yep, that’s the end of him. Almost dead seems to be a thing in this episode. He tells her to go after Brienne, but she shakes her head. Arya is no longer interested in being Arya Stark. She’s going to go it alone. He tries to goad her into killing him quickly, then begs her to do it. She only stares at him. She’s not gloating, she’s not smiling, she’s not smug. She doesn’t look satisfied, but she doesn’t quite look sad, either. Solemn, definitely, but maybe not sad. She moves to him, and he thinks she’s going to give him the mercy that Meera gave Jojen, but no, she only slides his coin purse from its hiding place and, pocketing it, walks away. “Kill me!” he roars, but she just walks.
Back in King’s Landing we’re at last reunited with Tyrion, who is waiting around to die. As the door to his dungeon opens he mutters, “oh, get on with it, you son of a whore,” but turns out it’s not the executioner, it’s brother Jaime here to save the day. Looks like Cersei’s golden hand job wasn’t as effective as she might have liked. Jaime and Varys are helping Tyrion escape via a galley bound for the free cities. Jaime and Tyrion have a sweet farewell, and Tyrion thanks him. Though Jaime has instructed him to go straight to Varys, Tyrion decides to visit his father’s chamber before he leaves. There are candles around the bed, and a naked figure within. As he approaches, the figure sleepily says “Tywin? My lion?” It’s Shae. Seeing him, she grabs a knife and attacks. They struggle. He strangles her with her thick gold necklace. Another deadly necklace, and another reference to Lannister gold.
There is the Tyrion that existed before he did this, and the Tyrion that he is after. “I’m sorry,” he says, and again, softer, broken, “I’m sorry.” His eyes light on a lovely crossbow mounted on the wall. He lifts it, and walks down a silent hall.
He finds his father with his tunic lifted sitting on the privy. Tywin tries to play it casual, suggesting that maybe Tyrion could put the crossbow down and they can go talk somewhere and of course he wasn’t going to let anyone execute Tyrion and so on. Tyrion has admirable qualities, like refusing to die, and being a Lannister, and being Tywin’s son. Not distracted by this speech, Tyrion says that he loved Shae, and that he’s speaking in the past tense because he just murdered her. Tywin dismisses this. Tyrion is confused as to why this murder wouldn’t matter, but Tywin clears it up: “She was a whore,” he says, patiently, and he probably would have said duh if that word existed in this world. Tyrion invites him to say the word “whore” again, raising the crossbow. Tywin continues to try to act like all of this is ridiculous. “We’ll go back to my chambers and speak with some dignity,” he says, and makes to get up. Tyrion keeps the crossbow on him. “I can’t go back there. She’s in there.” Tywin goes for it: “What, you’re afraid of a dead whore?” And—wham, crossbowed.
“You shot me,” Tywin says, as if he doesn’t believe it, yet still patronizing, annoyed. “You’re no son of mine,” he says.
“I am your son,” Tyrion says, after loading another arrow into the crossbow. “I have always been your son,” and he shoots his father again, killing him, as “The Rains of Castamere” begins. Just want to say: Hey, Happy Father’s Day, guys.
Varys stumbles into this tableau, and rescues what used to by Tyrion Lannister, loading him into a shipping crate and onto a boat destined for the Free Cities. Varys is also on the boat. Probably wise to get out of King’s Landing after that last bit of intrigue.
Speaking of the Free Cities! Back in beautiful waterfall Arya Starkland, Arya Stark is riding one of Brienne’s missing horses in the direction of some anchored boats. She arrives to find men preparing to depart. She begs the captain to take her north, but he says there’s nothing there but ice and war and pirates (ha ha, because the Onion Knight is there.) He says he’s going home, to the free city of Braavos, and no amount of money will persuade him to change his direction. He dismisses her. As he turns away from her she stops him, producing the coin that the Faceless Man gave her, and saying the words he told her to say: Valar Morghulis. All men must die. Valar Dohaeris, the captain replies, obviously shocked. All men must serve. With that, Arya has passage on the ship, and is on her way to Braavos.
That's all til next year.