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‘Game of Thrones’ Season 4 Finale Recap: “The Children”

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In the Season 4 finale, Daenerys must face harsh realities; Bran learns more about his destiny; Tyrion sees the truth of his situation; and circumstances north of the Wall are altered by an unexpected arrival.

Jon Snow

Following the events at Castle Black, Jon Snow begins his trudge across the snow and through the woods to Mance Rayder’s tent to “negotiate”. He obviously doesn’t get the warmest welcome, but he also doesn’t get a knife through the back (which is probably what Mance should’ve done instead of asking about Jon’s love life), so Jon should count that as a win.

Jon tells Mance to march his armies back, but Mance tells Jon that he and his people aren’t there to conquer – they just want to hide behind the wall before Winter, and the White Walkers, come. “You go back, you open the gates to us, and I swear to you that no one else will die. Refuse, and we’ll kill every last man in Castle Black,” says Mance. When Jon betrays his true intentions with a lingering glance at a nearby knife, Mance realizes he’s not here to negotiate, he’s here to kill the Wildling’s leader.

The tense conversation is cut short when a bunch of soldiers ride in on horses and start slaughtering all the Wildlings. Mance’s army is destroyed. Mance throws down his sword and surrenders to prevent any more bloodshed… just as Stannis and Davos ride in through the fog.

Jon introduces himself as Ned Stark’s son, and Stannis asks Jon what Honorable Ned would’ve done with Mance Rayder. “I was this man’s prisoner, once,” says Jon. “He could’ve tortured me, he could’ve killed me. But he spared my life. I think my father would have taken him prisoner and listened to what he had to say.” Aw, I’m getting Ned Stark/Jon feels here.

Before Stannis leaves, Jon also warns him to burn the dead before nightfall.

Later, Jon approaches Tormund all patched up and chained in one of their rooms. He offers to let Tormund say some words over the dead, but Tormund refuses because “the dead can’t hear us.” Tormund also tells Jon that Ygritte truly loved Jon, and that she deserves to be burned in the true North. Jon marches out past the Wall and makes a private funeral pyre for her.

Cersei Lannister

Back at King’s Landing, The Mountain is being treated for his wounds post-duel with Oberyn Martell (R.I.P). The maesters tell Cersei that Oberyn’s spear seems to have been laced with some sort of magical venom. One of them gets an idea to save The Mountain, though the process might “change” him.

Cersei heads to her father to again try to convince him to call off her impending marriage to Loras. Tywin refuses, obviously. Angered, Cersei shouts that she won’t let anyone take her away from her son before confessing the truth about herself and Jaime. She then goes to Jaime and lets him know the secret’s out, asking him to choose loyalty to the rest of his family, or to her. “People will whisper, they’ll make their jokes. Let them. They’re all so small I can’t even see them. I only see what matters,” Cersei says as she kisses Jaime’s golden hand. They have sex.

Daenerys Targaryen

Dany, meanwhile, is continuing to realize the intricacies/complications of ruling her new subjects. An elderly former slave comes to her saying he’s been made homeless, and the barracks and food she’s made available have been taken over by younger, fitter people. He asks Dany to let her return to his former master. “The young may rejoice in the new world you’ve built for them, but for those of us who are too old to change, there is only fear and squalor.” Dany allows the man to sign a contract with his former master for another year of service.

Ser Barristan warns Dany that the masters will take advantage of this situation and will treat “the men serving under them as slaves in all but name.”

Another former slave approaches carrying the bones of his dead child, burned to a crisp by one of Dany’s dragons. Dany has lost both track of and control over Drogon. She decides to take her last two remaining dragons down to the catacombs and chain them there, staring tearfully down at their screaming faces as the entrance to the catacombs shuts.

Bran Stark

Haha, I forgot these guys existed! This always happens when characters don’t show up for several episodes. Anywho, Hodor’s still dragging Bran across the snow towards the big magical tree as Meera and a weakened Jojen follow. When they finally make it to the big magical tree, they are attacked by skeletons rising from the ice. Meera, Summer, and Bran warged into Hodor struggle to fight the creatures back, but one of them stabs Jojen. Meera delivers the killing blow to her brother as a mysterious young girl appears, blows up the skeletons, and beckons the survivors to follow her into her cave.

The girl introduces herself has one of “The Children” – hence the title of the episode – and leads the group to the three eyed raven they’ve been chasing after all this time. The raven transforms into an old man and tells them he’s been watching them for a long time, seen all the things Bran has lost. “You’ll never walk again,” the raven tells Bran, “but you will fly.”

Brienne of Tarth

Brienne and Pod wake to find the horses gone because Pod is hilariously incompetent. Brienne angrily orders Pod to carry all the saddlebags for the rest of their trip, then marches over the next hill… to find none other than Arya Stark practicing her water dancing on the next hill over. Brienne’s approach is friendly at first, but she and Pod quickly recognize The Hound and realize who the girl accompanying him must be.

Brienne and Sandor duke it out over who gets Arya – with Brienne stating that she’s meant to bring Arya to safety, and Sandor sneering that nowhere is safe anymore but at least he could watch over her – while Arya herself makes her escape. After a tough battle, Brienne manages to nearly kill Sandor, and he tumbles over the side of the cliff as she and Pod call out desperately for Arya.

Arya keeps herself hidden from them, but approaches a dying Sandor. He asks her to kill him, taunting Arya about Sansa and Arya’s dead friend to incite her into violence before finally resorting to begging. Arya calmly takes his bag of coins and walks away, leaving him for dead.

Later, Arya is riding a horse when she spots a port and ships. She asks the captain for passage, but it’s not until he tells her the ship is headed for Bravos and she shows him the Valar Morghulis coin Jaqen gave her so long ago that the captain agrees. Arya boards the ship and leaves Westeros behind.

Tyrion Lannister

Jaime frees Tyrion from his cell, saying he and Varys have arranged for Tyrion to be smuggled away. They share a tearful goodbye, but Tyrion deviates from the plan by sneaking his way into his father’s bedroom instead. There, he is shocked to discover Shae curled up on Tywin’s bed.

Shae picks up a knife to kill Tyrion with, but after some struggle Tyrion overpowers her and strangles her with her own necklace. He then picks up a crossbow hanging off the wall and mechanically walks off to find Tywin sitting on the privy.

Tywin obviously senses the precariousness of the situation, what with the crossbow and all, and for once in his life speaks kindly to Tyrion, calling him his son and saying he would never have let real harm come to Tyrion, despite all Tywin has done to make it seem so. What Tywin doesn’t realize, is don’t call Shae a whore.

He makes that mistake twice. Tyrion shoots two arrows into him, and leaves Tywin’s dead body slumped over the toilet. Tyrion finally goes to Varys, who helps him into a wooden box and smuggles him onto a ship bound for the Free Cities.

Memorable Quotes

Mance: We’re not in the Seven Kingdoms, and you’re not dressed for this weather.

Cersei: I was sitting on the Iron Throne with Tommen. I was about to give him essence of nightshade, that’s how far I was willing to go when I thought someone awful had come to take my son away. Someone awful is coming to take him away. Joffrey is dead, Myrcella has been sold like livestock, and now you want to ship me off to Highgarden and steal my boy, my last boy. Margarey will dig her claws in, you will dig your claws in, and you will fight over him like beasts until you rip him apart. I will burn our house to the ground before I let that happen.

Cersei: How can someone so consumed by the idea of his family have any conception what his actual family was doing?

Tormund: You spent too much time with us, Jon Snow. You can never be a kneeler again.

Brienne: [My father] said the same. But I kept fighting the boys anyway. Kept losing. Finally my father said, “if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right.”

Sandor: Safety? Where the fuck’s that? Her aunt in the Eyrie is dead. Her mother’s dead. Her father’s dead. Her brother’s dead. Winterfell is a pile of rubble. There’s no safety, you dumb bitch. You don’t know that by now, you’re the wrong one to watch over her.

Tyrion: All my life, you’ve wanted me dead.
Tywin: Yes. But you refused to die. I respect that, even admire it. You fight for what’s yours.

Rating: A-