The kids aren’t alright. Holy %&(!
That’s the only possible way to sum up last night’s “Game of Thrones’’ season finale. In a season full of astonishing moments, this last episode had at least three of them. My head’s spinning and my poor roommate’s jaw is so far on the floor I’m worried our apartment’s mouse might run into it.
I thought we might have been done with The Wall after last week’s epic episode, but no. In fact, the last episode of Season 4 starts off right where episode nine ended … with Jon Snow trudging out to meet with the King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder. So nice to see the great Ciaran Hinds back after almost an entire season’s absence. They sit down and start to bargain, even drinking some kind of Northern booze that looks like a fortified milkshake. As it turns out, the wildlings are a hell of a lot more scared of the white walkers then they are of the crows – their main aims in the campaign are to use the wall for protection from the undead.
Right in the middle of their amiable little chat, though, there’s the first HOLY $&$@ moment. Director Alex Graves gives us a “Gettysburg’’-worthy bit of cinematography, as two massive columns of mysterious calvary come hoofing in to decisively smash the wildlings, earning a quick surrender from Mance. Who is it? Stonewall Jackson? William Wallace? Eomer? Nope. It’s Stannis Baratheon, come to save the day! He’s brought his army north to save the kingdom. Well, this is certainly a fascinating political development. Love seeing those two old English pros, Stephen Dillane and Ciaran Hinds, face off. So, now Stannis has a solid base to start his campaign from. Can he really take over the kingdom from The Wall? Oh, and Jon closes the ring on his Ygritte relationship, sending her off with a Viking funeral. I was kind of hoping for the eulogy from “Star Trek 2,’’ but I’ll take this one.
Over in King’s Landing, it turns out Gregor Clegane has been poisoned by the Viper’s venom-wiped blade (remember that brief shot of the aide wiping down the sword?). Maester Qyburn takes over the “care’’ of the Mountain, promising to experiment on him. What’s The Mountain going to become? Some kind of Frankenstein’s Monster? A Transformer?
There’s a tense showdown between Cersei and Tywin, as the queen is still resisting her engagement to Loras Tyrell. She finally goes nuclear on Tywin, threatening to use the truth about her relationship with Jamie to avoid the engagement and stay in King’s Landing. For the first time, we see a false note in Tywin, as he steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the truth about his daughter’s incest – even as his face betrays what he really thinks. Denial ain’t just a river on Westeros anymore. In that aftermath, Jamie and Cersei re-establish their forbidden love affair. It’s easy to forget that they’re brother and sister sometimes, right? You forget and then all of a sudden, Oh yeah, I should think this is icky.
Dany’s still struggling with her kingdom over in Meereen, and she’s forced to lock up two of her biggest chess pieces after one of her dragons barbecues a young girl while out flying around. Ramin Djawadi’s score is particularly mournful here, as the Mother of Dragons chains up two of the dragons – the third, Drogon, is still flying around – in the Meereen catacombs. Maybe they can turn that into a tourist attraction, like Jurassic Park! Not the strongest end to this aspect of storytelling. Ho-hum.
For the first time in what seems like forever, we find out what Bran and the gang are up too. They’re pushing north – within sight of that mysterious tree, lit up like an exhibit at Disneyworld – when they’re suddenly (Holy $^@^) attacked by an army of CGI zombie skeletons straight out of “Army of Darkness.’’ Bran wargs into Hodor and does his best to smash the zombie army, but they’re quickly overwhelmed. They’re saved by one of those long-lost children of the forest, a twee little girl with the same pale look from the “Les Miserables’’ cover, who blows up the zombies (and Jojen, mercy-killed by his sister Meera) with some type of mystical grenade assault. She takes them into a cave below the tree. No Yellow King down here, it’s just some old Gandalf-looking wizard, the man behind that three-eyed crow. What kind of crazy, fantastical journey is this guy going to send Bran on next season?
We’re getting closer and closer to the finish. Back down south in Westeros, Arya and Brienne meet! This is just an episode of colliding storylines, literally. It takes only a few lines before Brienne and The Hound are fighting, battling over who will get to take Arya on the next leg of her journey. This is one hell of a fight, starting off with swords and ending up with a nut-punching, ear-biting slugfest. “It’s a gutter war here in Westeros!’’ Brienne gets the upper hand over The Hound, tossing him over a cliff to his bloody almost-end. The Hound begs Arya (who easily slipped from Pod’s eyes) to give him one of those famous mercy killings; she just stares at him, takes his gold and leaves. Maisie Williams, as Arya, has been nothing short of great all season. Please, please, please get her in for Emmy consideration. The last scene with Arya is the last scene of season four, as she swaps the coin Jaqen H’Gar (trust me, sure had to look up that spelling) gave her for passage to Braavos. Can’t wait to see her overseas. Perhaps she’ll run into Dany before she meets a member of her family.
The last and biggest Holy #@$#* moment of the season comes from King’s Landing, where Jamie busts Tyrion out of the slammer. It’s a breakout! No tunneling out under a Rita Hayworth poster here. Jamie just opens the door and lets lil’ bro walk out, with Varys arranging transport across the Narrow Sea. It should be an easy escape … but Tyrion’s still got some business to settle. First stop? The Hand of the King’s bedroom, where – to his shock – Shae is in his father’s bed. After the heartbreak on Tyrion’s face comes … well, nothing. It looks like all of the emotion goes out of him as they fight and he strangles her to death with her own gold chain. His “I’m sorry,’’ after the deed, with her lifeless head next to his blank one, are completely devoid of human feeling. Poor Tyrion. Life seems to have snapped him. After that killing, it couldn’t be too hard to crossbow your own father, right? Pssht. No trouble at all! Of course, that’s exactly what Tyrion does, leaving Tywin to die on the crapper like Elvis, an arrow in his gut and one in his heart. Revenge for Shae’s duplicity, revenge for the trial, revenge for the misery he’d exacted on Tyrion’s life, revenge for that whore he’d taken away from Tyrion as a younger man. Two major characters killed by another major one in the last five minutes of a season. God bless you, “Game of Thrones,’’ never change. Tyrion, it appears, is headed across the Narrow Sea, too. Is he going to meet up with Arya? What a party we could have in Essos next season!
Well, that’s it for season four. So, I really don’t know how to end this recap column for the year. I know I’m going to really miss the show for the next year, and I damn sure know that I’m going to miss writing these. So why not take from the best? Joe Castiglione reads this poem from the late, great A. Bartlett Giamatti at the end of every Red Sox season, and I’ll be damned if it somehow doesn’t have a kind of a seasonal relevance to this show. So read, enjoy, and I’ll see you guys in a bit. Valar morghulis, everyone.
“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.’’
Other thoughts, as my roommate yells at me for not including her in the story this week (she wasn’t home to have her reactions chronicled):
– Drew Barrymore, mother of the year.
– Ygritte (Rose Leslie) did her character’s-death media tour. What a sweet present the “Thrones’’ showrunners gave her.
– I was born in Massachusetts and raised in Connecticut, but I spent my high school and college years in New Jersey. That means I was, unfortunately, subjected to endless amounts of Bon Jovi. So, normally, I can’t stand him. However, when one of his songs is used in this fashion, he’s somewhat acceptable.
– Presuming that the show follows its usual schedule – premiering the first week in April – that would make the season 5 premiere April 5, 2015. That’s exactly 294 days away. That’s 7,056 hours, 423,360 minutes in total. Until that time, I’ll be writing about “24: Live Another Day’’ and “Orange is the New Black’’ and “Extant’’ and whatever else this fine publication will have me do. Sadly, none of those have dragons, but tune in anyway!