Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4 Finale: “The Children”
Credit: Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO    

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4 Finale: “The Children”

For the first time in Game of Thrones history, a season's finale was better than its penultimate episode. Like, a lot better. In fact, the Season 4 finale, Season 4, Episode 10, ("The Children") was one of our favorite episodes to date.

So let's stop wasting time, and get to recapping!

We start where we left off, with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) meeting up with Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds). He manages to get some facetime with the Wildling leader, claiming that he's been sent to negotiate, even though we know he has murder on his mind. Mace says he's disappointed Jon wasn't for real when he swore himself to the Wildlings, and then they drink to their fallen comrades. It would all be very nice, if it weren't for the palpable tension.

They get down to business. Jon tells Mance to turn his forces around, and Mance is basically like yeah, no, not at all. It turns out that he's already sent some people to climb a different part of the Wall, which makes perfect sense. Mance offers a counter-bargain: If Jon and co. open the gates to the Wildlings, no one else has to die. Jon draws his knife, ready to commit the assassination he came there to do, but before he can decide whether or not to go through with it, an army shows up.

Yes. You read that right. An army. Fighting against the wildlings. And doing a damn good job of it.

What the what? You may be wondering. Who are these people? Where did this army come from?

Why, it's Stannis's (Stephen Dillane) new fighting force! Remember how back at the end of Season 3 Stannis and co. actually paid attention to that letter from the Night's Watch, the one about how Westeros is gonna be overrun by wildlings and zombies if no one helped them? Yeah, it turns out he actually did something about it. Pretty baller, if you ask us.

Stannis and Jon are introduced. Stannis says Ned was an upstanding guy, and asks Jon what his dad would have done with Mance. Jon says to save Mance's life. He adds that they should burn the dead, which Stannis accepts pretty readily, since he knows a thing or two about magic. The Night's Watch holds a funeral for its fallen. Guess who shows up just in time for the ceremony? Hint: she loves fire.

Later, Jon meets with Tormund, who has no desire to say funeral words over the dead wildlings. "The dead can't hear us." He does tell Jon that Ygritte (Rose Leslie) loved him, and belongs in the north, the real north. Jon takes those words to heart, and heads north of the Wall to create a funeral pyre for his love. This is actually a better goodbye scene than her death last week, even if Jon walking away from the burning pyre is straight out of Star Wars.

But really, we want to repeat: Go Stannis! Team Only King Who Gives a Damn About Keeping Westeros Safe!

North of the Wall: Magic Gets Real

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4 Finale: “The Children”
Credit: Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO    

Even further north, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and co-finally make it to the magic weirwood tree they've been seeking. It's very pretty, with its CGI backlighting. Unfortunately, the way to the tree is guarded by a bunch of super zombies; corpses with much better fighting ability than we've seen yet.

Bran wargs into Hodor to help with the fighting. He's getting pretty good at that. But it's not enough. One corpse stabs Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) to death (sad) and more keep coming, until a mysterious small child appears along with some fireballs and tells Bran and co. to follow her. They disappear into a cave, where the corpses all fall apart as soon as they enter. This young girl, or so she appears, is one of The Children of the Forest. She's super mysterious and apparently also magical.

Brans's taken to a man... in a tree. Like, he appears to be part of the tree. It's the Three Eyed Raven, who is exactly as cryptic as you'd expect. He tells Bran that he is finally where he's supposed to be. Bran hopes that this means he'll be able to get his legs back, but nope. "You'll never walk again, but you will fly," tree man says. OK, dude. Whatever you say.

In Meereen, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is learning that ruling isn't so easy. A former slave actually wants to return to his old life as a slave, so Dany decides that he can sell himself, for a contract that only exists for a year. Yay?

That problem's small potatoes next to her next issue, though: It turns out Drogon killed a peasant's child. Damn. Can't fix that with money.

Dany does the next best thing, locking two of her dragons in the catacombs, which is pretty heartbreaking. But two is not three, and Drogon is still missing, roaming free. We expect that to be an issue next year.

On the Road: Best Book Change of the Night

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4 Finale: “The Children”
Credit: Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO    

On the road, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Pod have lost their horses, but they find Arya (Maisie Williams) and The Hound (Rory McCann). This didn't happen in the books. Brienne and Arya immediately start bonding over being women who want to fight, which is just amazing. Can they be best friends forever? Please? Will someone create that spin-off?

Of course, Pod immediately recognizes The Hound, and Brienne puts two and two together. She tells Arya about the vow she once swore to Cat, and that whole bringing Jaime back to King's Landing thing. The Hound and Arya are immediately suspicious of her intentions, worried that she's associated with the Lannisters, and The Hound and Brienne turn to the one conflict resolution method they understand: fighting.

It's a great fight, best of the season other than Oberyn vs. The Mountain. Brienne manages to best The Hound, who is weakened, but almost loses out when she tries to show him mercy. The go from swords to hand-to-hand combat, and it's freaking brutal. In the end, The Hound falls down the side of a cliff.

It all comes to naught for Brienne, though, because Arya hides. Once Brienne is gone, she finds The Hound, who is on the edge of death. He tells her to go after Brienne, that she won't last on her own, but Arya isn't having that. Then he begs her to put him out of his misery, and tries to provoke her into it by reminding her of all the bad things he ever did. That backfires thought; she decides to leave him to his suffering. Wow. She is stone cold.

Plus, she actually does seem to be OK on her own. She finds a ship, and although the captain tries to turn her away, when she hears it's going to Braavos, she pulls out the Chekov's coin that's been waiting to go off for two seasons. If you recall, Jaqen H'ghar gave Arya a coin before he left her, and told her that it, along with the words "valar morghulis," would buy her passage on any ship to Braavos. It works, and we end the season watching her sail onto her next adventure.

King's Landing: Family Drama to the Max

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4 Finale: “The Children”
Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO © 2014 Home Box Office    

In King's Landing, Maester Pycelle and Qyburn are arguing about if The Mountain can be saved. Cersei (Lena Headey) sides with Qyburn, even though Pycelle warns that Qyburn's methods are unsavory. Zombie Mountain?

Cersei then heads on over to a meeting with Tywin (Charles Dance), where he tells her in no uncertain terms that she totally has to marry Loras (Finn Jones). Cersei isn't having it, and says she has no intention of leaving King's Landing: she'd rather tell the truth about her incest babies than be taken away from Tommen. Tywin is apparently in deep denial about exactly how effed up his family is, even saying he doesn't believe Cersei. About her assertion about her own children's father. Sure, dude. Keep on telling yourself that.

Next on the Cersei tour of the castle, she drops by to give Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) a big ol' kiss, explaining that she told daddy the truth. "I don't chose Tywin Lannister, I don't love Tywin Lannister, I love by brother, I love my lover," she says, trying to convince Jaime that she really does chose him, she really does want him. They have sex, which totally didn't happen in the books, but OK.

But it turns out Jaime isn't totally team Cersei; he's team Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). He, with the help of Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), rescues Tyrion. Aww. Yay brothers!

But as they are running away, Tyrion realizes there's a passage to Tywin's chambers, and suddenly things take a turn for the dark. See, Tyrion decides to stop by daddy's bedchambers, where he discovers Shae (Sibel Kekilli) in Tywin's bed. In a fit of rage, he strangles her to death. Wow. Wow. "I'm sorry," he says to his dead love's corpse. "I'm sorry."

But what about dad? Oh, don't worry. Tyrion's murderous urges don't stop there. He grabs a crossbow and seeks out his father, who is literally on the toilet. Tywin, arrogant as always, is unphased. "We'll go and talk in my chambers," he says, confident his son won't put that crossbow to use.

He calmly tries to talk Tyrion down, even claiming to respect his son's refusal to die. He says he'd never let Tyrion be executed. Yeah, no one is buying that, man. Then Tyrion brings up Shae, and that ends up being the last straw. Tywin doesn't care that his son just committed murder, since Shae was only a "whore."

"Say that word again," Tyrion threatens. "Or what?" Tywin responds. "You'll kill your own father in the privy?"

Well, yes. Yes, that is exactly what Tyrion does. And it. Is. Awesome.

Tyrion escapes, and with the help of Varys, is sneaked onto a ship going somewhere the hell away from King's Landing.

Other Notes and Thoughts:

- Cersei to Tywin: "I'm not interested in hearing another smug story about a time you won."

- The Hound to Brienne: "There's no safty, you dumb bitch. You don't know that by now, you're the wrong one to watch over her.

- The Hound: "Killed by a woman. I bet you like that."

- This last exchange between Tywin and Tyrion is perfect: "You're no son of mine." "I am your son. I have always been your son."

- Lots of book changes this season. Can't wait to see how those will play out next year.

What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments below.