June 10, 2013 at 12:32 AM ET
Does "Game of Thrones" really have a heart after all? After last week's shocking massacre, most fans braced for more tragic deaths in season three's finale. Instead, the blow was softened with poignant reunions and surprising saves, setting the stage for an explosive fourth season.
Body count: No one important died! Unless you count Robb Stark's many bannermen slaughtered at the Twins, that is. But Jon Snow, Theon Greyjoy, Ser Davos, Gendry ... practically all our heroes (and villains) were spared in the aftermath of the Red Wedding.
Headless horseman: One thing viewers were not spared was the sight of Grey Wind, Robb's direwolf, mounted on his body and paraded around the Twins. But the fool who boasted about this unspeakable desecration was silenced by Arya herself, using the knife she stole from the Hound and a little help from Jaqen's silver coin. Valar morghulis!
The North remembers: "Killed a few puppies today?" Tyrion quipped when a jubilant Joffrey first summoned him to a special meeting of the king's council -- to gloat, in fact, about the Red Wedding massacre. After Joffrey threatened to serve up Robb's head to Sansa at his wedding feast (coming in season four!), his appalled uncle offered a thinly disguised threat to kill the little monster. His grandfather also delivered a virtual spanking -- or, as Tyrion put it so well, "You just sent the most powerful man in Westeros to bed without his supper." In fact, only Tywin's youngest son recognized that the Lannister patriarch engineered the slaughter -- and warned that they would all suffer the consequences.
Family first! But as usual, Tywin had the last word: When he questioned his loyalty, daddy dearest revealed that he wanted to drown his youngest as an infant -- and should be grateful that he not only spared him but actually acknowledged him as his son. Ouch. Also: Tywin wanted Tyrion to hurry up and impregnate his wife because Roose Bolton will be Warden of the North until he's supplanted by Tyrion and Sansa's son.
Family reunion: Cersei also encouraged Tyrion to have a baby because they bring such happiness. Like Joffrey, for example, whom she said used to be "such a jolly little fellow." Aw. Jolly times are here again, because she was finally reunited with her baby daddy/brother Jaime -- most of him, anyway.
Hickory Farms: Speaking of missing appendages, Theon's castrator was finally revealed as Roose Bolton's bastard son Ramsay. While he taunted the new eunuch -- renamed Reek -- by munching on a pork sausage, the Greyjoys got a look at the genuine article, sent to the Pike in a fancy gift box. Balon disowned his son, but Theon's suddenly loyal sister, Yara, declared that she would rescue him.
You give love a bad name: Ygritte, as it happens, is a card-carrying member of the Fool Me Once Club. She chased the Night's Watch spy, found him alone and aimed her bow at him. Jon professed his love and said, "I know you won't hurt me," but he clearly hasn't been paying attention. "You know nothing, Jon Snow," she snapped one last time before drilling him with three arrows.
Dance Party Castle Black: Fortunately for Ned Stark's bastard, his horse had a great sense of direction, delivering his gravely wounded master to the Night's Watch. Fortunately Jon was conscious enough to recognize his welcoming party, including Samwell Tarly! Sam briefly came across Bran too, before reluctantly giving him, the Reeds and Hodor (Hodor! Hodor! Hodor!) directions to cross The Wall.
Reading rainbow: Thank the gods for Ser Davos' literacy program because he managed to read the warning sent by Samwell's ravens about the northern invasion. Instead of killing the Onion Knight for secretly freeing Gendry, Melisandre persuaded Stannis to spare him -- because Davos "has a part to play in war to come." (So winter really is coming?!)
"Mhysa": Let's see, is that everyone? "Game of Thrones" wouldn't say goodbye for the year without one final, victorious send-off from Daenerys Targaryen. When the freed slaves of Yunkai emerged from the city's gates, she refused to command them. "If you want (your freedom) back, you must take it for yourselves," she said before they erupted in shouts of "Mhysa" -- their name for "mother" -- and carried her on their shoulders as her three dragons soared overhead.
It's not exactly a fairy-tale ending, but after the Red Wedding, we'll take it!
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