Thoughts on Thrones: Anyone seen a dragon?

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The Herald's resident Game of Thrones fanatics rant about their favourite bits from last night's season four finale, The Children.
Daenerys wonders how to deal with her wayward dragons.
Daenerys wonders how to deal with her wayward dragons.

Hayden Donnell (has memorised every word of every book and spends his evenings correcting historical inaccuracies on the Westeros Wikipedia page):
Tywin Lannister is a master of the politics of power, a man who knew every marriage in the Seven Kingdoms, every old grudge and secret desire, every weak spot to press on. He could end a war with the stroke of a quill and skin a deer while delivering a lecture on duty. The Lannister patriarch knew everything about everyone except his own family, who he didn't know at all. His end started looming before he was interrupted on the toilet by a crossbow-wielding dwarf. It glimmered when his son Jaimie defied him and chose to stay in the Kingsguard; took shape when his daughter Cersei told him he was the last man in King's Landing to know that she and Jaimie were closer than most twins. His failure to see the truth about them was nothing compared to his refusal to acknowledge Tyrion, the one child with the brains to rival him. Was it surprise in his voice when that child hit him with that first crossbow bolt? "You shot me," he said, as if it was barely believable. The most powerful man in the world, the golden lion who knew so much about so many, killed by the scorned son he never understood.

Chris Schulz (has watched every episode, is halfway through book one, and has a not-so-secret obsession with Brienne, the Maid of Tarth):
Thrones producers promised the finest hour yet, and they delivered. How? By getting dark - and wow, did it get dark fast. There was no time to recover between the episode's killer blows: Cersei admitted to Tywin she had been sleeping with her twin brother, then Daenerys had to deal with her wayward, baby-killing dragons. The battle at Castle Black was seemingly settled, only for a skeleton army to emerge from the frost-covered ground to attack Bran and his crew. The Mountain was revealed to be alive, only for Tyrion to strangle his ex, shoot his dad on the toilet and escape. But the episode's key scene was that brutally epic fight between Brienne (yay!) and The Hound (boo!), a nightmarish and bloody fight-to-the-death that provided the season's most disturbing moment - and that's saying something. Between the gutteral grunting, disgusting ear biting and Brienne's brutal rock blows to The Hound's head, more than one girly "nooo!" came out of my mouth when I thought she might be about to be offed. Am I glad she won? Yes .Did my support this season help Brienne win that fight? Probably. Was there anything sadder than The Hound begging for Arya to "kill me"? Well, yes, probably Jon Snow walking away in the snow as Ygritte's body burned. Was I the only one hoping for her to have the last laugh by opening her eyes and delivering her line - "You know nothing, Jon Snow" - one final time?

Robert Smith (has read every book, watched every episode, owns several T-shirts, and possibly has a George RR Martin shrine in his bedroom):
The final episode of this year's season starts with a massive cavalry charge, ends with a piece of justifiable patricide and features skeletal zombies straight out of a Ray Harryhausen nightmare. But it also found room to give The Hound a decent send-off. Sandor Clegane was one of the story's greatest characters, a stone-cold killer with his own twisted sense of honour and some of the best individual lines in the series (his quote about chickens earlier this season might be the best single line of the whole show, beautifully delivered by Rory McCann). But he finally met his match in the equally sizable Brienne of Tarth in this final episode, and finally went down after a fight that went from complicated swordplay to vicious and brutal scrambling in record time. His last tragedy is that he doesn't even get the death he wants, left to bled out in a bleak mountain pass, but that's a suitable ending for this complex character. While The Hound always knew he would die alone and unloved, Arya's cold abandonment is the final insult in a lifetime of indignities.

Cameron McMillan (a Thrones trainspotter who can always be relied upon for up-to-date statistics and random factoids):

Game of Thrones' fourth season winners:
Petyr 'Little Finger' Baelish - Gained castle, got away with murder.
Tyrion Lannister - Wasn't killed, possibly inherited some more property in Casterly Rock.
Arya Stark - Crossed some people off her list, didn't die.
Sansa Stark - Escaped King's Landing, got front row seat to Joffrey's death.
Stannis Baratheon - Got an army, got to use it.
Tommin Baratheon - Became king, now has chance to name Ser Pounce as his Hand.
Ramsay Snow - Gained love and respect of his father, still one evil bastard.
Bran Stark - Found the three-eyed raven, got to play Hodor.
Bronn - For being Bronn.
Lady Olenna Tyrell - Played major part in King's death, tied with Bronn for best lines this season.

Still playing the game:
Daenerys Targaryen - Won Meereen, lost control of her dragons.
Jon Snow - Led the successful defence of Castle Black, still knows nothing.
Cersei Lannister - Lost her son and her father but got back her brother/lover.
Brienne of Tarth - Defeated the Hound, still yelling 'Arya'.
Podrick Payne - Didn't even get a chance to give Arya the bread from Hot Pie.
Jaime Lannister - Rare off season, needs to get back in the game.
Theon Greyjoy - Reeks.
Ser Jorah Mormont - Currently unemployed.
Margaery Tyrell - Still set to be Queen.
Lord Varys - Still pulling the strings, harder to pull from a boat.
Mance Rayder - Still King beyond the wall, still beyond the wall.
Hodor - Hodor.

Losers - aka all the dead ones
Tywin Lannister, King Joffrey Baratheon, Prince Oberyn Martell, Ygritte, The Hound, Lysa Arryn, Jojen Reed, Shae, Ser Dontas, Grenn, Pyp, the people of Mole's Town, Mag the Mighty.

Russell Baillie (may possibly be hate-watching the show, we're not entirely sure where his allegiances lie):

Because it's the final and you've read down this far and because I'm feeling in a Bob Jones kind of mood, here's a digressive anecdotal beginning about medieval plumbing.
About this time last year I was wandering around Malbork Castle in Poland. It's huge. It's the most Game of Thrones place I've ever been.
And up one corner - tellingly, the one nearest Germany - down a long corridor were the ancient lavatories.
They consisted of a seat above a hole where the moat once flowed, many metres below.
If they felt like they were the height of the Moon Door in The Eyrie, they looked very much like the privy where Tywin Lannister was sitting when met his end in the series four finale last night.
Yes, he died on a throne but an ironical not an iron one. The irony being that he died doing what he loved doing, lying to his offspring and crapping on those beneath him from a great height.
His seated position also meant dwarf son Tyrion could look his evil old man in the eye before slotting him with a crossbow.
The wee fella was well motivated. Not only had pater condemned him to die, Tyrion had found Shae - the betraying love of his life - in his father's bed.
He killed her too, as he escaped King's Landing and his death sentence, let out of his cell by big brother Jamie.
But this wasn't really a big body count kind of finale. Well not compared to last week's epic Castle Black siege or previous finale slaughters.
But it sure featured A Million Ways to Die in Westeros .
How about that Jason and the Argonauts on Ice bit when the skeletons emerged from the snow and attacked young Bran Stark and his entourage only to be saved by the flamethrower Tinkerbell? That sure was something.
Even if the scenes following, involving a guru of some sort seemingly permanently ensconced in the roots of a magic tree was GoT taking a leap into full flung fantasy, the previous avoidance of which has allowed so many to take the show seriously.
Though across the world dragon mother Daenerys Targaryen was finding her fantasy offspring needed reigning in after one of the three killed a child.
The flaming lizards would have come in handy up north helping the mass cremations in the wake of last week's battle. Just as Jon Snow strode through the carnage back into the wilderness to negotiate with Wilding commander Mance Ryder, the calvary arrived. The horseback attack led by Iron Throne claimant Stannis Baratheon was certainly excitingly cinematic.
The finale also managed the this series' best fight not involving an exploding head.
That was the clash of swords between The Hound and Brienne of Tarth over the job of playing bodyguard to Ayra Stark.
The Hound lost. But not before he could say "Brienne, I am your father... ." No, I made that bit up.
But it still was a classic fight scene, complete with its own resoundingly merciless coda.
So yes, a grand finale all round.
It's had its treading water episodes this season and its misfires - the Jamie-Cersei rape looks increasingly gratuitous considering where the sibling lovebirds are now.
But it ended with a big thrilling catapault shot of a last episode.
Maybe this is the show's peak and it's all down the medieval longdrop from here. But as a previous GoT non-believer, series four has made me a convert.

- nzherald.co.nz

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