Game Of Thrones Season 4 Episode 10 recap

I complained about how much time was spent at Castle Black last week and I know I wasn’t wrong, but there’s conflict there, at least. The previouslies remind us that there are too many parts of this show that are just so much talking and not enough actual breath-holding terror and delight.  

Jon Snow makes his way away from the Wall. He’s little and there’s no way around it. The crows have already begun picking at the bodies from last night’s battle – if you can call it “last night”. The lighting is so blue and bleak. Jon walks directly into a wildling camp and straight to Manse Rayder. He and Manse drink to Ygritte and Jon chokes on the not-wine. Manse says he’s sent hundreds more to follow the ones who fell. They will get through it no matter what. They want to hide behind the wall – or else they’ll kill all the occupants. Jon is eyeing a knife but before it can be a whole “we’d shoot you soon as kill you”, there’s an attack of, what, 8,000 on black horses?   Jon is as dumbfounded as anyone else as a rounded battalion comes roaring through the trees. Make it two rounded battalions and 16,000 men? They look like scurrying ants – a few are on white horses. This scene is a director’s dream and an AD’s nightmare. Manse just watches as the horsemen slash and stab…

It’s Stannis Baratheon! Holy Sh*t! And Ser Davos. I was not expecting that. I mean, it says something for the surprise factor, that’s for sure. Stannis greets Manse and then there’s actually banter about wardrobe and who is and who isn’t dressed for the North. Manse won’t kneel to Stannis, who wastes no time being a dick. Still, Manse holds fast.  “We do not kneel.”

Davos points out that anyone wearing Night’s Watch cloaks should be kneeling to the “true king” about then and  Jon Snow announces that he’s Ned Stark’s son.   Stannis is all “riiight”. You have to say that for him, he’s unflappable. What would Ned say to him about Manse? Jon surprises him by advising that he should take him prisoner – and then follows that he should burn the bodies. You know. Just in case.   It’s worth noting that Jon doesn’t wind up kneeling either.

King’s Landing is always such a relief. Pycelle and some crazy doctor type, plus Cersei, are poking the Mountain and his wounds, which involve manticore poison among others. Cersei seems to be implying that it smells bad but is basically the teenage girl tittering in the corner. Pycelle says there’s no saving him, but this mad scientist who seems imported from Harry Potter is preparing to electrocute/burn/Frankenstein the Mountain. Even though it may “change” him. He starts extracting blood that seems as thick as syrup, and it’s the least gross thing on this show all season.

At which point. Cersei goes to Tywin and says she won’t marry Loras Tyrell. Tywin says she must, since Tyrion is going to be killed and Jaime won’t inherit. And Cersei says she won’t marry Loras and she won’t leave Tommen, and this is why she’s so compelling as a character. She won’t let Margaery and Tywin tear her last baby son apart. He points out that many a bride before her has been dragged, crying, down the aisle – it won’t be any different for her. I think this is where we begin to see Tywin not as the clever mastermind we think he is, but a more unbalanced megalomaniac. It might be extreme to say so but the next five minutes and the 40 after that bear me out. The idea that he could have deliberately tuned it all out, for years…

Cersei says she’ll tear the family apart rather than move off to Highgarden and then when he calls her bluff about it she realizes he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know! I’m not sure if telling her father the truth for the first time is the perverse pleasure  it looks like or if any of it is spiked with pain. Everything about her and Jaime is true, she says, with the most eerie look on her face. Her children are incestuous spawn.  Tywin’s legacy is a lie. She walks away from him, not even waiting to watch him reel.

Jaime’s chambers. Cersei and Jaime now debate whether Tyrion is or is not her family. He wants to save him and she still despises “the disease” for killing her mother. Then she chooses Jaime, actively. She says as much, tells him that she told Tywin everything. Jaime’s face gets paler but Cersei is moving up on him in a way that tells us she truly has nothing left to lose. “I love my brother. I love my lover.”   He’s still hesitant until she puts a seductive mouth straight onto his hand – not the real one. That’s all it takes. They do it on an octagonal logoed table…and I buy why he loves her, too. One thing about Cersei – she never, ever pretends to be anyone other than who she is.

The Khaleesi is exactly where we left her and the announcement of her title takes longer than ever. May I just point out the hubris of having one’s title announced before the poor and downtrodden who have less than nothing, titles being the least of same? She’s meeting a man named Fennesz – who tells her that since she’s freed the slaves he has been cast out as a respected teacher and has no purpose. He’s too old to change and the young prey on the old, leaving only squalour. Boom – the first in many, many cracks in Daenerys’s easy-peasy kindergarten justice. Daenerys says the guy can sign a contract, even as her advisor tells her it’s not that simple, that slavery will start again. She’s unsettled….

To compound her bad day, the next guy who appears is weeping…and carrying the burnt body of a tiny girl who was flayed by a wayward dragon. It’s probably wise that the skeleton looks a bit cartoonish but…cartoonish it is.

Dany now relegates two of her dragons to some catacombs. But there’s no sign of the third, the rogue who did the killing. Slowly, deliberately, she shackles the dragons and I mean, in terms of dragon attachment parenting, is it nicer to do it this way where they can’t see the sky they can’t fly in? She leaves, they cry, the parenting metaphor is right out in the open. Daenerys walks into the light – and rolls a boulder over the door. If you were hoping for more from this story this year, or wanted to see Emilia Clarke do some acting, I am sorry to tell you the sun has set on the Stormborn for this season.

Castle Black is burning their dead. We see some of our familiar faces and again, still, it’s that creepy winter half-light. It’s stunning in its bleakness. As the ceremonial burning begins, Stannis and Davos watch, silently. And through the flames, Jon Snow sees Melisandre…

Then he goes to see Tormund. He would rather have died, but as it happens, tough life. Tormund thinks Jon spent too long with the wildlings, that he’ll never be happy with a king again, even as Jon protests he doesn’t have a king. Then he wants to know whether Jon loved Ygritte, because that’s going to go well for them both. He says Ygritte loved Jon (“All she talked about was killing you – that’s how I know”) and that she needs a burial in the “real North”.

She’s beautiful in death, of course. Jon is tender with her funeral pyre. He’s deliberate as he lights her, and says goodbye. I might have otherwise been inclined to make a crack about his height, but he’s overcome with emotion.

And then there are those you’ve been happy enough not to have seen for half the season. I mean, I know. I know it’s important. But there’s not often a lot of humor with these guys, or anything more than struggle, you know? Hodor and Bran and Jojen and Meera slog through a blizzard but then, just as you were getting up for a snack, they see it. Bran’s magic vibrating red tree from the dream sequence of a few weeks ago.  

Summer lopes gleefully to it as our gang traipses along but Jojen brings up the rear and is grabbed by a hand. A rotting, craggy hand. Then another. Then one grabs Meera. Poor Hodor goes to help but sees it’s a losing proposition. He looks plaintively back at Bran. “Hodor!” (“I can’t save them and you too!”) The hands quickly turn to murderous  skeletons that fight Meera and Hodor as Bran is tackled  but Summer takes care of Bran’s zombified attacker in relatively short order.    Bran is in a trance, doing everything he can to help Hodor fight off the zombies, when Jojen is stabbed by the skeleton who seemed to be lying innocently beside him. Over and over. As more and more zombies emerge from the ice, Meera cradles Jojen – and a Childlike Empress entreats Bran and Meera to run after her into a cave.   She’s throwing balls of fire so the dead bodies and entreats Meera to ditch Jojen’s body lest she die herself.

Once in the cave, Bran asks who she is, and the Childlike Empress explains that “the first men call us ‘The Children’, but we were born long before them”. And then she skitters off…

The cave is full of roots – one assumes it’s underneath Bran’s magical tree. Hodor carries Bran, Meera walks in the half-trance that happens when your brother has just been killed in front of you, and the child – or children – skitter around the roots.  

As they get close to the center, Bran prostrates himself on the ground, dragging his body. He supplicates himself to an old, old man in a throne in the middle of the tree.   The man explains that Jojen knew what would happen, and brought them anyway.   He explains he’s been watching them all for their entire lives, and proves it by dropping Branden Stark – and it’s worth noting that Bran’s lying down in the midst of skeletons. Then he informs him that while he’ll never walk again, he is going to fly. No further comment is allowed, since there is zero context for whether that’s literal or figurative.

Outside, and in daylight. Another relief. Brienne jolts awake all “Podrick, where are the horses?” He swears he tied them up but she points out that if that were true, the horses would be there. I love them forever.

And then she ambles over a hill and somehow sees Arya Stark doing her swordplay.   The camera lingers long enough for us to be kind of happy and sad for Arya, all at once – because she’s so much better than she used to be.

She realizes they’re there and nobody has ever been more suspicious than Arya in this moment. Then, once she realizes she’s not going to be killed, she is utterly entranced with this female warrior. And they bond that their dads said fighting was for boys, and over Oathkeeper and Needle. Podrick is just watching and here comes The Hound. Podrick recognizes him and The Hound is ready to kill them both when Brienne realizes who Arya is. She apologizes that she didn’t help save Catelyn. And then is in trouble, because The Hound recognizes her sword is Lannister gold and they get into a pissing contest over who’s protecting Arya.   

Brienne is on her back foot, when she says she’ll take Arya to safety and The Hound points out, “Her Aunt In The Eyrie’s dead, her mother’s dead, her father’s dead, her brother’s dead”. I mean, when you put it that way…

Swordplay! Arya is pretty sure she knows how this will – should? – go down. The Hound is up first but overall they seem evenly matched and Podrick and Arya run to keep up with them as they fight over the cliffs. It’s another gorgeous sequence of course and if you watch it for the third or fourth time I promise a part of you sighs “….Ireland”. And then The Hound is about to eat it at the tip of Brienne’s sword – and he grabs it. The blade cuts into the insides of his palms and he doesn’t care. He pulls himself back up.

There’s no more swordplay now as they start brutally kicking the sh-t out of each other. It’s filthy. He kicks her in the crotch. She bites his ear off. He’s playing dirty but she cares more, punching him and kicking him so he tumbles him off a cliff.  

And then, like a crazy person, she screams for Arya. Over and over as she berates Podrick for not watching her.  

And Arya, who has wormed out of much tighter situations than that, goes to see The Hound and quickly surmises he’s dying. He tells her to go after Brienne who will at least keep her safe. Arya’s not doing it. And then he asks her to kill him – first talking about the people he killed and that he should have had Sansa. But she still doesn’t stab him, even though, as he points out, he’d be another name of her list. Finally, he begs. Begs. Wants desperately to be put out of his misery.

And she kneels down beside him and steals his money and walks away. Stone cold Arya Stark. 

Here’s Tyrion now, in a cell.  Jaime shows up.  “What are you doing?” “What do you think I’m doing?” He swings open the cell door. Tyrion is free, sort of. A little bit.

Suddenly it’s the Goonies as they race through stone corridors. Tyrion wants to know who’s helping him and Jaime says Varys: “You have more friends than you think.” It’s all fast and exciting and then when they realize they’ll never see each other again, it’s a real embrace. I knew I always liked these two. Jaime leaves and Tyrion waits …but instead of going to the top of the stairs to be rescued …

Tyrion walks up through a trapdoor and finds himself in Tywin’s quarters. Not totally surprised, but maybe unsure about what he’s going to say. Until – oh my God, it’s Shae. She immediately lunges for a knife and they fight, awkward, and almost comical. Until Tyrion grabs her necklace – you know the one – and slowly but surely, strangles her with it. It’s the kind of thing you almost don’t believe is happening at first but he hangs on, long after he could have let go and not been the person who killed his lover. His whore. He hangs on. He does it. Whispers an apology …

And then he spots the crossbow on the wall.

Okay, before we go further here, let me deconstruct for a second. Shae is the lynchpin for a lot of the things that happen this season. She gets a lot of screen time and a majority of Tyrion’s attention. So, given how much I like him, shouldn’t I like her more? Feel his love for her? If not that, understand her duplicitousness? I feel like this is less about the character (or all the mysteries that would be unveiled if I read the books) than it is an actress who delivered less than we would have liked. I never really felt anything real coming from her (well, except terror) and if I was supposed to feel she was mercenary and fake, that wasn’t altogether articulated, either. Okay, sidebar discussion completed.

Now armed with it, and something that looks like a junior pitchfork and that turns out to be a rather large quiver, Tyrion manages to find his father on the chamber pot. Tywin mutters about how he shouldn’t talk to him this way, that they can go and discuss somewhere else. Tyrion doesn’t let him move. All we see is that the head of the crossbow is emblazoned with a lion.

Tyrion: “All my life you’ve wanted me dead”. And then Tywin is on about how, yes, fine, but Tyrion would never die, which he respected, and he would never have let him be executed, not ever. Tyrion has no time for this. “I loved her.” “Who?” “Shae.”      He tries one more time to talk about how Tyrion’s afraid of a “dead whore” when Tyrion pulls the trigger. The arrow hits him in the solar plexus, at what appears to be extremely close range. And as Tywin spits, in disbelief, “You’re no son of mine”, Tyrion replies, “I’ve always been your son”. Trigger pulled. Again. This time straight through the heart.

Tywin rockets back against the wall of the toilet.

Tyrion runs up the stairs to where he was supposed to meet Varys and is summarily packed into a box with holes. Varys, everyone. Still waters run very, very deep. He walks away from the boat Tyrion’s packed on and then thinks better of it – goes back and sits beside his cargo.

Arya, on a white horse that can only be Brienne’s. Arya sees the ship crew preparing and wants to ride to The North. Dude who she meets is rather more courteous than he needs to be when he tells her he’s going to Braavos, not home. This twigs for Arya, and she shows off her iron medal and says Jaqen H’ghar’s phrase. Everything changes. She shall have a cabin.

And the last shots we are treated to are of Arya sailing for Braavos, looking all for the world like the entire world is opening in front of her. Which, of course, it is.

Tywin’s dead. There’s no hand to the king. Arya’s off to Braavos, as, probably, is Tyrion. And Varys. Maybe? Stannis Baratheon has come out of hiding, Melisandre by his side. Cersei has Tyrion to thank for her sudden good fortune, which will piss her off to no end. Jon Snow is headed for trouble because he always is. And the losers?  

It sucks to be Theon Greyjoy and probably to be the I-don’t-work-much Alfie Allen.    Bronn I imagine is out of our lives for good, or for now. Even Sansa with her juicy story has only had a few scenes – though the promise of next year is big. Next year I also hope to see more of Grandmother Tyrell. It’s been too long. Bring on Highgarden.

But seriously, what an unbelievable year. Both fast-moving AND a whole lot of pipe laid. The purple wedding was in episode 2, and everything following has been the fallout, in one way or another. We’ve barely seen the reign of Tommen, and the Khaleesi, well – she’s slowed to an absolute crawl, again, some more. Meanwhile, Stannis assumes he’ll assume the throne now, and I can’t wait to hear what Cersei says about it, and how Tyrion is, once again, her ally and her worst nightmare all at once.   

Meanwhile, Tyrion Lannister is a hero for the ages, hopefully forever. Because dude is a survivor. He’s had to be. He’s off to new adventures, and one hopes it’s not long before he meets Arya’s blunt mouth somewhere. I can’t wait to hear what she says when she hears that Tywin Lannister died on the privy.

Now the long wait. Many will come and try to take your affection when you wait until next year to watch the show. Sunday nights will be given to some other show and your loyalty will be tested – is this a better Sunday show than the one I watch in the spring? – but you’re strong, aren’t you?