The children, as we all know, are the future. Which is fine if your kids are friendly, studious types. Rather less so if they're killers, or incestuous twins, or, you know, dragons.
The finale of season four, coming in the wake of an entire episode spent at the Wall, had a lot to do. First and foremost we needed to find out what the hell was going to happen to the Night's Watch, what with all those Free Folk out hunting crow.
As it turned out, the answer is “be saved by Stannis”, which is a hell of a result for the boys in black. The arrival of the least fun of the Baratheon brothers in the far north is heralded by a slightly dodgy computer generated cavalry charge, but it has the desired effect. Stannis is at the Wall, in force, and with the ever-charming Melisandre in tow. Jon had better be on his toes next season – politics has thus far proved a good deal more deadly than any White Walker.
Back in King's Landing, strange days are afoot as Cersei seems to be transforming into a bona fide supervillain. Quite aside from giving Qyburn the nod to keep the Mountain alive using decidedly dodgy means, she finally tells Tywin what we've all known since day one.
Her revelation to daddy dearest about all the incestuous goings on somehow lacks the punch that it should have. Perhaps that's because it's impossible to imagine Tywin not knowing. Or maybe lions simply aren't overly concerned about that sort of thing.
At least he didn't have to deal with one of his children roasting a young girl alive. Dany's complete inability to control Drogon is an interesting wrinkle in her plan to reclaim the Iron Throne. Plus it opens up the possibility that next season could turn into a rather more adult version of How To Train Your Dragon.
Stannis arrives at the Wall, Dany's having dragon trouble and Tyrion finally confronts his daddy issues.
Emilia Clarke does a good job of making us all feel sorry for her digital dragons, and one can't help but wonder what comes next for Daenerys. What's the point in having a nuclear bomb if it only goes off when it wants to? Hopefully the dragon problem will give Dany's plotline a bit of sorely needed momentum next season – we've had quite enough of Meereen for now.
If Dany needs to move, it looks like Bran's story is about to pay off just as he stops travelling. Yes, we've lost Jojen Reed to some Harryhausen-esque skeletons in the process (we like them, for the record) but now, finally, Bran might get something interesting to do. There are certainly questions galore to be answered. Who are the Children of the Forest? Who is the ancient man under the heart tree? And what did he mean when he said Bran would fly? Curiouser and curiouser...
Things are no clearer for Arya. There's no knowing what awaits her across the sea, other than the feint suspicion that it's probably not good. A weird iron coin from a man who happily killed a number of people at your suggestion is rarely indicative of, say, a free ticket to a fun fair.
And it's a real shame that her unlikely partnership with the Hound has come to an end. If ever there was going to be a spin-off series, that could have been it – Arya and the Hound, solving mysteries and killing everyone that gets in their way.
As it stands though, Sandor Clegane could well be on his way out. He didn't look too clever after Brienne had finished with him, although if the showrunners have got their wits about them (which they clearly do) they'll keep Rory McCann around for as long as possible. He's been consistantly brilliant throughout this season, and the show would be worse off without him.
One face we won't be again next season is Charles Dance's. Yes, Tyrion finally confronted his daddy issues as only a Lannister can: with a crossbow bolt to the groin. It's a pretty undignified way for Tywin to go, but if anyone deserved it, he did.
Much more affecting than Tywin's exit is Shae's desperate struggle with Tyrion. We all know that Peter Dinklage is brilliant, but his final scene with the woman that broke his heart is truly affecting. The mumbled "sorry", the look on his face as the life goes out of her – that one hurts.
So what are we left with, after all that? Well, while the board remains the same, the playing pieces have been scattered as never before. Tyrion and Arya are leaving Westeros altogether, the Lannisters are in disarray, Dany is looking increasingly desperate and Jon is set to bear the burden of the Night's Watch on his shoulders. The game is changed for good, and it's anyone's guess which way things will turn come season five.
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|David Benioff, DB Weiss