Game of Thrones
Season 4 Episode 10
The Children by Nikole Gunn
Last week Game of Throne producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss promised that the season finale was their ‘finest hour ever’. Its awesomeness intimidated them, they said. It’d be hard to top next season, they said.
Sure, I said.
I assumed that this was just big talk from the spruiking show-runners. How could it be any more brilliant than The Watchers on The Wall? Seriously? I’ll admit a big part of me feared that the finale would be anti climatic in comparison.
Well, I’ve never been happier to be wrong. The Children was awesome and it will be hard to beat next season. It will be the benchmark against which future episodes will be measured.
It was also the longest episode by far this season and we needed every one of those 66 minutes to tie up as many story lines as possible, while leaving enough of cliff hanger to keep up coming back next year.
Family was the central theme as we whizzed around the Seven Kingdoms, but given the extra length of the episode, it didn’t feel rushed. It has been a criticism in the past and perhaps HBO should consider going longer.
We open with the aftermath of the Battle of The Wall. The Wildling dead is strewn across the battlefield and who didn’t expect them to rise up as Wight Walkers as Jon Snow heads into the forest?
But they didn’t. More’s the pity. Perhaps that would have been a bridge too far for HBO, straying too far from the books’ narrative.
It doesn’t take Jon long to find the “King” beyond the Wall. Mance Rayder makes it clear that the battle of the night before was just to show the Night’s Watch the power he commands.
As they have a drink in Ygritte’s honour, Mance vows to end the fighting, if Jon would grant them shelter from the gatherings storm of the un-dead.
It’s at this point that thousands of armed horsemen sweep down onto the forest, killing all in their path. It’s King Stannis, his Hand and a newly purchased army. He’s clearly borrowed a lot from the Iron Bank.
But the King Beyond the Wall refuses to bend the knee; his life saved when Jon announces his heritage. As he’s led away, Mance urges Jon to take Ygritte back to the ‘real’ north to dispose of her body, before she ‘turns’.
To Mereen, where Dany is confronted by a newly freed slave, who wants to return to his old master. She’s also confronted by the consequences of being unable to control her ‘babies’. The black dragon, Drogon has killed a child and has taken wing.
As heartbreaking as it is, she has no other option but lock her away her two other reptilian ‘children’. Despite their plaintive cries, Dany turns her back on them. A personal sacrifice for the greater good?
At King’s Landing, Cersei confronts her father Tywin, refusing to marry Loras Tyrell. Of course he says ‘too bad, so sad’ leaving her with no option to reveal the family secret. You know, ‘that’ family secret. Uh-huh, daddy dearest had no idea. That’s how much of a hands-on father he is. Not.
After dropping that bombshell, Cersei rushes off to tell her brother/lover what she’s done. That will come back to haunt her. That sort of thing always does. Thankfully, there’s no Jerry Springer Show in the Seven Kingdoms.
The last we see of her, she and Jaime are getting down and dirty on the table. At least this time, their dead son isn’t lying on the bench next to them. It’s the little things, really.
Meantime somewhere in the north, we finally catch up with Bran, Hodor and the Reeds. FINALLY! There has been a distinct last of “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor”.
They’ve travelled far based on a vision and there ahead of them, is a magical God’s Wood Tree, but before they can reach it, dead hands reach up from the snow.
Bran wargs into Hodor to fend off the skeletal Wight Walkers, but not before they get JoJen. And as Bran-inside-Hodor turns to help, a mysterious being appears and leads them to safety, but JoJen is a goner. Goodbye kid from Love, Actually.
Their saviour is one of The Children, older than the ‘first men’ of Westeros. Bran, Hodor and Mara are led further into the cave under the tree, where Bran comes face-to-face with the being, who sent the Three-eyed Raven to Bran.
He’s not going to help him walk again, but to ‘fly’. That will make things interesting next season. There’s something clearly something supernatural about the Tree Being, who’s been watching them all forever. Curious.
Anyway, fresh from a spot o’ rumpy-pumpy with his sister, Jaime turns up at Tyrion’s dungeon and frees his brother. Varys is in on the plan, proving that the Spider was friend, not a foe.
But rather than making for freedom, Tyrion heads for his father’s quarters, where he finds Shae in his bed. And to really rub salt in the wound, she’s calling out Tywin’s name. They fight. He kills her. And he says, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”.
Then, it’s the second most anticipated scene of the series after the death of Joffrey. Tyrion confronts Tywin on the toilet. Tyrion is armed with a crossbow. Tywin’s on the toilet. How poetic is that?
And when Tywin refers to the now dead Shae as a ‘whore’ one time too many, Tyrion shoots him. While he’s on the toilet. And then one more time, before he flees to Varys.
Tyrion’s departure from King’s Landing is in a crate on a boat. At the last minute, Varys joins him as the alarm bells ring out in the Red Keep.
Now, let’s see, we’ve seen off Tyrion, Jaime, Cersei, Tywin, Jon, along with Bran and Hodor. Sansa is somewhere with Littlefinger, while Reek/Theon is with the Boltons. That leaves just Arya, the Hound, Brienne and Podrick.
I don’t remember this happening in the books, but their paths cross and Brienne realises who Arya really is. She begs Arya to come with her, but the Hound’s having none of it. They fight. He loses and falls down a mountain.
Brienne and Podrick go off looking for Arya, but she’s returned to the Hound, who begs her to kill him. Pleads with her to kill him. Tries to goad her into killing him. She doesn’t. She walks away, leaving him to die a slow and painful death. She’s cold, that girl, real cold.
The final few minutes of season 4 belong to Arya. She finds a boat, but the captain refuses to take her north. Instead he’s going to Braavos, but there’s no room for her.
Until she pulls out a coin. “Valar Morghulis”. That changes everything and she has her cabin and she’s on her way.
And there we leave the good folk of the Seven Kingdoms until next year. Ten long months before we find out what happens.
How successful has the season been? On the whole, very successful and much stronger than the previous three. The story telling has been stronger, especially in the last three episodes.
It will be hard to top the finale, but given the continuing success of the show, HBO may just let them have more time each week to tell the story of The Game of Thrones.