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'Game of Thrones' Recap: Tywin, Arya Bring Big Surprises in Finale

Theon's torturer is revealed, Tyrion threatens Joffrey (again!) and Jaime returns home in the HBO hit's season three closer.

Rory McCann Maisie Williams - H 2013
Helen Sloan/HBO

Read a recap of Game of Thrones' season four premiere here.

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Game of Thrones season three finale, "Mhysa."]

Well, it's that time of year when we reluctantly say goodbye to Game of Thrones. The season three finale didn't have nearly the drama or body count as last week's Red Wedding (thank the gods), but it did have plenty of fantastic character moments and lots of setup for things to come.

On Thrones, things don't really conclude -- they continue building. So where did we leave our favorite Starks, Lannisters, Greyjoys and the miscellaneous high-borns, low-borns and Stormborns?

Arya

Poor Arya (Maisie Williams) was so close to reuniting with her mother and Robb, only to have them assassinated at her Uncle Edmure's wedding. Stark men were being slaughtered by the hundreds as she and the Hound (Rory McCann) made their way from the Twins. In a disturbing scene, Robb's body was paraded through the streets with the head of his Direwolf attached to the former king in the North's body.

PHOTOS: 'Game of Thrones'' Most Gruesome Deaths: From Robert Baratheon to the Red Wedding

Later, Arya and the Hound encountered a group of Frey men making camp and swapping war stories. One of them bragged about affixing the direwolf's head to Robb's body. She approached the men and played a hungry little girl, tricking the braggart by dropping the Jaqen H'ghar coin in front of him. When the man went for the coin, Arya brutally stabbed and killed him, with the Hound stepping in to slaughter the other men when they came at her.

Afterward, Arya whispered into the coin, "Valar Morghulis," the words Jaqen told her to say if she wanted to see him again. Now only if she can find a man from Bravos…

The scene was perhaps the most heartbreaking of the finale. Arya's little-girl act gave a glimpse of an innocence so far removed from the killer she has been forced to become.

When the Hound asked if this was the first man she killed, Arya answered in the affirmative: "the first man."

It's true. In season two, Jaqen H'ghar did her killing for her. And her first kill was a boy who had threatened her in season one. After that kill, she looked genuinely surprised and a little horrified. This time, she looked nothing but satisfied.

It makes us think of the foreboding words Melisandre (Carice van Houten) gave Arya in "The Climb": "I see a darkness in you … and in that darkness, eyes staring back at me. Brown eyes. Blue eyes. Green eyes. Eyes you'll shut forever."

Tyrion / Twyin

The half-man and his new bride shared a flirtatious stroll, with Sansa (Sophie Turner) giving Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) some ideas about pranks to play on his enemies.

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At a small council meeting, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) was all smiles as he read the news that Robb was dead. He gleefully proclaimed that he intended to serve Robb's head to Sansa during his wedding feast.

Tyrion was not having it, and a fantastic exchange ensued.

Tyrion: "No -- she is no longer yours to torment."

Joffrey: "Everyone is mine to torment. You'd do well to remember that, you little monster."

Tryion: "Oh, I'm a monster. Perhaps you should speak to me so softly then. Monsters are dangerous and just now kings are dying like flies."

Joffrey sputtered something about how he could have Tyrion's tongue for that comment, proclaiming that he's the king. That's when Tywin (Charles Dance) stepped in and put his grandson in his place, reminding him that any man who must say out loud "I am the king" is no king at all.

"I'll remind you of that after I win your war," he said to Joffrey.

Joffrey insulted Twyin, saying his father (King Robert) won the real war while Tywin hid at Casterly Rock. Tywin was unphased, declaring, "the king is tired" and asked that Joffrey be put to bed.

STORY: 'Game of Thrones' Star: Jaime's Big Season Was 'Building for Three Years'

From there, Tywin and Tyrion had one of the finest exchanges of the season, with the son implying the father was wrong for ordering the wedding massacre. Tywin said he did it to end the war and protect their family, asking why it's moral to kill 10,000 in battle but wrong to kill a few dozen at a dinner. He went on to reiterate that Tyrion must impregnate Sansa so their son could inherit Winterfell.

Tyrion balked, and Tywin said the Starks' downfall illustrated an age-old truth.

"The house that puts family first will always defeat the house that puts the whims and wishes of its sons and daughters first," Tywin said. "A good man does everything in his power to better his family's position, regardless of his own selfish desires."

Tyrion pushed his father to name one time he put himself above family, and Tywin responded with perhaps the worst thing he'd ever told his son.

"I wanted to carry you into the sea and let the waves wash you away," he said of Tyrion's birth. "Instead, I left you alive, and I brought you up as my son because you're a Lannister."

Twyin's face contorted a bit, with the stalwart hand of the king holding back tears.

It was a powerful moment and a fantastic bookend to the conversation the two had earlier in the season in which Tywin spoke of his resentment toward Tyrion, whose mother died giving birth to him.

Cersei

After his conversation with Tywin, Tyrion returned to Sansa and saw her crying over the news of her mother's and brother's deaths. Later, Cersei (Lena Headey) visited Tyrion, who had gotten drunk, presumably out of guilt for what his family was doing to his poor wife.

Cersei advised Tyrion that giving Sansa a child might be the best thing for the girl, saying that having Joffrey helped her feel less lonely during her marriage.

"If it weren't for my children, I would have thrown myself from the highest window in the Red Keep," she said. "They're the reason I'm alive." 

Even Joffrey?

"Whenever he was with me, he was happy," Cersei recalled of the king. "And no one can take that away from me, not even Joffrey -- how it feels to have someone. Someone of your own."

The pair went on to talk about how much longer all the killing and scheming must go on, to which Cersei said it must go on until the family deals with all of its enemies.

"Every time we deal with an enemy, we create two more," a clearly war-weary Tyrion said. Cersei supposed they'd have to take on more enemies then.

Jaime and Brienne

After a season in which Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) had by far the most character growth, he and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) finally made it to King's Landing. There was a nice moment when Jaime -- the city’s most famous son -- was mistaken for a "country boy" and told to get out of the way.

In the only other scene featuring the Kingslayer, Jaime showed up in Cersei's chambers and spoke her name. She turned, and the two looked at each other, Cersei taking in the broken man her brother had become, and Jaime looking down at his stump and knowing he's not the man she remembered.

Bran

Will Bran save us all?

Near the Wall, Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) ran into Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray). After establishing that they were both quite fond of Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Bran asked Sam to take him north of the Wall.

He refused, speaking of the horrors of the White Walkers. The gist of the conversation established that Bran must go north, because the armies of Westeros cannot combat what is to come. What isn't said -- but implied -- is that perhaps Bran can do something about it.

They also discuss Dragonglass, which as Sam learned, has the power to kill White Walkers.

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Jon Snow

Jon reunites with Ygritte (Rose Leslie) after he was responsible for the death of her clansmen. It was clear the two still had deep feelings for each other, with her using her once playful line "You know nothing, Jon Snow." But this time it took on a whole different meaning.

Jon said he knew a few things, including that they loved each other. She looked like she might be ready to take him back but instead riddled him with arrows. Jon escaped with his life (barely) and made it back to the Night's Watch, where he was greeted by his old friend Sam.

Theon

Believe it or not, in one small way things are looking up for Theon (Alfie Allen). Theon continued to be tortured, and received the new name "Reek" because he's been reduced to a smelly piece of meat.

After the reveal that Theon's torturer is none other than Roose Bolton's bastard, Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon), Theon's dad, Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide), received a disturbing letter from the demented Ramsay.

Ramsay ordered Balon to remove all Iron Born from the North and included his son's severed penis in the missive, promising to send "more Theon" should Balon not comply. Balon left Theon to his fate, saying, "Theon cannot further the Greyjoy line" and that his son was "not a man anymore."

But in a surprise move, Theon's sister Yara (Gemma Whelan) vowed to take the Iron Islands' fastest ship and 50 deadliest killers to bring her brother back.

But how much of Theon will be left by the time Yara arrives?

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Davos

Davos (Liam Cunningham) continued to prove that only Brienne and the late Ned Stark can compete with him when it comes to honor. After pleading for the life of Gendry (Joe Dempsie) but failing to win it, he went and freed the lad anyway, giving him a boat and telling him to row to King's Landing.

Stannis (Stephen Dillane) sentenced Davos to die for the infraction, but the ex-pirate said his king would need him for what was to come and pulled out a letter from the Night's Watch warning that a hoard of White Walkers was coming.

The Red Woman took the letter and burned it, apparently seeing a vision of the horrors to come. She told Stannis that yes, he would indeed need Davos, and his life was spared.

Daenerys

We just got a few moments with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and the newly liberated city of Yunkai. Its citizens came out, and she delivered quite the speech in which she says she did not give them their freedom, because it was not hers to give. It's something they must take for themselves.

They responded by calling her "mother" in their tongue and giving her a crowdsurfing moment.

So who’s ahead?

The season was full of very different strategies. There were brilliant moves (Tywin and the Tyrells), the not-so-brilliant (Robb), and the magical (Daenerys and Stannis).

Momentum has been with Daenerys the entire season -- and that holds true at its end. Dragons aside, she has the one thing none of the other would-be kings do: the absolute devotion of her people. She's also got an uncanny knack for rolling into a city and leaving with thousands of its inhabitants in tow.

Tywin has also played the game flawlessly, not having to expend large numbers of men to take out Robb. As he has said, Tywin understands letters can win wars as well as swords. But even though he -- not Joffrey -- is the real power in King's Landing, we are curious to see if the impetuous boy king will turn against his grandfather at some point and put a wrench in his plans.

Robb is dead. Balon doesn't seem poised to take the Seven Kingdoms anytime soon.

The wild card is Stannis. We've seen the Red Woman's magic in action. It works. But was she really responsible for the death of Robb or was that Tywin's doing?

Who will save us?

Several candidates are emerging to save the world from the White Walkers, with the Red Woman convinced Stannis must control the Seven Kingdoms in order to do it. Bran, meanwhile, has some powers that could come in handy, though it's unclear how. And Tyrion, unbeknownst to him, has also been nominated by Varys as one of the few who "could make this country a better place."

So what did you think of the finale? Who's poised for greatness, and who's being set up to go the way of Robb or Theon? Sound off in the comments!