1. The battle at the Wall is over, and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) scraped together a win for the Night's Watch. Knowing their triumph is fleeting, however, he's gone to hunt down Mance Rayder.
2. Though it makes no sense that we haven't seen Mance (Ciarán Hinds) since Season 3, here he is in the finale of Season 4.
The show has downplayed Mance, who is so important in the books where he serves as another wildling temptation to Jon, who wonders whether he has chosen the wrong life for himself. Until now, we've seen Mance in only a few episodes of Game of Thrones Season 3, and briefly at that. (Twelve minutes and four seconds, to be exact.)
"You're wearing a black cloak again," Mance says here. "I've been sent to negotiate with you," Jon answers. Jon explains that his orders from the Halfhand were to infiltrate the wildlings, and that he was always loyal to the Night's Watch.
3. Jon tells Mance that Ygritte (Rose Leslie) shot him with arrows when he escaped — and that she's dead.
4. An army swarms the camp.
5. And very quickly stomps the wildlings. Mance surrenders.
6. It's Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) and Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane)!
7. Mance surrenders again. Stannis tells Mance to kneel. He won't.
8. Jon introduces himself to Stannis.
10. And Qyburn (Anton Lesser) is examining it with delight.
11. Qyburn tells Cersei in the creepiest way possible that the process may "change him."
"Will it weaken him?" she asks.
"Oh no," he answers.
13. Cersei goes to talk to Tywin (Charles Dance) about not wanting to marry Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones).
Tywin tells her that she must, because Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) can't marry anyone and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is about to be sentenced. Cersei tells Tywin that she refuses to leave Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman).
She then says she will tell everyone the truth. Tywin seems to genuinely have no idea what she's talking about, which seems impossible. Then she realizes: "Of course it's possible," she says, almost to herself. "How can someone so consumed by the idea of his family have any conception what his actual family was doing? We were right there in front of you, and you didn't see us."
"One real look at your own children and you would have known," she continues.
She tells him about her and Jaime.
14. "Your legacy is a lie."
15. He tells her he doesn't believe her.
16. She goes to find Jaime.
17. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke)! The unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men. Kaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons.
18. She's receiving requests from her conquered people. Things are going terribly, pretty much.
19. But it's even worse. Drogon the dragon has burned a small child to a crisp.
20. The dragons are out of control, realizes the Mother of Dragons.
21. Drogon is on the lam. But she lures Rhaegal and Viserion into the catacombs, and chains them to the floor.
22. She walks out.
23. They're mad; she's sad.
24. Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan) presides over the burning of the dead Night's Watch men.
25. We see Jon see Melisandre (Carice van Houten) for the first time.
They don't speak; they just stare at each other through flames. But presumably this relationship will be an essential one going forward.
26. Jon talks to Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), who tells him that Ygritte loved him.
27. Jon goes north of the Wall to burn her body.
You know something, Jon Snow.
28. Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and his crew get to the tree of Bran's dreams.
29. Before they can get to the tree, they're attacked by some wights. Bran does his warg thing, and inhabits Hodor's (Kristian Nairn) body to help fight.
30. Unfortunately, it's too late for Jojen, who is stabbed by a wight.
31. A creepy small person from the tree saves them.
32. They go into the tree, where the wights can't follow.
The creepy small person says that the First Men called them "The Children."
33. They go deeper into the tree.
34. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) have lost their horses on their way to the Eyrie.
35. They come across Arya (Maisie Williams)!
36. Arya is understandably interested in Brienne. They bond over being fighty ladies.
One thing Game of Thrones has done to great effect is bring characters together who never met, or who interacted less, in the books. It compresses the sprawl of Martin's plotting and character list, and makes these meetings more meaningful. We can look forward to more of these deviations as the show further diverges from the novels.
One early example of that is Arya's relationship with Tywin in Season 2. And this is another: Brienne and Arya have never (or not yet) met in A Song of Ice and Fire, but here they are, talking about how both of their fathers reluctantly taught them how to fight. For those who are show viewers only, there's no extra layer of pleasure here. But when you have read the Martin novels, a scene like this feels like a fan fiction mashup. Just wonderful.
Especially since Brienne within minutes will be the one who fatally — presumably — wounds the Hound (Rory McCan). In A Storm of Swords, it's a brawl with Polliver (Andy Kellegher) and the Tickler (Anthony Morris) that causes him to get an infection that we assume kills him.
37. Pod recognizes the Hound, making them realize that Arya is...Arya. And so Brienne finally gets to tell one of the Stark daughters that she had sworn to their mother that she would bring them home safely.
38. Brienne and the Hound begin to fight, viciously.
39. They continue to fight — and then Brienne pushes the Hound off a cliff.
40. Arya, in the meantime, has hidden from Brienne and Pod.
41. Arya goes to talk to the Hound, and to delight in his excruciating pain.
He tells her to chase after Brienne because she'll help Arya — she won't last a day alone, he says. "I'll last longer than you," Arya replies. The Hound tries to taunt her into killing him so he can stop feeling this way. He reminds her he killed her friend, the butcher's boy. He tells Arya he should have fucked Sansa (Sophie Turner) "bloody — at least I'd have one happy memory." He begs and begs. She takes their pouch of money.
42. Arya walks away as the Hound yells, "Kill me! Kill me!"
43. Jaime comes to rescue Tyrion.
44. Tyrion should really be leaving, but instead he goes to find his father.
45. To his shock, he finds Shae (Sibel Kekilli) in Tywin's bed.
Making Shae a character who at first was worthy of Tyrion's love in Game of Thrones was a welcome change to how she is drawn in the novels, in which she's a greedy, simpering, stupid user. Unfortunately, it was a doomed attempt at character building, since their story was going to end one way: with Tyrion murdering Shae in a jealous, grieving, psychotic rage.
46. Shae attacks Tyrion immediately, and they fight.
47. Tyrion strangles her to death. "I'm sorry," he says.
48. He finds his father sitting on the toilet.
Tywin thinks they're going to go talk, but Tyrion, holding a crossbow says, "All my life, you've wanted me dead." Tywin tells him he never would have let Tyrion be executed: "You're my son." Tyrion tells Tywin that he loved Shae — and that he has just murdered her. Tywin says not to worry, she was only a whore. Tyrion says if Tywin says "whore" one more time he will shoot him with the crossbow.
He tells Tywin he can't go back into the bedroom because Shae's dead body is in there. "You're afraid of a dead whore?"
49. Oops: Tywin said "whore" again.
50. Tyrion shoots Tywin again. "I have always been your son."
In A Storm of Swords, this conversation is all about Tyrion's first wife, Tysha, whom Tywin said was a prostitute using Tyrion. Before sending her off, Tywin had his men rape her — and then had Tyrion rape her last. This bit of history has haunted Tyrion, and in the novel when Jaime rescues him, he tells Tyrion that Tysha had been only a girl who loved him. His good-bye with Jaime is decidedly less warm as a result, and it's this knowledge that sends him to find Tywin to interrogate him. He asks Tywin repeatedly what happened to Tysha, and Tywin says she went "wherever whores go." It's a phrase Tyrion fixates on, even as he lives in exile, and seems like it could almost be a quest to find her.
Apparently not, though, since all of that has been cut out here. I'm OK with it.
51. Varys (Conleth Hill) has Tyrion packed into a crate to go to Essos.
52. Arya, unencumbered by the Hound or anyone else holding her back, gets to the coast with seeming ease.
53. She talks to a ship captain, and tries to make him take her north.
54. She gives him the coin that Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) gave her in Season 2, and "Valar morghulis"-es the ship captain. He "Valar dohaeris"-es her back.
He offers her passage.
55. Finally, there's some hope for the Starks, with Arya heading away from Westeros. (And Bran in the tree too.)
Game of Thrones Season 5 premieres Sunday, April 12, at 9 p.m. on HBO.
By the old gods and the new, a previous version of this post misspelled "Eyrie."