Spoiler Alert: Game of Thrones, S4E10 — “The Children”

As Jon walks out from the Wall to meet Mance Rayder, the camera is a whole lot shakier than we’ve seen before. We get to see the destruction caused in the battle and feel a sense of fear as Jon approaches the Wildling camp. He finds Mance in about 10 minutes which is awesome cause it’s taken his brother like a year an a half to travel the same distance. Mance totally doesn’t behead him because reasons and then they sit down to some mead and chit chat.

They never really get around to talking terms. Mance just tells Jon what he wants which seems really, really reasonable: to live on the other side of the wall when the shit starts going down. Mance gets to reemphasize that WINTER IS COMING which was really overdue.

But before Jon can accept or negotiate Mance’s terms, a whole bunch of knights in black mow over the Wildling army in a pincer move that really decimates them. This brief battle was more thrilling to me than the whole of last week’s episode. We saw the up close and we saw the crow’s eye view. And whoa, WTF? It’s Stannis? Who saw that coming? (Except the people who read the books and have known for years of course.) As he did with Jon, Mance comes off as the more civilized man with Stannis too. “We do not kneel.” You’re damn right you don’t. I loved when this theme was echoed in Jon’s conversation with the Lord of Bones later on. Kings are stupid.

Cut to: Pycelle giving his lame advice to Cersei on what to do with The Mountain while Qyburn works to re-animate him like some Lovecraftian anti-hero. Cersei then heads to Tywin to try to convince him not to make her marry Ser Loras. It was a perfect scene of the petulant daughter interrupting her father, realizing it does no good, and then upping the stakes with a terrible confession that, honestly, really ruins things for her more than him.

Jaime pores over his legacy in the Big Book of Knights when Cersei joins him is all “Baisons! Also, FYI, I told dad we were boning.”

Then we’re across the sea or the ocean or whatever to see what people are complaining to Danaerys about this week. Turns out her freed slaves are ready to be slaves again. “Meet the new boss! Same as the old boss!” They’re all singing. Also turns out, people have some pretty legit concerns about her flying lizard flame-throwers. So Dany does what dog owners tell themselves is humane every day and cages those animals. Well, she does what queens do every day and puts two innocent beings in chains since she can’t find the guilty party.

Skipping the whole burning the dead at Castle Black scene, we see the Reeds, Bran, and Hodor finally finding that tree that’s so gosh darn important. As they collectively limp the last few yards to the cubbyhole below the tree, they find themselves in a mission from Tomb Raider III with a bunch of really fast skeletons with knives and swords until — Deus ex machina! — a little girl appears and firebombs the shit out of them.

Unda de tree, Bran finds the end (or the beginning, if you wanna be poetic) of his quest. It’s an old guy in the tree roots.

Brienne and Podrick are walking to the Eyrie because Pod forgot to put the Club on the horses. And what do you know, they run into Arya Stark and The Hound. Who saw that coming? (Certainly not the book readers who were confused as fuck at this scene entirely fabricated for the show.)

The conversation between Brienne and Arya on being a girl who fights was really awesome and makes me wish we’d see more of these two together. Then The Hound and Brienne battle to the pain. That was more tense than all of Episode 9 and almost as tense as the battle between Oberyn and the Mountain. In the chaos, Brienne and Pod lose sight of Arya who spends a while watching The Hound die (or does he?) before stealing his money and riding off.

Then we get a really touching brotherly scene when Jaime frees Tyrion. Thankfully, they’ve changed this from the book a little and given Tyrion a mere staircase to climb instead of 248 rungs set in a stone tower or whatever it was in the book. I really didn’t want to watch all that. Tyrion skips the steps for the moment in order to pay his debts. He appears in his father’s bedchamber where he find his whore being his dad’s whore and has a brief, hot-blooded fight for his life ending in his strangling her. Then he shoots his dad on the commode after some tense words. Cue “The Rains Of Castamere.”

Varys helps Tyrion hide in a box aboard a ship (creepy echo of Varys opening the box containing his mutilator last season) and then when he hears the bells ringing for Tywin, decides to GTFO as well.

Initially trying to get to Jon at the Wall by ship, Arya realizes her destiny and gives Jaqen H’Ghar’s coin to a dude from Braavos. And she’s off…til next season.