It’s the episode we all waited for — and now we’ll be waiting ten months for Season 5.
The episode begins with some very stark (HAH — STARK) and minimalistic music as Jon goes to negotiate with Mance Rayder. Silence during their discussion about Ygritte (I refuse to acknowledge her death) and their negotiations, up until Jon makes a move to pull a blade on Mance, where we get soft single lines of music. A horn blast and dissonant lines in the strings announces Stannis’ approach, followed by brass as his calvary closes in on the wildling camp and proceeds to slaughter them. (Side note: why is Ygritte the only woman we’ve seen fighting for the wildlings?)
Cersei’s scenes with the Mountain and with her father are completely silent until she tells him the truth about her relationship with Jamie, when “The Rains of Castamere” echoes as she exits, her back to Tywin’s horrified face.
Her scene with Jamie gives some understated romantic lines with nary a hint of incest. Did we forget that they are siblings?
When the man comes to show Dany the burnt bones of his 3-year-old daughter, dissonant lines in the strings underscore his sobs and the Khaleesi’s horror. As she locks two of her dragons in the catacombs, the string section comes in with poignancy — the Breaker of Chains, imprisoning her own scaly children.
“And now their watch is ended.” Jon lights his friends’ dead bodies on fire with swelling accompaniment in the strings, while their skin cracks and burns. The Ygritte and Jon love theme, “You Know Nothing,” plays as he lights her body on fire too. Ugh, my heart. And then Jon leaves her huge funeral pyre burning in the woods, like forest fires aren’t a concern.
The doomed Jojen Reed gets heroic swells as he sees the huge heart tree — have they finally found the three-eyed raven? One thing is for sure: they used up their CGI budget on the dragons. Our little band of northerners get attacked by Skyrim reject skeletons (that somehow roar without vocal cords), while aggressive fight music spurs them on. Go! Fight! Win!
Or not. A skeleton half-heartedly stabs Jojen, who Meera then kills to be merciful, because the super-strong Hodor couldn’t carry him inside?
Good news, though — they found what they were looking for, as the soft harmonies would suggest.
“You’ll help me walk again?
“You’ll never walk again. But you will fly. ”
I would love a spinoff show with Brienne and Podrick, bumbling through the countryside and fighting crime. And I can’t be the only one who loved the dialogue between Brienne and Arya, can I? The tension builds between the Hound and Brienne, culminating in a fast-paced action scene with an excellent track. The strings are using extended techniques (which you can learn more about here) to create even more tension as they pummel each other across the rough landscape, which come to an abrupt end as the Hound grabs Brienne’s sword and proceeds to bleed all over it. Arya leaves the Hound to die in agony, and in silence. It may not have been canon to the books, but I’m always up for Brienne kicking butts.
The scoring swells as Jamie springs Tyrion from his cell, and the two part in peace (unlike the book, where they part ways with vitriol and threats). Tyrion murders Shae with his bare hands in silence — effective, but very troubling. I’m burned out on violence against women in this season, canon or not. As Tyrion decides to follow through and kill his father, hints of the familiar Lannister theme play, which swell as Tywin slumps over, dead. I can’t help but think that Varys regrets that he ever got involved with this as he asks, “What have you done?”
A children’s chorus sings as Tyrion, encased in a wine barrel, is hoisted onto a ship in the bay, and the music swells as Arya rides over the rocky cliffs and secures passage on a boat bound for Braavos with the coin that Jaqen H’gar have her back in Season 2. And that, my friends, is Season 4.
***This was originally posted on Musically Notable, where I write about old music, new music, and everything in between.