The "Game of Thrones" Season 4 finale, "The Children," delivered 66 minutes of excitement and a few more shocking deaths. Season 4 has been a true game changer and it's going to be a long year until season 5 begins.
Warning: Full "Game of Thrones" Season 4 Spoilers ahead.
In a not-so-subtle move, the "Game of Thrones" Season 4 finale title has several meanings with many of the storylines featuring the various Stark and Lannister children as well as a Daenerys' dragons.
Can fans be burned out with all the "Game of Thrones" Season 4 deaths following Tywin Lannister, Shae, Jojen and the Hound all meeting their end in "The Children?"
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Jaime frees Tyrion with the help of Varys. The brothers share one final moment and Tyrion makes his escape from King's Landing. He makes one detour to his father's bedroom where he finds Shae in bed and strangles her to death. Tyrion is not done and finds his father sitting on the toilet. After a brief conversation where Tywin tries to convince Tyrion he was never going to kill him, Tywin says the fatal word and receives a crossbow bolt to the chest for his troubles. Fittingly, "the Rains of Castamere" plays as Tywin is killed. Varys puts Tyrion on a ship before the news of Tywin's death spreads.
Tyrion kills his father as well as his lover and his actions have massive implications for the future of "Game of Thrones," the Lannisters and Westeros. Tywin has always seemed like a safe character, he controls his family and their legacy while maintaining power and order. He's always been in control and he dies in the least honorable way possible. Killing the Lannister patriarch puts the future of the family into question as well as the rule of Tommen. Men and women feared and respected Tywin and it seems like the power in the Lannister family will fall to Cersei.
It was a role she always wanted and "Game of Thrones" Season 5 will see Cersei ruling King's Landing as the Queen Regent and she will do everything in her power to keep Tommen under her control. Her clashes with Margaery Tyrell will be fun to watch.
Stannis The Conqueror
We pick up immediately following the Battle of Castle Black. Jon Snow walks alone to find Mance Rayder. I wish we had more time with Mance because he is such an interesting character. Mance is a leader, willing to sit down with the enemy, share a drink and some stories. He is also honest and, for him, it is not a battle waged against the Night's Watch but a battle for survival. There are true horrors north of the Wall and winter is coming, as Mance says and he is looking for safe passage and the Wall's protection.
Before a deal could be brokered, Stannis' army comes charging in, flanking the Wildling army and surprising everyone. It's a major victory for Stannis. Despite his stubborness, he actually listens to Jon and takes Mance prisoner instead of executing him.
Stannis is now at Castle Black and it will be interesting to see how the "true king" adapts to life with the Night's Watch. "Game of Thrones" Season 5 will likely feature many moments between Jon and Stannis.
Jon loves Ygritte, as evidenced by his chat with Tormund and his final moments with her beyond the Wall. Ygritte gets a proper funeral while Jon mourns the loss of the only woman he has ever loved.
Cersei Protects Her Own
The Mountain has been poisoned by the Red Viper and his death is slow and incredibly painful. Rather than let him die, Gregor Clegane will be a test subject for the disgraced master Qyburn.
Cersei does not want to marry Ser Loras. As Jaime has noted, Cersei would do anything, including murder, to save her children and family. That includes telling Tywin about her incestuous relationship with Jaime. While Tywin may not want to believe it, he knows she is telling the truth. Due to his untimely passing, we will never know what a battle of wills between Tywin and Cersei would have looked like.
Following the scene with her father, Cersei declares her love for Jaime. The two engage in a consensual moment, which may anger fans following the controversial rape scene from "Game of Thrones" Season 4, episode 3, "Breaker Chains." The show never addressed what happened and it seems like there were no consequences from that moment, which makes it seem like it was merely for shock value.
Daenerys In Chains
Fennesz, a freed slave, wants to return to slavery, the latest wrinkle in Daenery's quest to become a good ruler. Freedom has choices and consequences but that is the least of her concerns as Drogon, the winged shadow, has killed a child. Dany's largest dragon has not been seen in three days and she makes the difficult choice to chain her two dragons as she fights to free people from slavery.
Bran Finds The Three-Eyed Raven
Bran's group is struggling to find the three-eyed raven but their quest ends as they find the giant weirwood tree from Bran's vision. The group is attacked by a skeleton horde and Bran wargs into Hodor in an attempt to save the group but Jojen is killed.
When it looks like all hope is lost, Leaf saves them with some timely firebolts. Leaf is one of the last remaining Children of the Forest and Bran finally meets the three-eyed raven, an old man connected to the roots of the weirwood tree. Bran will never walk again but he will, someday, fly, promises the three-eyed raven. His storyline, much like Arya's, are still very much in their infancy in "Game of Thrones" and it will be interesting to see where series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss take the characters in season 5.
Jojen's death does not occur in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series but it seemed likely he would die in the near future and, as a character, he has completed his storyline by guiding Bran to the three-eyed raven.
Brienne Meets The Hound
Pod and Brienne find Arya. Brienne tells Arya of her vow to protect Catelyn and now her quest to find Sansa and Arya. Despite her plea, Arya is hesitant to join her. The Hound makes a good point, there is no safety for Arya. Her family has been killed and he has protected her, albeit in his own, unique way.
The fight between the Hound and Brienne is a brutal one. The two fight without honor as they are not knights and know their lives are at stake. Losing the fight is not an option and Alex Graves does not flinch in the face of violence. Graves keeps the camera on Brienne and she unleashes a volley of punches that sends the Hound down into the ravine. Despite the victory, Pod loses sight of Arya, letting her escape.
Instead of taking the Hound's name off her list, Arya refuses to kill Sandor Clegane. The Hound has lived a life of regret and he begs her to kill him but Arya chooses to take some silver and walk away as the Hound's cries of "kill me" echo behind her.
Arya arrives at Saltpans and boards a ship to Braavos with Jaqen's coins and the words "valar morgulis." For Arya, it's the start of a new adventure and a very different life from the one she lived in Westeros.
"Game of Thrones" Spoilers and "A Song of Ice and Fire" Discussion
-- "The Children" lived up to expectations and did not change too much from "A Storm of Swords." I liked the fact they did not change how Tywin died although I was still dissatisfied with Shae's storyline. As in the novels, it never felt like a complete story and her motives remained unknown and glossed over.
-- Speaking of changes, I did like having the Hound and Brienne meet and fight. Arya showed some interesting character growth in not choosing to immediately side with Brienne. After Benioff and Weiss changed how the Hound died, it's fitting that he is "killed" by Brienne. Of course, many fans speculate he is still alive and living a life of solitude as a gravedigger on Quiet Isle. The fight also serves to streamline Brienne's storyline, she does not have to travel around and learns Arya is still alive.
-- Perhaps the biggest storyline from the "Game of Thrones" Season 4 finale will be the lack of Lady Stoneheart. It seemed certain Catelyn Stark would return, much like she did at the end of "A Storm of Swords." Instead she does not make an appearance nor is she mentioned. This could be a huge diversion from Martin's novels and Brienne's storyline. If Lady Stoneheart is not in "Game of Thrones" Season 5, that will have some major implications for the future of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series.