Previously on Game of Thrones: The men of the Night’s Watch managed to beat back Mance’s army, for the moment; Tyrion lost his trial by combat and was sentenced to death; Brienne and Podrick closed in on Arya and the Hound, who made it to the Eyrie, only to discover Lysa was already dead.
We begin right where we left off, with Jon on his way to meet with Mance. He’s able to stroll straight into the Wildlings’ camp, because they’re either that confident of the superiority of their numbers, or their sentries completely suck. Jon shows them he’s unarmed and Mance comes out to usher Jon into his tent for a parlay. Inside, he scolds Jon for being a spy and observes that Ygritte wasn’t enough to turn him to the Wildling side. He offers Jon a drink and reassures him it’s not poison. Not his way, I think. Mance goes on to say that the Rangers did really well against his army and giants and they both raise a glass to their fallen. Mance asks what kind of bargain Jon wants to strike and Jon tells him he’d better turn his army around and go on home, despite the vast superiority of numbers Mance has. Mance says there are 400 men now climbing the Wall and that his people aren’t heading south to conquer, they want protection from the horrors of winter. He promises nobody else will die if Jon opens the gates and just lets his people through.
Jon starts eyeing a cooking knife, which does not escape Mance’s notice, and Mance mocks him for stooping so low as to assassinate a man in his own tent, parlaying in good faith. They face off for a moment, and then horns sound from outside. Mance demands to know if Jon’s attacking them but Jon says they don’t have the men to do so.
Outside, a truly massive, disciplined army on horseback is bearing down on the Wildlings’ camp. Man, their sentries do suck. Wildlings are mowed down left and right while Mance just looks kind of confused. Once his army’s surrounded, he orders everyone to stand down and puts down his own sword, declaring that his people have bled enough. The leaders of the attacking army ride forward, and it’s Davos and Stannis. Whaaa? What brought Stannis north of the Wall? Melisandre, I guess. I can only assume this was discussed before and I’m just not remembering it. The two men dismount and approach Mance. One Wildling tries to attack, but a passing cavalryman slices the man down as he gallops past, and Davos and Stannis don’t even break stride. Davos introduces Stannis and Mance gives him a bit of attitude, refusing to kneel because Wildlings don’t do that. Stannis threatens to slaughter any prisoners but Mance holds firm. Davos spots Jon and asks what a man of the Night’s Watch is doing there. Jon explains his parlay plan and introduces himself as Ned Stark’s son. That wins him a few points, and Stannis asks what Jon thinks his father would have done with Mance. Jon thinks he’d have taken Mance prisoner and heard what he had to say. Mance is marched off and Jon quietly tells Stannis he’d better have all the dead burned as quickly as possible.
Down in King’s Landing, the Mountain is still alive, but barely, because apparently Oberyn’s spear was poisoned. Well, that’s clever. Kind of ensures you win either way, right? Pycelle and Qyburn are attending him; Pycelle’s ready to throw in the towel, but Qyburn thinks he can do something here. Cersei dismisses Pycelle as Qyburn gets his kit set up. He warns her that the process may change the man, and she asks if it’ll weaken him. Upon hearing it definitely will not, she tells him to get to work. He does.
Downstairs, she informs her father that she will not be marrying Loras after all, because she won’t be separated from her last surviving son. He doesn’t want to hear it, so she plays the only card she has left: threatening to tell everyone about her and Jaime. Wouldn’t that just deprive her son of his throne? Tywin refuses to believe what she’s saying, but she smirks and observes that he knows very well that it’s true.
She next goes to see Jaime, who’s pretty pissed off at her for ensuring Tyrion’s demise. She walks over to him, kisses him, and says she’s told their father all about them. He asks what he said but she’s done talking about Tywin. They begin to make out in earnest and have sex on a nearby table.
Dany’s receiving applicants in her throne room. The first is a former slave named Fennesz who tells her that he used to be tutor to his master’s children, but now he has no place and no home. The mess halls Dany has set up are no good for him, because they’re run entirely by the younger slaves, who pick on the older ones. Furthermore, he has no purpose in life. He wants to go back to his former master. Dany’s flabbergasted but he says this new world is a terrible one for older people like him. She allows him to sign a contract lasting only a year with his former master. The man thanks her and takes off.
The next applicant is a stunned man carrying a small bundle in his arms. Dazed, he says that ‘it’ came from the sky—the black one. He lays down the bundle, and it’s a scorched human skeleton—his daughter. EEEEEEEK! She was three years old. This is her dragon Drogan’s work—and he’s still on the loose. Honestly, how could Dany have not seen this coming? Did she really think the dragons were just going to confine themselves to sheep and goats indefinitely? They’ve been running amok for ages now, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. She now has no choice but to lock up her other two dragons in the city’s catacombs. She chains them up, sadly, and cries as she leaves them there. These dragons are going to be seriously pissed at their mommy when she finally lets them out.
Maester Aowyn leads a service for the dead at Castle Black. Once he’s done, the funeral pyres are lit and we bid farewell to Pyp and Grenn. Through the flames, Jon exchanges stares with Melisandre.
After the funerals, he goes to see Tormund, who asks why they’ve patched him up—is it to torture him? Jon reassures him he’s not to be tortured. He wants to know if Tormund wants to say any words over the bodies of his dead. That’s not the way the Wildlings operate, it seems. Before Jon goes, Tormund asks if he loved Ygritte, because she definitely loved him. And he knew that because all she talked about was killing him. That’s love! He tells Jon that she belongs in the north.
Jon takes the hint and brings her body out to the woods north of the Wall for a private sendoff. He prepares her pyre himself, lights it, and walks away, stopping a few yards off to have a bit of a cry.
The Bran Band is making its way through a blizzard, and Jojen’s not doing so well. Meera urges him to rest, but he won’t stop, and Bran, of course, can’t be bothered to notice anything happening to anyone not himself. Jojen collapses and Meera says they’re not going to make it to their destination. He smiles and says they’re already there. Up ahead, Bran calls for them to come look. They do, and see the weirwood tree from Bran’s dreams. They approach it, but as they get close, skeletons reach out of the ground and grab Jojen and start dragging him backwards. Meera screams and tries to drag him away and Bran tells Hodor to go help them. Hodor’s too scared to do anything, and now the skeletons are fully emerging from the ground. Did they stumble on the Black Pearl or something? Because all I can think of when I see these skeleton creatures is Pirates of the Caribbean. They seem to be coming from everywhere, and they’re seriously nasty and wielding axes and things. Bran wargs into Hodor so he can get out there and start seriously kicking some ass. Nice to see that his fighting lessons are being put to good use. Jojen screams for Bran to save himself, as a skeleton nearby slowly grabs Jojen’s knife and starts stabbing him repeatedly. Skeletons bearing down on Bran are quickly dispatched by a pair of fireballs, and what appears to be a young girl appears at the mouth of a cave beneath the weirwood, telling them to come with her immediately or die. Meera cradles her dying brother, who urges her to go. She cries, but as more skeletons burst out of the ground and Hodor picks up Bran, she mercy kills Jojen and runs towards the cave. A few pursuing skeletons explode at the cave’s mouth. That’s one hell of a forcefield they’ve got there.
Now that they’re safe, Bran asks their saviors who they are. One of them says the first men called them the Children, but they’re way older than anything else in this world. She urges them to hurry up because ‘he’ is waiting for them. They follow her further into the cave and find, uh, Dumbledore, by the looks of him. It’s just not a fantasy story without some wise man with long white hair and beard, right? Bran identifies him as the three-eyed raven. The man says he’s been watching all of them all their lives. Well, that’s slightly creepy. He tells Bran that Jojen died so Bran could find what he had lost. Bran thinks that means he’ll walk again. He won’t, but he will fly. That sounds like an upgrade to me.
Brienne wakes and notices that their horses have disappeared. Apparently Pod failed to hobble them properly. She prissily grabs her stuff and tells him he’ll be carrying the saddlebags to the Eyrie.
Presumably sometime later, they come upon Arya, practicing with Needle while the Hound takes a pit stop behind a nearby rock. Brienne greets her pleasantly and admires her sword before asking if they’re near the Bloody Gate. Arya says it’s just ten miles. Arya’s clearly fascinated by the sight of a lady fighter and asks about her sword and who taught her to fight. They bond over the fact that both of them managed to convince their dads to teach them. The Hound appears and Pod immediately recognizes him and clues Brienne in. She looks at Arya and realizes who she is. Brienne tells Arya she promised to bring her to her mother. Hound asks if she’s in the pay of the Lannisters. Brienne says she isn’t, but when pressed, she admits that Jaime gave her the sword. Yeah, that sounds pretty bad, just now. Arya tells her to get lost, but Brienne insists she join them so Brienne can take her to safety. Hound reminds her there’s no safety for this kid. The two grownups draw their swords and begin to fight. It takes about half a second for the fight to get dirty. And it says a lot about Brienne that she’s totally able to hold her own against the Hound, who’s a formidable adversary. The fighting’s fierce—at one point she actually bites one of his ears off and finally gets the upper hand by bashing him repeatedly in the head with a rock, finally sending him over the edge of a nearby precipice. He tumbles down the hill, head over foot. Finally triumphant, Brienne looks around for Arya, who’s disappeared. Nice job, Pod. They go searching for her while Arya, sensibly, hides.
Once they’ve gone, she makes her way to the Hound, who’s conscious but not in good shape at all. She hunkers down nearby and he admits he knows he’s dying. He urges her to go after Brienne, who’ll help her, but she just sits there, dispassionately watching him suffer. He asks her to put him out of his misery, but she refuses. He tries to goad her, telling her he killed the Butcher’s Boy she was friends with (waaaaay back in season one) and he wishes he’d raped her sister. Jesus, Hound, I don’t think this is likely to make her pity you enough to kill you. And it’s clear she’s not going to give in to rage, so this is rather pointless, isn’t it? He practically begs her, but instead she comes over, removes his money pouch, and walks away. Wow, Arya, that was beyond cold. Is this because he made fun of her water dancing and stole that guy’s silver? Are you forgetting that he’s also helped keep you alive for the better part of two seasons? Guess she is.
Tyrion’s disturbed in his cell late at night by the arrival of Jaime, come to free him. Jaime tells him there’s a ship waiting in the bay, along with Varys, to help him get to safety. The brothers bid each other farewell rather sweetly and then Tyrion’s just…left to his own devices as to getting out of the castle. This seems like a pretty incomplete plan. Or it would if there were a single guard on duty. Honestly, people, the king’s just been murdered and there’s nobody around making sure the castle is safe at night? Idiots.
Tyrion makes his way to his father’s room, where he finds a woman in Tywin’s bed. And it’s…SHAE? What? How? When? I do not understand this. Maybe I got it totally wrong, but I was under the impression (as I said during Tyrion’s trial) that she hated the other Lannisters. When did she hook up with Tywin? And given how much Tywin hates this particular son, would he really want Tyrion’s sloppy seconds? I find this unlikely in more ways than one.
Shae grabs a knife, and Tyrion launches himself on her. They tussle for a while, and he strangles her to death with the necklace she’s wearing. Once it’s done, he begins to weep and whispers that he’s sorry. For what, Tyrion? This woman gave false testimony against you that she knew would likely lead directly to your death and she did it out of spite because you dumped her. And then she went and started sleeping with your dad. Of all the characters who have died on this show, I think she’s high on the list of those I’ll miss the least.
Tyrion notes a crossbow up on the wall and takes it down before tracking his father down in the nearby privy. Tywin’s pretty chill about facing down a heavily armed son and suggests they go chat in his room. Tyrion aims the crossbow at him and makes him stay. Tywin tells him he never would have executed him, no matter how much he loathes him and wants him dead. Tyrion confesses to having killed Shae, which Tywin says is no big deal, because she was just a whore. Tyrion dares him to say that word once more and reminds his father that he sentenced him to die, despite knowing Tyrion was innocent. Tywin once again suggests they return to his room, but Tyrion says he can’t go back there because Shae’s there. ‘Are you afraid of a dead whore?’ Tywin asks, earning himself a crossbow bolt to the chest. Don’t mess with Tyrion, people. When is his own family going to learn that? Tyrion calmly reloads as his father disowns him. Tyrion takes aim again, tells Tywin he’s always been his son, and shoots him dead. He finally finds Varys, who notes that something’s up and asks him what he’s done. Tyrion says nothing, so Varys just loads him into a crate and takes it down to the bay, where it’s loaded onto a ship. Varys turns to walk away, but then eyes the castle and apparently decides he’s just done with all this shit, and boards the ship as well. Probably for the best. In King’s Landing, all the cool people eventually die anyway.
Arya arrives at the coast and spots a ship. She locates the captain and asks him to take her north. He refuses, because it’s out of his way and also super dangerous. He tells her he’s on his way to Braavos and she hands over the Braavosi coin that Jaqen gave her. Apparently that thing’s like having some sort of super platinum frequent flyer card or something, because the guy immediately starts bowing and scraping and gives her a cabin and everything. So, Arya’s on her way.
That was a pretty death-filled episode, no? Not that I really mind losing a few characters at this point, because the cast is so huge I keep losing track of who’s who. Though with two major characters taking off for new locales, I’m sure we’re in for a whole slew of new faces next season.
That’s it for GoT in 2014. Let’s take a moment to remember the many, many dead, cheer for the ascendency of Sansa, and wonder what the hell ever happened to Rickon and Osha (shouldn’t they have reached Castle Black by now?). Until next year!