'Game of Thrones' really doesn't mess around. And, yes, I am about to discuss the finale to season 4 so without further ado: SPOILER ALERT!
This episode felt long. Much longer that it actually was. And yet the pacing didn't feel rushed. Jam-packed full of story? Yeah. But not rushed. They touched on so many of the characters and provided season-ending resolution that it was quite an impressive feat. So many shows get it wrong with season finales and I live that GoT manages to stick the landing every season.
How about we tackle all of this in chronological order:
We pick up right where the penultimate episode left off, with Jon walking beyond the wall to attempt to parlay a resolution to the battle.
[Also, we missed talking about last weeks ep with the epic battle that rivaled the great fight at Kings Landing, but, man was that intense. I will miss Grenn the most. :( Okay... back to this weeks ep.]
So, Jon marches right in to those woods beyond the wall and all those ruthless warring wildling factions all have some code of decency to just let him waltz right up to the boss man while peacocking his black threads? I would expect that they woulda still roughed him up a tad on his way. BUT, we got a lotta story to get through this ep, so we will just let that slide.
When he gets to Mance's pad the two sorta chum it up drinking to their fallen comrades on either side of the battle. I was half expecting Mance to claim Ygritte was his daughter, the affection he seemed to show for her. It was also touching to hear Mance talk of Mag, the King of the Giants, who died in the battle, and Jon counter the greatness of Mag's lineage with that of his friend Grenn, who came from a farm. This nicely reflects Jons life, coming both from high royalty, the Starks of Winterfell, but also being a lowly bastard, chained to a life of humility by his surname.
Mance reveals to Jon that the wildlings plan to attack the wall doesn't come from a place of hatred and hostility, but rather desperation. Like rats escaping a sinking ship, the wildlings are fighting for their very lives to escape south of the wall for protection from winter and what it brings with it; the wight walkers. Trust certainly is an issue with letting 100,000 wildlings across the border into southern Westeros, but Jon ain't no dummy. He has seen the bodies rising from the dead and the walkers. I feel that, given the chance, Jon might have tried to actually work out that deal with Mance. But we don't get that chance because enter...
STANNIS BARATHEON & HIS TRUSTY SIDEKICK DAVOS
So, THAT was the secret plan, eh? Just take your army to the north wall and set up shop. But I have some questions like... where the hell did they come from? We know they didnt all pore through the wall entrance from the south. They musta been riding along the wall from the sea (they came by boat, I'm sure). And they just rode all those miles ready for battle like that? Not dressed for the snow? Where are their cargo? Also, it sure looked like a nice balmy afternoon north of the wall for those guys. Pretty convenient. And, how did they know where the army was and just how to ride up and attack like that? Doesn't that take some planning beyond an hour or so? Did the wildlings not have scouts to give ample warning? That battle sure was brief as they tore through the wildling camps like butter. Where were these 100,000 wildlings? That is still a shit ton to subdue that quick? Where the hell were the giants?
Okay. Enough bitching. They tore it up, made Mance surrender, took over the wall, and Jon got to have special goodbye scenes for Grenn, Pyp, and Ygritte.
Despite losing in the end, The Viper sure did manage to jack up The Mountain, poisoning and rotting away his body with all those cuts. Enter creepy maester Qyburn, who is up to evil shenanigans to save The Mountain at the cost of... "changing him", whatever that means. This is some Dr.Mengele deranged stuff goin on. Is he gonna Frankenstein the guy? He seems to be taking out all of his blood and Cersei doesn't ask any follow-up questions as to what "changing him" means? C'mon! Now we know it will be something crazy later on.
Meanwhile, Cersei drops in on her old man to try to lay down the law, threaten to kill her own son, the king if Tywin makes her marry Loras, and, in an attempt to hurt her old man on Fathers Day, even admits to being a brother-f#@%er. Is that a term? It should be. She still comes across as desperate, powerless and childish, rather than dangerous and manipulative like she wants. Why not wait for papa Tywin to kill Tyrion off before messing with him?
Then, in a final attempt to align herself with power and get Jamie back on her side, she goes to him and dramatically proclaims her love to him. This is just what Jamie desperately wanted and she had withheld for so long. But, notice when she takes that extra step to kiss his fake hand. The same hand she mocked with disgust previously. Jamie certainly remembers. And when her profession of love comes with the caveat that Jamie ensure Tyrion's death I think it finally clicks for Jamie what a terrible and manipulative woman Cersei is.
Meanwhile, across the pond, Dany is dealing with the problems of her 'No Slavery' campaign platform. But why is it that when the old dude wants to reenter into slavery so that his life has purpose again her compromise is indentured servitude with a contract rather than saying the guy should now get paid for that work and have freedom to do other stuff? Another one of those 'huh?' moments in the show. But the great end-cap to the season ar for Dany was her chaining (enslaving) her very own dragons. What a hypocrite. Usually she has been the go-to character for season enders but this season her arc has been a bit less interesting to me. Especially the bureaucracy part of ruling the city. About as fascinating as watching trade agreements on Naboo. Still, they did a nice job of marking a symbolic close to her season arc by locking the dragons in the catacombs.
So... this whole section of the show went REAL WEIRD, didn't it? Skeleton zombies attacking from the ice, Bran mind-controlling Hodor into a formidable warrior, Jojen getting stabbed to death, a creepy tree child pooping up like the Feral Kid from Thunderdome to rescue them, and the old man in the tree/3-eyed raven taking on Bran as an apprentice of some sort...
I have no clue where this portion of the story is going, but it seems like a whole separate realm of warg fantasy might be entering in to the GoT universe and I am interested to see what becomes of all of it. The special effects for those skeletons was pretty incredible. I am also impressed with how well the show has managed to make the Bran storyline so interesting when it is sorta a drag in the books.
BRIENNE & THE HOUND
So... this isn't in the books. Another GREAT deviation that left me slack-jawed in amazement. WOW! An issue I had with last weeks battle episode was that everything was so dark and it was hard to tell a lot of what was going on with the fighting. No problem here. It was like a long drawn out version of the MOUNTAIN and VIPER battle. Long and vicious. Brienne is a bonafide badass. My new hero. She takes on The Hound and beats his ass with a rock. Even while fighting him honorably and giving him an out.
The whole discussion between her and Sandor before the fight was fun and intense. I didn't know which way it was gonna go. And it was nice to see how protective The Hound had become of Arya. I no longer viewed her as his captive. At least not from his perspective. It seemed more like he thought of himself as her guardian. This might've been something important he shoulda communicated to Arya, however. Because that girl still wanted to see him suffer and really doesn't forget a grudge. Damn. I love how she just stares blankly at him while he pleads with her. She is tough as nails. And she learned that lesson from The Hound, when she takes the gold from him, just as he took the gold fro the weak dying man they came across a few episodes back. Poetic justice.
If The Hound is any bit as resilient as his brother, though, this might not be the last we see of him. The rule is: if you don't see them die on-screen, don't assume they are dead.
Oh, what's that? Our favorite character on the show isn't gonna die? Instead he will get broken out of prison, exact his revenge on his former lover and shitty (literally) father before sneaking out of King's Landing? Hell yeah! I was waiting the whole ep for this scene, but, like I had said earlier, this was such a long ep I was expecting the conclusion during Bran's scene. Man, was it great to see him get out of there and get resolution for how terribly those two treated him in his life. I love Tyrion. Also, shooting you dad while he is on the porcelain throne? Another terrible Father's Day gift. The Lannister kids really are the worst at celebrating this holiday.
It was heartening to see Jamie do the right thing and release his brother, in defiance of Tywin and Cersei. And, last we saw, it had looked like Varys had turned his back on Tyrion during the trial. But he just recognizes an unwinnable situation. Now Tyrion is on the run along-side Varys, who he sorta screwed over with the whole patricide thing. Excited to see whats next for them next season.
Lastly, it is Arya who gets the final shot of the season, cashing in on her assassins coin for free passage to Braavos and out of the terrible land of Westeros. All this time we have been wanting Daenerys to get to Westeros, but now, perhaps, we will have everyone come to her.
In closing, while I may have complained about a few things in this ep, I adore this show and am riveted by every scene. Benioff and Weiss are brilliant with their translation and adaptation of the source material into this show and the end product is far superior to the books in my opinion. Now I am bummed that we have to wait another whole year to go through this experience again.
- Boy did it feel like Bran entered Carcosa to meet with the Yellow King, just like in 'True Detective'?
- The scene where Jon hesitates to take the drink before Mance reassures him it ain't poisoned really reminded me of Mags Bennet and Raylon Givens in season 2 of Justified.
- So cool that Tyrion uses Joffrey's crossbow to take out Tywin. The same crossbow that took out poor Ros.
- I have also read some griping by some readers of the books about a certain character not showing up in the finale. To that I say good! It doesn't really make sense to introduce that character at this point only to leave us waiting for the next season. This was an episode already loaded up with a ton of great material and arc resolutions for several characters. Jon and the north have resolved their battle with the wildlings. Arya and The Hound have parted ways. Brienne has confirmed Arya is still alive. Tyrion confronted his daddy issues and escaped execution. Dany had to compromise on her own ideals. And Bran made it to his destination. That other story can wait for season 5.
- The Lannister brothers are now The Kingslayer and The Kinslayer. The Lannister rep has gotta be ruined by now.
So, what were your thoughts on the ep?