SPOILER ALERT: This recap contains character and storyline spoilers.
The episode, "The Children," in a nutshell:
* Tyrion turns the tables on Tywin
* Brienne and the Hound go toe-to-toe in a epic fight to the death
* Daenerys has to rein in her dragons
Body count: 4 VIPs
Nudity count: 1
Dragon sightings: 2
New people/places: The Three-Eyed Raven and his helper
Best line: "You'll never walk again. But you will fly." — The Three-Eyed Raven, to Bran
Valar morghulis. All men must die. But today, Tyrion Lannister is not one of them. Neither are Arya or Bran Stark, nor their half-brother Jon Snow.
But time has run out for some key figures: Tywin Lannister, shot dead by his unwanted son; Shae, choked to death by her spurned lover; Jojen Reed, stabbed by White Walkers; and the Hound, savagely beaten by Brienne before falling off a cliff.
As their journeys came to an end, the paths of other characters took surprising twists and turns. Tyrion, free thanks to his brother and guilty of murdering his father and lover, is on a ship bound for who knows where (with Varys!). Arya, free from the Hound's "protection," is on a ship bound for Braavos. Bran reaches his destination and learns it was his destiny all along. And Daenerys, mother of dragons, is forced to lock up her children in a dungeon.
All in all, Season 4 ended with a propulsive, action-packed, and exciting episode that set up so many questions. Where will Tyrion and Varys land? What will Arya find in Braavos? Who are the Children, and what role do they play? What exactly is Stannis doing at the Wall? Who will guide King Tommen now that his grandfather is dead? And where is Dany's third baby, Drogon — and will she capture him, too?
Sadly, we'll have to wait an entire year to find out.
A rundown of the finale...
King's Landing: The Lannisters
Cersei, riding high on her victory thanks to the Mountain (who's alive, but just barely), declares to her father that she won't marry Loras Tyrell. She's going to stay in King's Landing and help her son, Tommen. When Tywin scoffs at her demands, she issues the ultimate threat — to tell the truth about his parentage. Oh yes, Cersei finally forces Tywin to acknowledge that his children have been committing incest all these years! "Your legacy is a lie," she hisses.
Then she strides into Jaime's room, where she declares that he and Tommen are the only people she cares about. Now that Tywin knows, she doesn't care who else whispers about their relationship. She kisses him passionately, and they make love on the table.
But on one topic, the siblings have never been simpatico: their little brother, Tyrion. Cersei can't wait for him to die, but Jaime decides to help him escape. He's being aided in this by Varys! OK, well, the spymaster has always had his own agenda.
Before Tyrion flees for good, he makes one last stop at his father's rooms. There, he's shocked to find Shae in Tywin's bed. Oh, snap! She even murmurs, "my lion," thinking it's Tywin. It's a stunning betrayal. Shae sees him and grabs a knife to slash at Tyrion, and with tears in his eyes, he ends up choking her to death.
Tyrion grabs a crossbolt and goes looking for his father, who's sitting on the toilet in the bathroom. "All my life, you've wanted me dead," Tyrion says sadly. At first, the Lannister patriarch tries to talk his way out of the situation, calling Tyrion his son and showering him with compliments about his toughness. But when Tywin calls Shae a whore one too many times, Tyrion shoots him in the chest. Then he reloads and shoots him again.
Tyrion just gave Father's day a whole new meaning. @GameOfThrones— Deneffee (@Deneffee) June 16, 2014
The silver-tongued Tyrion, for once, has no words as he shows up to meet Varys, who puts him in a crate. That crate is loaded onto a ship. As the bells toll in King's Landing, indicating Tywin's death, crafty Varys gets on the ship himself. Wherever these two clever men are going, at least they'll make one hell of a team.
The North: Jon Snow and the Night's Watch, Stannis Baratheon and his army
As Jon attempts to bargain with Mance — who instantly guesses what his former protégé is really up to, namely trying to assassinate him — their confab is broken up by alarms and pounding hooves. Soldiers on horseback attack the camp from two sides, and tear through the wildlings like knives through butter.
Turns out, this army is commanded by one Stannis Baratheon. Say what? Wasn't he in Braavos, like, three seconds ago? Clearly, he got the money he asked for, and hired the soldiers he wanted. Guess he took that message from Commander Mormont seriously, because he's shown up at the Wall to take charge.
Jon introduces himself as Ned Stark's son and suggests they take Mance prisoner instead of killing him. Then he warns Stannis to burn the bodies, as he's seen what the White Walkers can do with corpses. He torches Ygritte's body himself, after taking her beyond the Wall to the "real North." It’s a beautiful and sad scene, and Jon walks away in tears.
Meereen: Daenerys Targaryen
Dany's holding another one of those public audience sessions. The first man is an old former slave who actually wants to go back into service! While freedom has been good for younger slaves, older ones are having trouble adapting. Daenerys agrees to let him sign a contract for one year only to go back to his master.
The second petitioner rocks Daenerys to the core, as he presents the skeleton of his three-year-old daughter. She was, apparently, killed by one of her dragons. Dany is devastated, but knows what she must do. She takes two of her babies and locks them up in the catacombs. Drogon is still out there, though, and he must be stopped too. Tears flow down her face as she seals the door on her wailing dragons.
Beyond the Wall: Bran Stark, the Reeds, Hodor
Bran and his party finally reach their destination — the giant weirwood tree that he saw in his visions. But as they approach the tree, they're attacked by some very scary skeletons, who are strong, have weapons, and are set on killing them.
Meera does her best to protect Jojen, while Bran takes over Hodor's body to turn the gentle giant into a killing machine. But there are too many of the skeletal White Walkers, and it seems all is lost. Just then, a ghostly-looking pixie girl shows up and fire-bombs all the walkers! She's too late to save Jojen, who's stabbed by a skeleton. Jojen pleads with Meera to run with Bran and Hodor. Just as he dies and his eyes turn that frightening blue, the pixie girl fire-bombs him too.
The girl leads Bran, Hodor, and Meera into the safety of a cave beneath the tree. Um, who is she? Apparently, she's one of "The Children," a race that pre-dates even the First Men. "Come, he waits for you," she whispers to Bran.
She takes them to a very old man, sitting on a kind of throne made of tree roots. He’s the human version of the Three-Eyed Raven, and he's been watching all of them for all their lives. (So, he's the Westeros version of the NSA?) Meera cries about Jojen, but the Three-Eyed Raven Man says Jojen knew exactly what would happen to him.
When Bran wonders if the man can give him back his legs, the man says no. "You'll never walk again," he intones. "But you will fly."
My favorite part of the "Game of Thrones" finale is when Bran visits the set of the "True Detective" finale to meet Gandalf. #GameOfThrones— Ben Siemon (@BenjaminJS) June 16, 2014
Near the Eyrie: Arya Stark and the Hound, Brienne and Podrick
Brienne is annoyed upon waking up to find that her and Podrick's horses are gone. Now they have to walk the last remaining miles to the Eyrie. On their way, she spots Arya practicing with Needle.
Not knowing who Arya is, Brienne makes some friendly small talk about being girls who wanted to learn how to fight with swords. When the Hound makes an appearance, Brienne puts two and two together. This girl is Arya Stark! Brienne declares that she swore to Catelyn to keep Arya safe.
But the Hound is suspicious about Brienne's sword, clearly made of Valyrian steel and Lannister gold. Brienne has to admit that Jaime gave it to her, which makes Arya very wary. But the female fighter begs Arya to come with her to safety. The Hound snorts. "There is no safety," he says. Arya's father, mother, brother, and aunt are all dead.
The Hound and Brienne both draw their swords and start what turns out to be an epic fight. They clash and slash, push and pull, punch and kick. In one moment, Brienne seems to get the best of him, her sword tip at his nose. But the Hound just grabs the sword with his bare hands.
Then they start to wrestle. Brienne bites off his ear! He punches her savagely. She hits him in his most sensitive area. She claws and batters at him, then pushes him down the cliff. Brienne wins!
The Hound vs Brienne was easily one of the most epic fights in Game of Thrones.— B.J. Titsengolf (@bbeal8) June 16, 2014
Except, not really, since she can't find Arya, who's hiding in the rocks. After Brienne and Pod leave, she goes to find the wounded Hound, who's dying. He begs her to finish him off, even taunting her about the butcher boy he killed back in Season 1. Ser Sandor Clegane even starts to cry.
But a steely-eyed Arya doesn't give in. Instead, she takes his coin purse and walks away, leaving him to die a slow and painful death.
Arya rides to a port city, where she asks the captain to sail her to the Wall. He refuses, saying he's headed to Braavos. Hearing that, Arya shows him the coin that Jaquen gave her and utters the phrase, "Valar morghulis."
Those magic words are the key, and Arya boards the ship. It sails away to a new land, a new future, and a new life.
Game of Thrones tonight was for real. Stannis' power move? Cersei and Jamie doubling down on the family love? Tyrion's revenge? All awesome.— Jeff (@jjhparker) June 16, 2014