The final episode of the season, The Children, picks up where the penultimate episode, The Watchers on the Wall left off -- with Jon Snow heading north of the wall, determined to put an end to the fighting with the Wildlings by killing Mance Rayder. He enters their camp, arms raised in surrender, under the pretense that he's been sent to negotiate terms with Mance. Mance tells Jon that he had really hoped that Jon was going to be loyal to them when he joined them, and is obviously disappointed to find he was wrong. Jon admits that he joined at Qhorin Halfhand's behest to learn the Wildling's plans and that he had also ordered Jon to kill him to help make the Wildlings believe the ruse. Jon says that he was loyal...just to Qhorin and his Night's Watch vows rather than Mance and the Wildlings.
Mance points out that he hadn't been true to all of his vows, since he had been intimate with Ygritte, and asks what happened to her at Castle Black. Jon admits that she had been killed, and they drink to her (side note: Jon Snow can't hold his...whatever was in that cup). Mance then asks about the giant who had entered the tunnel. Jon says that he is also dead, but that he had killed Jon's friend Grenn in the process. Mance laments over the giant, noting that he was the last of his line of giant royalty; Jon counters by saying that Grenn came from a farm, and they drink to the giant and Grenn (poor Grenn, and Pyp for that matter). Mance admits that he doesn't want any more of his people to die, and tells Jon that they just want to be south of the wall because otherwise, they will die when winter truly comes. He agrees to keep peace if the Night's Watch will agree to let the Wildlings through the wall.
Jon then decides that it's the perfect time to try to kill Mance, but he doesn't get very far before they realize what's going on. Mance realizes that killing him had been Jon's intent the whole time, and that Jon knew it was a suicide mission. Before Mance can decide what to do about Jon, the camp is under attack. Jon insists that it's not the Night's Watch, because Mance knows how few men they have left; instead, it turns out that Stannis Baratheon has come to deal with the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Mance throws down his knives, reiterating that he doesn't want any more bloodshed, but he refuses to kneel to Stannis (Stannis should rightfully be the king, but he doesn't have to be such a douche about it).
When Stannis asks why a member of the Night's Watch is in the Wildling camp, Jon repeats that he was sent to negotiate terms. He is chided for not properly addressing the king, but he insists that he knows who Stannis is because his father died for Stannis and reveals that he is Ned Stark's son, all while looking exceptionally broody. Stannis notes that Ned had been honorable, and asks Jon what he thinks Ned would have done with Mance. Jon admits that he had once been a captive of the Wildlings and had been treated well, so he believes that Ned would take him captive and listen to what he has to say. He also notes that if Ned had seen the things Jon had seen, he would recommend that all the dead be burned by sundown (as Fall Out Boy would say, "light 'em up, up, up!").
The focus then switches to King's Landing, where Qyburn and Maester Pycelle tell Cersei that the Mountain had been hit with extremely dangerous manticore poison. Qyburn mentions that he might be able to save him, and Pycelle gets angry/jealous and starts throwing a toddler tantrum and tells Cersei about the shady things Qyburn did to lose his maester's chain (hint: the dude is super into corpses), and she sends him off for a time out. Cersei then offers Qyburn whatever he needs to save Gregor Clegane. Qyburn warns her that saving him might change him, but when he assures her that it would not physically weaken him, she doesn't really care how else it might change him, because she basically just wants a giant scary guy who can kill people for her.
Cersei then goes to visit her father, Tywin, and tells him that she won't be marrying Loras Tyrell (which, considering how much Cersei enjoys sex, is really probably for the best). Tywin tells her that she most certainly will be marrying him, shortly after Tommen weds Margaery. Cersei insists that she can't be shipped off to Highgarden because she needs to be with Tommen. Joffrey is dead and Tommen is the only son she has left (apparently daughters don't count. Sorry Myrcella -- out of sight, out of mind I suppose), and she won't let Tywin and Margaery fight over him and ruin him. She threatens to let the big family secret out of the bag if he forces her to wed, but he doesn't know what she's talking about. She's surprised at first, but then accuses him of not paying attention to his family when he claims he's all about his family, and admits that she and Jaime have been carrying on an incestuous relationship for years (because that's not an awkward conversation to have with your dad).
She then finds Jaime, who tells her she got what she wanted in regards to Tyrion. She thinks he needs to stop caring about Tyrion so much, and that he needs to choose Tyrion or her, and that she had chosen him. She kisses him and admits that she had told Tywin about their relationship. She no longer cares what anyone thinks, she just wants to be with Jaime, and despite his protests that someone might walk in on them (SURPRISE! Cersei didn't care), they do it on the table.
We join Daenerys in Meereen for one of the more heartbreaking segments of the episode. She is approached by a former slave in her throne room, who, since being freed, no longer has a home or feels that he has a purpose. The mess halls and barracks that Dany set up for the freed slaves are apparently overrun by young thugs, and this older gentleman doesn't feel comfortable there. He asks for permission to sell himself to his former master. Daenerys insists that she liberated Meereen so that all might be free, but that true freedom meant being able to make one's own choices, so she agrees to let him set up a one year contract with his former master (Ser Barristan warns that this is a slippery slope). The next visitor to court is sobbing man clutching something wrapped in a blanket (or maybe a rug -- I wasn't really focused on that part). He doesn't speak the Common Tongue, so Missandei translates. He tells them that Drogon had come from the sky, seemingly out of nowhere, and opens his blanket/rug to reveal the charred bones of his three-year-old daughter.
Dany is obviously distraught about this. No one has seen Drogon in three days. Concerned about the safety of her people, she makes an extremely difficult decision, and chains an unsuspecting Rhaegal and Viserion up in the catacombs. When they realize that she is leaving them in there and they are unable to follow her, they make this absolutely heart-wrenching sound like a sobbing scream (if Prince would like to write a song about what it sounds like when dragons cry, I think he can feel safe knowing what that sounds like now). She tries to be strong as she leaves, but as they go to shut the door, tears are streaming down her face. Now, Daenerys is the Mother of Dragons, and she doesn't just think of that as a title. She truly feels like the dragons are her children, just as much as her stillborn son Rhaego. She is essentially locking away her children for the safety of others, and her heart is broken. She's already lost a lot, and now she's sort of losing her children (they're not dead, but she can't be with them as she always has been). Considering what her other losses have done to her mentally, it makes me wonder how far this is going to push the Khaleesi.
We then return to Castle Black as Maester Aemon is presiding over the funeral of the slain brothers of the Watch. Jon lights the funeral pyre, and Melisandre keeps staring at him creepily through the flames. Before the Wildlings are to be burned, Jon goes to ask Tormund if he'd like to say anything (he doesn't, because the dead can't hear). Tormund asks if Jon's there to kill him, and wants to know more about (what he believes is) his inevitable demise; Jon says he doesn't know what they do with prisoners. Tormund asks Jon if he loved Ygritte, because Ygritte loved Jon; he knew she did because all she could talk about was killing Jon. Tormund insists that Ygritte belongs north of the wall, so Jon takes her body north and builds her own personal pyre. He walks away crying as he lights it, which says to me that he did love Ygritte (though I can't imagine anyone having thought he didn't).
Jojen Reed is NOT doing well. Meera keeps trying to get him to rest, but he refuses, because he realizes they have reached their destination. Bran summons Jojen and Meera to the top of the hill, and the gigantic weirwood is there, silhouetted in that perfect sunset light while everything around it remains bleak and uninviting. They set off for the tree, but a skeletal hand pops out of the ground and grabs Jojen, trying to pull him under the snow. Meera immediately sets to her brother's aid, but more undead pop out from basically every direction. Bran tells Hodor to help Jojen and Meera, but poor Hodor is freaking out. Multiple skeletons attack Hodor, so Bran slides into Hodor to help him fight. Jojen notices a skeleton about to attack Bran's body, and he yells to Bran to save himself, but Bran either doesn't hear or ignores him, and stays in Hodor. Thankfully, Summer, in what might be the most badass moment of the episode, jumps up and takes the skeleton in his mouth like it's a chicken bone.
While Meera and Bran-in-Hodor fight the skeletons, a skeleton pops up next to Jojen and repeatedly stabs him, to Meera's dismay. One of the fabled Children of the Forest appears and starts zapping the skeletons while telling Bran to come with her. She yells to Meera that Jojen will not live, and that she can come with them, or stay with him and die. In the other majorly heartbreaking moment of the episode, Meera decides to end Jojen's suffering quickly (he's bleeding out, and more skeletons are coming) and kills him before running after Bran and Hodor. When the skeletons try to enter the cave, they disintegrate, because according to their rescuer, what animates them can't exist in the cave. She leads them to the Three-Eyed Crow (although Bran refers to him as the Three-Eyed Raven, but I'm not going to do that), and they discover that he's an old man woven into the roots of the weirwood. He tells them that Jojen knew he was going to die there before they even set out for the tree. To Bran's dismay, he can't fix his legs, but he does tell him that he'll fly. (This segment went very differently in the books, but I'll be talking about that in my Youtube review)
Brienne wakes to find that the horses are missing, and she and Pod set off to find them. She sees Arya practicing her "water dancing" on the top of a hill, and sets up there to ask to directions to the Bloody Gate (it's ten miles away, in case you wondered). Arya asks if Brienne is a knight (she is not), if her sword has a name (Oathkeeper, of course), and who taught her how to fight (her father, who thought that fighting wasn't something women should do), and it seems like Arya is kind of digging Brienne. But then the Hound, who has been off taking a dump, comes back, and Pod is like, "Uh, that's the Hound". So then Brienne realizes that Arya is Arya and tells her that she swore to her mother that she'd take her home and keep her safe. Arya's all like, "Why didn't you keep my mother safe?" (because Catelyn asked her to take Jaime to King's Landing, natch), and the Hound accuses her of being bankrolled by the Lannisters, especially because of the gold on the sword. Brienne admits that Jaime gave it to her, but insists that she's not working for the Lannisters. The Hound wants her to go away, because she doesn't have anyone to take Arya to anyway, and Brienne and the Hound fight.
While they fight (this is pretty badass too, but I still give the nod to Summer), Arya hides. Brienne eventually gets the Hound unarmed at the end of her sword, and she says she doesn't want to kill him, so he does what any logical person would do and grabs her blade with his bare hands, causing a bloody mess. Then he just starts beating her. She tries to fight back, but it's not looking good for a bit. Somehow, she gets this resurgence of crazy berserker energy or something and just starts WHALING on the guy, eventually knocking him down one of the giant rocky hill/cliff things. She freaks out when she can't find Arya (Pod wasn't watching her because he was watching Brienne in case she needed assistance), and they go off to find her.
Arya emerges from her hiding place and goes to talk to the Hound. She asks if he's going to die from his wounds, and he admits that he will. He tells her to go find Brienne because she'd help her, and Arya wouldn't last a day on her own (she insists that she'd last longer than him, but that remains to be seen). He tells her she can kill him, and that way she'd cross another name off her list (and he'd get a quicker death). She doesn't do anything, so he tries to goad her into it by describing how he killed Mycah the butcher's boy back in season one, and then by saying that he should have had sex with Sansa before he left King's Landing. Still, she does nothing. He asks if he needs to beg, and then basically does, but she just grabs his gold and walks away, leaving him to die, because SHE IS ARYA STARK AND IF YOU ARE ON HER LIST, YOU GET NO MERCY! (This is another scene that was considerably different in the books)
We return to King's Landing, where Jaime, apparently not choosing Cersei, lets Tyrion out, instructing him how to find Varys, who will lead him to freedom (this is yet another scene that's different in the books, but not as significantly different as the previously mentioned scenes). Instead, Tyrion makes his way to the Tower of the Hand, where he finds Shae in his father's bed. When she sees him, he grabs a knife, but he manages to overpower her, and, crying, strangles her with her own necklace. As he cries, he apologizes to her corpse. He grabs a crossbow off the wall, and goes to the privy, where he finds his father, as my youngest brother would say, taking the Browns to the Super Bowl (two poopers in one episode!).
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Tywin correctly assumes that Jaime let Tyrion out of his cell. Tyrion asserts that Tywin has always wanted him dead, and Tywin admits it, though he says that he admires Tyrion's ability to not die, to go after what he wants and take it. Tywin asserts that he didn't actually plan on executing Tyrion, because Tyrion is a Lannister, his son (Tyrion doesn't seem to believe him). Tyrion asked why Tywin slept with Shae, and says that he loved her, but Tywin doesn't get why he's so upset because Shae was a whore. He wants to go back to his room to talk. Tyrion says he won't because of Shae, and Tywin asks if he's afraid of a dead whore.
So Tyrion shoots him with the crossbow. Typical [Game of Thrones](movie:817617)!
Understandably ticked off (he's got in arrow in him, for crying out loud, and it's not in the knee), Tywin tells Tyrion, "You're no son of mine."
So Tyrion shoots him again, killing him.
Varys enters, asks him what he's done, and then whisks him off to the docks, where he puts Tyrion on a ship.
The episode ends with my favorite character, Arya, though this is NOT how I wanted the episode to end (I'll discuss that more in this week's Youtube video -- not out yet -- but if you want to know what I expected/wanted to happen, I mention it at the end of episode nine's video review). Arya is riding along the coast when she sees a small port village. She rides over and asks the captain to take her north, but he refuses her even when she offers money and insists she doesn't need a cabin. He says they're going home to Braavos, and Arya pulls out Jaqen H'ghar's coin. The captain asked where she got it, but she merely says, "Valar morghulis"; he responds with, "Valar dohaeris" and tells her she'll have a cabin. The season ends with Arya Stark on a boat in the middle of the sea, looking forward to a different life in Essos.
I'll be doing my usual Youtube review later this week with more in-depth thoughts about what happened, particularly how I felt about the changes made from the book (EDIT -- the video review is now up).
Now we all just need to band together to brainstorm ways to go through life until season five airs.