This was a great ending to a really great Game of Thrones season four. It may have been one of my favorite episodes of the series. It had some great character moments and some brilliant interactions that were never in the books.
The world of Westeros, and the personal lives of many of our favorite characters were deeply shaken up in this episode, and the ending makes it clear that they are all sailing (figuratively, and in Arya’s case, also literally) toward an uncertain future.
I’ll jump to some parts of the episode that I really liked, but first, a warning. If you’re one of those pedantic book readers who gets inexplicably enraged every time the show diverges from the book, if you insist that the television show must be utterly faithful to Martin’s sprawling, enjoyable, but at times utterly unfocused novels, even though the medium of television is entirely different from text and requires different methods of storytelling, please just go away now and don’t bother to read the rest of this.
I’ve heard that some folks are mad about the omission of one character from the end of the third novel. To that, all I can say is: “Seriously?” This is a character whose importance to the overall storyline is still extremely unclear, and who pops up again at the end of the fourth book in a way that would make much more sense on screen. If this character ever makes it into the small screen (which I’m not even totally sure is necessary at this point), that’s where we will see him/her. The first introduction is totally unnecessary in a show that arguably covers too much ground in each episode already. Please, you small but vocal contingent of book readers, stop being so pedantic. It’s embarrassing and it’s giving the rest of us a bad name.
* I loved seeing Jon and Mance, after a very tense greeting, toast to the memories of fallen comrades on both sides of the battle. Later, the deadly, precise symmetry of Stannis’s marching troops was awe inspiring and gave me a bit of the shivers. I’m glad to see these two stories unified, as, judging by the hungry look Melisandre gave Jon, things are going to get a lot more interesting at the Wall.
* I loved, loved, loved Brienne and The Hound’s brutal fight. It was a totally original invention, and not in the books at all. Like many of the other invented scenes on this show, I love every second of it.
* Tyrion’s escape was nicely done too, between the heartfelt goodbye he gives his brother, the white hot rage that swallows him when he strangles Shae, to the cold lack of emotion as he cranks the crossbow again and puts the fatal bolt through his father. Happy Fathers Day! It’s funny; Tywin nearly talked himself out of the situation, but like Oberyn a few weeks ago, he got cocky and lost his life because of his arrogance. Other inhabitants of Westeros, take note: don’t be so prideful.
* We didn’t see too much of Dany here, though we did see her lock away her remaining two dragons, after the bigger one killed a little girl and then flew away. This incident, along with the old man who basically begged her to allow him to be sold back into slavery, will hopefully show her that ruling is in many ways more complicated than conquering.
Overall, this was a fantastic season of Game of Thrones. I really do love this show, and when I think about it, I’m still surprised that this geeky fantasy series that I fell in love with over a decade ago is now HBO’s most popular series. It’s great, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. As I predicted before the season started, there was a lot of invented material in this season, and it was almost uniformly excellent. I suspect the writers will have to develop even more new material for season five, since both books four and five aren’t nearly as action packed as book three was. It’s an exciting, but also terrifying thought. I think we’re in good hands, though, because so far the writers seem to know how to make this whole unwieldy thing work. I can’t wait until Game of Thrones season five.