Game of Thrones “The Children” Review

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.

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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.

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Meh…

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.

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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.

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“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.

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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!

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7 comments on “Game of Thrones “The Children” Review

  1. Loved this season finale (and the season). It is my favorite one so far. Didn’t like the Bran stuff though (except for the skeleton fight… WE NEED MACES and HAMMERS NOW! [edged weapons are a waste against skeletons]) but the raven stuff made me tune out completely. I don’t even know what was said. From the kid and his cheesy explosions to the old man, I have no idea what happened. I’ll have to watch it again. I literally tuned it out.

    Loved every other part of the episode.
    1.Brienne and the Hound’s fight (I wanted that so bad… and I got it and it was awesome)
    2.Tyrion lives! I didn’t know if he would make it. (haven’t read the books) I like that he got revenge on his tormentors and that Varys helped him when he couldn’t help Ned.
    3.I had a list of four people I wanted gone this season and three of them bought it
    4.Loved Stannis’s tactics. I’m gonna call that the cuisinart or the shredder. Sliced them up from both sides. First it looked Roman but I’m thinking more Attila the Hun.

    This episode made me switch over to camp Stannis (yes even over Dany) He made the right decisions by going to the wall, listening to Jon and I hope he travels south by land with his new larger army. (Boltons first then the twins then the Lannisters) and then the throne. While Dany’s section made me sick to my stomach. Slaves wanting to go back to being slaves. Reminded me of the Booker T and W.E.B debate in this country where the idea of freed slaves doing the same jobs but by choice was discussed, argued and fought over. Also she is bad at keeping pets. When they are young you train them not to bite people or eat children (FAIL) I think it’s too late now and also didn’t she want to win wars with them? If they are untrained, they are not going to be much help except in burning down cities. (or being taken over by Bran) But not against a well trained army. I don’t know. I haven’t read the books. But chaining them up and locking them in a tomb did not sit well with me at all. She is not ready to rule ANYTHING. And she was my favorite. And now she is my least favorite.

    But you are correct the Arya scenes were the best. She is evolving nicely. I like that she had the coin that could not be refused. Loved the way she robbed the Hound w/o having to kill him. And loved her questions for Brienne (who doesn’t check where the body landed for Arya… I was thinking that same thing but maybe she thought Arya was a scared little girl who would run away from her captor if given the chance) Nope, not my girl.

    I’m ready for Season Five. Looking forward to new pairings. Crossing my fingers for an Arya/Tyrion adventure. And maybe Varys helping out Dany. Sometimes I hate that I haven’t read the books. But most of the time I’m glad I haven’t.

    Sorry about the length of this comment. It was really a great episode with a lot of cool stuff.

    • I am still a Dany guy, but I see where you are coming from. She is a teenager though. I think it is okay for her to make mistakes. I’m hoping she gets her shit together and wins you back over, but I can’t blame you for heading over to the Stannis side.

      I don’t think you missed much in that Bran section… haha. It was all a little out there. I’m also glad Tyrion is alive and I knew you would be relieved! And I love the long comment! It was great!

  2. I really enjoyed the finale, it was deeply satisfying for me. All the action scenes from Stannis, to Brienne and even the skeleton fight were well done.

    I was looking forward to the epilogue. I was checking the time left at the end of the episode and realized it wasn’t going to happen. But the episode didn’t really need it and after hearing the producers thoughts on why it was excluded, I’m good with it.

    I’d definitely be interested in reading your overview of season 4 and thoughts on season 5. Great write up, it was fun checking out your reviews each episode.

  3. Those skeletons were a little bit too “Jason and the Argonauts” for me! The three eyed raven/old man did just look like a old guy sitting in some roots, who could quite easy get up. I always imagined him more sort of “plugged in” to the tree! It will be interesting to see how they carry Bran’s plot off from this point. It gets even more supernatural, I can’t recall much that really happens.. might we get some flashbacks featuring Ned?

    What I’m most bothered about (which I would have talked about in my review but I was on such a deadline and so much going on I forgot half of what I wanted to say!) is what they have done with Cersei. TV Cersei is kind of a mess in my opinion, not in a good way. As you say they’ve made a really fuck up of the relationship with Jamie and made so many changes. We haven’t seen her get up to HALF the stuff she does in the books (no Kettleblacks). Plus – crucially – Tyrion didn’t tell Jamie about Lancel before he left. This left Tyrion and Jamie on good terms, and it means that Jamie and Cersei are still fine. Part of the reason that Cersei goes on such a bat shit crazy spiral is that she feels totally alone and their is nobody to rein her in! She doesn’t even have Jamie any more. I don’t even remember them talking that much (it’s been a few years since I read the books now).

    Also do you think we might get Ser Kevan for season 5? I always liked him. It’s also good to see a Lannister who is actually quite a nice and reasonable chap, and not totally fucked up in any obvious way!

    Plus.. another big change. Varys is going off with Tyrion? I don’t get where they are going with this one. Doesn’t that make Varys look guilty?

    • *This comment contains book spoilers*

      I hear you on the skeletons. I thought they’d looked great visually, but they didn’t feel very GoT to me. And yeah the roots should be running through Bloodraven and stuff like that. I know the showrunners have always said they didn’t intend to do any flashbacks, but it sounds like they are casting for one for Cersei (Maggy the Frog… meh) but I hope it means they will do some with Bran. His could actually be really cool. Would love to see Ned again!

      Jaime and Cersei are a mess. I think they can still inform Jaime of her cheating though I’m not sure it will have the same impact as with Tyrion (plus as you mention they leave Jaime/Tyrion in a much different place as well). I think the important part is Jaime needs to be the one to drift away from her because of stuff she did and his own personal growth. So when Jaime eventually gets that letter and burns it, it makes sense. That is a reason I didn’t like the Sept scene. It felt like it gave her a reason to be angry and move away from Jaime. Now they seem back on even ground. So I hope next season they really start poisoning Cersei in Jaime’s eyes and get the arcs headed where they should.

      I guess Kevan was in the first two seasons (I totally forgot about this until I just looked it up… haha). So hopefully they will bring him back in.

      Varys actually disappears after the Tywin’s murder in the books too. He doesn’t appear directly again until ADWD’s Epilogue with Kevan I think. He does seem to be doing stuff around King’s Landing during that time pulling strings though. I’m not sure what the plan here is with him going with Tyrion, but he could easily get back to KL before long I figure. I’m guessing the showrunners wanted to keep Varys in the show in some way next season and it will give Tyrion a familiar face to pair with maybe until he meets Griff and company. I’m not sure it is a good call either. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

      There were definitely a lot of changes here and I’m still not sure how they will all play out. But that is my take at the moment. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

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