And so we come to the end of the third season of Game of Thrones. Our full recap will be up in the morning, but there is plenty of long-range thinking to be done as we ponder where we've been left for season 4. (Spoilers follow, so this would be a fine time for anyone who hasn't yet seen the season finale to bail.) So many alliances have shifted!
After last week's agonizing Red Wedding, the final episode (like last year's post-Blackwater wrap-up) was a bit of a take-a-deep-breath reset for still-shaken viewers. Seeing Walder Frey's servants scrubbing the blood off his floor sent a signal: There's a lot to clean up here. And yet, while it would seem like the Stark massacre might send things into chaos, instead we had some new surprising alliances (and reunions):
Arya and the Hound: With the Hound's chances at fetching a reward for Arya dwindling (precious few Starks left around to pony up), he and his saddle-mate's relationship seems to be less captive/captor than grouchy old man/spitfire charge. It's like Dennis the Menace, if Mr. Wilson had a half-melted face and could kill anyone he wanted. The fact that Arya stole his knife and used it to kill those who stapled Grey Wolf's head to Robb's corpse rather than plunging it into the Hound's forehead makes it clear that a grudging respect (or at least mutual need) is forming.
Tyrion and Sansa: Tyrion seems to be growing on his bride. She used to look at him like she was smelling shit, and now she's talking about how they could join forces to make other people smell shit. Baby steps! Then again, in their last interaction of the episode, when he interrupted her gaze out the window, she once again gave him a look that said that sheep-dung-scented dreams were preferable to seeing him.
Theon and Yara Greyjoy: When Theon last saw his sister, she mocked his manliness. Now, seeing his manhood sent parcel post has evoked sympathy in her: She is going against her father's wishes to rescue him from Ramsay Snow. Theon's father resented his son for becoming too much of a Stark while living with them; how will he feel now that his son is a Reek?
Jon Snow: Tracked down by Ygritte, he tells her he loves her, but the heart wants what the heart wants, and that heart wants to kill all the wildlings. In a perverse twist on Cupid, a tearful Ygritte shoots him with three arrows. Romance may be dead, but bromance is alive as Jon's horse takes the pincushioned bastard back to the Wall to reunite with his true soul mate, Sam.
Jaime and Cersei Lannister: Awww, he fought his way back to her! Give that man a hand! (Game of Thrones humor.)
Daenerys and Yunkai: At the end of the episode, the slaves of Yunkai — the city that Daenerys' crushing yes-men liberated two weeks ago — came out and declared her "Mother." The final shot showed just how big a cult of personality Daernerys has built up over the course of this show.
Davos and Melisandre: These two, the angel and devil perched on Stannis' opposite shoulders, have actually found common cause. Just as Stannis sentenced Davos to death for setting free Gendry (who to Stannis was just a skin canteen filled with precious kingblood), Davos played his trump card: a note from the wall warning of a White Walker invasion. Suddenly, the single-minded Melisandre declared meaningless the internecine battles between all the wannabe kings, and instead stood with Davos to convince Stannis to turn his attention north.
And suddenly we have a view of a very different season 4. The Red Wedding massacre portended a Lannister/Baratheon standoff, with more of the same (swords, severed things, palace intrigue). But now could we be looking toward an alliance of former enemies who realize that only together can they fell a common enemy? Where have I seen this recently? Oh yeah, Fast and Furious 6! So get ready for season 4, when Daenerys will build her flying dragons the longest runway ever!
Discuss the finale in the comments below, and check back here in the morning for the full recap. And, much as the Knights Watch implores the lords of Westeros to join forces to help the north, so do I implore book readers not to comment on future plot turns. Plenty in this finale diverged from the book in ways big and small, but please be careful not to be tempted to explain how things play out, as it would ruin things for those discovering it all on TV.