updated 06/16/2014 AT 2:00 AM ET
•originally published 06/16/2014 AT 8:00 AM ET
They don’t celebrate Father’s Day in Westeros – though you could argue, given the focus on dynastic ties and lines of succession, that every day is Father’s Day in the Seven Kingdoms – but Sunday night’s fourth-season finale of Game of Thrones, fittingly titled “The Children,” did the holiday justice anyway.
From the dungeons of the Red Keep to the wilderness beyond the Wall, all of Westeros was taking stock of their father figures. Some exchanged old mentors for new, while others finally realized how crappy their daddies really were. One thing’s for sure – after the events of this episode, most of our characters are going to need a lot of therapy.
Major spoilers below! Proceed at your own risk!
Beyond the Wall
It’s been a long time since Jon Snow has seen his father, but Ned Stark casts a long shadow over all the surrogates he’s encountered over the course of his Night’s Watch adventures. Lord Commander Mormont fought Jon about duty, Qhorin Halfhand taught him to bend the rules and Mance Rayder taught him about trust. When Jon approaches Mance’s camp on an assassination mission, there’s a palpable Oedipal feeling in the air.
But before Jon can cut Mance down, someone else does it for him: Stannis Baratheon, who arrives with his army just in time to slaughter the wildling army that’s been camped out since last week.
Mance surrenders to Stannis, and all of a sudden Jon’s got a new father figure to deal with. This one will likely prove difficult, though Stannis begrudgingly lets Jon convince him to spare Mance’s life. Even more worrisome is Jon’s new red-headed stepmom, Melisandre, seen giving our young crow an enigmatic glance over a funeral pyre at Castle Black. Was she attracted by the flames, or something else?
Game of Thrones is often at its best when it lets its pulpy side take over, and the battle that ensues is sheer Harryhausen, with Meera engaging the skeleton soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, poor Jojen losing his life (just like he predicted he would) and the deus ex machina arrival of one of the Children of the Forest, who defeats the wights with the magic of her people (fireballs, it turns out).