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'Game of Thrones' season finale recap: The end of an era

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Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and The Hound (Rory McCann) on HBO's 'Game of Thrones' (Courtesy HBO)

Legacy has always been important to Tywin Lannister. He has spent years resenting his son Tyrion, whom he felt brought shame to the family name. He also has manipulated his twins Jaime and Cersei, while being completely unaware of their incestuous relationship. Tywin never really cared about who his children were, just what they could do for him, which is why his world was rocked in tonight’s episode. 

First, Cersei refuses to marry Loras Tyrell, insisting that she be allowed to stay in Kings Landing with her son while he rules. In the fight that follows, Cersei admits the truth about her sexual relationship with Jaime, promising to tell the kingdom as well if it means she gets to keep her children with her. The ultimatum leads to a tender moment between the twins, who have been on the outs for most of the season.

Jaime’s loyalty extends beyond his sister. He helps Tyrion avoid execution by sneaking him out of Kings Landing, telling him that Varys has secured a ship to take him away. Tyrion is just about to board when he turns around, taking one last walk through the kingdom. It's unclear whether he's actually hoping to find his father, but he most certainly isn’t prepared to find Shae in his Tywin’s bed. Things immediately turn violent and the two engage in a struggle that ends with Tyrion strangling his former lover. He offers an apology to the corpse before grabbing his father’s mounted crossbow off the wall.

He finds Tywin, on the toilet of all places, and aims his weapon at his dear old dad. The lion’s head, the Lannister family symbol, gleams as Tywin asks his son to lower the crossbow, unafraid. The two have a tense discussion, in which Tywin tells him that he’s wanted his son dead since the day he was born. Tyrion isn’t shaken, because while he may have been the family outcast, he’s never been anything but a Lannister. He shoots his father twice, killing him, before hopping on the ship headed out of Kings Landing.

Another parent learning just how hard it is control their unruly children? Daenaerys Targaryen, whose dragons are now burning more than just goats. A man brings the charred bones of his three-year-old daughter to the Queen, forcing her to tearfully lock up two of her dragons in a crypt while they cry. Drogon, the dragon responsible for the kill, is still missing in action.

Family ties also weigh heavily on Jon Snow. His original plan to kill the wildlings' leader is thwarted almost immediately before he is interrupted by men on horses. Who was leading the mysterious new army? None other than Stannis Baratheon. As he prepares to punish Mance and the rest of his men, Jon tells Stannis he is the son of Ned Stark. His confession spares Mance’s life, as Jon notes its what his father would have done.

Jon’s brother, Bran, finally reaches the three-eyed raven, but not before encountering another deadly obstacle. Skeletons rise from the ground, clawing at Jojen, Meera and the rest. The group fights them off the best they can, but Jojen loses his life in the process. Bran and the rest enter the weirwood tree and finally meet the raven. He explains that he is there to help Bran find what he has lost. The boy assumes this means he will regain use of his legs but the tree mysteriously explains, “you will never walk again, but you will fly.”

One scene that comes as a shock, even to book readers, is the meeting between Brienne and Arya. The two never cross paths in the novels and their conversation initially seems promising. The two women are strikingly similar and have plenty to bond over. Unfortunately that goes out the window once The Hound enters in the picture. Arya distrusts Brienne’s loyalty to Catelyn Stark and takes off once the The Hound and Brienne come to blows.

The two fight like savages, using both swords and fists and delivering low blows while biting and scratching each other. Eventually, Brienne kicks The Hound off the edge of a cliff. Arya finds him, bleeding and on death’s door. She ignores The Hound's pleas for a mercy killing, opting instead to leave him to die on the rocks. Would her father approve? Unlike Jon, Arya no longer operates like a Stark. The episode ends with Arya boarding a ship to Braavos, where an unknown adventure awaits her.

The end of season four also marks the end of an era. Tywin and Ned, the two patriarchs who once ruled powerful families. are both dead. Their children are scattered throughout the land, some following in their footsteps, others going down unknown roads. Where will season five take them?

We’ll have to wait another year to find out.

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