"The Children" was the season finale to what wasn't just the biggest season of "Game Of Thrones" so far, but possibly ever. So how did it stack up? Pretty darn well, including a fight scene we never knew we wanted; and not one, not two, but four shocking deaths.
Here are all the biggest, most jaw-dropping moments in the super-sized episode:
When Jon Met Mance
Last episode, we left off with Jon Snow going rogue North of the Wall with a plan to kill Wildling leader Mance Rayder. Which would have worked too, if it weren't for those pesky okay fine it never would have worked.
After drinking something gross and alcoholic we're going to assume is Giant Milk, and Mance dropping the "Winter is Coming" catchphrase because we haven't heard that in a while, the Wildlings get broken by none other than Stannis Baratheon.
Stannis By Your Man
That's right, Stannis Baratheon, who has done nothing worthwhile all series other than glower and be mean to Davos Seaworth, the best guy ever. He uses that sweet, sweet Braavos money he got a few episodes back to mount a two-pronged attack on Mance's army, forcing Mance to surrender.
Now, the Stannis gang, including Melisandre, who makes eyes at Jon Snow because she probably knows he likes redheads, is at The Wall along with the entire surrendering Wildling army. Because as it turns out, Mance doesn't want to take over the South, he just wants to be safe from the encroaching White Walker threat.
Can the Night's Watch, Stannis' army and the Wildlings make it work all living together? Tune in next season on the new sitcom, "10 Simple Rules For Dating My Castle Black!"
The Most Jerry Springer Moment Ever
Back in King's Landing, Cersei tells her father Tywin she won't marry Loras Tyrell, because she's in love with her brother! Cue crowd going, "Wooo!" and, "No you di'int!" with Tywin refusing to believe it's true. And we'll get to the fall-out for a moment, but this is our first real indication: Tywin just does not get his children.
He's a master planner, ruthless and probably the most powerful man on the show. But when it comes to his kids, he has a blind spot. He thinks he can control them, but it’s the family ties that make them the least controllable part of his plans. Oh, and then Cersei bones Jaime, which makes Jaime think clearly enough to free Tyrion later on. To quote "Cabin Boy," because why not: "These pipes are clean!"
My Three Dragons
In Meereen, Daenerys is having a regular day of seeing solicitors, finding out the hard lesson that freeing slaves isn't so easy when they don't want to be free. And then she's presented with the bones of a three year old girl who one of her dragons roasted.
Unable to find Drogon, the largest dragon who is roaming free in the hills, is usually angry, and had previously roasted a peasant's sheep, Dany does the only sensible thing and locks her other two dragons away in the catacombs under the city.
Will Dany find she has as much trouble controlling her kids as Tywin does? I mean, yes.
This Week In Gross
Meanwhile — and I'm not sure meanwhile is even a valid word on this show, because basically just a bunch of stuff happens at different, or possibly the same times, who knows — non-Maester Qyburn decides to bring The Mountain back to life, taking over Maester Pycelle's workshop and draining gross fluid from The Mountain's body. Again, no way this can go badly.
WAIT. You don't think that stuff Mance and Jon were drinking was Mountain Juice, was it? That would be even grosser.
How Many Liches Does It Take To Get To The Center Of A Tree?
I'd say, "I guess we'll never find out," except we straight up do. Bran and company finally make it to a really nice looking weirwood tree, only to be attacked by liches. For those not familiar with their fantasy tropes, a lich is basically a rotting skeleton warrior thing. And the ones who attack Bran's party are the most fantasy trope things we've ever seen on this show; a show which also includes dragons, mind you.
But yeah, the liches kill Jojen, stabbing him a bunch of times while Bran Hodors all over the place. Meera is forced to leave Jojen to die, and almost turn into a White Walker, before being destroyed by the second fantasy trope we meet in under ten minutes: a Child of the Forest.
Hey, guess what those are? They're elves. Or as close to elves as we get in "Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire." The Children of the Forest have been waiting for Brandon Stark, who finally meets the Three Eyed Raven he's been searching for.
Turns out, he's a Child of the Forest (maybe) too, who has a big old tree growing around him. Three Eyed Raven, who had a big hit back in the '90s with "Semi-Charmed Kind Of Tree," tells Bran he's going to give him what he wants.
"I'll walk again?" Bran asks, to which Mr. Tree answers, ""You will never walk again," and before we're all like, "Oh, sick burn, dude," he finishes, "but you will fly."
Anyway, not to spoil anything from the books, but get stoked for a full season of Bran slowly turning into a tree. It's going to be scintillating television.
Brienne vs. The Hound
...And then we get what, for my money, is the best scene on the show never to exist in the books. Brienne and Podrick Payne wake up with their horses missing, and out of nowhere Brienne sees Arya training with Needle.
They have a moment of lady-warrior bonding, which is amazing, and then The Hound appears. Brienne realizes who Arya is. The Hound admits he's protecting her, releasing weeks of pent up paternal tension. And then Brienne and The Hound proceed to kick the living s**t out of each other.
Like, seriously. They sword-fight, and it's amazing. And then they lose their swords and kick each other in the balls/vagina respectively, and it's amazing. Brienne bites off The Hound's ear. He beats the crap out of her. And then she knocks him off a cliff, in a moment so shocking I literally gasped out loud.
Brienne futilely searches for Arya, but she's hiding to confront The Hound, at which point we link back up with the books. But goddamn was that a classic fight for the ages.
You Ain't Nothin' But A Dead Hound
Bye, The Hound. Sure we don't see him die, but he's at death's door, lying in the middle of a hilly region with no-one around for at least ten miles. He tries to goad Arya into killing him. He begs her, crying. He tells her she's been waiting for this moment forever.
And instead, she robs him and leaves him to die, the ultimate revenge for everything he's done. Awful, sad, and gut wrenching, as their scenes together were lovely. Rory McCann, who played the Hound, will be missed.
Still, he is lying there, alive when we last see him, so: pics, or it didn't happen.
Tyrion's Big Escape
And then we come to the highlight of the episode, the biggest character death we've had since, oh, say, episode three of this season. Tyrion is freed by Jaime, who hugs and kisses his brother. Tyrion almost escapes, and then decides to head to his father's quarters for one last angry goodbye, or perhaps to gloat that Jaime freed him.
Whatever the reason, things change when Tyrion sees Shae, the love of his life, in his father's bed. So he strangles her to death with his father's chain of office.
Then he goes to the privy, and finds Tywin sitting on the chamber pot. Tywin, of course, tries to play Tyrion, talk him down, and control him. But remember what we said before? Tywin has underestimated his son. Tyrion shoots him twice with a crossbow.
"I am your son. I have always been your son," Tyrion says by way of explanation. Because who else but a son of Tywin Lannister would kill his own father on the toilet?
Tyrion goes to see Varys, who puts him in the same box the Spider used to bring the man who gelded him to King's Landing many episodes back. This time, Varys ships Tyrion out, and when he hears the bells ringing about Tywin's death, heads to the ship himself. Will Varys truly leave, or is he just taking a moment? Either way, things have only gotten even more dangerous with the death of the head of the Lannister household.
It's appropriate that this is how we end one of the bloodiest episodes of "Game of Thrones" ever, with Arya saying, "All men must die," in High Valyrian. She heads to a ship, hoping to go North of the Wall to be with Jon Snow, one of the last members of her family she knows is alive. Instead, she finds out the ship is going to Braavos, and hands the captain the coin she received from Jaqen H'ghar many episodes ago.
She tells him, "All men must die," to which he answers, "Valar dohaeris," which means, "All men must serve."
It's an important moment for several reasons, not least of which is that Arya is finally heading out on her own path, rather than chasing after the remains of the Stark family. She's about to begin a journey to self reliance, and that brings us into the other big significance of this last line.
"Game of Thrones," for four seasons, has been about the war of the Kingdoms, and about death. Now, though the path to getting there isn't totally clear, we're moving into the latter half, the beginning of the end game, and it's time for people to step up and stand up. It's not just about the battle for the Iron Throne anymore. With three seasons left, it's about who is going to save the realm of men from the literal specters of death themselves.
See, there's a plan in place, though what it is and how it will work isn't clear as of yet. But everyone, from Jon Snow, to Daenerys Targaryen, to Arya Stark — and even the Lannisters — must play their part. The need to stop killing each other, stop fighting, and serve. They must find their place in the world, or the White Walkers will consume everything.
Because winter, in case you hadn't heard, is coming.
What did you think of the season finale, and season four in general? Let us know in the comments below!