And so, the dust has settled on another year in Westeros.
As always, we got ten hours of intriguing political tension, nail-biting supernatural suspense, and high-stakes climactic action. We saw plenty of new players enter the "Game of Thrones," and many more bow out in varying degrees of tragedy and gore. But it's not just death that Season 4 gave us: we also got plenty of fantastical creatures, heart-stopping power plays and stunning character transformations. Business as usual, then.
As we bid adieu to the long list of characters we love and (love to) hate for another year, it's time to celebrate our favorite moments of Season 4's offerings. We hope you like our list, and feel free to add any of your personal highlights in the comments -- there wasn't room to include everything we'd have liked to.
Episode nine is always the big one in a "Game of Thrones" season -- that's why Unsullied fans were so shocked when Joffrey Baratheon choked to death during his wedding feast in EPISODE TWO. After spending the episode reminding us all why we hate him, Joffrey proceeded to p*** off half of his wedding guests with a distasteful performance from a group of dwarves. Then, he turned on his dwarf uncle Tyrion in a lengthy and tense scene that looked like it was going to get nasty. Thankfully, Littlefinger and the Tyrells saved the Imp by poisoning the King.
Joffrey's death is a momentous enough event as it is, but it's on this list because it set up all of the dramatic story-lines that unfolded in the capital this season.
It wouldn't be a season of "Game of Thrones" if it didn't include an epic moment of bad-assery from everyone's favorite Mother of Dragons. After conquering many slaver cities and freeing their captives, Danaerys staged her most spectacular victory yet by attacking Mereen from the inside. However, she learnt a valuable lesson from this conquest when she had to sit on the throne and rule her new subjects.
Sure, we've seen more spectacular victories by the Breaker of Chains in the past. But kudos has to go to Mereen not just for the battle, but also for the even harder struggles that it brought Dany during peace-time.
Littlefinger went missing for most of season 3, but as we learn soon after the Purple Wedding, he certainly wasn't slacking during his time away. The former Master of Coin and self-proclaimed Mockingbird has been pulling the strings in Westeros for longer than we realise. Not only did he assassinate Joffrey, he also had a hand in the death that started the titular power struggle - that of Jon Arryn.
However, he finally got his hands dirty when Lysa Arryn attacked her niece in the Eyrie. After pushing the disturbed Lady of the Vale through her own Moon Door, he now stands to hold more power than ever before...
It's a well-worn joke that George R. R. Martin and the writers of "Game of Thrones" take glee in creating likable, sympathetic characters that the audience identifies with -- then brutally murdering them. This mantra has never been more true than it is when applied to Tyrion's trial by combat. Oberyn Martell was in Westeros for less than eight episodes before he had his head exploded in the most gruesome death in the show yet.
At least he got the justice and admission of guilt that he was so desperate to find. R.I.P. Oberyn.
Every scene that Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane had on screen together would have made a worthy entry to this list. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other great storylines we'd like to honor -- so we've had to boil it down to one, all-encompassing entry. In one season, these two gave us more banter, bloody rampages and touching moments then we could ever ask for.
It's a shame it's all over now -- though the Hound certainly went out with a bang in his heart-racing battle with Brienne. Sleep well, Sandor. Here's hoping wherever you are now has enough chickens.
The battle for the Wall had been teased since the beginning of the show, and it was certainly worth the wait. Forget about the bloody battle for the southern gate, the most kick-ass moment of the always awesome episode 9 were the huge giants riding huge mammoths, all the while firing their huge arrows. This episode was a visual treat, and by far the most cinematic entry in the show so far.
What we wouldn't give to see one of Mance Rayder's giants fighting a fully grown dragon...
For the first time since the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Stannis Baratheon finally did something in season 4. Just as hope seemed to flicker out for Jon Snow, banners bearing a burning heart led thousands of warriors into the unprepared Wildling camp. Not only has the rightful King saved the whole of Westeros, but he's also positioned himself in the ideal place for marching on the North and destroying the Bolton legacy.
Plus, did you see the way Jon and Mellisandre were looking at each other through the flames? Something's going on there.
Bran, Hodor, Jojen and Meera finally arrived at their destination in the last episode of this season, as they approached the Weirwood tree. They were quickly disturbed by some skeleton soldiers, but just as quickly saved (well, most of them) by a mysterious child who can throw fire around like it's nothing. If that wasn't enough for you, this sequence also brought about the death of Jojen and the reveal of the three eyed raven! So much supernatural, so little time.
Now Bran has finally found his mysterious mentor, we get the feeling he's about to learn some pretty impressive powers -- flying among them.
Daenerys has come under quite a lot of criticism from some fans who say that she's had too much of an easy ride lately. Well, they can't really say the same about Season 4. After conquering Mereen, the mother of dragons was horrified to learn that her children have been tormenting her newly acquired subjects. After a child is murdered by the (still missing) Drogon, Dany locks up her other two pets in an attempt to stop the massacres.
It's a surprisingly powerful and moving scene, which reminds us of the sacrifice and struggles ahead.
After years of torment and oppression, Tyrion was finally sprung from both his literal and metaphorical shackles in the season finale. After being freed by Jamie, Tyrion took revenge on his lover Shae and father Tywin in an emotionally fraught sequence. Any whoops and cheers were left trapped and stifled in the audience's throats, with Peter Dinklage giving a genuinely harrowing and moving performance.
We're sure the Emmy's in the post, Pete.
Photo/Video credit: HBO