Game of Thrones, Season 4, Ep 10 “The Children”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

It’s the end of season 4, and hopefully that means exciting things for this episode!

The Wall: Jon walks north out of the tunnel, picking up directly where the previous episode left off. He passes the scattered bodies of dozens of wildlings who fell in their assault on The Wall. Jon approaches the camp of Mance Rayder, and surrenders himself. He speaks with Mance, telling him that he’s here to talk terms. Mance is interested to chat a bit, and say that all he wants is for his people to get south of the Wall before winter sets in. If Jon will open the tunnel and let them through, Mance promises not to kill anyone on the way. Jon doesn’t seem to think this is an option. And fair enough, because I suspect that even if Mance kept his word and didn’t kill anyone at Castle Black, I doubt he’s just going to have his thousands of followers find some nice empty farmland and settle down peacefully. They’d almost certainly have to raid or conquer existing settlements to find enough food, so Jon’s reluctance makes sense.

Mance asks Jon about Ygritte, and he replies that she’s dead. Mance pours a drink and they toast her memory. Jon is a bit wary, but Mance says that of all the ways he would kill Jon, poison is the very last of them. Mance asks about the giant who entered the tunnel and didn’t come out. Jon tells him he’s dead, and he killed his friend Grenn in the battle. Mance toasts Grenn and the giant.

It almost looks like they’re getting chummy, but Mance suddenly spots a gleam in Jon’s eye as Jon contemplates taking his chance to grab a knife and kill Mance. Mance says oh, so that’s why you came here. There is a moment of tension as we wonder what Mance will do with Jon now…

And suddenly there is the sound of horns and horses! In a wide overhead shot we see hundreds of horsemen pincering Mance’s camp, and battle is joined. It’s confusing and I don’t know who is attacking. I suppose if I recognised the banners I could have worked it out, but I don’t know this one. In a brief battle the mystery attackers win and capture Mance. The leader appears… It’s Stannis! And Davos with him. Wow. I didn’t expect them to show up here of all places. I mean, north of the Wall? What are they even thinking coming here?

As it turns out, they take Jon and the captive Mance back to Castle Black. There there is a funeral for the men killed in the attack, with them being burnt to avoid them rising as white walkers. Later Jon speaks with the captive leader of the wildling band that Ygritte was with. He asks Jon if he loved her, and tells him that she loved him. He says he could tell, from the way that she kept on talking about wanting to kill Jon. He requests that Ygritte be returned to the North where she belongs. Jon duly takes her body through the tunnel, out into the snowy forest. He builds a pyre near a conspicuous weirwood tree, flush with red leaves. I can’t help feeling that this is a significant bit of symbolism, but I don’t know what it means.

Jon returns to Castle Black and there are more burnings. Through the flames, he sees Melisandre… Hmm. What’s she up to here. Don’t tell me this will be another love interest for Jon. Or will it be her trying to do some magical hocus-pocus on him?

The North: Further North, Hodor is dragging Bran through the snow on a sledge, with Jojen and Meera trudging along behind. They are about at the end of their tether, with Joen struggling to keep walking. They crest a ridge and spot a huge weirwood tree, glowing red in the sunset light. Under it is a cave entrance. Bran declares this is the place they have been seeking.

But as they approach, undead skeletons rise out of the snow to attack! Bran takes control of Hodor’s mind to direct his fighting more skilfully than Hodor can manage on his own, but the undead cut down Jojen. Then fireballs start flying and turn the tide in their favour, thrown by what looks like a young boy. He tells them that Jojen is gone, they need to follow him to live. Meera is understandably reluctant to leave her brother, but they all follow into the cave. The skeletons try to follow, but are blasted into smithereens as they enter. The boy tells them that they cannot enter the cave.

Hodor carries Bran deeper into the cave, where they meet an old man. Bran looks at him in awe, and calls him the Three-Eyed Raven. The man welcomes them and says he has been waiting for Bran, and can help him regain what is lost. Bran asks if he will walk agan. The Raven says no, he will never walk again. But he will fly.

Okay, this is all interesting! Who is this mysterious guy and what are his powers. And more importantly, whose side is he on? It’s all a mystery at this point, but one would presume he’s positively disposed to Bran.

Meereen: Daenerys hears more petitioners. An old former slave requests to be returned to his master, because since being freed he has to live in squalor and nobody wants his skills as a teacher. She is shocked, but allows the man to enter a yearly contract with his former master, to be paid for service. Ser Barristan advises Daenerys that the masters will take advantage of such deals, but she orders it anyway.

The next petitioner is a man bringing the charred remains of his three year old daughter. He says Daenerys’s dragon (“the black one”) killed her. She is shocked. She goes to her dragons, but there are only two, the red one and the green one. The black one has gone missing. She leads them into a dungeon and chains them, then seals the chamber, as the dragons wail pitifully.

Hmmm. Is Daenerys losing control of her dragons? That would be a big setback. It seems odd though – why would they suddenly become disloyal to her? Is there something more going on here than it seems? Very mysterious. It definitely seems to be setting up something for the future though.

King’s Landing: Gregor Clegane, knight. A man barely alive. We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster. He will be the Six Million Gold Coin Mountain.

Cersei is worried about Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, wounded in Tyrion’s trial by combat fight against Oberyn. It’ll apparently take more than Oberyn’s poisoned sword to kill him. Master Pycelle is down on Gregor’s chances, but another man reckons he can save him. Pycelle objects that this other guy isn’t even a Maester, but Cersei overrules and allows the newcomer to work on Clegane. He plugs a tube into a vein and starts drawing blood out… The new guy warns Cersei that Gregor won’t be exactly the same after this procedure. She asks if he will be weaker. He replies, “Weaker? No…”

Wow. As if Gregor wasn’t strong enough already. What is this guy going to do to him? Turn him into some sort of even more unstoppable killing machine? And what will Cersei do with such a man? I shudder to think.

Cersei confronts her father Tywin. She doesn’t want to marry Lorys Tyrell, but he is insistent, saying she wouldn’t be the first bride dragged into the Royal Sept to be married. She threatens to reveal the truth about Tommen (King Tommen). Tywin is either stupid or in denial, most probably the latter, as he says he has no idea what she is talking about. She tells him point blank that the rumours are all true, she and Jaime are lovers, which he dismisses as a lie (yep, denial). She stalks off and finds Jaime and professes her love for him. He’s a little surprised, since she’d been so angry at him recently, but gives in and they clear off a table to start groping and get down to business…

That night, Jaime goes to Tyrion in the dungeons, where he’s due to be executed the next day. Jaime lets him out and leads him to a staircase. He says that he should go up and knock on the door at the top, and Varys will take him to safety. Varys!! Why would Varys help Tyrion when Varys was so damning in his half-fictional testimony against him during the trial? It really seemed like Varys wanted Tyrion to be executed. I can only assume he’s playing a longer con of some sort here.

However, Tyrion doesn’t want to escape just yet. After Jaime leaves him, he uses a secret trap door to enter the castle and heads for Tywin’s chamber. He sneaks up on the sleeping form in the bed… who stirs, and we see it’s Shae! In Tywin’s bed!! Tyrion is also shocked. Shae sees him and swings a knife, but in the ensuing fight Tyrion wraps a cord around her neck and strangles her. Holy cow! So was Shae working for Tywin all along?? She was, after all as Tywin kept insisting, a whore – was she taking payment to spy on Tyrion and set him up for the trial – at which she bore false witness against him, remember? It looks that way. Tyrion, who truly loved her, is heartbroken.

He grabs a crossbow and stalks the castle, finding Tywin sitting on the privy. Tywin tries to talk his way into moving the conversation to a more dignified location (his bedroom – where he probably has a bunch of weapons and traps installed). But Tyrion isn’t falling for it. Tyrion rages against being falsely set up for Joffrey’s murder, which Tywin knows is false, and shoots Tywin dead where he sits.

Wowee. This creates a power vacuum, as Tywin was the one really running the place. Now power will devolve to Cersei. I imagine the first thing she’ll do is cancel her marriage to Loras. And cancel sending Jamie away to Casterly Rock. It’ll be the two of them running things in King’s Landing now. I wonder what they’ll do about Tommen’s impending marriage to Margaery. What else will she do? It’s all up in the air now!

Tyrion eventually uses Jaime’s escape route and meets Varys. Varys has Tyrion climb into a box, which is sealed and loaded into a ship. Well. Where is this ship off to? Somewhere good? Or is Varys shipping Tyrion off into slavery or worse? What’s in all of this for Varys?? So many questions.

Near The Eyrie: Brienne wakes up, sees the horses are missing, and asks Podrick if he hobbled the horses. He claims he did, but the horses are gone. Mysterious. Brienne wanders up a hill to look around, and comes across Arya practising her sword dancing techniques. Podrick and Sandor appear, and Podrick recognises Sandor. Brienne realises the girl is Arya Stark. She says she was charged to defend the Stark girls by their mother, and wants to take Arya with her. Sandor objects, pointing out that she carries a sword from the Lannisters, and that she’s probably here after the bounty on his head.

The conversation rapidly goes south and Brienne and Sandor start an all-in fight. After a lot of pummelling and wounding and punching of faces, Brienne kicks Sandor off a cliff. Recovering her composure, she looks for Arya… who isn’t there. She and Podrick go searching for her. But Arya has hidden well, and only emerges after they’ve gone. She goes to Sandor, who lies dying at the base of the cliff. He laments his fate, having been killed by a woman. Arya coldly watches him. He is in pain and begs her to finish him. You can cross my name off your list, he says.

I was hoping for a great line from Arya here: “You haven’t been killed by a woman. You’ve been killed by a girl.” Stab through the heart with Needle.

But no. Arya takes Sandor’s coin purse, and walks off, leaving him to die in agony. I wonder if this is a bad move. We don’t see him die. He could come back to haunt her later.

Arya rides to a coastal town, where she approaches the captain of a ship. She asks for passage north. The captain laughs at her, saying he is heading south, home to Braavos. Arya perks up at the mention of Braavos. She pulls out the coin that Jaqen gave her two seasons ago, shows it to the captain, and says the words, “Valar Morghulis”. The captain immediately changes his tune, offering her a cabin.

We saw this coin in the last episode of season 3 as well, and I wondered if we’d see it in the final episode of every season, and lo! Here we are in the final episode of season 4, and here it is again! It’s clearly a very important plot device, and now it has Arya sailing north. It’s not clear to me exactly where she’s going. If it’s to seek Jon Snow, well, Castle Black isn’t exactly on a coast, so she might have some travelling over land to do as well. I can’t think of anywhere else she might want to go. There’s the Iron Islands, but I don’t think she has any reason to want to go there.

Actually… I wondered while watching the episode why Arya didn’t go into The Eyrie and find Sansa. But I realise that she has no idea that Sansa is there, and now that she knows her aunt Lysa is dead, she has no real reason to go there any more, as she has no relatives there. So heading off somewhere else makes sense. But frustratingly it means that Arya and Sansa were within spitting distance of one another and never managed to realise it.

The episode, and season 4, closes with a shot of Arya riding on the bow of the ship, cutting across the sea, heading into the north. Not exactly a cliffhanger, but this episode asked a lot of questions that we’ll have to wait for season 5 to answer. A lot of things have been turned on their heads here. We had four deaths: Jojen, Shae, Tywin, and (probably) Sandor. We have the mysterious Three-Eyed Raven, we have Stannis up to something at Castle Black, we have Cersei newly retored to power in King’s Landing, we have dragons on the loose across the Narrow Sea, we have Tyrion shipped off to who knows where, and Arya free and following her fate.

Lots to look forward to in season 5!

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