Where the hell do I start this week? Might as well get this out of the way first:
WARNING: This post contains spoilers that include information regarding up to and including Season 4, Episode 10 of ‘Game of Thrones’. You’ve been adequately warned.
As ‘Thrones’ season finales are apt to do, this season ended with more beginnings than it did endings. In a departure from tradition, I’m going to lead off with some stray thoughts and then dive into my main takeaways from the episode, most of which shockingly center around my favorite character.
- What the hell is that mad scientist going to do with the Mountain? He admits that whatever he has planned “may change him” – what does that mean? Is he going to reanimate the Mountain as a zombie? Ooh! How about a RoboCop? Please tell me that the Mountain will spend next season as King’s Landing’s RoboCop.
- After throwing down some of the show’s most badass moments with a shout of “Dracaris!”, Daenerys Stormborn / Khaleesi / Breaker of Chains / Mother of Dragons / Baberaham Lincoln’s storylines have been reduced to a bunch of stuff one might see on C-SPAN. And not even the cool stuff, like the UK’s Prime Ministers Questions, where Members of Parliament are totally allowed to hurl insults at each other, so long as they address each other with respectful phrases like “the good sir” and (my favorite) “the learned gentlemen”.
- When Daenerys decreed that the max time a person could basically sell his or her self into slavery was one year, I’d bet David Stern was watching at home, yelling, “Shit! I just needed some dragons!”
- I’d also bet that the Lannister family was inspired when George R.R. Martin had writer’s block, was eating some Corn Flakes, and an episode of Springer came on TV. Brother / sister coitus? Check. Midget? Check. They’re a white trash stripper away from the Jerry Trifecta.
- Why was Melisandre staring so intently at Jon Snow? Could he have some weird value to her, ala the blacksmith’s apprentice? Maybe she just heard he had a thing for redheads.
- Two characters were semi-conspicuously absent from the finale: Roose Bolton and
Mayor CarcettiLord Baelish. I’ve speculated that they’re setting up next season to have those two go at it for Northern supremacy, so them laying low this week somehow makes sense to me.
- I love the term “kneelers”, despite the acid flashbacks it gives me to 12 years of Catholic school.
- Let me get this straight: Rayder’s Wildling Alliance Forces gave the Night’s Watch everything they could handle all night at the Wall. Still, somehow, Stannis had enough firepower to overrun them in about six minutes. How many of the hundred thousand bodies they were boasting got killed the previous night? How did Stannis even get up there? More importantly, why?
- Tywin was lying his ass off when he told Tyrion he wasn’t going to let him get executed. Killed on a toilet, with utter shit coming out of both his holes.
And, since the episode title was “The Children”, you knew I was going to do this:
The Three Eyed Raven Smokes Them Trees
“I have watched you all with a thousand eyes and one” sounds like the sort of thing you’d hear followed by “Yo, dude, pass that”.
So the Three Eyed Raven is actually an old guy who lives in a tree. Bran totally got catfished. At least he doesn’t have a made-up girlfriend. Although, the 3ER doesn’t fit as well into a Twitter scandal as he would a show hosted by Chris Hansen, but, I digress.
Here’s how I read Bran’s situation: That particular Heart / Weirwood tree appears to be some sort of Warg central command. I’m sure Mike Bloomberg is very jealous.
The “thousand eyes” with which our creepy new friend has been watching everyone are the various animals he Warged. Can I verb “Warg”? Well, I’m going to for the rest of this post.
Given the appearance of that fireball chucking pixie (and what we’ve already seen from Bran and Jojen), it appears that the Old Gods are a very real thing. It also appears that Jojen knew that Bran has some kind of special importance in their grand scheme, because he was willing to die to get Bran to the 3ER. Now, Bran can play his role in whatever’s coming by Warging from that Weirwood tree with the 3ER. Maybe the 3ER is dying and needs a replacement?
We also saw Melisandre at Castle Black giving Jon Snow the sex eye. We’ve seen her do some crazy stuff in the name of the Lord of Light, even though she admits a lot of it is parlor tricks. The demon baby assassin, however, was very much not, nor was that dude who got reincarnated in the woods a season or two ago. So, we know that there’s something to the beliefs of the followers of the Lord of Light.
Which has me thinking: Could this be the build up to some kind of religious war? We know that Melisandre et. al. have no time for people of other faiths. The seem to delight in burning them at the stake. One can only assume that the Old Gods find this practice decidedly not-cool. We’ll see.
“What, Dave? No funny subtitle here?”
Nah. There was too much going on with her this week to get cute about it.
“And what about Tyrion killing his father? That’s not going to get its own subheader?”
While that was deservedly the “Oh shit!” moment of the episode, I didn’t find it terribly interesting. Tywin beat Tyrion down until he had the opportunity to snap. I did enjoy Varys hearing the bells, kind of rolling his eyes, realizing he might be somewhat imperiled in King’s Landing, and getting on the boat. I hope that Season 5 has more Varys; he’s one of the show’s more engaging figures.
I just think there’s more to dissect in the confrontation between the Hound / Arya and Brienne / Podrick, and its aftermath.
It’s easy to forget that even “good” guys need to establish credibility. Arya was initially very taken by Brienne, which makes a ton of sense. Westeros is somewhat light on female badasses to look up to, making Brienne a unique figure to Arya, aspiring female badass.
The way people talk about parenthood changing people, I believe that his time with Arya ultimately did change the Hound. I don’t think he was speaking idly when he told Brienne that he was “looking after [Arya]”. The Hound has done many messed up things, but his mini-monologue about there being no safety in the world was telling. Further, he’d seen this world with no safety turn Arya, a small, female child into a cold, brutal, violent creature.
He also saw the childlike naïvety that was still left in her. While dying, he noted that she needs to be “saved” from her water dancing and her Needle. Those things gave Arya the very false impression that she could handle things for which was was in no way equipped to handle. That’s a very dangerous combination of emotions, and the Hound, despite some of his more goon-ish tendencies, was not dumb. He knew that Arya was dead, and probably brutally so, without adult supervision. I also think he developed a genuine fondness for the fight in Arya.
When the Hound pointed out the Lannister markings in Brienne’s equipment, her credibility was shot. Both the Hound and Arya knew she could be lying about the oath she swore to the late Lady Stark. She could’ve been telling the truth, but it didn’t matter. Arya summed that up in her response to Brienne’s protestations that she swore an oath to protect Catelyn: “Why didn’t you?”
Brienne, essentially, admitted to being a failure (albeit for reasons sort of beyond her control) to persuade Arya. It was a hopeless effort, given the brutality Arya had seen on the road with the Hound.
The fight between the Hound and Brienne was one of the show’s most brutal. Brienne went full-Tyson on the Hound. It was ugly, dirty, and I’m guessing more than a few viewers were conflicted about who they’d rather see win (this is a sign of great storytelling). Brienne won the battle, but still lost the Stark girl.
What are we to make of Arya’s refusal to mercy-kill the Hound? Much in the way Tyrion bated Shae into leaving King’s Landing with the meanest words he could muster, the Hound, when simply asking wasn’t enough, brought up all the reasons Arya could have to hate him to anger her into ending his pain. She, unlike Shae, didn’t bite.
Leaving him to die was the coldest revenge Arya could exact on him. Personally, I think it was something she owed him for keeping her alive as long as he did. Perhaps that’s the point: few people in the ‘Game of Thrones’ world are as viscerally aware as Arya Stark that the world is not fair.
Which brings us to the closing scene. Maybe due to her last conversation with the Hound, Arya knew she needed help. The Wall and Jon Snow were the logical place to go, which is why she asked the Braavosi captain to take her there. When it became obvious that wasn’t happening, and the captian drops that he’s going to Braavos, Arya recognized her ace in the hole: the coin given to her by Jaqen at the end of Season 2. Jaqen had basically invited her to train with the Faceless Men in Braavos. She declined, seeking to reunite with her family.
She knew she needed help, and, with most of her family dead, Braavos was among the last places for her to go. With two words – Valar Morghulis – she was on her way there.
I was taken aback by the captain’s reaction to the coin. There was shock, confusion, and even a bit of fright. When Arya said the words, the gravity of it was highlighted by the captain’s response: “Valar dohaeris. You shall have a cabin.” I don’t know what Arya just got herself into. I don’t think she knows, either. I can’t wait to find out.
“Seriously, Dave, why so much Arya talk?”
While so many of the show’s dramatic speeches and soliloquies are delivered by Varys and Littlefinger, the show seems to revolve disproportionately around Arya. Consider the finales of all four seasons:
Season 1 – The Night’s Watch recruiter dressed Arya like a boy and snuck her out of King’s Landing.
Season 2 – Jaqen helped Arya and her friends flee Harrenhall.
Season 3 – The Hound got Arya the hell away from the site of the Red Wedding.
Season 4 – Arya punched her ticket to Braavos.
While not necessarily the closing scene in each instance, every season thus far has ended with Arya moving on to a new part of her journey. This season’s finale hints that three of the remaining Stark children have significant roles to play in whatever is to follow. There’s still time for Sansa to join that party and complete the set, even though I think she’s a goner next season.
With everything that’s going on, there are still hints that the “story” is about the Stark children. I’m eager to see if and how that unfolds.
As the people who have read the books are probably chuckling at me.
Staring down the prospect of ten-ish Throne-less months, I’m seriously considering reading the books. The buzz I’m hearing is that the finale significantly distances the show from the plot of the books; book-reader folk, is that true? That would make me want to read them more, as I’d have two parallel storylines to follow, and ‘Game of Thrones’ does some great storytelling.
Also, with the season over, I need something else to write about. We’ll have plenty of World Cup and baseball, but I want something not-sports to muse about on a weekly basis. I’m reopening the suggestion box. If there’s a topic you’re curious to read my ongoing thoughts on, let me know what that is in the comments section below, via e-mail or Twitter.
Thanks for reading; if you enjoy, please show me some ‘Like’ love on Facebook or re-Tweet my links to these posts. I take great joy in knowing that people are reading what I’m putting out, and would appreciate any help towards the cause.
And I will get a 2nd post out this week – either late tonight or tomorrow morning. My bad on the delay – this was an episode that needed a second viewing before talking about it.