Far beyond the Wall, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) reaches his mystical destination on “The Children,” the Season 4 finale of HBO’s epic fantasy “Game of Thrones.”
Bran is on a journey to a sacred Heart tree with loyal companions Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), his sister Meera (Ellie Kendrick) and simple-minded Hodor (Kristian Nairn).
But just as they arrive, skeletal creatures rise from the snow and attack, mortally wounding Jojen. The warriors are repelled, however, by the Children of the Forest, an ancient, mythical race of non-humans.
Fleeing inside a cave, Bran encounters a mysterious old man (Struan Rodger) who appears in visions as a three-eyed raven.
“He died so you could find what you lost,” the man says of Jojen’s sacrifice.
Does that mean Bran will regain his ability to walk?
“You will never walk again,” the man says. “But you will fly!”
As for Bran’s half-brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington), he’s on a suicide mission to protect his Night’s Watch comrades. If Jon kills Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds), perhaps his wildling army will disperse and Castle Black will be spared.
After surrendering to Mance, Jon is told the wildlings “are not here to conquer.”
“We’re here to hide behind your Wall, just like you,” Mance says. For if his men are caught in the north when winter strikes, they’ll end up “worse than dead.”
Suddenly the negotiations halt as a massive army on horseback approaches. Leading the way are wannabe ruler Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham).
“It is customary to kneel when surrendering to a king,” Stannis insists.
“We do not kneel,” replies Mance, who respects no political authority.
To the south in King’s Landing, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) defies her tyrannical father Tywin (Charles Dance) by refusing to marry Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones).
Her youngest son Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) is engaged to scheming Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). And Cersei fears Tywin and Margaery will fight over the boy king “until you rip him apart.”
“I will burn our house to the ground before I let that happen,” she vows, threatening to expose her incestuous relationship with twin brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
“Everything they say is true about Jaime and me,” Cersei screams at Tywin. “Your legacy is a lie!”
Meanwhile, Jaime frees his dwarf brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) from the executioner’s ax.
The escape route leads Tyrion to Shae (Sibel Kekilli), a former lover who betrayed him in court. She grabs a knife, forcing Tyrion to strangle her.
Next he grabs a crossbow and confronts his father in the privy.
“All my life you’ve wanted me dead,” Tyrion says before firing an arrow.
“You’re no son of mine,” Tywin yells.
“I have always been your son,” Tyrion snarls, shooting his father once more and leaving him to die.
Then, with the help of Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), Tywin is smuggled onto a ship.
Finally, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) happens upon Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and her hulking escort, Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann).
“I swore to your mother I would bring you home to her,” Brienne says. But Sandor has other ideas. A brutal fight ensues, ending with Sandor plunging off a cliff.
When Arya climbs down to Sandor, he’s bloodied and near death. He tells Arya to finish him with her slender sword, “Needle.” But she refuses.
Now on her own, Arya gains passage at sea by flashing a special coin and reciting the code words “Valar Morghulis.”
Soon she’s perched on the prow, bound for Braavos and new adventures, no doubt, when “Game of Thrones” returns for Season 5.