By Ben Lane
Game of Thrones
Season 4, Episode 10
WARNING: Full spoilers for the episode, and entire season, follow.
Let me begin this review by stating a couple things. If the title of this article didn’t make sense to you, this is not only a review for the season finale “The Children,” but also a recap/review of the entire fourth season of Game of Thrones since I did not review the season episode by episode. You can read my review for the premiere episode, “Two Swords” by clicking this link. The second thing I want to make clear is that this is a SPOILER HEAVY review. If you have not seen “The Children,” do not read this review. Along the same line, there will be a spoiler area where I discuss a major event that occurs at the end of the book A Storm of Swords which didn’t appear in the final episode. That area, however, will be marked with **SPOILER ALERT**, so if you have not read A Storm of Swords and do not wish to know about this event that may still come into play the next season of the show, just skip over that paragraph when you come to it and you will be fine reading this review. I wouldn’t dare spoil anything for anyone without a warning. Without further ado, let’s begin this review.
The idea of splitting the third book in A Song of Ice and Fire into two seasons made a lot of people weary and worried. At first I’ll admit it felt a little like the show runners were going for a Harry Potter move that seems to be running rampant in the film industry of movie series adapted from teen novels. Then I read the book. Man, oh man. Once I read the book I realized it wasn’t a terrible decision to split the book into two seasons because the amount of bloodshed and staggering sequences was just too much to rush through. Thankfully, the show has captured all of it rather well. I loved this season of Game of Thrones from start to finish, and I still regard it as the best show on television right now.
After the final events of season three, and by final events I obviously mean the sheer domination of the Starks, Game of Thrones has changed. We no longer have the Starks to root for, save for Arya, Sansa, and Bran, who seem to be helpless. Jon Snow is the closest thing we have to a hero, except for Tyrion. Everything is shady in the show, but that’s its intention. So from the first moment of season four, things have had an eerily different feel. Often times it felt like the show we had come to love was gone and replaced with something else, which proves how Robb and Catelyn were two of the show’s most heartfelt characters. But we are left in the aftermath as the season begins, and what a relief it was at the finale of the second episode. “The Lion and the Rose” was the only episode this season to be written by George R.R. Martin himself, and for good reason. I had not reached this scene in the book when I watched this episode, but I had had the Purple Wedding spoiled for me previously thanks to the world wide web. Savages. Anyway, I had no idea it would happen in the second episode of the season! I was expecting late episodes, especially 9 since that’s when the show runners love to kill major characters. But when the wedding scene began I knew what was about to happen. Things happened before the wedding, sure, but the wedding scene itself was about thirty minutes long, and I have to admit when Joffrey began choking after drinking from the chalice I did a double take. It was a “Is this really happening right now?” kind of moment. And oh how sweet it was. Never have I enjoyed watching a thirteen year old choke to death. Also, I have to give it up to the makeup team behind this show and this episode in particular. Joffrey’s face turning purple and his veins popping out was really something horrifying to see on the screen, and it is one of the best death scenes I’ve ever seen. But just as Joffrey’s last act alive in King’s Landing was making a fool out of Tyrion, his final act while dying was just the same as he raised his finger to his uncle. This sets in the motion the events for the rest of the season.
Tyrion is accused of murdering Joffrey and one thing the show did a great job of doing was making it unclear who actually poisoned the little douche. It could have been Tyrion, but that wouldn’t make too much sense given the character we’ve come to know. It also could very well have been Sansa, who picked up the chalice and handed it to Tyrion after Joffrey kicked it under the table. Or there was the looming presence of Margaery Tyrell’s shady grandmother, Olenna, who the show made pretty clear in a later episode is actually the culprit (hero). Now Margaery is betrothed to Tommen, and things are getting real. But in regard to the whodunit aspect, the suspense was unsettling, and I think “The Lion and the Rose” takes the cake as having the best closing scene of the season. What also comes out of this is Sansa escaping with Dontos, who takes her to Littlefinger, who at the time seems to be the poisoner. The show just kept throwing us curve balls and it was a great mental adventure trying to figure out who actually did this crime (deed).
Skipping over to Daenerys, she has quite a bit happening in this season, involving the scene in the first episode where she pisses off her dragon and then a few slave revolts. And she sent Jorah packing, which was rough to watch. I loved that guy. But apart from that, she didn’t have much to do, which was kind of a letdown. I have yet to read A Dance with Dragons, but I am assuming she has a larger and more meaty role in that book and therefore in the upcoming season(s). For now, Dany is just chilling at Slaver’s Bay being queen, which is cool in itself. I love Daenerys, and maybe we’ll get her having larger roles like she had in season two.
But Dany wasn’t a primary focus in this season because it was mainly focused on the aftermath of Joffrey’s death, which essentially means worrying about what is going to happen to Tyrion. That is where Prince Oberyn comes in. To put it bluntly, I loved Oberyn. Sadly, his death was unavoidable. It had a way to telling the audience, in fact, reassuring the audience, that no matter how recent a character is in the story, he/she could be gone at any moment. I had tears in my eyes when Oberyn stood up for Tyrion and told him in the cell that he would be his champion. Having finished the book by then, I knew the outcome of the battle between Oberyn and The Mountain, but I still had a small tinge of hope for the guy and that was largely thanks to Pedro Pascal’s performance. Oh, and that death scene in “The Mountain and The Viper” was so grossly outstanding. It made the elevator scene in Drive look like child’s play. We’ll miss you, Oberyn.
Shifting back to Sansa now, a lot happens with her and Petyr in this season, mainly in the last few episodes. And this is one of the story arcs I loved most of all. Petyr throwing Lysa through the Moon Door was immensely shocking to me when it happened in the book, and the show portrayed the scene so well. Then we see Sana tell the leaders of the Vale the truth about her identity, but also stand up for Littlefinger in the process. Then there’s the classic scene where she descends the steps in a Catelyn-esque outfit and hair dyed. Is she going to give Littlefinger “what he wants?” I don’t know, but it’s a compelling thought.
In “The Watchers on the Wall,” not a whole lot happened to discuss as far as plot is concerned, but coming from the director of “Blackwater,” this episode was primarily one large battle scene. And it was freaking incredible. There were so many great shots, wide angles and distanced action shots, which the show is great at capturing. The most notable event of the episode as far as the plot is concerned is the death of Ygritte, which was tough to swallow. Yes, she put a few arrows in Jon Snow, but she was the one thing that seemed to make him genuinely happy, and we want Jon to be happy because he is perhaps the best character on the show as far as actual character is concerned. However, she dies and the shot of him holding her in his arms as the fires erupt in the background was beautiful. Finally, for a time, the wildlings retreat, which prompts Jon to go beyond the wall to negotiate with Mance Rayder.
And that is where we arrive at “The Children,” the final episode of this great season. I was a bit surprised to see it kick off with Jon Snow again. I thought they would eventually come back to the stuff on the Wall later in the episode, but they went ahead and continued right where episode 9 left off. Things were a little hot between Mance and Jon, but it was the sound of the horns that took the attention away as the wildling camp is invaded by Stannis Baratheon. Now Stannis is at Castle Black and the burning of the bodies was a very nice scene, but it was when Jon had a private ceremony for Ygritte outside of the Wall that tears started to well up. Much like the shot of him holding her in his arms in “The Watchers on the Wall,” this was a beautiful scene to watch. Now Jon Snow is with Stannis and Melisandre, who has a nice closing scene that shows her and Jon looking at each other through the hazy flames of the burning bodies. This episode also featured Dany, and even though it’s interesting that the dragons are now burning people and that scene was a bit rough to watch, I must say that I was hoping her sending off Jorah two weeks ago would be her season sendoff. That’s not the case. Oh well. Now we know we get How to Chain Your Dragon, Khaleesi style. But enough of that. Let’s move on to the meat of the episode.
Bran’s journey through the outer lands beyond the Wall got him into some big stuff. That scene with the Wights popping up out of the ground was kind of cheesy at first, to me, but as it went on it become pretty awesome to watch. And the effects were decent for a television show. But now Jojen is dead and we know The Children of the Forest are real and alive. So now Bran is with the Children and the Three Eyed Crow, and I’m excited to see where that goes. But the big moment saved for the end was Tyrion’s part, and what a sendoff he had (literally). When told by Jaime to go up the steps and meet Varys, his decision to turn back and do one final deed, which turned into two, has set in course a course of events that I am excited to see next season. When Tyrion saw Shae in Tywin’s bed, the expression on his face said it all, but it was as he was strangling her that his performance became worthy of drawing tears as he gritted his teeth and wept bitterly. Peter Dinklage, you are a great, great actor. Then the excellent encounter between Tyrion and Tywin made the episode as Tyrion fired off not one, not two, but three arrows at his father, killing him while he sat on the toilet of all places. It was a great scene and now we’re two scumbags short in Westeros, which makes up for last season’s loss of two heroes.
The final thing to discuss with this episode is Arya’s concluding act, which was tweaked from the book a bit in that she and the Hound actually meet up with Brienne. The fight between the Hound and Brienne was excellent, and now he is just at the bottom of that mountain (catch that anyone?) slowly dying. That is something to talk about. Arya. Maisie Williams has really matured as an actress and the way she just stared heartlessly at the Hound was so tragic. Also the Hound’s pleading to Arya for death really moved me actually, and proved my love for Rory McCann as an actor. The question is, is he really dead? I don’t think so. But if he is, I’m sad because he was one of my favorite characters on the show. Now Arya is shipping off across the sea, and so is Tyrion, so that’s two less major characters in Westeros, not including Tywin and Shae. Westeros is losing players fast.
**SPOILER ALERT** So in the epilogue of A Storm of Swords we learn that Catelyn Stark has been resurrected by Lord Beric Dondarrion. Now, to me, this was a throw the book in the air kind of WTF moment as I did not expect that at all. I was almost 100% certain that the show runners would choose that note to end the season on. But nothing. No hint at Catelyn being alive. Nothing. So either they are saving that for later, or they are just going to keep her dead. I don’t know how big of a role she plays in later books, but she can’t talk due to the cut throat, so it may be plausible that they choose to keep her dead. But I have a strong feeling she’ll be back in later seasons. **END SPOILER**
This by no means meant to be a completely in depth review of every aspect of the season. I am just a movie and TV lover giving my opinion on the season since it is my favorite show right now. So, if something happened that I didn’t cover, let me know in the comments and we can talk about it. But for now, let’s all just soak in the fact that this show exists. It’s beautiful and brutal. It’s smart and heartfelt. This is no longer entertainment. These are real people that we have grown to care about. Game of Thrones is masterful. Oh, and… JOFFREY IS DEAD!