Game of Thrones Season Finale Recap: The Lion Game

Game of Thrones Season 4 Finale Recap

Warning: This recap discusses the events of Sunday’s game-changing Game of Thrones season finale, which means it contains spoilers for those who haven’t watched the episode. Proceed accordingly.

Well, happy Father’s Day to you, too, Game of Thrones.

The HBO drama’s fourth season draws to a close with two murders – one heartbreaking, one kinda deserved (but no less terrible, given what it means for the murderer) – as well as another goodbye that made me feel feelings for a character I didn’t even know I cared about.

Here’s what – and who — goes down during the hour.

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HOUSE LANNISTER: CERSEI-COMES-CLEAN EDITION | The Mountain is dying from poison introduced into his wounds during his fight with The Red Viper (a posthumous Oberyn FTW!). Cersei has her maester do some weird voodoo on him to keep him alive, then runs to find her father and swear that she will out Tommen as a product of incest – and not Robert Baratheon’s heir – if he doesn’t break her engagement to Loras Tyrell and allow her to stay in King’s Landing. Jaime can’t quite believe his sister is that ballsy, which is really saying something, but he likes it: They end up going at it on a table.

HOUSE LANNISTER: SHAFTED EDITION | Tyrion starts the hour in his cell, waiting to be marched out to the executioner to pay for his alleged role in Joffrey’s death. When the door opens, though, it’s Jaime with a last-ditch plan to save his little brother! Yay! Woo! Aweso—eh, you know what? Things go from dire to soul-rippingly bad in such a short time, I can’t even feign enthusiasm over this glimmer of what turns out to be false hope.

Jaime’s plan: After Tyrion sneaks out of the cell, he’ll beat a hasty path to Varys’ door, knock a secret knock, and the Spider will weave him a web that carries the accused right outta King’s Landing. I repeat: ALL TYRION HAS TO DO IS GO DIRECTLY TO VARYS’ DOOR. Freedom awaits!

Yeah, he doesn’t do that. After a touching farewell with his brother, the former master of coin instead makes his way to the tower of The Hand, ostensibly looking for his father. But what he finds is so. much. worse. Shae (!) lies in Tywin’s bed, calling out for her “lion”: Yep, Tyrion’s former lover, the same woman who once vowed “I am yours and you are mine,” has been riding Papa Lion like a Disney attraction for some time now. A deeply wounded Tyrion launches himself at her when she grabs a knife, and they struggle. The fight ends with him strangling her with her necklace, him uttering a quiet “I’m sorry,” and me feeling like this took place a long time ago, indeed.

But wait! Now that Tyrion is an actual murderer instead of just a wrongly accused/convicted one, why not go all in? He grabs Joffrey’s crossbow and finds Tywin on the chamber pot, where the older man coolly informs his son that Shae was nothing more than a whore. He suggests they go discuss the matter elsewhere; after all, The Hand claims, he was never really going to let one of his own sons march to a certain death. “I’d never let Illyn Payne take your head. You’re a Lannister. You’re my son,” the slick manipulator says. But the older man accidentally calls Shae a whore again – which Tyrion has made clear is a no-no – and gets an arrow shot into his chest for it.

“You are no son of mine,” Tywin grits out, but a stone-cold Tyrion disagrees. “I’ve always been your son,” he says, launching another shot into his pop, killing him.

When Tyrion does make it to Varys, the eunuch puts him in a box with holes in it – a la what we learned about Varys’ tormentor last season – puts the crate on a ship heading out of King’s Landing and, at the last minute, jumps on board himself.

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HOUSE STARK: FROM-BENEATH-YOU-IT-DEVOURS EDITION | Bran’s band makes it to the tree Bran saw in his vision, and it’s beautiful for all of 10 seconds before white walkers literally pop out of the ground and start to attack. Bran wargs into Hodor and kicks some undead ass; though props to Meera for holding her own, no? Jojen takes a white walker’s knife to the gut, but orders Meera to go with Bran, Hodor, the direwolf and a fireball-throwing sprite who leads the group into a safe cave.

But who is Bran’s unlikely savior? “The First Men called us the children, but we were born long before them,” she says in a voice that’s half a step removed from every single little girl in every horror movie. “Come, he waits for you.” Who’s she talking about? The human manifestation of the three-eyed raven, who’s holding court in some tree roots in the cave. (Side note: He’s got a David Carradine thing going on.) “I’ve been watching you, all of you, all of your lives,” he reassures them. “You’ll never walk again,” he says specifically to Bran, “but you will fly.”

HOUSE STARK: SO-CLOSE-YET-SO-FAR EDITION | Brienne comes across Arya practicing her thrusts and parrys, and they bond as swordswomen. It’s awesome. But when The Hound shows up, Brienne and Pod realize who Arya is — and Clegane outs her as carrying Lannister gold at her hip. (Side note: I love, love, love Rory McCann’s line reading when Brienne asks if he’s watching over Arya and he responds, “Aye, that’s what I’m doing.”)

Brienne and The Hound have a brutal fight — does she bite off his ear?!? — that ends with Clegane tumbling over a cliff and Arya scampering away to hide. After Brienne takes off, Arya finds her captor/travel companion in really bad shape. He encourages her to find Brienne and go with her, then orders her to kill him. “Go on, girl. Another name off your list,” he says. But she chooses to take his cash and leave him for the vultures, instead, with Joffrey’s once-powerful brother crying, “Kill me!” as she walks away.

The last time we see Arya, she’s setting sail on a ship bound for Braavos, courtesy of the coin she received from Jaqen H’ghar a few seasons back.

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HOUSE TARGARYEN |  Daenerys can’t believe that a former slave is petitioning her to allow him to sell himself back to the beneficent master whose children he used to teach. The new world order she’s created, he claims, is one of fear and disorder among those who’ve been freed. She invokes the concept of free will and allows the man to return to his post, but Barristan Selmy warns her that the old masters will take advantage of the situation to re-enslave their former chattel. That’s bad news, but what comes next is worse: One of khaleesi’s dragons kills a 3-year-old girl, a point driven home when the child’s father dumps her charred bones at the queen’s feet.

Dany tearfully leads two of the beasts underground and chains them in place, then walks away as her unruly babies squall like colicky infants. She cries as they’re sealed underground. But where’s Drogon, the third?

THE MEN OF THE WALL | Jon Snow enters Mance Rayder’s camp to negotiate with the big man himself. They drink to Ygritte, Grenn and the giant that died in the tunnel at The Wall. Mance is honest with his former recruit: He and his men only want to get on the other side of The Wall so they can hide behind it. Mance’s offer of peace (of a sort) is interrupted when the King Beyond the Wall realizes Jon is there to kill him, but then that is interrupted by the arrival of Stannis, Davos and a legion of horseback soldiers. After Jon introduces himself as Ned Stark’s son and puts in a good-ish word for Mance, Stannis takes Rayder as his prisoner.

Maester Aemon (still alive!) leads a service for the fallen Night’s Watch brothers, who are then burned to ward off a case of the blue-eyed meanies as Stannis, Davos and Melisandre watch. Meanwhile, POW Tormund asks Jon, “Did you love her? She loved you,” and asks Snow to dispose of Ygritte’s body in “the true north.” Who knew Big Red was such a softie? Jon builds a very respectable funeral pyre off in the wilderness and sobs as it disposes of his love’s body.

What did you think of the episode? The season? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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71 Comments
  1. Joey says:

    No LS? What a missed opportunity.

    • CK says:

      I’ve been waiting for that to be the last shot of this season since the Red Wedding. I’m guessing that they either want, to save it until next season or that they just couldn’t get Michelle Fairly, who is just popping up everywhere post Game of Thrones.

      • Joey says:

        I haven’t watched any of the new 24 miniseries, but I’ve heard that her portrayal in that really convinced a lot of people who said she wouldn’t have done LS justice that she really would do LS justice, so I guess we can only hope for a return in S5, and it darn well better be before the last shot of the season!

    • Lola says:

      I was really expecting LSH to be a last scene reveal and was shocked when the credits started rolling. I actually watched the credits to the end hoping that there might be some sort of bonus scene. I really hope they’re not leaving this out altogether.

    • Scott Johnston says:

      I think the show would rather do it in an episode where they have time to explain what happened.

      • kreiyu says:

        i think if they had a small scene at the end it would have had people scratching their eyes out waiting for the next season to find out what happened lol.

  2. Molls says:

    where was LSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Joey says:

      I have a feeling book readers everywhere were all thinking the same thing. Also, no mention of Tysha either? I mean, they already established that it happened way back in season one, so there was really no reason not to include it here….

      • Dan says:

        I think maybe they just kinda rolled all that up into the idea that Shae and Tyrion were really in love at one point, and Tywin’s threats forced Tyrion to destroy that relationship. So they just went with the more immediate love, rather then the old one.

      • Scott Johnston says:

        Only book readers would have any idea who Tysha was. I know there was mention of Tyrion’s previous wife back in Season 1 but viewers are unlikely to remember it unless we’d had a reminder.

  3. L says:

    Surprised they left out some of the ending of the book….. bumped to next season maybe? I would have preferred they kept that stuff in this season instead of bringing in the Bran stuff which i think is from book 5…. Bran’s story always bored me in the books and its equally boring here.

    • James says:

      Yep, everything Bran is doing this season was all stuff he did during A Dance with Dragons. They really cut his story up. They never introduced Coldhands. Or the vacant village they huddle in. And then they went and killed Jojen! He’s still alive and in that cave with Bran in the book.

    • abz says:

      I agree with you about the Bran storyline. It is pretty tedious and boring sometimes. However, I was really entertained with it this episode. That white walker fight was awesome!!!

  4. zacqua10 says:

    I imagine that more than half of the comments on this article will be people expressing their disappointment that there was no Lady Stoneheart. Now that I’ve stated the obvious…

    WHERE WAS LADY STONEHEART!?!? I assume they completely cut her out of the show like Coldhands?

    • Joey says:

      By the same token, where the heck was Coldhands? Even if he didn’t show up until they got to the three-eyed raven’s cavern, they still could’ve included him.

      • Zach says:

        It would have been pretty badass but I thought they way they did it was good enough. Now I’m wondering where Bran’s story goes from here since they pretty much ran through everything. I thought for sure Bloodraven would’ve been a mid-season 5 reveal so I was pretty shocked.

        • Joey says:

          Bran needs to do a bit of training with his greensight yet. Plus if I remember right there’s a potential connection with Theon’s storyline in the fifth book as well. Maybe they’ll explore that next season?

    • Either that, or Michelle Fairley was too busy with 24 and they couldn’t work out an appearance. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “shock” ending to Season 5’s premiere next year is Lady Stoneheart’s first appearance.

      • L says:

        I’m sure they could have gotten her if they wanted… but that storyline doesnt really advance much in the next two books so it can easily be pushed later into next season… I’m more surprised they left out some of the Jon Snow/Stannis stuff from book 3.

  5. Rod says:

    WTF?? Where was LS??

  6. ian says:

    Im at real loss as to why this was being lauded as their best ever finale.

    It was certainly good, but after all that hype and the spoilers of the epic things that could have gone down in this episode, im really underwhelmed.

  7. Jane says:

    Really disappointed that so little time was given to Tyrion. We didn’t get his conversation with Jamie which really changed their relationship and we didn’t get the epilogue. Instead time was wasted on Ygritte’s funeral and Dany talking to a guy who wants to be a slave. I really feel like a lot of opportunities were wasted this year.

  8. LauraJane says:

    Please stop telling the books. I never heard of Lady stone whatever. It must be hard to truly enjoy a great TV show like this when u have read the books n just keep comparing it to TV. Also knowing everything that’s coming must kill the omg moments we all have. Great finale.

  9. WHERE.IS.LADY.STONEHEART

  10. Jimmy zee says:

    Ian if ur underwhelmed by this finale than please stop watching, it was the best episode in 4 years, what a tool !

    • Joey says:

      I wasn’t aware that people weren’t allowed to have an opinion that differed from yours. Try not to be so oversensitive next time.

  11. Jimmy zee says:

    Hey guys understand that shows dint have ti follow the books exactly, jeez u guys are too effing serious. Just enjoy the show and lighten up !

    • Some Guy says:

      No, but when they leave out major plot points it’s kind of a big deal.

      • Brigid says:

        It’s only a big deal to the people who read the books. You all seem to have a problem with most things that those of us who didn’t read the books have nothin to compare it to and just enjoy the show the way it’s written. I thought the finale was amazing and have no idea who LS is and therefore I don’t care who that is because that person has nothing to do with the story I’ve watched so far. I understand your excitement for the book but really, this isn’t the book and the show shouldn’t be judged by the books. It’s a different entity.

  12. Anna says:

    The Hound is not Joffrey’s brother btw. He was his sworn shield (bodyguard)

    • kreiyu says:

      nobody ever said he was.

      • Rowan77 says:

        Read it again – the recap reads “…[Arya] chooses to take his cash and leave him for the vultures, instead, with Joffrey’s once-powerful brother crying, “Kill me!” as she walks away.”

  13. Reblogged this on THB Files and commented:
    Thtat was real intense in that finale. Best GoT finale ever.

  14. M3rc Nate says:

    I read the books but havent caught up (half way through book 3).

    Really good finale. Its funny how different the “Children/Bran” stuff was compared to the rest of the show. It got super magical with Dragonball Z power balls being thrown and stuff lol. But still, cool, im excited to find out what the old man meant by “You will fly” (and also who he is).

    To clarify, did Ayra get passage with “All men must die” and the coin to go to Braavos? Or the north? I suspect Braavos cause doesnt she go there and learn to become a assassin/killer or w/e you wanna call it?

    The Shae stuff was heartbreakingly satisfying. I couldnt believe (yet could) that she was in Tywins best…what i love is that the result is what i wanted it to be….for Tyrion to kill her (especially strangle) and to kill Tywin, and super satisfying for it to be on the toilet. Im very excited to learn whats up next for Tyrion, where he goes, what he does…im crazy curious to learn what happens in King Landing when Tyrwin is found dead.

    Im also very curious what happens to The Mountain…he comes back…stronger…but different? I thought he died from the poison in the books or something.

    Also left very curious about Jon Snow and the wall and the North…what happens to the Wildlings? Stannis? etc

    So overall, im left satisfied but wanting more, so many things left un-done, so many things yet to come, i think thats what a finale should be like.

    (Didnt really care for the Danny stuff…her dragons are getting out of control? Okay…shes learning her decisions at 16 years old arent turning out to be that great? Like thats new lol. Im kinda getting a “The Walking Dead on the Farm” feeling from Danny in that city. I just dont care that much with her staying in one place, presiding over her people one by one.)

  15. TinLV says:

    I thought the finale was awesome.. but. I wish they had gone for a full 2 hour show, so they could get a little more in there. I haven’t read the books, so I don’t care that Michelle Fairley didn’t appear again. There is a lot of material in those books ( and more to come).. it would be unrealistic to expect every single character and all their storylines to be included in what has to already be the most expensive TV series in history.

  16. Everything felt so rushed. And improperly addressed. And inadequately timed.

    Good grief.

    I did dig the fight between Brienne of Tarth and the Hound, that was some epic not even in the books. I thought Jon Snow’s meeting with Mance Raydar was more interesting and emotional than it should have been.

    They have made a LOT of changes from the books. A lot. Not sure how I feel about it, because they affect the story going forward somewhat.

    And I really thought the scene with Tyrion and Tywin would be more gasp-worthy… it lacked something. I can’t place it.

    • Firannion says:

      It lacked Jaime’s confession/apology re: Tysha. That makes a big difference.

      • Scott Johnston says:

        As I suggested above that there’s not been enough mention of Tysha in the show for it to count for anything. I was struggling to remember who she was.

        • Jane says:

          Yes but if Jamie and Tyrion had that conversation about Tysha it would have made a difference because it totally changed their relationship and was what made Tyrion mad enough to do what he did.

          • Gertrude says:

            Opposing viewpoint: Is it really that believable that in the middle of a pretty urgent escape situation, Jaime would stop and confess something from the past to Tyrion, especially something that will make Tyrion hate him?

            If you ask me, it’s a contrivance on Martin’s part to give Tyrion an additional motive for killing Tywin… a motive that wasn’t necessary.

            Writing it into the scene would have meant everything would have to stop for five minutes as they recapitulated the story of Tyrion’s first marriage — which viewers heard about three years ago but never saw on the show — and then Jamie’s explanation of the real story. It’s far too much exposition for that moment. It’s stronger dramatically if Tyrion is reacting to the events the audience has seen.

            In addition, half the audience would probably think Tyrion was telling the truth when he spitefully tells Jaime he killed Joffrey.

    • Gertrude says:

      It lacked the element of surprise because you knew it was coming.

      • Dan says:

        Bingo! If you know it is coming or what will happen, then you lose all the tension, which is what the whole scene is built on.

  17. Firannion says:

    Technical quibble: Those weren’t White Walkers popping up from under the snow. They were wights – like zombies, reanimated corpses. The White Walkers (Others in the books) are more like demons of the cold. They make the wights.

  18. ninergrl6 says:

    Fave moment: Brienne & Arya bonding over being chicks with swords. Wish it lasted longer.

  19. Jimmy says:

    Well, it didn’t exactly follow the end of book 3, but that’s OK. It was still a veer raw and emotional episode.

  20. ? says:

    Nerd alert: crossbow projectiles aren’t called arrows. They’re called bolts. So Tyrion killed Tywin with crossbow bolts, not arrows. Doesn’t really matter, I know, but I’d wager more than a few people read that and cringed.

  21. Karen holder says:

    It was amazing I mean amazing. Quite sad that the hound is possibly dead. Where was catelyn Tully the book states she comes back. I love Jamie and tyrion. Amazing amazing amazing. Bring on season five. Xx

  22. abz says:

    Aside from the episodes of Joffrey’s death and Tyrion’s trial which I really enjoyed, this was probably my favorite episode of the season. From that zombie (I don’t know exactly what they’re called) fight, to Brienne vs. Hound, to freakin Tyrion killing Shay and Tywin. It was definitely an entertaining episode. While I was happy to see Tywin get what was coming to him, I was a little disappointed (just a little) that it was at the hands of Tyrion because that character has sort of been the moral centre of the show in a way I think.
    I’m going to nitpick something though based on this season as a whole. Danearys’s storyline seriously feels as if NOTHING has happened from the start of the season to the end. The only big thing was the whole Jurah drama but aside from that it just feels like she’s been sitting on a chair for 10 episodes. I seriously hope better things await her character because I really enjoyed her the first few seasons. I did enjoy the dragon scene this episode though. I really wanna see her start getting back to planning mode and I just wanna see her interact with someone (anyone really) from the rest of the main cast. She’s just in her own world and we’re supposed to anticipate that there’s going to be this big power play in the future, but her story has been moving at snail speed for quite sometime.

    • Gertrude says:

      The problem with Daenerys’ storyline is that they can’t afford to show a lot of what is happening around her. So they often have to resort to Shakespeare-style reportage in her scenes (“Your Grace, our Unsullied are victorious and the enemy has been destroyed”) while she sits on a throne.

      • Dan says:

        Gertrude, you’re spot on every time. :) And also I imagine they need to keep showing her while perhaps holding back on some material to save it for next season.

  23. matt says:

    those weren’t white walkers…

  24. Merlock says:

    why does varys jump on the boat? stupid of him

    • RULER W/ A SPEAR says:

      bc the lannister house is going down hill. master of secrets knows this too well and is jumping ship while he can. plus he is kinda harboring a fugitive. power struggle is to begin.

    • Carmen says:

      Varys was ready to leave the ship when he heard the bell tolling mournfully. He connected that with the impression he got of Tyrion when he opened the door, and since Jaime knew it was Varys that helped Tyrion escape, he knew they would come back to him eventually. So there was no place for him in King’s Landing anymore.

  25. christine says:

    Brianne rules! Btw, how about some damn “Penny Dreadful” coverage. Last night’s episode was epic.

  26. I’m one of the few readers of the book that isn’t that upset about no Lady Stoneheart. It’s a big part, they can’t leave it out completely, and eventually it will be shown. I was more upset that tyrion and Jaime didn’t have their conversation about Tysha. I mean, that is a huge part of their characters later on! I don’t understand how they can leave out such a major revelation, or how they might work it in later on in the series.

    • Jane says:

      Agree, the lack of that conversation has me a lot more upset than the fact that the epilogue wasn’t included.

  27. Re: ‘Book vs Show’ comments: I have NOT read the books, still love this show, and I come here to read articles, comments and discussions about the TV SHOW, and the “but in the book bloopie bloopie, blah di blah…”, comments are annoying! So, you’ve read a book or two (or 5), excellent and GOOD FOR YOU! Now, hush, the TV fans wanna talk about what happened in the TV show! :-)

  28. Walkie says:

    It’s pretty clear they aren’t going to go down the LS route. As much as that is disappointing, it really doesn’t affect the story. The LS storyline is pretty contained.

  29. Tjax says:

    LSH isnt needed. The show needs to keep the realism and drama intact. If she appeared the show would jump the shark immediately

  30. Megan says:

    Wow – I loved the finale. Lots of action, and it moved each of the main stories along while still leaving me in suspense as to what will happen to them all next season. The Tyrion stuff at the end there had me screaming at my tv. That was intense (and so sad :() I loved the Brienne/Arya/Hound stuff too. And it was cool to see Bran’s story move along more, plus the introduction of the children. It’s going to be a long wait till next season! :(

  31. David P. Graf says:

    Anyone else noticing how comments are disappearing for apparently no reason at all? One other thing – it is not believable that Brienne could beat the Hound. Not only is he stronger than her but he has far more experience than she does. This is a definite departure from the books and not a very smart one at that.

  32. Carmen says:

    On another note, was I the only one to notice the look that Melisandre gave to Jon Snow? I have not read the books so I do not know what happens, but I think she was drooling inside and has lots of plans for him. Whether they are only of the naked flesh kind, or involve some power play too we will see …

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