After the emotional episode 9, ‘Watcher’s on the Wall’, we were all geared up for an even more exciting season finale. And we got it. Previously the wildlings that had scaled and crossed the wall attacked Castle Black while Mance Rayder sent another force to help his side. The viper was brutally killed by the mountain after a tense battle and Tyrion was sentenced to death.
We meet back with our favourite crows on the wall slowly burning bodies after the attack on Castle Black and of course our Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is across enemy lines attempting to assassinate Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) and aiming to leave alive. A slightly tense yet comfortable conversation continues between the wildling leader and the crow cloaked in black even going so far as to discuss who was killed on each side. (R.I.P Ygritte.) The scene is interesting and almost helps to provide sympathy for the wildling cause; though of course we then remember the death they cause and that the peace that is offered is never going to work. When Rayder figures Jon’s plan we wait with baited breath, but the tense atmosphere is soon struck with the sounding of a battle horn. Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) has left Dragonstone. Though there is a slight approval when Mance Rayder refuses to bow to his captor.
Back in Kingslanding the mountain is being treated after his battle with Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) and we soon see a slightly crazed man go to work in order to save him. Let’s remember this is the same crazed scientist who helped to save Jamie Lannister’s (Nikolaj Coster) stump. However, it seems Cersei (Lena Heady) takes her peak here and confronts her father in order to stay in Kingslanding. She reveals the truth to Tywin (Charles Dance) about herself and her brother. (Another incestuous scene comes to fruition, though this time it is at least consensual.)
After that awkward scene we switch across the ocean to Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) trying to regain control of her new kingdom, but is soon shown to be quite inadequate as a freed slave requests to be sold back into slavery so he has a purpose. It seems freedom is not always perfect. Soon however, she allows slavery to ensue under a guided contract. (Once again we see the politicians will always have to go back on their vows at some point.) However, it seems Khaleesi’s most pressing problems are her own children – that’s dragons to you and me – as they have been slaughtering children at will. Is it possible to be a Queen when you cannot control your own children? Her solution is to lure the dragons underground and quite sadly, keep them in chains.
Back to the wall again and the Night’s Watch are burning the wildling bodies under the eye of rightful king – if you don’t count the Targaryen – Stannis. Snow tries to consult with a captured wildling in order to say some burial words but he soon replies with the haunting words “the dead can’t hear us boy” and asks Snow if the love Ygritte had for him was ever reciprocated. In the next scene we watch Snow lovingly build her funeral pyre outside the walls of the castle allowing her soul to return to the true North. Our Jon has changed though; with a few tears he soon returns to that stony picture that has now become his face.
Further north of the wall, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and co. have reached the weirwood heart tree. Unfortunately though, the gang are soon attacked by a bunch of creepy skeletons that look like something out of the seconds Spykids movie. Bran does his weird warg thing over Hodor (Kristian Nairn) and him and Summer soon finish them off. R.I.P Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), however, we will always remember you alive and happy in Nanny McFee. The gang escape to safety and are told by a nymph-like creature that ‘He’ is waiting for them. We meet the elusive three-eyed raven who is somewhat of a Dumbledore character cloaked in trees. He promises Bran that though he will never walk again, he will fly. Ominous and slightly odd.
Next we witness possibly the best battle between two of our favourite characters. It seems Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick have found Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and soon Brienne and the Hound battle. “Safety! Where the fuck’s that?” Of course the Hound (Rory McCann) has the best lines. Possibly the best sword fight we have seen, and it’s tense. We don’t know who to route for. However, the girls win and Brienne soon slays Clegane. What shocks us most though is that Arya watches the Hound suffer and die slowly. It demonstrates that unfortunately our favourite Stark has officially died inside. Though perhaps she has the last laugh as she refuses to finish the Hound off even after he begs. It seems the audience wants to cry more than Arya. She takes his money and leaves in true Clegane style.
Next we witness the escape of one Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) with the help of his brother and Varys (Conleth Hill). With a touching kiss on the cheek Jaime leaves his brother behind so he can escape. However Tyrion takes another route and soon finds himself in rooms of his father. However in his bed he finds something he wasn’t expecting: his lover, Shae (Sibel Kekilli). She awakes moaning and searching for Tywin and repeats the words she used previous for Tyrion himself: “my lion”. The betrayal becomes too much and we see Tyrion break down emotionally and battle with Shae eventually succeeding in strangling her to death. The scene proves somewhat uncomfortable to watch as not only does our favourite Tyrion cross a new line and become a murderer, but Shae herself shows a new side and tries to kill Tyrion first.
The Shae we are presented with in the TV series is very different to the books and that is perhaps why this scene becomes so heart-wrenching. The Shae of HBO has shared feelings with Tyrion and displayed genuine love, contrary to the scheming Shae of the novels by George R.R. Marin. This is perhaps why we become emotional along with Tyrion, particularly when his finals words to her within the scene are “I’m sorry”.
The death toll continues to rise within the finale when Tyrion carries on to find his father on the privy. (That’s the toilet.) A short heartfelt speech is delivered wonderfully by Peter Dinklage about how his father has wanted him dead since birth and he shortly places two arrows in his father’s chest with the help of a crossbow once owned by crazed Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). The irony is not lost on us here. Slaying one’s father with the instrument of someone you are accused of murdering. Soon we witness the broken Lannister seek refuge in Varys who after helping Tyrion onto a boat hears the bells sounding for the murder of the hand of the king. He too abandons Kingslanding and sails away with Tyrion displaying all the hopelessness the audience now feel for the departing characters.
The episode and consequently the season ends with a revisit to Arya Stark. We soon find out what her plan is now that the Hound is dead, or at least dying. She tries to persuade a ship captain to take her to the North but he refuses and claims he is going home to the free city of Bravos, where her sword fighting teacher was from. With a last desperate attempt she brings out the coin gifted from Jaqen H’Ghar (Tom Wlaschicha). The captain clearly recognizes the coin and the now famous saying, “valar morghulis”. We’re left wondering what will happen to Arya across the sea and whether she’ll keep following her bloody path in order to seek revenge or whether she’ll ever reach safety.
The finale successfully carries out George R.R. Martin’s work and kills off anybody it can, but of course in true Game of Thrones style it leaves more questions that are begging to be answered drawing in an audience for the undoubtedly explosive season 5. Though not as robust as previous finales, this episode is perhaps more satisfying as it kills genuine villains rather than heroes but engages with new story arcs and brings in a whole new dimension. I doubt those who hadn’t read any of the books would have guessed the events or indeed that key POV characters would leave the seven realms in favour of the free cities.
Overall an exciting finale that promises new realms for the future plot and provides genuine ups and downs for the audience in sync with favoured characters. Admit it. We all wanted to cry when Jon Snow burned Ygritte. We were all shocked as Arya walked away from Clegane. And we were definitely all shocked when Tywin Lannister died by an arrow to the chest…on the toilet.
Game of Thrones aired on Sky Atlantic at 2am Mondays. An air date for Season 5 has yet to be released.