Synopsis: Picking up right after the last episode, Jon Snow begins his march through the dead Wildlings at the gate as he heads to their camp. He raises his hands and is confronted by Mance. He says he’s been sent to negotiate. Mance says he thought Jon was loyal, and he admits how he was sent to infiltrate the camp. Mance asks of Ygritte, and Snow says she died. They have a drink in her honor. They drink to Grenn and the giant that perished. Mance and Jon admit the truths of their positions. Mance just wants to get his men south of the wall. Before the can finish their conversation, the Wildling camp is attacked, not by Crows, but by Stannis Baratheon and his men. Stannis and Davos approach and Mance throws down his knives. Stannis introduces himself and tells Mance to kneel. He refuses. Stannis’ men take the Wildlings prisoner. When Davos recognizes Jon’s garb as a crow, Jon reveals he’s Ned Stark’s son. He says when he was Mance’s prisoner he was treated honorably and suggests Stannis do the same and he agrees. Jon suggests they burn the dead before nightfall. Qyburn tends to the wounds of the Mountain, but they are severe. Turns out he was poisoned in the fight against Oberyn. Pycelle suggests putting the Mountain out of his misery but Qyburn suggests he can save him, although he may not be the same. Pycelle objects but Cersei dismisses him. She entrusts Qyburn to save him. Cersei confronts Tywin about marrying Loras again. She refuses. He calls on her to support the family, but she says that she will stay with her son, the King. Cersei tells him that she was willing to poison Tommen at the battle of Blackwater, and that is how far she was willing to go. She threatens to tell everyone the truth, that the stories of Jaime and her are true. She throws Tywin’s legacy in his face, and walks out. Moving on, Cersei finds Jaime and throws herself at him saying that she’s choosing him. She tells him that she told their father the truth. They go at it right there on the table.
Daenerys meets with a townsman in her throne room. He informs her that freeing the slaves wasn’t simply as easy as she’s made it. He wants to return to his master. He’s old and doesn’t have anything to offer the new system. Dany agrees that he can enter a contract with his former master, but Selmy suggests that the masters will take advantage of this ruling. Another man enters and brings Dany the remains of his child, burned alive by one of Dany’s dragons. Dany asks of one of dragons, Drogon, who hasn’t been seen in a few days. The other two dragons she takes to the catacombs and fits them with chains. As she closes the door behind her, they cry out for her, but she cries as shuts them in. Atop Castle Black, Maester Aemon speaks at the funeral of the fallen crows. Snow has returned and lights the bodies on fire, as Stannis and his men watch. Through the flames, Jon sees Melisandre. Jon visits Tormund, his prisoner. He tells him they are going to burn the bodies of his fallen and he offers Tormund the chance to say something. He declines. Tormund asks if he loved Ygritte, and tells Jon that she loved him. He could tell. He tells him that she deserves to be buried in the North, so Jon takes her North of the wall and burns her there. Further North, Hodor drags Bran as Meera and Jojen struggle to keep up. Jojen stumbles, but Bran tells them they are they and they look upon a beautiful tree with red leaves and a cave in the base. As they approach, a hand reaches out from the ground and pulls Jojen down. More wights emerge and they try to fight them off. Bran wargs into Hodor and continues the fight. A wight stabs Jojen and Meera finishes the job. Two more wights approach Bran, but they are hit with a fireball and burst into flame. A young girl is their assailant. The squad moves into the cave and as the wights follow they crumble as soon as they hit the entrance. The girl says the magic that reanimates them doesn’t work there. Bran asks who she is. She says the First Men called them the Children, but they were born long before them. She tells Bran that he is waiting for him. When they move to the heart of the cave, Bran comes face to face with the Three-Eyed Raven, an old man. The man knows who they are. He says that Jojen knew that he was going to die when he set out on the journey. Bran asks if he will walk again and the man says no, “but you will fly.”
Brienne and Pod wake up to find their horses missing. When they walk up, Brienne finds Arya practicing with needle. Brienne and Arya bond when the Hound approaches. Podrick recognizes Clegane and things get tense. Brienne figures out who Arya is and tells her about her oath to protect, but the Hound notes that she’s been paid by the Lannisters. They draw swords and battle along the mountainside. Brienne gets the upper hand first, but Clegane knocks her down and punches her out. She beats him with her first when he goes tumbling off the cliff. Brienna screams for Arya, but Arya hides out. Brienne and Pod look for her and Arya doubles back to find the Hound, beaten and bloody at the bottom of the hill. He says he’s dying and tells her to go after Brienne, but Arya says she’s not going to. The Hound tells Arya to finish the job, to knock him off her list. She takes his money, but leaves him there. No goodbye or anything. Jaime unlocks Tyrion’s cell and smuggles him out of the dungeon. He tells him Varys is helping him and the brother’s embrace before Jaime leaves Tyrion behind. As Tyrion waits, he sneaks up to Tywin’s room, where he finds Shae, stirring in his bed. Shae grabs a knife but Tyrion knocks it out of her hands and he chokes her to death, crying as he does. On the wall, he spies Joffrey’s crossbow. He finds Tywin in the bathroom. Tywin is surprised, but correctly assumes that it was Jaime that freed him. He says that he would never let him be executed. Tyrion says he loved her and tells Tywin that he killed her. When Tywin calls Shae a “whore,” Tyrion lets an arrow fly. He adds another arrow to finish the job, just as Varys arrives to get him. Tyrion is placed in a crate that is loaded onto a ship. Varys begins to head back to the castle, but when he hears the chimes, suggesting Tywin has been found, he jumps on the ship and joins Tyrion. Arya happens upon a ship and when she learns it is headed for Braavos, she pulls out Jaqen’s coin and says the magic words. She is allowed to board and soon she is heading out across the seas.
Comments: After the battle in the previous episode, there was some expectation that it would be another slow-moving follow-up, but there’s a lot of big movements here. Stannis arrives at the wall and those two storylines are smashed together. Dany cages two of her dragons, but the rebel Drogon is still out there. Arya and Brienne have a moment, but rather than jump into another partnership, the youngest Stark girl takes her fate into her own hands. Maisie Williams was really wonderful here and it caps off a great season for her. Between her cold stares as the Hound lies there dying and her laughing scene a couple episodes before, she’s got such a full handle on this great character. The death of Tywin, easily the most powerful man in the kingdom at that point, creates another power vacuum. He was the only thing keeping Cersei in line, but now someone else will have to pick up that slack. Despite his power, it’s a somewhat fitting end that this tower of a man, so burdened with maintaining his legacy, would die on the toilet by one of his children. Tyrion’s murder of Shae was a sad capper on their relationship. They both were too hurt by their betrayals to see that they really did care about each other, but even if Tyrion could forgive her for her scene in the courtroom, there was no coming back from her bedding his father. Tyrion’s escape, and with Varys no less, will send them in new directions. Bran finally makes the trip to the Three-Eyed Raven, but that storyline gets rested for a year before it picks back up. One of the episode highlights, and season as well, is the fight between Brienne and the Hound. At first, it was all elegant swordplay, but soon it’s a grunting, junk-punching, gut-kicking brawl. It was good to finally see Brienne in action, and holding her own against one of the best fighters on the show, and even though their moment together was brief, the kinship she shared with Arya was sweet. A great season ender to one of the best seasons of the show.
Mance Rayder: One of our giants went into your tunnel and never came out again. Mag the Mighty.
Jon Snow: He’s dead. He killed my friend, Grenn.
Mance: He was their king. The last of a blood line that stretches back before the First Men.
Jon: Grenn came from a farm.
Mance: Mag and Grenn (raising a glass)
Cersei: Joffrey is dead. Myrcella’s been sold like livestock. And now you want to ship me off to Highgarden and steal my boy. My last boy. Margaery will her claws in you will dig your claws in and you’ll fight over him like beasts until you rip him apart. I will burn our house to the ground before I let that happen.
Three-Eyed Raven (to Bran): You will never walk again… but you will fly.
The Hound: Safety: Where the fuck’s that? Her aunt in the Eyrie is dead. Her mother’s dead. He father’s dead. He 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: I have always been your son.
Foreshadowing: Cersei’s suggestion she will burn the house down is a figurative statement that has literal implications later. The Hound’s comment about no place being safe for Arya juxtaposes nicely with her taking control of her own destiny.
Title: The Children is the name for the probably not a kid that Bran and his crew meet, but it’s also a nod to Tywin’s offspring, as two defy him (Cersei by refusing to marry Loras, Jaime by freeing Tyrion) and another murders him. There’s also the Stark children, Arya and Bran, who both come to turning points in their respective stories.
Deaths: Jojen is stabbed by a wight, and then ended by Meera. The wights are killed by one of the Children. Mance loses some men to Stannis’ army. Tyrion chokes Shae to death before shooting Tywin with arrows.