GAME OF THRONES Season 4 Finale Recap: “The Children”

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With “The Children,” Game of Thrones delivered one of its most cinematic and epic hours yet (and also spent a mint on their CGI budget for this episode, surely).  Unlike other premieres and finales, the show didn’t touch on every story line, and that was a very good thing.  When Game of Thrones restricts itself to just telling a few narratives well, it’s a much, much better show.  “The Children” also ran for a slightly extended length of time, which the series (and this episode in particular) desperately needed.  And for once, Game of Thrones chose to end its season in a place of contemplation, rather than shock and awe.  Hit the jump for more.

game-of-thrones-recapFirst of all, a very Happy Father’s Day to everyone from Tyrion Lannister.  A Storm of Swords is full of many surprises, but Tyrion’s murderous rampage ranks among the best.  “The Children” had a lot happening, and because of last week’s disjointed battle-only entry, the horror of Tyrion’s imminent death after the slaying of Oberyn Martel, the Viper, lost some of its punch.  It was a huge frigging deal, let us all note, that Jaime came to rescue Tyrion.  Not only that, but that of course Varys was in on it.  Remember that Varys publicly denounced Tyrion and helped send him to his death?  But of course, the Spider can never be trusted.  In this case, it worked to Tyrion’s advantage.

Then there was Tyrion exacting revenge on Shae.  The revelation for him that she was sleeping with his father struck him at his core.  She’s a whore, yes, but she also looks out for herself.  She had been burned by Tyrion, and then got jewels and security through her alliance with Tywin.  It’s not surprise that Tyrion would be set off by this, to the point of killing her.  Nor was it surprising that he didn’t this time fall for his father’s hollow “you are my son” proclamations, as became clear in the next instance, when Tywin denounced him as never having been his son after Tyrion shot him.  Being killed on the toilet is an undignified way to go, to be sure, but it was the perfect shocking twist to Tywin’s long reign of terror.

“The Children” ended with each character facing a turning point.  Tyrion stood up for himself and stood up to his father, just like Jaime chose to free Tyrion instead of allowing Cersei to get her way.  Varys chose to accompany Tyrion on his journey rather than return to King’s Landing.  And elsewhere, Dany made the heartbreaking decision to chain up her remaining dragons after Drogon killed yet another child.  It was an almost unbearable choice: these are her children, and elsewhere, she is striving to free slaves.  And yet, she puts chains on those she mothers?

game-of-thrones-recapAcross the Narrow Sea at the Wall, Jon’s meeting with Mance is minimized after the advent of Stannis and Davos commanding an army to destroy the Wildlings.  (Finally, someone answered one of those GD ravens for help!)  So many of Game of Thrones‘ premiere and finales have revolved around the Wall, and the threat from beyond.  It was a nice change of pace to just treat those events as a cursory part of life now: Winter is Coming, help is here, now it’s time to deal with it in a real way.

In one of the series’ most spectacular scenes, Bran, Hodor, Meera and Jojen finally reached their mysterious and mystical destination at a weirwood in the far, far north of the Wall.  Naturally, they had to fight an army of skeletons to get in there, and that truly was perhaps the best small battle scene Game of Thrones has yet had.  Reaching the weirwoods, meeting the Child of the Forest, and interacting with tree-roots man in what looked like Carcosa was a great way to restore the sense of Game of Thrones as a supernatural fantasy epic.  This is more than an alternative history middle ages — this is something extremely strange.

When it comes to turning points, though, no one had more of a personal change than Arya.  To have Brienne finally find her after all of that time was a great moment (especially because — until Pod recognized and called The Hound by name — it felt like it could easily be another near-miss).  The fight between Brienne and The Hound was extremely personal and brutal, but it was the only way for The Hound to go out.  Did he die?  It’s ambiguous (they went off-book here so I genuinely have no idea).  There was no maester hiding behind that rock, true, but Westeros is full of strange and unexpected things.

game-of-thrones-recapThe more interesting thing was Arya’s response to all of this.  She refused to be won by Brienne, but then gave The Hound her ultimate poker face as he goaded her to mercy-kill him.  Why did she leave him?  Was it merciful, or was it so that he would suffer excruciating pain until his death?  Or was she just fucking done?  She can’t be blamed for that, for the love of R’hllor.  She got the heck outta Westeros at the first opportunity: instead of going North (which would give us all way too much satisfaction, to see Arya reunited with Jon), she took off to Braavos, thanks to the coin Jaqen had given her for just that scenario.

The final shot of Arya sailing away portends an opening up of this world beyond Westeros — other than Dany’s story — now.  It also set an interesting tone to end the season.  Despite everything that had come before that moment, the final seconds of “The Children” didn’t at first seem to reflect the epic struggles that went on for most of the hour.  But it was actually perfect by being moody and contemplative.  Characters made difficult decisions, and almost all are leading to things that look very different than anything we’ve seen before (Stannis at the Wall?  Another power vacuum with Tywin dead?  Varys and Tyrion on the lam?  No more Hound, no more Jojen, no more Arya in Westeros?)  That’s what’s exciting, and that’s what keeps viewers so engaged with the show.  Anything could happen, and everything is at stake.  Valar morghulis … valar dohaeris.

Episode Rating: A+

Musings and Miscellanea:

– I’m going to start off by saying that no, the show didn’t address the book’s Epilogue (yet), and I’m not surprised. I will probably write an entire article about it on Monday though.  For now, if you want to discuss that choice in the comments, please be cryptic and still mark it with spoiler warnings, thanks!

– Lots of gorgeous and interesting scenes in “The Children:” from the view of Jon from the Wall amongst the dead, looking like ants, to the great skeleton battle and the glory of the weirwoods, to Arya riding along the shore.  Just gorgeous.

– I’m glad Ygritte got one more moment, when Jon built a funeral pyre just for her by the weirwood.

game-of-thrones-recap– Stannis and Davos riding up was one of my favorite “hell yeah!” moments from this season.

– “We’re not in the Seven Kingdoms, and you’re not dressed for this weather” – Mance.  I love Ciran Hinds, but the show’s conception of Mance is continuously underwhelming.

– “I’ve been watching you all your whole lives, through thousands of eyes.” – Tree man.

– Children of the Forest can apparently throw fire bombs out of their hands.

– So, indeed, the Mountain was poisoned by the Viper’s spears.  Good riddance (I hope).

– “I’m not interested in hearing another of your smug stories about when you won” – Cersei.  Well, that was her last one!

– Happy Father’s Day, Tywin (Part 1): your kids are having sex and producing illegitimate heirs for you!

– Tywin should know that “whore” is a trigger word for Tyrion.  Literally.

– “Fuck water. Killed by a woman!  I bet you like that” – The Hound to Arya.  I don’t think she sufficiently explained by the Hound and Arya would just turn around and leave the Eyrie without even bothering to go inside or ask any more questions.  I mean, Westeros is not a good place to be out and about and unprotected, regardless.

– The dragons screaming after Dany was such a difficult moment.

– “You’ll never walk again, but you will fly” – Tree man.




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  • DoremusJessup

    Is it just me or did they withhold a genuine shocker from the end of the Storm of Swords?

    • jack

      yep…if we’re thinking the same thing, I was positive it would be the last scene of the season.

      • Hunter

        Same. I was really let down when it didn’t end with that. I could not have been more sure that would have been the final scene.

      • Redjester

        While I expected that too, you have to admit that, that Arya scene and the accompanying music was a pretty perfect way to end the season.

    • Carlos Rincones

      They kept it for the start of season 5

      • Christian Grey

        WHAT ARE YOU GUYS TALKING ABOUT???
        I have not read the books. So, If it is a spoiler or the ending was different from the book, then dont mind my questions. :)

      • Carlos Rincones

        Yes bro, is a big, big, big spoiler and you don’t want to known it :) So please do not read other comments.

    • CJ

      I was certain that would be the ultimate “WTF!?!!” shocker of them all.

      • http://twitter.com/reddevil09 Thizzle

        if it happened, the intrawebz would have died.

    • James Franco

      You mean a resurrected but zombiefiied catlelyn stark leading the brotherhood without banners overseeing the deaths of two Freys from the red wedding? Nah I don’t think they will be bringing her back again

    • http://twitter.com/reddevil09 Thizzle

      I think everyone who knew about it expected it to happen and were a tad disappointed in the end. But then again, they usually end the season by summing everything up without any real OMG moments. Except the white walker in end of season 2 I guess.. ( and the Dragons in season 1 ) omg… NO!

    • the king of comedy

      Since it was already an episode in wich many things needed to happen, wich damaged the pace a little bit, I`m glad they left that for season 5, after all it`s not something that adds much to the main story of season 4.

  • rpsmorris

    it would have been an amazing shocker if they ended it with the…. river scene. I personally think they should have

    • Redjester

      While I agree with you to some extent, I also cannot imagine that episode being any better than it was, and in that sense I wouldn’t want them to change a thing.

  • mattinacan

    great episode, great season, but where is stoneheart? and too bad they cut the background story about tyrion’s first wife, that would have been great for the jamie/tywin scenes. They made the point to mention her multiple times in previous seasons then left it out of the big finale, weird.

    can someone tell me what they were doing to the mountain there, i don’t remember weird experiments being done on him.

    • TheOscarRP

      *SPOILERS*
      Qyburn experiments with him and other dying people all through A Feast for Crows until Clegane dies. Then, in A Dance of Dragons, Qyburn introduces Cersei to Ser Robert Strong, an eight-foot-tall unbeatable champion who never removes any part of his armor and who never eats, sleeps, or goes to the restroom. It is heavily implied that this is what Qyburn made of The Mountain.

  • Curious

    SPOILERS.

    ******

    Again don’t read warning

    *****

    So its been awhile since I read book 3, but it looks like the show is taking some liberties moving forward. Jojen, Grenn and Pip never died, they never introduced the cold hands character, the hound never fought Brienne (awesome fight though), nor did she ever meet Arya, Sansa never admits her true identity to the judges, and Varys doesn’t go with Tyrion. Obviously these are small things, but they have some ramifications. Grenn and Pip played a major role in getting Jon elected commander of the nights watch. Varys not being in Kings Landing will be interesting considering to his big secret (actually might work out better?). And while it was a rather small part in the book, I’m surprised they decided to pass over the whole Jamie & Tyrion falling out during the escape scene. That whole sceneseemed a bit rush in general.

    Don’t get me wrong the show is fantastic. I loved tonight’s episode and you need to steer away from the book to make it special and unique. It’s just interesting to see some of their decisions. I feel the show runners are setting up for plots and story arcs that even the book readers are unaware of. Like what are they doing with the mountain? I thought he died? but it looks like he is being turned into something? I’m also glad they waited on the epilogue of book 3. Season 5 is going to be a doozy especially considering all the source material. I’m assuming they’re going to make season 5 the first half of books 4 & 5.

    Thoughts?

    • Ser Throwaway

      SPOILER WARNING
      _________________

      Well, the whole thing with Qyburn creating Ser Robert Strong for Cersei as an “unbeatable champion”/a zombie slave is probably being more “openly” foreshadowed here.

      But yeah, lots of changes from the books… not sure I liked them all either…
      - Brienne never meets Hound/Arya, what?
      - Varys leaving with Tyrion will shake stuff up a bit going forward, especially with the Tyrells.
      - Noooo…. Jojen… Howland Reed needs to show up in the books, soon, if they’re going to continue the Bran story. They don’t have much material left.

      • Agent777

        Since the show spoiled the Night’s King… do they need to have a “spoiler warning disclaimer” on the show, or have the sanctioned book readers to spoil as much as they want willy-nilly? If the fundamentally change everything, is there even such a thing as a spoiler for this show now?

    • dax3d

      It has been a little confusing sometimes as to the changes from the book. Overall I have enjoyed the changes as it is making the show something a bit unique.

      But I don’t recall, what is Varys’ secret? I was surprised when he turned around and got back on the ship.

      Great finale!

      edit: Just read the Ice of Fire wiki, now I remember what Varys was up to.
      That’s a very big change as he has some pretty important work to do in Kings Landing!

      • Agent777

        I feel the changes ruin the rewatch value, as they havn’t held up to rewatches, for me at least.

      • dax3d

        I haven’t really rewatched any of the seasons, I think only the Dany ‘Dracarys’ scene over and over again.

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  • Redjester

    Possibly the greatest hour of television I’ve ever witnessed… Wow…

    P.S. I’m glad to see they left some of what I was expecting to go down in this episode to next season!

    • Aquartertoseven

      That’s way over the top, there’s no way that it’s a 10/10. Last week was, definitely, every scene crackled, whereas this one? I’d give it a 9 max, it just wasn’t as good as The Mountain and the Viper or the Watchers on the Wall. Had some great bits though, but not 10/10 bits.

      • Redjester

        I’d give the two episodes prior a 9/10 and this a 10/10. Although the Mountain and the Viper was great, the leadup to the five minute fight had its slight flaws as did last weeks episode. This episode, in my mind, had none. Perfect from start to finish.

        That said, I respect your opinion :)

      • Aquartertoseven

        What was perfect about it exactly? The intro was great but not amazing, same with Daenarys, the Arya bit was amazing (the only scene that crackled for me) but like in the Mountain and the Viper, the Tyrion scene was easily the weakest imo, due to his storyline being dragged out so much.

      • Redjester

        That’s where we differ. I felt that every scene crackled to perfection.

      • Aquartertoseven

        Hmm, your crackle-o-meter seems to be broken, you need to get it fixed pronto.

  • randommale7

    Better than most episodes this season but the whole season has just been really underwhelming and I honestly haven’t cared about Jon, Daenerys or Cersei all season…in fact they’ve been really damn annoying…

    • Redjester

      Really? I thought this was perhaps the strongest of the seasons thus far, and that’s saying a lot.

      • randommale7

        Some episode have been really strong but compared to Hannibal, True Detective and Broadchurch GoT just hasn’t really held my attention the past two seasons, I often find myself doing something while watching GoT because it just doesn’t engage me as much anymore…also GoT fans seriously need to watch The Wire and The Sopranos because GoT is nowhere near being the greatest tv show ever…

      • BigJimSlade

        Funny you mention two of the most overrated shows in history to try to knock GoT.

        I’d rather watch old Hill Street Blues reruns than sit through The Wire again, thanks. And I’ve watched The Sopranos and didn’t find the characters or the storyline particularly compelling…

      • Redjester

        Hannibal and Broadchurch, while great, are no where near as good as Game of Thrones, sorry.

        Sopranos, True Detective (although a laughably premature inclusion), The Wire, and (one you omitted) Breaking Bad might just be the four best shows ever when all is said and done, so that doesn’t exactly speak to Game of Thrones being anything other than exceptional.

        Perhaps the fantasy genre just doesn’t do it for you.

        My Top 5:

        1. The Wire
        2. Breaking Bad
        3. Game of Thrones
        4. Mad Men
        5. Sopranos

        House of Cards and True Detective might reach that level of brilliance once they’re three or more seasons in. Only time will tell.

        My comedy list would be something along the lines of:

        1. Seinfeld
        2. Louie
        3. Extras
        4. Curb your Enthusiasm
        5. The Office

      • randommale7

        I actually like fantasy a lot and actually prefer Breaking Bad and Hannibal and Mad Men over The Sopranos and The Wire but most GoT nuts I know only seem to think GoT exists and no other show…it gets really annoying because I do like GoT but the last two season (though some episodes have been exceptional) have been really disappointing to me.

      • Andrew

        Maybe you should stop watching the show then… No one wants to hear you complain

      • Conor

        i. The Sopranos
        ii. The Wire
        iii. Mad Men
        iv. Breaking Bad
        v. Six Feet Under/Game of Thrones

      • Conor

        Though, if Hannibal is as good as it has been thus far it may usurp the fifth position of my heralded, acclaimed, and anonymous list.

      • Redjester

        If you had asked me 8 or so years ago, Six Feet Under would have been number 1 on my list. Perhaps True Blood ruined the brilliance of Alan Ball for me.

      • randommale7

        Yeah, I’m a big Six Feet fan too; need to rewatch it!

      • Agent777

        Twin Peaks? The mother of modern TV?

      • http://www.marcjwrzphoto.com/ Marc J.

        I love The Wire — and GoT is right on the same caliber in my humble opinion.

        Dany’s story is a tad bit slower this season — but I personally love the politics surrounding taking over and ruling.

        Jon Snow? The character has been nothing but greatness this season – finally has come into his own as a bad-ass AND a leader.

        Cersei? love to hate her and she’s kept it up as usual.

      • Agent777

        Deadwood is superior, imop, to The Wire and The Sopranos.

      • Bo

        Finally someone who isn’t comparing different bowls of dogshit. He likes poodle shit…and he likes bull dog shit…etc. etc. Hey, it’s TV and it’s all shit. Except Deadwood…TV yes, but man did it far exceed the shit that TV is…which is entertainment for the folks who need to get a life!…Sorry folks, but really…arguing about which is the best TV show?…lol…And yes, I watch GoT, and True Detective (ugh)…found The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men (double ugh) unwatchable…so we all have our opinions as to which dog shit we like the best…just remember…it’s all dog shit!

      • MrGiles

        I love GoT (read the books and don’t mind some of the changes…the Jaime raping Cersei scene pissed me off a little) but still think that Homicide is the most underrated awesome show ever. The last season of Walking Dead was really great too.

        Sometimes I think that having read the books reduces the awesomeness of GoT for me. I was kinda bored during the finale because I knew what was coming and didn’t really like Brienne fighting the Hound because it didn’t follow the books. I also wanted the “Epilogue scene” to end this season. It would have ranked right up there with the Red Wedding for a WTF way to end the season. Instead of reading the books again maybe I should try to forget them and just focus on the show.

        1. Homicide: Life on the Streets
        2. Sherlock
        3. Breaking Bad
        4. Luther

        After that take your pick between GoT, Six Feet Under, certain seasons of The Walking Dead, Mad Men, and Dexter.

        Feel free to tell me I am wrong. = )

  • Redjester

    What does it say about me that I’m seriously considering rewatching GOT rather than watching the (thus far) excellent HALT AND CATCH FIRE or the incredibly entertaining PENNY DREADFUL?

  • vitextreeradar

    ray harryhausen is spinning in his grave tonight…with pride that is

  • Christian Grey

    Just for a second, I thought Tyrion was meeting his father to say, “Happy Father’s Day, DAD” . Then again, He Kinda did :D This Season finale finally felt like watching a season finale.. Usually the penultimate episode use to be considered as finale when it comes to GOT. Excellent episode except for one continuity error. When Tyrion fires the 1st arrow… it sure did looked like it hit the middle part of the chest but, on the next frame they showed it like the arrow had hit the stomach part .. other than that… it was a very well made season finale episode…

  • eternalozzie

    well … crap … lost a character tonight I didn’t realize I was attached to …. never read any of the books and people tell me not to get attached to anyone because George loves to kill everyone. this death didn’t even further the plot along at all.

  • Bailey

    I felt this season has some feeling of closure to it and if this is the ending of the final season, I could very well be half satisfied. Love what they did with the variation of the theme. Hurry up season 5.

    • ikkf

      Hurry up Book 6!

  • Christian Grey

    Just for a second, I thought Tyrion was meeting his father to say, “Happy Father’s Day, DAD” . Then again, He Kinda did :D

    • Spanky

      I think you should write your ‘joke’ a couple more times… there might be a few who didn’t catch it the first or 2nd time

      • Christian Grey

        lol !!! Just saw my previous comment … Sorry :D My Internet was acting
        weird yesterday ( fluctuating ) .. I didnt realize until now that, i
        have said the same thing twice.. because, when i tried to post
        yesterday… i thought my previous comment didnt get post, because of my internet fluctuation.. and forgot my second part of the comment so, i
        just posted the first part again :) .. Boy!!! this is embarassing .. I
        just wish tyrion had put that bloody arrow into my chest after this :D

        P.S.

        THANK YOU INTERNET FOR MAKING ME LOOK LIKE A DOUCHE A.K.A. JOFFREY BARATHEON

      • IMPYEMU

        ………………..

  • OC

    Btw, although the events leading up to it were different, they din’t go off book at the end. The Hound and Arya’s last scene was almost exact as in the books.

    • Oolie zool

      got there differently, but yes, pretty much the same.

    • Kyle Chandler

      Yeah, I thought it was pretty clever how they went about it, and they even got to throw in fun scenes like The Hound vs. Brienne. Worth it.

  • LEM

    Tywin had one hell of a fathers day.

  • ivan

    “Grenn came from a farm”

  • Agent777

    “Wherever whores go.” – Tywin. Congrats on cutting the best line/moment from the books.

    Also Brienne does meet the Hound in the books, but in an entirly diffrent context… he needs to be around to deal with Sir Robert Strong…

  • DjangoBro

    I was very impressed with this season, best one yet!!

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  • JCubs79

    A tip for people who read the books (I did) Stop comparing the show too the books and view it as a separate interpretation of Martin’s overall vision. I did that when I started and I’ve enjoyed both immensely. Absolutely loved this season.

  • IMPYEMU

    The reason I can’t view this show objectively is because A Song of Ice and Fire is my favorite book series ever. I don’t think it can be adapted perfectly, though the writing of GoT could be SIGNIFICANTLY improved.

  • Jerome

    Jon: He killed my friend Grenn.
    Mance: He was their king. Last of a bloodline that stretches back before the first men.
    Jon: Grenn came from a farm.

    Loved that line!

  • http://tarek-to-verso.over-blog.com/ tarek

    Wonderful finale. I was afraid that this finale will end with a low note, just like the previous episode.
    It was a very memorable Finale. Tyrion and Arya ( my two favorite characters) got their revenge. I enjoyed the scene where Tyrion confronted his father on the “throne”. What a wonderful allegory.
    Good review Allison.

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