Game of Thrones “The Children”

Game of Thrones S4E10 “The Children”

The excellent fourth season of Game of Thrones comes to an end with this season finale called “The Children”, and its final scene leaves us with Arya on a boat heading for Braavos, initially looking back at Westeros before heading to the front of the boat to face her new future in Braavos. There couldn’t have been a more fitting way to end this season. The fourth season of Game of Thrones was not only very eventful, it also destroyed the normal and forcibly brought on changing of the guards, new eras and new problems to go along with it. “The Children” is loaded with huge game changing moments and proves to be not only the best season finale we’ve seen on Game of Thrones, but also one of the best episodes of Game of Thrones in general. In “The Children”, the conflict beyond the wall comes to a screeching halt, Bran makes it to the three eyed raven, Dany learns assets can become liabilities, Tywin faces mental and physical anguish from his children, and Arya chooses a new path. Let’s begin.

If there was a complaint to be had about “The Watchers on the Wall”, it was that there was no real ending as the battle itself was just a test of sorts on the part of Mance. The episode ended with Jon heading to Mance’s camp and this is right where we pick up “The Children” so we get immediate resolution on this plot line. When Jon makes it into the wildling camp, he immediately yields and is brought before Mance. Mance regrets that Jon couldn’t be turned into a true free folk and the two drink to their fallen friends from the night before. Mance seems to genuinely want to come to peace terms and offers them to Jon, no one more gets hurt if the free folk are given safe passage through the tunnel. Negotiations are cut short when Mance sees Jon eyeing a knife and deduces that Jon came here to kill him. Things look even more suspicious when war horns are blasted outside. Mance holds a knife to Jon’s neck and asks if they’re attacking but Jon tells him they don’t have enough men.

They head outside to see who’s attacking them and the attack is led by Stannis Baratheon along with Davos Seaworth, and they are commanding a massive cavalry. Horses make a huge difference when only one side has them and the Baratheon force massacres the wildling army. Mance quickly yields when he sees how many free folk are dying and is approached by Stannis. Stannis asks him to kneel, a formal tradition when one surrenders to a king. Mance refuses, even on a second request. Davos spots Jon and asks why a brother of the night’s watch is in a wildling camp and Jon reveals his identity and that he was here to negotiate with Mance. Jon tells Stannis that his father was Ned Stark and Stannis has tremendous respect for Ned, as he died for supporting his claim to the throne. Stannis asks Jon what he thinks Ned would do with Mance and Jon tells him he should be taken prisoner, Stannis is convinced and the group heads back to Castle Black.

The surviving members of the night’s watch, along with Stannis and his group, stand witness for the funeral and burning of the slain brothers that were killed last night in the battle. After the rather large pyre is set ablaze, Melisandre stares at Jon from the other side of the flames and clearly makes Jon feel uneasy. Jon leaves the funeral to talk to Tormund, who is now a prisoner. Tormund requests that Ygritte be burned beyond the wall, “the real north” and Jon complies. Just beyond the wall, Jon cremates Ygritte and turns away to cry, not being able to look at his lover being truly gone from this world. Their love was real, and now it’s nothing but ash.

Even further north, Bran and friends continue their trek and most everyone has reached the point of exhaustion. Meera starts to think that they’re not going to make it but Bran calls out from slightly ahead that they’ve already made it, as the heart tree from his vision is within sight. The final stretch proves to be far from easy though, as they make their final approach, wights start to pop up from underneath the snow. The group quickly becomes overwhelmed by the threat but the wights surrounding Bran suddenly burst into flames. A mysterious creature calls from the tree and tells them to follow her. They’ve got no choice but to follow them but they suffer a casualty as Jojen is repeatedly stabbed by the wights. Meera mercifully kills her brother and then runs to the tree with the rest of the group.

The wights get as far as the tree and then disintegrate upon trying to get in. Bran asks the creature what she is and she says she is a child of the forest, one of the oldest species in Westeros, which is now near extinct. She leads the group deeper into the tree and ultimately to the three eyed raven. Meera is upset that Jojen died getting here but the three eyed raven tells Meera that Jojen knew all along he would die getting here, but he recognized how important it was to get Bran here. He turns his attention to Bran and tells him he will regain what he has lost. Bran asks if that means he’s going to walk again but the three eyed raven says no, “but you will fly”.

To Meereen we go. Given that Dany has been stationed in Meereen for the majority of the season, her plot line couldn’t keep being about seizing cities, it had to transform into being about the difficulties of ruling a city. This problem is really brought to light in this episode. Dany meets with two supplicants today and one of them is a former slave. He’s an elderly fellow and back in his slave days, he was treated with respect and was loved by his owner’s children, who he taught how to read, write, and about history. He wishes for Dany to allow him to sell himself back into his former master’s services. He appreciates the efforts Dany has put into freeing the slaves, but acknowledges that her liberation has created new problems, such as the younger ex slaves beating down the older ones and the older ones not having a purpose in life. Dany comes to the realization freedom means making your own choices so Dany allows him to negotiate a contract with his former master. Barristan quickly says the masters will exploit this situation but that’s the price of freedom.

The second supplicant comes in extremely sad and rightly so. He tearfully makes it through his story and lays down the charred remains of his three year old daughter. You may be able to pay off a goat herder if your dragon decides to take a goat for lunch but you can’t do that for someone’s daughter. Dany’s dragons were such an asset to her in taking these cities but now that she’s ruling the cities, the dragons create more trouble than they’re worth. Drogon is still out and about but Dany realizes she has to lock away her other two dragons and does so in the city catacombs. The dragons are Dany’s children and it pains her to have to put them away but they endanger the people of Meereen, who have to be of the utmost importance to Dany now that she is queen. I don’t think those dragons will be coming out any time soon.

In King’s Landing, Tywin faces both a physical and mental onslaught from his children. The mental one comes first and it comes the way of his daughter, Cersei. Cersei tells her father for seemingly the hundredth time that she will not marry Loras Tyrell. She correctly states that he just wants her out of here so he can manipulate Tommen to his own end. True or false, it doesn’t seem to particularly matter to Tywin who insists that Cersei will marry Loras. Cersei than uses the nuclear option and tells her father that if he forces her to marry Loras, she will go public and confirm the incest rumors between her and Jaime and unveil that her children come from this incest. Tywin refuses to believe it and accuses her of lying just to anger him but Cersei thinks he’s just saying that and has known all along, he just doesn’t want to admit that the family legacy is for nothing if it is true. Cersei leaves Tywin to think about it and then goes to Jaime who is in the Kingsguard chambers, a public room. She confesses her love to him and hatred of their father and brother and rekindles their relationship.

Cersei may have sworn off her brother, but Jaime hasn’t. Tyrion is awaiting his execution and thinks it’s time when someone enters his cell but it’s actually Jaime, who has come to help him escape. Jaime reveals to his brother that he along with Varys have planned this. Jaime brings Tyrion to a stairway and tells him Varys awaits him there and from there, he will be going to the free cities. The two brothers who have always loved each other, share their final goodbyes and Jaime departs. Tyrion eyes the stairway but decides to sneak into the tower of the hand first, he has some unfinished business to attend to.

Tyrion sneaks into Tywin’s chambers but does not find his father there. He finds Shae who calls out “my lion”, thinking it’s Tywin. Tyrion is furious at this final betrayal by the woman he once loved and when she reaches for a knife to defend herself against him, he does not back away, he charges forward to grab the knife from her. He wrestles it free and then strangles Shae with a necklace she’s wearing, the same one he gave to her as a gift not long ago. Tyrion apologizes to a dead Shae and spots Joffrey’s old crossbow on the table. He takes it and heads down the hall to find his father sitting on the toilet. Tywin is surprised to see Tyrion and even more so with the crossbow. Tyrion admits his love for Shae while Tywin tries once again to manipulate the situation, telling his son he was never actually going to be executed. When provoked, Tywin admits that he has wanted Tyrion dead his whole life but would never do it because Tyrion is his son, and he admires his resolve to live. Tywin insists that they talk things out in his chambers but Tyrion says he can’t because Shae is in there. Tywin then asks if he’s afraid of a dead whore and as soon as he says whore, Tyrion shoots him in the stomach. Appalled that Tyrion actually shot him, Tywin tells Tyrion that he is no son of his while Tyrion tells him no, he’s always been his son. He seals the deal by shooting at Tywin once more, this time in the heart, killing his father.

With all of that done, Tyrion returns to the staircase Jaime brought him to and meets Varys at the top. Varys with his all-knowing knowledge knows that Tyrion did something very bad and tells him they need to hurry up. Tyrion is put inside a crate and taken aboard a ship. Varys looks on nervously and then hears the bells ringing, signifying something bad. Varys decides staying in the capital would put him in danger and decides to get on the boat with Tyrion. Glad to see Varys is tagging along, Varys and Tyrion have always made a great duo on screen and now they’ll be going to the free cities together. Which city? I guess we’ll find out next season.

In The Vale, Brienne wakes up to find that Podrick has lost the horses. They go in separate directions to see if they can spot them but Brienne doesn’t find a horse, she finds Arya Stark (she just doesn’t know it yet). Arya is suspicious of Brienne but they bond over their mutual experiences of not wanting to be proper ladies. When Sandor is done relieving himself, he comes to Arya to see who she’s talking to. Pod joins in and tells Brienne that this is The Hound. Brienne puts two and two together and realizes that this girl is Arya. Brienne tells Arya of her oath to Cat to keep her daughters safe but Sandor doesn’t much like the look of Brienne since she has Lannister armor and a Lannister sword. Arya sides with Sandor but when Brienne insists that she comes with her, Brienne and Sandor come to blows and partake in the best fight that the series has given us. They’re well matched with swords and Brienne gains the upper hand only when it becomes a fist fight and she forces Sandor down a cliff. With the fight won, Brienne looks to Pod and becomes furious when she finds out Pod was watching the fight instead of keeping an eye on Arya. The two go off to find Arya so that this doesn’t turn out to be for nothing.

When Brienne and Pod are far enough away, Arya comes out of hiding and works her way over to Sandor, who is in terrible shape. Arya asks him if he’s going to die and Sandor tells her that it looks like it. Sandor asks her to give him the gift of mercy but Arya doesn’t give him an answer. He then tries to bait her by bringing up the fact that he’s on her list, the fact he killed the butcher’s boy, and his (fake) desire to rape her sister, Sansa, if he could go back and change things. Instead of showing mercy, Arya takes Sandor’s gold and walks away, leaving him to die. As she walks away, Sandor’s screams of “Kill Me!” only get louder and louder. He may have been on Arya’s list but there is an irony in the fact that not killing him brings him more misery and that’s why Arya decides to let him die his slow painful death instead of killing him herself, like she’s wanted to do for years.

Arya stumbles upon a harbor sometime later and spots a boat preparing to leave. She talks to the captain and offers him gold to sail her to the wall so she can meet up with her half-brother Jon. The captain admits his unwillingness to go there and tells Arya he is going home to Braavos. When she hears Braavos, she takes out the coin that Jaqen H’Ghar gave her two seasons ago and utters the words “Valar Morghulis”. The captain promptly replies “Valar Dohaeris” and tells Arya she will be coming with them and get a cabin to herself as well. She looks at Westeros one last time and runs to the front of the boat and faces eastward towards Braavos. Arya has becomes a colder person with the willingness to kill due to her travel experiences and now she is returning to Jaqen, who promised to teach her his ways if she ever returned to him. I nearly forgot about the coin myself but now that I’m reminded that she’s about to learn the ways of a seemingly magical assassin, I can hardly wait to see what season five has in store for her. Fabulous scene to end a fabulous episode and a fabulous season on. Season four proved to easily be the best season of Game of Thrones yet.

Other Thoughts

Happy Father’s Day Tywin! For real, this episode ironically aired on Father’s Day 2014. When finding out your twin children are in an incestuous relationship is not the worst thing to happen to you that day, you know it’s a rough day.

The music for “The Children” was superb. Tywin dying on the toilet while “The Rains of Castamere” plays in the background just further illustrates how embarrassing Tywin’s exit from this world is. The man all about his legacy, died on the toilet. And the chorus edition of the theme song during the final scene gave me the chills. Great work.

Pod isn’t the best squire but there is an actual reason their horses disappeared. Most of Pod and Brienne’s scenes were shot in Northern Ireland, while their scenes in this episode were shot in Iceland. Iceland doesn’t allow acting animals to come into the country and doesn’t have any of their own, so the horses were always going to have to be out of the episode.

The Mountain is in pretty bad shape and was in fact poisoned by Oberyn. Cersei kicks Pycelle out of his own laboratory and puts Qyburn in charge of The Mountain. Qyburn tells Cersei they have a shot at saving him but he will be “greatly changed”. Interesting.

It was so sad to see that brilliant fight between Brienne and Sandor because it honestly just is a huge misunderstanding. Sandor did have a point though, where is safety? Arya’s father, mother, and brother are dead while her home is a pile of rubble. I genuinely believed him when he told Brienne that he’s taking care of Arya now. Sandor, guardian of Arya just wasn’t meant to be I suppose.

Dead starring cast count for the season is four with Joffrey, Tywin, Shae, and Ygritte biting the dust. If Sandor is dead, then the count is five but we can’t be certain either way.

“The Children” is by far and away the best season finale yet and delivers payoffs that have been years in the making, ushering in a new era for season five to explore.

Episode Grade A+

Season Grade A

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