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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
The overwhelming majority of the tenth episode of the fourth season of HBO’s hit television series Game of Thrones revolves around, appropriately enough, the various children of Westeros and beyond. Honor, duty, and loyalty to one’s family has obviously been a driving force on this show since the first episode of the first season. Take, for example, Jon Snow and his mission beyond the Wall. When Mance Rayder’s forces are quickly routed by the better prepared and well-trained Stannis Baratheon’s forces, Jon Snow takes his father’s honor into account when discussing the terms of Mance’s surrender and captivity. Snow had the power to end Mance’s life in this moment, but showed him mercy, taking into account not only his father’s sense of honor, but also Mance’s prior encounter with Snow (wherein Mance briefly served as a sort-of surrogate father for Snow).
That Mance’s forces were routed is no surprise; the wildlings, often referred to as the “free men,” were not disciplined enough to take on someone like Stannis, who has the regal sense of authority and the tactical know-how to win a battle (remember that he would have sacked King’s Landing had the Tyrell’s not joined forces with the Lannister’s). Later, Snow shows mercy again. After the funeral pyre lit for the deceased Night’s Watch members, Snow speaks with the captured Tormund, who he reassures will not be tortured. Tormund asks Snow to bury Ygritte beyond the Wall, which he refers to as the true north. Snow complies, in one of the episodes most moving moments.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen deals with tonight’s theme as well. When an elderly ex-slave asks for permission to return to his former master, who treated him well, she is faced with a conundrum. The world of Meereen is now for the young, and the elderly are at their constant mercy. When a simple commoner, who can’t speak the common tongue, brings Daenerys the badly burned corpse of his three-year-old daughter, he weeps over his loss and tells her that her dragons, long seen as her own children, are responsible for the babe’s death. Though the largest dragon, Drogon, hasn’t been seen in days, Daenerys is forced to lock up the other two and keep them in the catacombs, where they weep and cry for their mother. The now-exiled Jorah warned her of this in the season premier – the dragons, though they are her children, are also wild beasts.
All season long Sandor “The Hound” Clegane has served as a surrogate father to Arya Stark, who is no stranger to father figures on this show (Yoren, Tywin Lannister, Ja’qen). When Arya and the Hound meet up with Brienne of Tarth and her squire Podrick Payne, however, a would-be mother figure will fight against a surrogate father figure in order to keep an oath. Brienne defeats the Hound, as he falls off a cliff and is badly injured. But Arya refuses to go with Brienne, instead hiding it out. She chooses then to follow in the footsteps of her old friend Ja’qen and she heads to Braavos (after first asking to be taken to the Wall, presumably to Jon Snow), having no discernable family left in the lands and left with little other options. Thus, Brienne is unable to keep her oath to Catelyn Stark, her own surrogate parent.
North of the Wall, Jojen, Meera, Brandon Stark, and Hodor finally reach their destination. They are attacked by ice skeletons, however, and though he fights bravely, Jojen is killed by the creatures. The three take shelter in a cave with “the children,” a mysterious cabal of ancient, mystical creatures. Brandon is finally able to come face to face with the three-eyed raven, an elderly man who has been watching over him for his whole life. The old man explains that Jojen knew all along that he would perish on the journey, and stuck by his friends instead in order to make sure Brandon was able to fulfill the destiny he saw in his visions. When Bran asks the old man if he will ever walk again, the man tells him no, but he will, however, learn to fly. This storyline continues to be my least favorite, though the ice skeletons were pretty cool.
Once again the best stuff happens in King’s Landing, where Jaime and Cersei finally come to terms with their relationship. Cersei discloses the truth of Tommen’s parentage to her horrified father, who had refused to believe the rumors previously. Meanwhile, Jaime and Varys plot to free Tyrion from the dungeons. A freed Tyrion comes face to face with his ex-lover Shae, whom he murders, strangling her with the gold necklace dangling from her neck. This scene, which was totally unnecessary to the episode, had a dreamlike feeling that didn’t flow with the rest of what we saw tonight. Tyrion next encounters his father, who attempts to reason with him. Tyrion doesn’t fall for his fathers continued stories (much like Cersei earlier), however, and he kills his father with a crossbow before meeting up with Varys and heading to parts unknown. What will happen next season? Did the Hound survive his injuries? What move is Stannis plotting? Will Daenerys continue to hold up in Meereen? Who will move to King’s Landing to replace Tywin? We’ll find out in ten long months.