As much as we dreaded it, the end of the season finally came, and now it’s time to wait a year… but I must say, if HBO excelled on producing one of the best seasons yet, than it put its proverbial money where its mouth is for the finale, providing us with possibly the best episode to date. Packed with plot-turning events (and an extra 15 minutes long I might add), the episode shows us why this story and show are the greatest there is.
As always… Spoilers. Addendum: major spoilers on this one. Lots happened, so here we go…
We start with Jon heading out to the Wildlings to speak with Mance. Their conversation is tense (and very well written). I love it when actors get to play in these particular scenes. We clearly see that Jon wants to take him out, knowing full well he would be sacrificing himself. Fortunately, he doesn’t… but what happens next is most unexpected. A huge army attacks the Wildlings, from all sides. One so big they are wiped out within minutes. Mance is full of pain to see this people killed like this; He surrenders. And out of the trees comes… Stannis. We should have seen this coming, because if you last remember, Melissandre pointed out how the real war is up north (though she was referring to the White Walkers, which means the Wall needed to be defended from anyone), and Stannis finally got the cash he needed from the Bank of Bravos. Upon Jon’s suggestion, Stannis imprisons Mance (instead of just killing him).
In King’s Landing, the Mountain still breathes… but he’s infected with poison from the Viper’s blade. Master Pycell thinks he cannot be saved, but Qyburn thinks he can bring him back (if you remember, he’s the one who stitched up Jaime’s hand, who was fired from the Maester’s due to his “unorthodox” ways). Cersei proceeds with letting Qyburn do his thing, even though he warns that he will not be the same (yet still strong). I’m surprised they kept this scene from the book… maybe I don’t remember if it goes somewhere. Or maybe there is more to it, than is beyond the book (privy to HBO through Martin). Either way, it looks like they’re attempting to keep the Mountain around, one way or another.
Cercei complains to Tywin that she refuses to marry Tyrell. When he insists that she doesn’t have a choice, she reveals that her kids are actually Jaime’s and that she loves him. And that if Tywin doesn’t call off the wedding, she’ll reveal it to everyone! She then visits Jaime, trying to rekindle the love she’s pulled away from this past season. She tells her about the conversation with Tywin, and they proceed with doing incest-oriented things on the table. It seems Cersei is once again trying to control everyone.
Dani, to me, was the saddest and most dramatic scene. Not only in this season finale, but one of the saddest in the show so far. We find her holding court again and speaking to citizens about their concerns. Some of the older folk were happier as slaves. She tries to find middle ground. She has many trials and tribulations to go through as she learns to be a ruler. But the sad scene follows, as the next citizen brings bones. You first think it is another farmer, requesting penance for his goat, but no… the man reveals the bones of a burnt child… from Drogon (the bigger, black dragon). Dani is horrified. She must deal with her “children” killing the young and innocent. The scene continues it’s depressing situation, as Dani has only one solution. Considering she cannot contain nor train the dragons, she chains them up in the catacombs. At least two of them… it seems Drogon has flown off and nobody has seen him in days. It’s such a sad moment to see her put the collar and chain on them. The music is heartretcing. She walks off and they call out to her. She’s not strong enough to look back, and the gate is closed with them crying.
This scene is actually from book 5 (showing that the show is moving along well to catching up for the fact that they split book 3 into two). Not to gloat, but I knew they were going to finish Dani’s season with that scene. Despite knowing though, I hated this scene. It’s amazing how HBO has been able to create such an animal/pet/child feeling to these fictional creatures. At least to me…
Back on the wall, they speak some words for the fallen and burn the bodies. Jon visits Tormund in his cell to see if he had any words for all the dead wildlings they were about to burn too. No, he says, but reminds him how much Ygritte loved him, and that she deserves to be “buried” in the north. And so, alone, Jon takes her and sets a pyre for her in the north, saying his final goodbye.
Farther north from the wall, Bran and the crew make it to the tree. But moments before they enter the cavern-like opening into the roots, they get attacked by white walkers… walkers with bodies so old and deteriorated, they are basically just skeletons. Bran goes into Hodor’s body and start fighting them off. Summer takes some down herself. Meera holds her own, but in all the commission, Jojen’s can’t defend himself in his weekend state, and he gets killed by one of the skeletons. Another sad scene (which isn’t in the book either, but an acceptable and interesting change… makes the show even more dramatic). More white walkers appear, and when all seem hopeless, a little weird looking girl kills them all off with fireballs. She tells them to run into the tree, which is safe. The remainder of the walkers try to follow, only to shatter upon crossing the threshold of the entrance… this clearly is a magical place.
The girl guides them through the inside of the tree, nothing but roots and bones littering the floor. They finally reach an old decrepit bearded man, sitting in some sort of throne made out of roots… but also part of it. You see roots entangle his arms and body. He has been waiting for them. Bran asks, will he be able to walk again? No the 3 eyed raven replies… but he will fly. I assume this is metaphorical, so I guess we’ll see. Another scene out of book five.
And another change is when Brienne and Podrick meet Arya and the Hound. They don’t know each other, and they are wary at first. Arya and Brienne talk about fighting and swords. Podrick recognizes Clegane, which makes Brienne realize the girl is Arya. They argue about who is protecting her. Arya refuses to go… she’s with Clegane, but Brienne swore a vow (now to a dead woman, Cat, but also the oath to Jaime). They argue for a while until things heat up and they start fighting. Another excellent sword fight, brutal and almost primal, and by pitting these two together (in the books, she’s only just leaving King’s Landing around now) makes the audience conflicted. Despite being “bad”, we’ve grown to like Clegane, so it’s hard to route for one of them, when we don’t want either to die. Unfortunately, Clegane’s infected bite may have been weakening him, and Brienne is a pretty tough warrior, so she eventually takes him down and pushes him off the cliff. He goes tumbling down to his end. In this time, Arya hid (and Pod lost track of her), so off they go again – Brienne pissed as hell at Pod.
A moment later, Arya goes up to Clegan, who is barely breathing. In the book, he reaches this point, due to the infection of the bite. I knew they were going to change how this scene comes as well (though I thought it would have been in episode 9). So Clegane knowns he’s at his end. He asks Arya to finish him off… through the heart. Arya hesitates. He reminds her he’s on the list. Still… he reminds her of all the shitty things he’s done… trying to anger her to kill him. But mercy is not something she is willing to give him. She know’s he’s about to die, and so her list will have the name removed; but she will not give him mercy. She gets up and walks away, leaving him to die slow and painfully. Again, though it was a good moment for Arya, I had grown to like the Hound, and it stinks to loose another great character.
Enough death yet? You wish… We go to King’s Landing. Tyrion’s cell door opens. It’s time. But no, its Jaime… he’s freeing him, with the help of Varys who knows the secret passage ways. Tyrion thanks Jaime and they embrace… they know they may never see each other again. As Tyrion goes down the tunnels to meet Varys, he recognizes a path… one that leads to his old chambers; now occupied by his father, Tywin, the Hand of the king. What the hell is he doing? Upon entering the room, he doesn’t find Tywin in bed… instead he finds Shae. The whore. Wearing thick gold chains. She had betrayed him for money, and was now Tywins whore. Tyrion cannot stand the pain she has caused him, as he loved her so much. She goes to attack him, they struggle, and he chokes her to death with the gold chains she was wearing. The fact that he loved her made this tremendously difficult, and he sits there weeping for a moment.
Then he grabs a crossbow that was mountain on the wall and searches for his father, only to find him in the bathroom (taking a number 2). Tywin tries to be civil, professional. He tries to talk himself out of it. To convince Tyrion. Lets go and talk inside. He compliments Tyrion about how strong willed he is. He lies that he would never had let the execution happen. But when Tyrion mentions how he turned Shae against him, Tywin just calls her a whore. This pisses Tyrion off even more… call her a whore again he says. And when he does, Tyrion shoots. He reloads. He shoots once more. His father has been killed.
He then meets with Varys, who realizes something is wrong. He helps Tyrion into a crate and puts him on a ship. But as it’s about to sail, the bells start ringing – death of a royal family member. Suddenly Vary realizes what happened… Tyrion murdered his dad. He may have been able to plead innocent to Tyrions escape, but now its too complicated, so he gets on the ship with Tyrion. In the book, Varys just disappears at this point, so it will be interesting to actually have the story follow him. Will he remain with Tyrion? Who knows.
Finally, back to Arya. She reaches the “east coast. Approaching a small port with a ship about to depart, she requests to go north. The captain says they are sailing West, over the narrow see, to Bravos. That will do she says, but he refuses to take her for any money. So she shows the coin she had received from Jaqen H’ghar, (who had mentioned if she ever needed to find him again, to show the coin). Surprisingly, the captain recognizes it and gives Arya her own cabin. The show ends with her ship sailing off.
What a season. Many events, many surprises, many deaths, and very huge changes. What will happen between Stannis, Jon, and the left-over Wildlings now? Where is Tyrion and Varys heading, and what will become of them? What is Bran going to learn as the “chosen” one. How will Dani deal with her own children chained up, and where is her biggest one, Drogon? How will the kingdom fair now that Cersei is basically in charge again? What will happen of Arya? Littlefinger and Sansa have joined forces? And how will he use this to gain more power like he always wanted? And with the north officially ruled by the psychotic Ramsey Bolton. What will Dorne and the Martell’s do with their prince Oberyn dead, and what the hell is going on with the Mountain?
I’m predicting that season 5 will come close to covering most of book 4 and 5 (since they both take place during the same timeline). That being said, the season will be even more intense then ever, and if they actually fully catch up to the books (i.e., end of book 5), then we’re in for a finale that will make all other shocking/dramatic moments seem tame. My suggestion? If you haven’t read the books, stay away from spoilers. If you have, then I’m hoping you are enjoying the show as much as I am and are accepting the changes with a smile (they are needed and work well). Either way, spend this year until next season re-watching the entire show by buying the seasons (if any show deserves to sell, its this one) or obviously through HBO On Demand.
Hope you guys have a good off season. Feel free to reach out to us here at Don’t Forget A Towel with any questions you may have on the books or the show… I’d be more than happy to discuss!