There was plenty of bloodshed and tears shed during the season finale of ‘Game of Thrones’ titled ‘The Children’….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
For a man who places family above all else, Tywin Lannister never truly tried to understand or be a father to those he sired to carry on his legacy. To Tywin, family was about carrying on tradition and planting the sigil deep in the heart of Westeros, dug in so deep that the Lannister name would live on for centuries. But one by one, Tywin’s children slipped through his grip as he personally wrenched hold of his strangle hold of power while acting as Hand of the King on two different occasions.
Jamie was supposed to be the heir apparent. The boy wonder with the most wondrous sword skills in all of Westeros, flowing golden locks passed down from generation to generation of Lannisters, and the alpha male Tywin needed to pass along the family seed. Of course there was Cersei — a striking creature who could have had any man with her beauty alone and smart enough to wield power from outside the throne.
And then there was Tyrion — the stain on the Lannister name who came into this world while simultaneously killing the family matriarch and to make matters even worse he was born a dwarf. A half-man. An imp. A constant reminder that genetics and mother nature spares no man or family, and even the Lannisters are susceptible to the cruel joke that is life.
From the time Tyrion was born, his family tried to find a way to rid themselves of him. From Cersei’s penis pinching torture session to Tywin’s repeated mockery of his son, Tyrion was born, tortured and expected to die. In that order.
The latest effort finally succeeded as Tyrion stood trial for the murder of King Joffrey, a crime he didn’t commit, accused by a sister who never loved him and a father acting as judge who would personally swing the executioner’s sword if it were acceptable. The only person in Tyrion’s corner, again and again, has been his brother Jamie. While the character of Jamie Lannister has undergone a massive transformation in the past couple of seasons while going from brash royal to humbled good guy, the one constant he’s never turned away is the love he feels for his brother Tyrion.
So with Tyrion just moments away from his head being placed on a chopping block after Prince Oberyn Martell failed to kill The Mountain Gregor Clegan in their trial by combat, it’s his brother Jamie who can’t stand the thought of losing this piece of his family. Tyrion was worth saving and Jamie was willing to risk everything to ensure his brother lived to breathe, drink wine and buy whores for many days to come.
What happened after Tyrion’s escape — well stay tuned for that a little later.
The King in the North
Jon Snow has tried his hardest all season long to warn his brothers of the Night’s Watch that an army of over 100,000 men, giants and mammoths would soon be knocking at their iron clad gates, looking to trounce anything and everything in their wake as they marched into Westeros. On last week’s episode of ‘Game of Thrones’, the first charge took place with hundreds of men making the attempt to overrun Castle Black, but when the day was over, the Night’s Watch was still alive. Jon knew this wasn’t the full brunt of Mance Rayder’s army, but instead a small smattering of troops to test their defenses before launching an even bigger offensive in the days to come.
So instead of allowing the last of the Night’s Watch to be killed off by a wilding army, Jon ventures north of the wall to negotiate with Mance.
Jon’s arrival brings out plenty of Northerners who would love nothing more than to sharpen their axes before burying the blade right between his bastard head, but Mance is smart enough to know if the Night’s Watch is sending out a long soldier to help wave the white flag already, his job is already done. All Mance wanted was to get the people north of the Wall past the monstrosity to live under it’s massive shadow of protection instead of living in fear that they could never conquer it. As it turns out, Mance just wanted his people to live and with winter bearing down on them (first time we’ve heard ‘winter is coming’ in quite some time) and a group of ghoulish blue-eyed zombies claiming every dead body as their own, the King Beyond the Wall is in this for survival, not gold and certainly not stature.
Just when it looks like negotiations have found a point of contention, the warning horns sound and the wildings begin falling like dominoes as mounted soldiers start invading the forest one by one, swords clanging and slicing through flesh. The attacks are coming from all sides and numbers can’t outlast skill. Remember last season when Jon warned Ygritte that every king beyond the wall gets the idea that they can build an army to conquer Westeros, but once they get over the Wall, reality sets in with brutal results. An untrained army is just that — untrained — and without any knowledge about battle tested conditions, the wilding army was nothing but 100,000 people handed sharp, stabbing weapons and told to go get em!
Following the short battle, Mance throws down his weapons to surrender to the conquering king who has arrived to smash the wilding invasion. It’s none other than Stannis Baratheon, finally heeding the call of Maester Aemon from last season when the warnings went out to every person in the seven kingdomes to please come help flank the Wall from an invading army ready to roll over Westeros. Stannis took his sweet time, but in reality he had to find an army after getting his ass handed to him at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Beyond the enchanted words from his red priestess Melisandre about the threat coming from north of the wall, Stannis thwarted this invasion because as the one true king of Westeros, it’s his job to protect the realms of men.
George R.R. Martin said it best when talking about why Stannis was willing to use his new Braavosi funded army to smash the wilding invaders.
“Stannis has been trying to become king to save the realm when he should have been saving the realm to become king.”
Stannis also meets Jon Snow for the first time and he’s impressed with the bastard son of his original supporter, Ned Stark. Let’s not forget when Ned was beheaded all those seasons ago, it was for the right reasons that Stannis was the one true king of Westeros following the death of his brother Robert considering he had no legitimate children. Jon addresses Stannis as ‘your grace’, which means he also recognizes the true king who should be sitting on the Iron Throne, and in a moment of mercy he suggests that Mance Rayder be spared and taken prisoner because that’s the honorable thing to do — the same thing his father would have done in the same place. Stannis listens and puts Mance in chains to be taken prisoner instead of taking his life.
With the war at its end, Jon is able to take Ygritte’s body to north of the Wall and burn her body while saying his final goodbyes to the woman he loved. Back at Castle Black, the dead brothers of the Night’s Watch are being burned, again for obvious reasons, and as the flickering flames reach higher and higher one can’t help but notice Jon’s stare across the funeral pyre catching the eye of Lady Melisandre. Is she seeing the blood of kings flowing through Jon the same way she did Gendry and this will once again ignite her magic to help put Stannis on the throne? Or does Melisandre see something else behind those eyes that makes her interested to know more about Jon’s true heritage?
If you don’t know the conspiracy theories involving Jon Snow, feel free to listen to my explanation from a local radio show where I covered this popular theory about who may really be this bastard’s parents and why he’s so important to the survival of the seven kingdoms.
It was great to finally see Stannis do something for the right reasons and actually prove to be the one king in the kingdom fight for the greater good. Sure, his ultimate goal is take over the Iron Throne and that’s a more selfish reason than actually assisting to save the wall, but Stannis knows now to gain the support of the people of Westeros is the best way to actually prove he’s the one true king. With his army already north of the wall, it would make sense for him now to march south and go after Roose Bolton after his betrayal at The Red Wedding killed off the real King in the North, Robb Stark and his entire family. It’s a slow march towards the south, but imagine if Stannis is able to crush the Boltons while also thwarting the invaders from the north in one fell swoop. It would be hard to deny his worth as king at that point.
The Maker of Chains
Much of this season has been split into two parts for Daenerys as she learns what it means to be queen instead of conqueror. The common theme amongst all of the supposed kings and queens who all lay claim to the Iron Thrones is that they can win a war, but running a kingdom is an entirely different story. Robert Baratheon was a skull smashing general, destroying anyone wearing a Targaryen sigil with his war hammer as he battled his way to take the throne, but once he sat there the great leader of war became an abysmal politician. Until the Mad King arrived in King’s Landing, the Targaryens had actually run Westeros for hundreds of years in fairly peaceful manner, but war sends an entire nation into upheaval and the truth is ever since Robert’s rebellion, the kingdoms have never settled back into a healthy, peaceful tranquility.
Robb Stark was on a mission of revenge while trying to conquer the throne, but we never know how he would govern the North if given the chance. Lest we forget Bran Stark’s feeble attempts to dole out assignments and work orders while he was left in charge of Winterfell in his brother’s absence. Stannis failed to conquer King’s Landing and then couldn’t even feed the people he still ruled while on Dragonstone (the former home to the Targaryen clan). Daenerys is trying to learn what it means to be queen now that she’s taken over Meereen from the slavers.
She finds out in quick order in the finale that breaking chains isn’t as easy as saying ‘here’s freedom, now go enjoy it!’. Much like the prison mentality discussed so often when a person is released after years of incarceration — when living life inside a cell is all you know, it’s not easy to readjust to the outside world. It’s a major reason why there is so much recidivism rate amongst prisoners in the United States — prison in the only place where they know how to thrive. Such is the case when Daenerys meets an older man who is now a former slave. He was a translator and teacher, who lived with his master and taught his children new languages and the history of the known world. He may have been a slave, but he was an important man to this family handing out knowledge like essential nutrients to a group of thirsty minds. Now with freedom laid in his lap, the old man is nothing more than a refugee meant to struggle for food and shelter while living in a world ruled by the young. All he wants is to go back to the life he had months earlier before Daenerys ever arrived. He wants his sense of normalcy back.
Daenerys opts to grant his wish under one condition — he can sign a one-year contract with his owner for services rendered to allow him to go back to work and live out his days as a teacher. Ser Barristan warns her that the masters will try to take advantage of this crack in her armor when it comes to slavery, but Daenerys has made up her mind and this is what needs to be done for her people.
The next guest who visits her royal chamber is another person from the Meereen kingdom brought to tears by the actions of one of her dragons loose in the wild. The tear filled man explains that the great beast appeared from out of nowhere and cut down his three year old daughter with a burst of flames, leaving him only with a pile of bone and ash for what used to be his little girl. It’s a clear indication that while Daenerys is learning what it means to be an effective leader, she can’t rule over a kingdom while not even being able to control ‘her children’.
Ser Friend Zone (Jorah) warned Daenerys at the start of this season that dragons cannot be tamed, even by their mother and they long to fly free and do what the great beasts were meant to do. The reality is the Targaryens used dragons to conquer Westeros hundreds of years ago, and the greatest warriors from the family were able to mount and ride their dragons into battle. There was a great bond between rider and dragon, and it was this kind of control that allowed them to use the beasts during war. Daenerys has failed to create this kind of relationship with any one of her dragons and instead tried to act as mother to all three. Now with Drogon (the large black dragon) missing, she’s forced to make the hard decision to lock up her other two dragons in chains deep in the catacombs beneath Meereen.
Daenerys is brought to tears as her dragons scream out in tortured pain unable to break free of the chains now wrapped around their necks. She fought so hard all season long to create a kingdom built on freedom, but the only way Daenerys knows to control her dragons is to keep them locked away so they are unable to hurt anyone else. It’s quite possibly the hardest decision she’s had to make since becoming queen, but that’s what ruling a kingdom is all about — doing what needs to be done even if it’s heartbreaking to do it.
The Children of the Cave
I’m not going to lie — of all the stories ongoing during this spectacular fourth season of ‘Game of Thrones’ it’s Bran’s never ending journey north of the wall that I care about the least. Maybe because it reminds me so much of Lord of the Rings where all they do is walk for three straight hours in monotonous fashion, but Bran, Hodor and the Reeds have the most magical journey with the smallest amount of interest.
Well in the finale, the fearsome foursome finally reaches the heart tree in the middle of the north where all the secrets are supposed to be revealed to them. Before Bran can have his big revelation, however, the dead start springing to life from beneath the snow like something out of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. Meera fights off the wights while Bran possesses Hodor once again to turn him into a lean, mean killing machine and Summer does his part as well to rip up a few of the undead soldiers.
In a sad turn, Jojen becomes the lone victim in this battle as one of the wights springs back to life after being dispatched and the thing stabs the young boy repeatedly until his eyes and mouth fill up with blood. Just as it looks like this will be the turning point when Bran and his group are overtaken, a flash of light comes raining down upon the undead, bursting them into flames. From a nearby cave a young child appears and tells Bran and his group to follow her to find safe passage. Once inside, the wights are unable to pass the mystical barrier, and they are able to regroup and find that this is the real place they should have been searching for all along.
The group’s savior explains that she is one of the ‘children of the forest’ best known in the seven kingdoms as ‘the children’, who were a part of Westeros long before the First Men. As history tells us, the children of the forest played a part in the first battle against the White Walkers as they tried to invade the south and conquer it. The children are known to have magical powers and while they first went to war with the First Men over the lands now recognized as Westeros, eventually they reached a peace treaty when a much greater threat came calling. Following the ‘Battle for the Dawn’, the children and the First Men co-existed peacefully, but over time the original inhabitants of Westeros moved further and further north of the wall and until now hadn’t been seen in thousands of years.
Inside the cave, Bran meets an age old greenseer, who tells him that Jojen’s death was predicted and he knew it would happen along this mission but he came anyways because the end game was much more important than any one life — even his own. The mystic then informs Bran that he will be granted his greatest wish, but when the young boy believes he’s about to regain his legs, the greenseer tells him he’ll never walk again — but he will fly.
While the most likely course of action for Bran next season will be him inhabiting the body of the three-eyed raven as he looks into the past and future as he’s already done in some visions this year, think about this one additional possibility. Remember in one flash this season, Bran sees the Iron Throne in the Red Keep with snow falling down all around. This is the same vision Daenerys witnesses when she visits the House of the Undying in season two. Maybe, just maybe, Bran will be able to fly by way of inhabiting the mind of a dragon using his warging powers. The snow in the Red Keep leads me to believe ‘winter is coming’, which means a Stark and a Targaryen will ultimately have a hand in who sits in the Iron Throne. Again, just a few theories to keep in mind and something to keep me interested in what was the only dull storyline all season long.
While Bran’s walking journey has been rather boring outside of a random Hodor going Hulk attack, the path being cut across Westeros by Arya and the Hound has been a eye popping good time all year long. From eating every fucking chicken in this place to a laugh riot trip to the Eyrie, Arya’s journey alongside her unlikeliest protector has been a particularly fun ride slurped down gulp by gulp like a good bowl of rabbit stew.
It appears that journey has reached its apex, however, after Arya and the Hound cross paths with Brienne of Tarth and Podrick as they try to reach the Eyrie on a mission to find and rescue Sansa Stark. Brienne catches Arya practicing her sword play, and when she confronts the young woman and Pod recognizes Sandor Clegane it only takes her a second to realize his companion is the youngest Stark child missing ever since Ned’s beheading in King’s Landing.
Brienne tries to explain how she’s been tasked with protecting the Stark children after an oath to their mother Catelyn, but with a Valyrian steel sword wrapped in Lannister gold on his waist, the Hound is quick to intervene and prevent her from taking one more step towards Arya.
If you remember the short lived battle between Brienne and Jamie from last season, the sword fight with Brienne and the Hound trumps it by leaps and bounds. The two able warriors battle back and forth, each gaining the upper hand on the other but eventually Brienne is able to stun the Hound with a shot and drop him down a ravine where he tumbles to the spot where he will likely die of his war wounds. By the time Brienne finishes her work, Arya is nowhere to be found and they are back on the hunt to find the young Stark girl.
As it turns out, Arya was hiding and she ventures down into the rock cliff where the Hound has fallen and currently lays broken and bleeding. He begs for a quick death and even attempts to force Arya’s hand by doting about his murder of the butcher’s boy and how he should have raped her sister Sansa when he had the chance. None of it works and instead of jamming needle through the Hound’s eye, Arya walks away from her former protector as he presumably bleeds out on the countryside.
Arya turns up at a dock where a ship full of men are about to set sail. She reaches out to the captain asking for safe passage to the North where she hopes to reunite at the Wall with her brother Jon Snow. Unfortunately this ship is on a one way trip to the free city of Braavos, and it’s here that Arya finally plays her trump card.
With the faceless coin in hand, she recites the words ‘valar morghulis’ (all men must die) and the captain from Braavos looks stunned as he stares back at the young girl. Instead of working for her living on the boat, Arya is now a welcomed guest with her own cabin as the crew heads back across the Narrow Seat to the city of Braavos, but what awaits Arya when she arrives? We won’t know that until next season.
For all the great plots Tywin Lannister has hatched these last few seasons — showing up just in the nick of time at the Battle of Blackwater Bay, the Red Wedding, and outing Jorah Mormont thus taking him away from Daenerys Targaryen — the Hand of the King is still suffering when it comes to the politics of his family. He promised his daughter Cersei to Loras Tyrell with the nuptials eventually producing the next line of Lannister heirs, but she wants no part of this arrangement and finally puts her foot down about the matter. As well informed as Tywin seems to be about all matters in Westeros, he still doesn’t want to believe that his daughter and son would engage in an incestuous love affair that spawned three children, one of whom now sits as king on the Iron Throne. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Cersei over the years, she’s fiercely loyal when it comes to her children. Unlike Tywin who treats his children like pawns to move around the board, she sees her children as the only gifts worth living for but obviously also wants to maintain control over them for as long as she can. With Tommen about to marry Margaery, the hooks are about to be sunk in and Cersei’s manipulation of her son would come to a crashing halt.
So Cersei threatens to out her life long affair with Jamie and subsequent bastard children if that’s what it takes to prevent her marriage to Loras and exit from King’s Landing. Tywin’s disbelief is possibly the first crack in the old man’s armor we’ve seen through four seasons getting to know this wickedly cerebral and strategic mind who truly rules Westeros.
Cersei now empowered by finally getting one up on her father goes to visit Jamie, and declares their love affair back on after pushing him away earlier this season. The two have sex in the middle of a meeting room, and whether they are discovered or not doesn’t matter to Cersei — she wants what she wants and she wants it now. Cersei also employs Maester Qyburn to help save ‘The Mountain’ when it’s revealed (very quietly mind you) that Oberyn poisoned his spear and with every stab, he knew the man who raped and murdered his sister and her children would die regardless of him winning or losing (and he lost – badly). Qyburn believes he can save Clegane, but he won’t be quite the same again although he’ll be just as powerful.
Meanwhile, Jamie’s momentary tryst with his sister is short lived to his real purpose this episode — with his brother Tyrion set to be executed in a fortnight, he decides to spring him from lockup and provide him transport to one of the free cities where he’ll be far out of the reach of their father and their sister for that matter. Tyrion learns it’s Lord Varys who has provided the transportation for this sojourn across the sea. It seems his treachery in court was another attempt for Varys to save his own skin in the face of the real power in Westeros staring back at him, but his loyalty always remained with Tyrion.
Once he’s set free, Tyrion decides to forgo the quick exit and instead visits his father’s chambers one final time before fleeing to the other side of the world where he’ll presumable never see Westeros again.
Inside his father’s room he spots the outline of a woman laying in his bed, and as he draws closer and closer a voice rings out ‘Tywin, my lion’ and as Tyrion’s heart sinks to the bottom of his chest, he realizes this is Shae — the women he loved and the woman who betrayed him in open court, essentially burying him for the murder of King Joffrey. Shae grabs a knife, but Tyrion pounces and eventually grabs hold of one of her gold necklaces, presumably a present from her newest benefactor, as he strangles the life out her. Tyrion’s heart wrenching grunts and moans are nothing short of emotional torture as he kills the woman he loves. With this latest betrayal, Tyrion now only has one person left to see before he leaves the city for good.
With a crossbow in hand, Tyrion finds his father Tywin on a chamber pot and as he points the bolt straight at his heart, he tries to understand one final time why this man hated him so much that he wished him dead. Tywin wiggles and squirms as his son points the bow right at him, and a real wash of fear comes over him as he realizes for all his grand schemes to rule the world, this is likely the end of his reign. He tries to reason with Tyrion, saying he would have never killed him, but his youngest son knows better.
This is the man who told Tyrion that he was a poison from the day he was born. An infant that cost Tywin his wife, and then when he stopped growing as a boy, he became a small but constant reminder that all the gold in the world can’t stop evolution from robbing you of a legacy. Tyrion then tells Tywin about Shae and when he mentions the world ‘whore’, he fires a bolt into his father’s chest.
As Tywin’s eyes fill up with shock and surprise he once again questions Shae’s role in this entire ordeal and trivializes her again as nothing but a whore and Tyrion fires a second arrow into his chest. For all the great wars Tywin Lannister won while leading a charge of soldiers or writing letters sent off by ravens that murdered an entire family at a wedding feast, it was his own inadequacy to manage the children he bore that brought the end of his life. Tyrion quickly shuffled off to the boat provided by Varys, but as the city bells rang out with the discovery of Tywin’s dead body, the spider with little birds all around had no choice but to join his castaway friend in a quick exit from King’s Landing.
Tyrion’s murder of Tywin seemed like the only fitting end for this long tormented and tortured soul who was told from the moment he could understand words that he was nothing but a plague beset on his family. He grew up with a father who didn’t want him and a sister who hated him for taking away their mother. He was called imp and half man, mocked for any and everything possible. Tywin compounded Tyrion’s misery like a bank gathers interest, but eventually just like the Iron Bank in Braavos wants to get paid, the lion has to answer for all his misdeeds.
Tyrion just lived up to his family name when he slammed two arrows into his father’s chest because a Lannister always pays his debts and in the end Tywin’s bill finally came due.