Game of Thrones – “The Children” (season 4, episode 10)
WITHOUT SPOILERS! I will be examining the fourth season of the show, the book series and its long-term scope, changes coming to the show, and where all of this is going.
The last leg of A Storm of Swords is a series of stacked climaxes and twists that delivers on all fronts. It is some of the most fun reading I have ever found. These books lend themselves to re-reading. For your own sake, if you are spoiler free, I recommend staying that way. A fan reaction to something that did not happen in the show last night is a creating quite a few waves on the Internet. A worst-case scenario would be this spoiling fans of the show who have no idea what to expect as long as the show does not indicate it. Basically — read the books, or stay-spoiler free until April.
There are many parts of the fandom that might say this episode contains some of the high points of the series, and that from here on out things are relatively different. Opinions on the fourth and fifth books are varied. Since they take place at the same time, many of those complaints will be way-laid by the television show. Important characters disappearing for a book at a time would not work in television terms so well. Things after A Storm of Swords do change; A Feast For Crows & A Dance With Dragons both vastly expand the scope of the series. They can be viewed as one massive book, and in my opinion are the two best of the series. What happens going forward on the show is going to be fascinating, since parts of the show will almost certainly pass the books in terms of story.
This adaptation is not perfect as book-fans like myself love to mention, but it is the best possible adaptation we could hope for. Certain small changes — like the fantastic conversation between Prince Oberyn and Tyrion on the day of Tyrion’s trial by combat- sting way too much, while characters and events get completely written out or rearranged. The show absolutely has the chance to build upon the book series’ foundation.
This was the best season of the show. Parts of it dragged a little bit. Bran has been traveling north for two season, Tyrion’s imprisonment can seem dragged out. One could easily wonder why Danaerys has not aimed towards Westeros yet. It is almost frustrating that Tommen appears so briefly, that certain threads from the books are not explored, but the amount of stuff packed into ten episodes is astounding. The show did not drop the ball when it came to some of the series’ best material.
After last week’s battle at the wall, the episode starts with Jon Snow marching into Mance’s camp. The scenes between Mance Rayder and Jon are fabulous and Ciaran Hinds casting actually clicked with me fully. His appeal to hide behind the wall contextualizes the Wildling cause and the threat of the White Walkers — and reminds us that winter has not stopped in its tracks.
I was slightly disappointed when Stannis did not show up to save the day last week. The scene is fine here and could have possibly been better used in last week’s episode, but it works great here. Stannis’ calvalry battalions bearing down on the Wildling camp is epic action movie imagery that evokes Gladiator or Lord of The Rings. It looked fabulous. It is wonderful to see Jon, Stannis and Davos together. Stannis’ arc probably sorely needed this in the eyes of a lot of fans. If you are starting to like Stannis a lot, do not worry. He is pretty damn cool once his story gets going, and now it’s moving ahead full steam. Expect lots of Stannis and Jon next season. There is a wonderful, telling look between Melisandre and Jon Snow and a great scene where Jon burns Ygritte’s body in front of the a weirdwood tree. It is worth noting that the music in this episode is fabulous.
The show’s version of the Meereen arc is something I am fascinated by since many book fans are decidedly not fans of it. Generally, I like. I hope season five delves more into the city’s culture. Emilia Clarke does a fine job of chaining her dragons, and her facial expressions are quite moving especially considering all the expensive CGI that went into that scene. It feels to me like a slightly stunted season for Danaerys, however, and last season kind of felt that way too.
Bran’s story finally gets to the place it’s been going since the three eyed raven first appeared in his visions though, and it’s a really important moment. Jojen being stabbed by a skeleton shocked me quite a bit, since his character is still alive in the books. The b-horror movie skeletons with swords can be picked apart on a visual level, but that was a pretty exciting scene, bookmarked by a young, fire-throwing inhuman girl. The Three-Eyed Raven. His name is never mentioned in the books, even though readers know precisely who he is. I am very curious to see what the show does with him. I admit myself being slightly disappointed that his scene was not a makeup or CGI spectacle — but the dialogue and acting delivered enough chills: “You’ll never walk again, but you will fly.”
The fight between Brienne and the Hound is fantastic. I wish the editing and choreography had been slightly different in the fight between Oberyn and the Mountain, because this seemed more intense, more real. This scene does not appear in the books. At one point, Brienne fights a huge, scary man masquerading as the Hound. This season really worked for me and really broke my heart, since the viewer knows where both sides of this fight — and both members of both sides — are coming from. I wish Arya, Podrick, The Hound and Brienne could have cooled that off and talked it out. Instead, a brutal, furious fight goes down. Brienne heartbreakingly really could protect Arya. She hides and Brienne and Pod go on their way instead. I almost expected Arya to kill Podrick.
Arya refusing to put the Hound out of his misery is something that stuck with me for ages when I read it. The viewer/reader hopes so badly for her to kill him, and when the moment for her to do it comes, it’s all the more shocking and cruel that she just leaves him.
The meat of this episode, and the material that I have been waiting all season to see, takes place in King’s Landing. This season has been all about the Lannisters, and change. You could throw a couple dozen themes at the season as a whole, but the biggest is how much has changed. The Stark’s burned bright and lost, and the survivors are adapting to the world the more they come to understand it. Tyrion has been in King’s Landing or under his father’s thumb since season one. It is aggravating to go through his arc knowing he really did not kill Joffrey. This is a bloody, brutal season, with justice and injustice in equal parts.
Before Tywin dies, Cerse tells him “Your legacy is a lie.” This line goes a long way. All season, as Tywin works through the power of “King Tommen of the House Baratheon,” the lie stings. King Tommen is 100% Lannister, and whether or not Tywin knew is never acknowledged in the books. The show changed quite a bit in Tyrion’s escape. In the books, Jamie and him depart on different, equally emotional terms. Tysha does not get mentioned, and in the show’s world she does not really need to be. Jamie and Tyrion are a dear pairing to me. Tyrion lost everything this season, and he decides to burn down the house as much as he can on his way out of King’s Landing.
Shae being in Tywin’s bed, and Tyrion strangling her is a brutal moment. It takes the breath out of you. It’s a watershed moment for his character and one that is not even slightly enjoyable.
It’s hard to lose Charles Dance, the man is the Tywin Lannister I see when I read the books. But this is one of my favorite moments of the book series, and the small changes to lines or lines not said here do not matter. The scene is done almost perfectly. The most powerful man in Westeros and the proud lion dies in the most shameful, embarrassing way imaginable. “I am your son. I have always been your son.” The season ends with a kick to the power dynamic on the way out. Can you blame Tyrion? Not one bit, though Shae is still a tough one. Tywin Lannister died shitting and his legacy is shattered.
A really fascinating change is that Varys is sitting next to the crate containing Tyrion and will be presumably be fleeing the city with Tyrion. That is a pairing not much seen in the books that would work excellently for the show.
The last scene is hopeful, actually pretty and dare I say happy. The music is incredible and Arya sailing away from Westeros is the best thing she could do for herself.
This wait is hard. There is no sixth book coming out any time soon and no fifth season until April. I recommend the books for summer reading as the adaptations of the fourth and fifth books are going to be interesting. While we go back to waiting for a year again, fans of the books can e-mail me with thoughts and comments to be included in an upcoming piece that delves into beyond the spoiler territory of the fourth and fifth books. I would also love to hear what you thought of this season and how you compare it to the first three. I will return to discuss the show when the show does, and until then, thank you for reading. But read the books. It is the best thing to do for yourself if you enjoy this story.
Season Grade- 4 ½ stars
Episode Grade: 5 stars