Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Game Of Thrones ended its fourth season with some big moments and a lot of questions.  And now that "The Children" is over, we get to wait till next year for more.  I wish it were on every week, but it would kill Benioff and Weiss.  (But would it kill George R. R. Martin to finish the next book before they pass the novels?)

Last week we spent the whole hour at the Wall, so I was surprised to see we're starting where we left off, with Jon Snow exiting the tunnel to find and kill Mance. (We sort of knew this would be in there somewhere, but it's not going to be the highlight--the two big scenes we're waiting for is Tyrion's execution, and Arya and Sansa finally meeting.  As we'll see, neither worked out as expected.)

Snow is allowed into Rayder's camp and they compare notes.  Mag, King of the Giants is dead, as is Ygritte.  Snow still pretends to strength, but Mance knows better.  He'll overtake the Watch in a day or two unless his people are allowed free passage to escape the White Walkers (who have been White Walking since the series began while their war is still just around the corner).  Snow makes a move to kill Mance, but it's a pretty cheap thing to do--Mance already spared him, as did Ygritte, so would he want to dishonor himself? Especially since it's far from clear that a dead Mance mean it ends.

Before we can get much further, a thousand men on horses raid the camp, routing the ragtag band.  It's Stannis with Davos.  I predicted they'd ride in like the cavalry last week, but here they finally are, a day late but instead of a dollar short, filled with Braavosi gold.  It's not clear to me how they knew to get there.  I assume Castle Black is around the middle of the Wall, so the coast on the Narrow Sea must be hundreds of miles off.  They decided to disembark on the north side?  And ride through the snow (without winter clothing) till they got to Mance's camp?  Wouldn't it make more sense to come up from the South and meet at Castle Black, where they'll probably be greeted with cheers?  (And if not, they could take it anyway).  And then, if they choose, they could come out through the tunnel.

But never fear, Stannis is here.  He and Davos have Mance cornered, along with Snow. Mance won't bend the knee, of course.  But we're interested in how Jon Snow treats Stannis.  Baratheon and Davos are pleased (if they were capable of showing that emotion) that Snow--as son of the honorable Ned Stark--recognizes he's the true king.  He also says if you knew what I'd know, you'll burn all the corpses and hold Mance rather than kill him.

At King's Landing, the aftermath.  The Viper is dead, of course, but the Mountain is poisoned and ready to shuffle off.  Pycelle says goodbye, but creepy Qyburn thinks he might save him.  Cersei once again sides with Qyburn, who looks to become the court favorite.  What they'll do with a reanimated Mountain is not certain, but who doesn't love a powerful zombie fighter.

Cersei goes to Tywin and has it out with him (which happens about every three episodes).  With all that's happened, she'd definitely not marrying Loras.  She pulls out her trump card--she'll tell everyone who the real father of her kids are.  Tywin probably knows the truth, but has been actively denying it all along.  Next she goes to Jaime. Last time they were alone (not including corpses) he took her by force. Now she forces the matter and Jaime is the one worried someone will come in.  But he's only too glad to go along.  As I've been saying from the start of this season, I thought Jaime changed, but apparently he still can't resist his sister.

At Meereen, Daenerys is still holding court.  Some of the oldsters want to sell themselves back into slavery, since they've got nowhere to go.  She allows it as long as the contract lasts no more than a year. (Is she worried about the UCC?). Barristan harrumphs it's slavery in all but name, but he's wrong--you get paid, you can leave after a while, what's the problem, old man?  The next issue is harder to deal with.  Her dragons (we haven't seen them in a while) are flying around the countryside and--it was bound to happen sooner or later--have killed a child.  It's really not clear what can be done. (Hey, dragons gotta eat.)  So she takes the two whose whereabouts are known (the third is still out there, and perhaps we can expect some trouble in season five) and chains them in the catacombs. Hey, I thought dragon fire could melt chains.  And rock, too.  But it's still a moving scene as the Mother of Dragons leaves behind the only children she'll every have.  (Lots of stuff about Children in this show of course, though the specific reference is still coming)

In general, I think getting bogged down in Meereen was a mistake for Dany.  The only excuse I can see is allowing her dragons to grow. But the point is she wants to rule Westeros. She's got an army, the enemy is in a weak position, make your move.  Otherwise, she's a sitting duck.  Without hardly trying Tywin has already split off her best advisor.  When everyone knows where you are, why can't some assassin slip in and end your quest?

Back at Castle Black they burn their dead Brothers.  Melisandre looks at Jon Snow through the fire.  She likes looking at fire, of course, but she also may be seeing something in Snow.  (Would she ever leave Stannis, though?)  Snow goes to see chained-up Tormund and they agree Ygritte deserves a burial north of the Wall, which she gets.  And we get a chance to say goodbye to Rose Leslie.

We stay North of the Wall with Bran. He and his pals have been traveling for quite a while. They finally get to the tree he's seen in his vision.  I was asking myself how can they travel all these miles without being attacked by White Walkers when suddenly these Ray Harryhausen reanimated skeleton start grabbing them through the snow.  And just as they were out of the woods, out of the dark, out of the night, ready to march up to the gate and bid it open.  It's quite a fight, with Bran taking over Hodor.  A kid near the tree appears and starts throwing fireballs. He's one of a group older than the First Men known as The Children. Aha.  But he's too late for Jojen, who knew he wasn't going to make it anyway.  (He was slowing things down anyway.) Everyone else gets into the tunnel underneath the tree where Bran meets some old guy who apparently is the three-eyed raven of his dreams.  He's been watching Bran--and everyone else--for years. The man tells Bran he won't walk again, but he will fly.  What does that mean?  Tune in next season.

Next we see Brienne.  I wasn't expect that--thinking of Arya, Sansa and Tyrion, I almost forgot her.  While she and Podrick were asleep someone stole their horses, so they'll have to hoof it themselves to the Bloody Gate about thirty miles off.  On the way, Brienne stumbles upon Arya--though she doesn't know who it is.  The Hound is busy defecating, but soon comes around--I was worried the wound had gotten to him but he seems okay.  Pod recognizes him and Brienne realized who the girl is--on of the Stark girl's she's pledged to protect.  This may be the biggest moment in the hour.  Brienne's had a tough time of it.  She pledged to Renly who died soon after.  She pledged to Catelyn who died soon after while Brienne couldn't even find her daughters. So after all this marching and searching, she's finally close to her goal.

But how will Arya react?  And the Hound? (Pod will just do what he's told.) Before we get to that, let me register disappointment that they didn't go on through the Bloody Gate even if Lady Arryn was dead.  So what?  Are there no other relatives around?  They'd just rather ride aimlessly?  What a shame, since Arya was so close to seeing Sansa, not to mention enjoying the protection of Littlefinger. (Not sure what he'd do with the Hound. Maybe pay him, more likely kill him.)

But through their long travels they've grown to appreciate one another, and probably would prefer to hang out together as long as possible. Arya, in any case, has plans of her own, and doesn't want to go with Brienne.  The Hound has become like a father, and wants to protect her--and doesn't believe Brienne can offer any protection.  (Can't we all just get along?)  At first the Hound thinks she's with the Lannisters--does have Jaime's sword after all--and just wants the reward on him. But he'd probably rather that be her goal over trying to take away his "daughter."

So a fight ensues. Brienne's specialty is taking on top fighters (Jaime, the Hound) when they're not at their best.  We don't know how weakened he is at present, but the fight goes back and forth and it looked for a while like he has the best of her.  I was thinking they wouldn't dare.  Both these characters have become fan favorites, but with the Hound's big speech a few episodes ago, and a festering wound, it seemed like they were priming him to say goodbye.  But not Brienne of Tarth.  (It's funny--these four characters are all well-liked and losing any one would piss off the fans--maybe Pod could go, but the other three, I don't know.)  Anyway, she finally forces him off a cliff.

But as the fight is happening, Arya is hiding.  She's obviously got plans of her own, though I'm not sure why she doesn't trust Brienne. But then, she's learned not to trust anyone.  Brienne is mad at Pod once again--this time for not watching the girl--but he was busy watching the fight.  Arya walks down to the Hound, seriously wounded but not dead.  (Why doesn't Brienne go down there? It's not that far.  But she's already off in another direction.)  He begs her to finish him, since unless there's a master behind a rock, he's going to die an agonizing death.  It seems like she might--he's on her list, after all--but she refuses and takes his silver instead.  Good for her. (Did the writers think it would be too cruel?) The question is will the Hound survive.  He's all but dead, bleeding out, can't walk, but if movies have taught us anything, it's if you don't see the dead body, the character can pop back up any time.  Maybe Arya, riding away on her horse, had a chance to stop and tell a master to go minister to the Hound.

We don't see any more of Brienne and Pod, though I assume she's crestfallen.  She's also ten miles away from the Gate, so I'm guessing she'll continue on her journey and maybe will meet up with Sansa, finally.  But all this is for next year.

Finally, the big moment.  Tyrion's in his cell, awaiting execution.  It's night. In comes Jaime to rescue him. It's almost too easy, after all we've been through. Jaime takes him up to a door with Varys on the other side, ready to spirit him out of town.  But once Jaime leaves, Tyrion has other ideas. Apparently he knows about the passageways (around the dungeon? why?) and trap doors and is soon in Tywin's room. (I think it's Tywin's room. Could be his old place.  Hard to tell.) Lying in bed is Shae, awaiting Tywin.

Okay, I'm a little confused.  They spent about two seasons convincing us Shae is in love with Tyrion. Was she faking?  She couldn't have been Tywin's confederate all that time, not possible.  Then he sends her away to protect her, but that pisses her off. Enough to turn on him?  Really?  She never leaves town and testifies against him at his trial. But I assumed she was forced into it--they told her lie for us and it'll save him, or something like that. Has she really, truly, turned on him, and is now even lying with Tywin?  (Hey, ho's gotta eat.) I don't get it.

Anyway, don't think we'll ever find out, since they struggle and Tyrion chokes her to death.  Then he gets the crossbow off the wall and visits dad (on Father's Day) in the privy.  Tywin acts calmly and commandingly, but Tyrion has the advantage. Tywin says what he can to get away, but Tyrion shoots a bolt, and then another for good measure.  Tywin, I assume, is dead.  After all that fighting to keep the family going, all his children are in open rebellion against him, and he's shot to death while defecating.  What a way to go.

Tyrion then meets up with Varys. A bit late, and Varys wonders what happened.  He gets in a shipping crate (Varys likes putting people in shipping crates--Tyrion certainly fits) and is going off somewhere, but where? The North?  Dorne?  The Iron Islands? Essos?  I think Fester--excuse me, Varys--is on the boat with Tyrion, though I'm not 100% sure.  Probably just as well if he is. Don't want to be the baggage with no one to pick you up.

In the final scene, Arya is alone for the first time in forever, riding her white horse across the countryside. At a dock, she wants passage to the Wall. I was a bit surprised, since 1) she's always talking about Braavos and 2) has a coin that gets her there.  Anyway, the Captain ain't going North, he's going home to Braavos.  How convenient.  She pulls out the coin and he's impressed.  Just like Jaqen promised.  She's shipping off to the East with her own cabin.  And the fourth season ends.

So where are we?  Way up North Bran has finally gotten to where he needs to be.  It's been a long trip but what does he do next? (And what of Osha and Rickon, by the way?) Stannis, with Davos and Melsiandre, is looking pretty good. He's in charge at the Wall and has plenty of troops to do with as he pleases.  But Roose and Ramsay Bolton hold the North, so if Stannis wanted to ride down the King's Road, he might have some trouble.  And where does Jon Snow fit into all of this?  Is he gonna stay back and take over the Wall, or does he have a bigger destiny?  For that matter, what will Samwell and Gilly do?  And where does Theon fit into all of this, too?

In King's Landing, it's a mess.  There's a power vacuum with Tywin gone.  Tommen may be called King, but he's just a pawn.  Mommy Cersei is probably the closest to being in charge. Will the marriage to Margaery go on, or will Cersei stop it? (You don't want to piss off Lady Olenna.)  Will Jaime remain in charge of the King's Guard, and keep up his nightly duties with sis?  Will he be fingered as the one who let Tyrion out, and have to flee?  We've seen Tyrion (and probably Varys) get out, though we don't know where they're going.

Plenty of action at the Eyrie.  The Hound lays dying, but Brienne and Pod have work to do, probably going to the castle.  Meanwhile, Littlefinger and Sansa (and Robin too, who may not be long for this world) run things and hope to control the game of thrones from afar.

In secondary areas, like Dorne and the Iron Islands, nothing but bad news. Will they respond? (And who's running Haarenhal?  For that matter, is anyone ready to take on Walder Frey?)

In general, the action may also be shifting East.  You've still got Dany stuck in Meereen, but her dragons--and the rest of her entourage--are growing.  Only poor Ser Jorah is MIA (while Daario is away for a while). Will Mormont head West or stick around to pine?  Meanwhile, Braavosi coin is funding Stannis's war. (Didn't he promise to take King's Landing?  Will they let him get away with fortifying the Wall?)  Then there's Arya, herself heading to Braavos.  For the longest time everyone seemed headed to King's Landing, but the action is spinning away from it.

Also, for the book readers, has Game Of Thrones finally gone far enough away from the books that they can no longer tell what will happen next? I hope so.  It's hard to read any material on the web without spoilers.  The fourth season reset the show for the TV fans--let's force the readers to think anew on everything, too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Random thoughts
-Mance's 100,000 looked like about 100 guys ambling through the woods
-The tree scene was very disappointing- felt like Spielberg's Amazing Stories! (that's not a compliment)- All of the sudden , we're in a summer blockbuster? Ick.
-The general structure of the books is in place with details wildly varying. While I like how they simplified Tyrion's confrontation with Tywin (avoiding the longer story about Tyrion's 13 year old "bride" from years ago), they needlessly simplified the killing of Shae- she tries to wheedle Tyrion in the books and tells him they forced her to it and he just doesn't believe and does her in. In the TV, I guess because he's a fan fav, they try introduce a concept of of self-defense. Too bad.

I think they are on the general structure of the books, but I am counting on the show being a lot tighter and to the point.

4:07 AM, June 17, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I agree on the paucity of Mance's troops. You'd think with all the CGI Stannis stuff they could have given the King-Beyond-The-Wall a few more ruffians. Though when you think about it, it wouldn't be so easy to mow them all down then, especially if there are any giants left.

I was just happy that Bran finally got to his destination. In the time that he was being dragged up North, Dany had been across Essos and back, conquering cities, gaining an army, and so on. Now maybe Bran can get to the next step in his story, whatever that is. If he's going to fly, maybe it'll move faster.

They seem to have mishandled the Shae story. At first it was a good idea--a whore he brings along with him to King's Landing, and a relationship that blossoms into love, but then you had her constant complaining about how he had to hide his love--didn't she know she'd die otherwise? But the ending of her story, most of which took place offscreen, was almost completely botched.

9:22 AM, June 17, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm fine with the substance of Bran's story, I just wish the golden tree (and the Skeletors) looked less cheesy. The soaring background music also-telling us dumb viewers that something significant and amazing was coming did not fit the dark and grungy look and feel I have come to expect from HBO's GOT.

10:38 AM, June 17, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm fine with the substance of Bran's story, I just wish the golden tree (and the Skeletors) looked less cheesy. The soaring background music also-telling us dumb viewers that something significant and amazing was coming did not fit the dark and grungy look and feel I have come to expect from HBO's GOT.

10:38 AM, June 17, 2014  

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