by Matthew Thompson (Images-HBO. The Game of Thrones site can be found here)
“The Children” picks up right where last week’s episode left off as Jon Snow heads through a field of the dead to find Mance Rayder in hopes of putting an end to their battle. The two converse about those they lost like Grenn and Mag the Mighty, drinking to their fallen brethren. Just when things get heated and Mance realizes Jon’s true intentions for his visit, Stannis and his army rides in taking down Wildings and saving the Night’s Watch. I figured this was how last week’s episode would end, but I guess it works just as well here. I suspect maybe it would have made “Watchers on the Wall” feel even more similar to “Blackwater” if Stannis rode in at the end to save the day like Tywin had a couple of years ago, but who knows the real reason. Regardless I think splitting it up was ultimately fine.
There were some great overhead shots of Stannis’ forces collapsing on the woods and Mance’s army.
I haven’t really cared for the show’s portrayal of Stannis, but he certainly gets a little time to shine here. I especially loved the moment where he walks towards Mance and doesn’t react as a Wildling takes a run at him whom is then easily dispatched by one of Stannis’ knights. So now Stannis is at The Wall and the battle between the Night’s Watch and Mance’s army is over. This is a development that should really shake things up in the North and Stannis’ presence means the stories told up there have a larger tie into the fight for the Iron Throne. Giving more connections to some of the disparate storylines told in Game of Thrones can only be a good thing.
We also head even further North for a rare sighting on this show: a scene that actually pushes Bran’s story forward. It features a pretty crazy fight that includes skeletons, Bran warging into Hodor, the death of Jojen Reed, and a filthy looking kid throwing some firebombs. It is all a little out there, but it makes up for any leaps my mind had to make by just being a ton of fun to watch. The child they run into is actually one of the mythical Children of the Forest. Along with our first sighting of the Children, we get our look at the three-eyed raven in his human form. I’m not sure either of these characters lived up to their descriptions in the books. Obviously there are limitations in TV. The Child I can live with, but I was hoping the three-eyed raven would look like more than an old man sitting in some roots. Still this is a significant step forward for Bran’s journey. He has reached his destination under the great weirwood tree and the old man has promised him he will fly. Whatever that means will have to wait until next year, but it is a good stopping point for Bran this season.
Meanwhile in Meereen, things are not going swimmingly for the new Queen. Daenerys has two visitors. One a former slave who admits he would like to return to his former life as he preferred it to his current situation. Another man comes and shows what Drogon has been up to, revealing the charred bones of his three-year old daughter. In a sad scene, Dany is forced to lock up Viserion and Rhaegal though Drogon is still unaccounted for. After a couple of seasons of Dany taking whatever she wanted, she has begun to stumble in her attempt to rule. These feel like necessary bumps in the road though if she ever wants to rule Westeros. Better to learn these lessons now I suppose.
I had an idea where Arya’s journey would likely end this season, but I was curious how she would arrive there after recent developments on the show. Things have been shifted around a bit which has resulted in Arya and The Hound spending a lot more time together this season. While they have been in a bit of a holding pattern as they wandered around, they sure made things entertaining as hell in the meantime. They’ve been a riot together and while I am sad to see it come to an end, it did so in spectacular fashion in “The Children” involving an absolutely brutal duel between Brienne and The Hound. Game of Thrones have really stepped things up this season in regards to its fight scenes and this battle was just another example of that.
This thrilling sword fight between The Hound and Brienne turns into a vicious brawl by the end.
I was really impressed with both Rory McCann and Maisie Williams’ performance in their final scene together. As The Hound laid dying after his fight, he is trying anything he can to get Arya to help end his suffering, but she chooses to walk away and leave him there. From here, she ends up using the coin she got from Jaqen H’ghar back in Season 2 to sail over to Braavos. The brief interaction with her and the Braavosi captain who grants her passage is a pretty fun sequence itself. Her sailing off is actually how the episode ends. It was not the ending I expected, but a nice one nonetheless.
That wasn’t all that happened this week though. I have been saving the events in King’s Landing for last. I’m not sure either of the Cersei scenes worked all that well for me. Due to what I chalk up to some questionable directing earlier this season, I feel the Cersei-Jaime relationship has been a bit muddled over time. I’m still waiting for them to get their arcs back on the right track, but it seems that will have to wait for next season. This week’s scene feels almost like them taking a mulligan on some of the changes made in their relationship in Season 4. The Cersei-Tywin scene fares better, but I think knowing what was coming made it seem a little inconsequential. I suppose it was neat seeing her throw Tywin off his game a little bit and gain the upperhand regardless of things going forward.
“I am your son. I have always been your son.” -Tyrion’s fitting final words to Tywin.
The main event though is Tyrion’s sequence this episode. It starts with Jaime freeing Tyrion from his cell. He plans to lead him to Varys who will help him flee the city. After the brothers say their goodbyes, Tyrion takes a detour towards his father’s quarters. Before meeting up with dear old dad he gets a surprise: Shae has been sleeping with Tywin. This leads to a confrontation and after a struggle, Tyrion killing Shae. From here, Tyrion marches to find his father, picking up a crossbow along the way and finds Tywin in the privy. Tywin tries to calm his son down, but to no avail and he ends up with two bolts in the chest. After this, Tyrion along with Varys head out on a ship to parts unknown.
This is obviously a hugely pivotal scene for the show. Love him or hate him, Tywin was running things, so his death with ripple out and affect things in King’s Landing and all of Westeros. With him also goes the special performance that Charles Dance put in as the Lannister patriarch. He will certainly be missed. This sequence also sends a couple of King’s Landings biggest players over the course of the series, Tyrion and Varys, elsewhere for some period of time. I think the events themselves were handled pretty well overall, but lacked some of the punch of the book version. Tyrion is given some extra motivation for these events there that really help. Tyrion admittedly has plenty of reason to want Tywin dead, so there is no issue there. The added bit in the book just makes it all a bit more powerful. The only other thing I didn’t love was Shae’s part in the whole deal. She’s a character that never fully worked for me and that continued to be true even in her final moments.
I loved the twist on the intro theme that played as Arya sailed off in the final scene of Season 4.
A few more things:
- Scene of the Week: I wouldn’t have imagined me saying this going into the episode given the larger events taking place, but Arya’s stuff was my favorite this week. I’d probably pick The Hound’s death scene as the best, but the fight and her exit from Westeros were all fantastic. Go Arya!
- Qyburn had a short bit this week doing what looks like some Frankenstein shit on The Mountain.
- As a big fan of Ygritte and her relationship with Jon, I enjoyed the sendoff she got this week. It was nice. There were some other scenes too like a funeral at Castle Black where Mel is eyeing Jon and a talk between Jon and Tormund about Ygritte. Jon cannot escape those redheads.
- For someone who walked all over Westeros in search of the Stark girls, I feel Brienne did an absolute shit job looking for Arya after the fight. Didn’t think to look in the area where you knocked her new friend The Hound?
- I was a little bummed the Epilogue of A Storm of Swords wasn’t included this week at first, but in hindsight, it may not have felt right here. Hopefully they can set it up properly and still do it next year. If they decide to cut it from the show completely, I’ll be bummed.
- Missing in Action this Week: Sansa/Littlefinger plus the Boltons/Theon were all MIA this week. It was a packed episode even with the extra running time, so we were certainly fine without them.
I thought this was an extremely satisfying season finale for Game of Thrones. There were some notable omissions from the source material here that made some of the book passages a little stronger, but just looking at “The Children” as a TV episode and one meant to close off the fourth season of HBO’s fantasy epic, I think it largely delivers. Not only is it filled with big moments, but most of the storylines feel like they have wrapped up in a satisfying way while still giving viewers plenty to think about until next season rolls around.
That will do it for my reviews for the season. At some point in the offseason, I plan to talk about some of the events I look forward to in Season 5 or maybe even do a bit of an overview of Season 4, both of which would lean more towards those who have read the books. I’d like to thank all the people who read, liked, and especially those who commented on these reviews. Interacting with other fans and hearing your thoughts on the episodes is what made this so much fun.
So one last time, make sure to leave your thoughts on the finale or the fourth season as a whole in the comments below. Predictions for next year are also welcome. And thanks again for reading!