Tonight’s season finale of Game of Thrones was loaded with shockers for everyone, including fans of the books. Check out our book readers recap to see what we thought, and stop in to share your opinions on “The Children” in the comments section below!
Spoiler Note: This post is for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. As such the post itself and the comments will contain spoilers. If you haven’t read the books yet, you can discuss this episode in our non-book-reader recap. Thanks!
Picking up right where we left off in last week’s episode, Jon Snow heads into Mance Rayder’s camp with his plan to assassinate the King Beyond the Wall. Jon claims to be offering peace when he’s brought before Mance, in order to get close to him, but it doesn’t take wily Mance too long to suss out Jon’s true intentions. However, before Jon gets too deep into hot water, the wildling base camp is attacked by unknown soldiers on horses riding down and slaughtering the wildlings easily.
Mance surrenders, not wanting to lose any more of his people, and he and Jon are introduced to the person who has brought this new army into play: King Stannis Baratheon, along with his advisor Davos. Stannis asks Jon’s opinion on how to handle Mance, and accepts Jon’s recommendation of taking the wildling leader prisoner, and of burning their dead.
Gregor Clegane lingers near death as a result of hi injuries from the duel with the Red Viper. Oberyn’s spear was poisoned, and Qyburn and Grand Maester Pycelle are debating their patient. Pycelle thinks it’s hopeless, but Qyburn, a man tossed out by the maesters of the Citadel, does not agree. He believes he can improve the Mountain’s condition with his unusual methods; Cersei grants her permission.
Tywin Lannister presses the issue of Cersei’s engagement to Loras Tyrell. Cersei is adamant that the marriage won’t happen and she refuses to be shipped off to Highgarden; her presence is needed in King’s Landing with Tommen. Cersei has another card to play: she threatens to publicly expose the truth of her relationship with Jaime, destroying Tywin’s legacy, if he doesn’t agree to her wishes. Quietly stunned by her revelations and threat, Tywin concedes.
Flush with her victory, Cersei rushes to Jaime in the White Tower to share it with him. After arguing about Tyrion briefly, she brushes that aside to celebrate her win over Tywin. She kissing Jaime passionately, uncaring who sees them now, and they have sex on the table in the Kingsguard tower room.
After dealing with a man who wishes to sell himself back into slavery because freedom has brought him only hardship, Daenerys learns from another citizen of Meereen that one of her dragons has killed a three year old child. The black dragon called ‘the winged shadow’ is responsible, but hasn’t been seen in days. The other two are living beneath the pyramid. Dany visits them, and makes the painful decision to chain up her dangerous children, for the safety of others.
The men of the Night’s Watch lay out their dead in the courtyard, including Pyp and Grenn. Stannis and his retinue are in attendance. Jon and others set the pyre ablaze, and through the flames, Jon and the red priestess Melisandre lock eyes.
Afterward Jon visits Tormund, who has survived the battle and had his wounds tended to. They discuss Ygritte and saying goodbye, and Tormund remarks on how he knew Ygritte loved Jon because all she ever talked about was killing Jon. He also insists that Ygritte belongs in the real North. When it’s Ygritte’s turn for a funeral, Jon lays her out in the woods to the north of the wall before lighting her funeral pyre.
After endless trudging through the snow, Bran’s band of travelers have finally arrived at the weirwood heart tree of’ his vision. As they head toward it, a hand bursts through the snow and grabs hold of Jojen. It’s a wight, and it’s just the first of several. Jojen, Meera, Bran and Hodor are all under attack, with Meera fighting them off hard. Bran decides to warg into Hodor to use his strength and succeeds in knocking some aside but the undead skeletal creatures are still coming. Riding inside Hodor, Bran’s body is unattended, and Jojen screams at him to save himself. Unaware of the danger to his own body, Jojen doesn’t realize the shattered partial skeleton by him is moving- and it has a knife. The wight stabs Jojen repeatedly in the gut, as two more wights rush at Bran, only to be blown apart by fireballs.
“Come with me, Brandon Stark,” says the childlike creature. And referring to Jojen,”He is lost.” Meera is forced to leave behind her brother’s body. The child throws a ball of fire back at Jojen, presumably to keep him from reanimating as a wight, and helps the others escape into a cave guarded by magic. They explain then that the First Men called their people “the Children.”
Led by the Child through tunnels of overgrown roots, Bran, Hodor and Meera find a man growing into a tree, and Bran then understands.
“You’re the Three-Eyed Raven.”
The Three-Eyed Raven explains he’s been watching them all their lives, and that Jojen knew what would happen to them if he came on the journey. Jojen died so that Bran could find what he had lost.
“You’re going to help me walk again?”
“You’ll never walk again. But you will fly.”
Traveling through the Vale, Brienne and Pod have misplaced their horses and run into a girl practicing with her sword. Arya is intrigued by Brienne, and they share the names of their swords and discuss their fathers. The Hound joins the group, and Pod recognizes him, causing Brienne to realize that she’s been talking with Arya Stark. The Hound isn’t willing to give Arya over to Brienne, since Arya has no family left to bring her to and Brienne has a connection with the Lannisters. They draw their swords and the fight gets ugly fast with the Hound reminding Brienne that he’s no ser, and the woman responding in kind, biting his ear off for good measure. Pummeling each other, Brienne gets the upper hand until the Hound is backed up to a cliff edge. He goes over, tumbling down and breaking his leg.
Arya is nowhere to be found when Brienne and Pod look for her. She turns up soon after they leave, to sit with the Hound as he suffers, certain his death is coming. He urges her to kill him, egging her on with taunts about Mycah the butcher’s boy and her sister, but Arya stares without emotion, leaving the Hound to plead without providing any mercy. Instead she takes his bag of gold, and abandons him to die slowly and alone.
In the Black Cells, Tyrion’s surprised to find his visitor is his brother Jaime, helping him escape with the aid of Varys. The brothers part affectionately, and Tyrion decides that before leaving the city, he’s going to pay a visit to his father. But in his father’s chambers, he finds something unexpected- Shae, occupying Tywin’s bed. Feeling threatened, Shae grabs a knife to defend herself, and Tyrion tries to disarm her, straddling her body. He knocks the knife away from her, and strangles her using the thick golden chain she’s wearing.
Spying a crossbow hanging on the wall, Tyrion grabs it and seeks out who he came for. He finds his father in the privy. Tywin maintains his calm, telling Tyrion he respects his will to survive, claiming he never would’ve let him be executed. Tyrion admits to killing Shae, but Tywin is uncaring, as she was simply a “whore.” Tyrion raises the crossbow again, and continues the conversation. Tywin calls Shae a whore again and this time Tyrion fires a bolt. And soon after another, ending Tywin Lannister on the privy.
The bells in King’s Landing ring, but Tyrion is safely escaping on a ship with Varys. (Side question: Is this the same box Varys used for his magician friend or does Varys have a lot of man-boxes lying around?)
On the coast, Arya spies a ship and approaches the captain, asking for passage to the Wall. He refuses, citing the war and pirates, and informs her he’s going home to Braavos. Recognizing the name of the Free City, Arya remembers something else.
Pulling out the iron coin she was given by Jaqen H’ghar, she gives it to the captain, whose demeanor instantly changes. “Valar morghulis,” she says, as the assassin told her should should.
“Valar dohaeris,” the captain replies, accepting the iron coin as passage. Arya has her own cabin and is on her way to Braavos.
A clash of kings – I loved the opening scenes with Stannis and Mance, and the fighting. I wish we’d seen more of Ciarán Hinds and Stephen Dillane both this year, and really enjoyed the characterization we got to see here, however brief. The moment between Jon and Stannis was a great teaser of things to come, I hope.
The wight attack – I’m sure some will be very upset about Jojen dying early (or at all) but to me, he’s a dead man walking in the books, and it’s just a matter of time. So it doesn’t feel like a drastic alteration. The fight was amazing, and it was great to see Meera getting to kick ass along with Hodor/Bran and Summer getting a piece of the action. All the special effects were outstanding.
Brienne vs the Hound – knock-down dirty brawl between two not-a-knights
Rory McCann – I don’t know when/if we’ll be seeing him again, but he turned in a hell of a performance tonight.
The Three-Eyed Raven scene- I cried. Really. It was perfect.
The funerals – I’m glad they took the time to acknowledge the losses of the Night’s Watch men (with the intriguing moment of Melisandre seeing Jon through the flames) and Ygritte.
The Children – the design of the children of the forest is very cool. I hope we see more next year.
What I Didn’t Like
Still no Stoneheart? – I guess she could turn up next year, but the longer the show takes to introduce her, the less relevant she becomes, which makes me worry more and more that they’re simply not going to have the character. And I don’t like that. It doesn’t ruin the entire finale; it’s just a disappointment.
Cersei & Jaime – The Cersei and Jaime scene left me cold and uncomfortable. Everyone has their opinion on the controversy, but the fallout from “Breaker of Chains” is undeniable. I don’t see their relationship the same way anymore, and besides that, this felt like wasted time in a packed episode. Cersei’s power play-confession with Tywin on the other hand, though a change, was one I enjoyed.
The Butterfly Effect: Tysha – The show hasn’t been talking about Tysha at all, since Tyrion told the tale of his first wife in the first season. His first marriage has been alluded to a couple times, but that’s it. A non-ASOIAF-reader is unlikely to recall it. So in this episode, we didn’t have Jaime confessing to have deceived Tyrion about Tysha. (Also severing Tyrion’s last stable relationship- his one with Jaime.) And so when Tyrion confronted Tywin, instead it’s Shae that’s being called a whore. And I have a very hard time taking Tyrion being incensed on Shae’s behalf seriously when he just killed her. Tyrion also spends a lot of time in ADWD looking back at his past, and wondering, “Where do whores go?” in the hopes that he might find Tysha eventually. That’s all effectively been written out here.