As the sadness soaks in that this was the last episode we will see for nearly a year, I have had a sobering moment of time to think back at the events of the 4th season of "Game of Thrones". There were many moments that could be considered my favorite (two of which were my favorite so far in the entire series), but one thing stood out to me that gave me faith in the future of George R.R. Martin's tale of the comings-and-goings in a happy little place called Westeros - there are significant character arcs that (at least for me) became very evident for the first time since the beginning of the first season.
There were a couple things I knew with about 83% certainty (which is a lot considering the surprises the show has thrown in our face): One, I knew The Hound would die by the end of this season; and two, Tyrion would survive.
In the terms of The Hound, I followed some of the story development and character development ideas that I learned in my time in film school to come to my conclusion of his character. Basically, give a 'sort-of major' character a big scene, followed a little later by a really well-acted back story confession, and you have all the drama necessary to end their life with the emotional investment of the audience.
In the very first episode of this season, The Hound had that sit-down in the tavern with the King's Landing soldiers, and we got to see again just how badass he was when he called the king a "cunt" and proceeded to verbally, then physically, mutilate a handful of men. We also got to see a glimmer that he was beginning to care, or at least invest himself, in the well-being of Arya Stark. He dispatched the men in the tavern for his own benefit, yes, but he also did so out of her own volition. That, and he also wanted free chickens.
Later in the seventh episode of the season, after being bit by the bounty hunter, Sandor "The Hound" Clegane finally had a moment where he opened up his life story to Arya, giving us a LOT of understanding as to the anger toward his brother, his fear of fire, and the slightly submissive attitude toward authority. We get a grasp as to why he is referred to as "The Hound" and not typically by his birth name. In this was where I knew his character was either doomed or destined to be doomed, shall we say "off screen", for the extent of the series.
The way in which Arya leaves "The Hound" to be with his wounds at the dying will of nature was heart-breaking and a bit anti-climactic. In a way, we see him admitting that he is the man watching over the last Stark woman, but at the end, he attempts to squeeze mercy out of the hands of Arya by saying all the things one would expect would drive a person to stab them through the heart. Instead, she gives him the cold stare of a girl who has grown too fast in a world that harbors no innocence. "The Hound" is left to die like the dog we knew him to be, but did not want to believe he had become.
In the terms of Tyrion, one of my predictions was that he would be broken out of prison by his brother, and I was right. I somewhat was cheated with information on this correct prediction because of what I had learned about not just storytelling in general, but about the storytelling of George R.R. Martin himself. I had read that Tyrion was Martin's favorite character and the one he enjoys writing for the most. In this, no good author would kill the one character they themselves are most closely connected to - at least, not yet. This would be the character that motivates them to get up every morning, put on their robe, and make a pot of tea before sitting down at their flashing DOS prompt and begin typing a new chapter.
The moment that I felt was the most rewarding of the entire final episode of the season was the brief moment where, in all the hectic commotion of his jail break, Tyrion stops Jaimie to say thank you, and the two embrace in true brotherly care and companionship. We knew Jaimie had redeemed himself, but in this, he has come down as one of the few humans in Westeros who is a true good guy with a conscience to spare. It just so happens that he's also living in the most deviant and dastardly of cities and is also member of one hell of a crude and evil family, which makes his actions feel even more redeeming. I understand he still fucks his sister, but there are skeletons rising from the grave and dragons burning little children, so things like that aren't so weird in this crazy little world. I also just threw up a little.
I enjoyed how this season (adapted from the third book of Martin's series) concludes with a bit of resolution instead of a giant cliffhanger. In the vein of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings", we see two characters heading off to a new future - Arya sailing away on a ship towards a new town, and Tyrion shipped off in a crate on a cargo ship. These are two characters leaving on a new journey that can take them anywhere but where they expected to be due the betraying actions of evil men and women.
In Arya, her character is becoming the woman her father said she couldn't become. In Tyrion, he was able to have the justice he deserved by killing the bitch who, over the course of two-and-a-half seasons, pledged her undying devotion and love to him only to betray him despite his life-threatening choices to keep her safe. He had been warned that a "whore is a whore", and in the end, that's exactly what she was.
Tyrion also had the most righteous of justices by putting two bolts in his mother-fucker of a father, albeit while the man took a shit. I get the impression that if the man were constipated in the moment he saw Tyrion standing before him with the crossbow, he certainly shit himself within a minute. To paraphrase Cartman from "South Park", the last thing you do before you die is crap your pants. The scene is also that much more poignant considering it aired on Father's Day.
In the end, the episode wasn't groundbreaking by any means, but did the right thing in opening many doors for what's to come in the future of the series. Will we see a Frankenstein's Monster in the form of The Mountain? Will Bran transform into a bird and fly away? Will Dany lose control of the power she so desperately seeks in the justice of bringing freedom to people who may not really want it? Will Ned Stark's rotting head come back to life?
I know that last thought is bullshit, but seriously, when Hodor and Bran went into the cave under the big tree I was half-expecting to see some form of undead or spirit Ned Stark. I don't know why, but I just keep thinking he will be brought back. Though, in reality, George Martin is doing a justice in bringing true mortality to the realm of fantasy, showing that Death is death, and death is Death.
And there still exists some justice in King's Landing.
OBSERVATIONS, CONCLUSIONS, & PREDICTIONS
1) "The Hound's" death was off-screen, implying that more can be done with his character in the complexity of the magic of the realm. Again, I have not read the books, but I still think that since we didn't actually see Sandor die, he very well could wind up somewhere in the future of the series. Even in the context of a brief silent cameo just for the fans, at least one could hope.
2) Cercei will become the King's Landing version of Dr. Frankenstein (with the help of that Dark Ages phlebotomist) and send her monster, in the form of Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane, to hunt down Tyrion.
3) The Hound will appear out of nowhere in the fifth or sixth season to finally battle his now-undead brother "The Mountain", and finally get the justice he deserves but was not awarded at the end of this season.
4) I'm very curious to see how anyone BUT Jaimie can be blamed by Cercei for the escape of Tyrion. They are going to be having some mean, angry incest sex in the future.
5) The show has been seriously lacking some full-on hard core sex scenes that were so evident in the first couple seasons. I'm not sure why this is, because "It's not TV - it's HBO."