Hello Game Of Thrones fans! “The Children” is my favourite season finale of my favourite television show on air. I haven’t been recapping any episodes this season but I wanted to share some general thoughts on the finale. This write-up will be more of a conversation starter than a complete breakdown on everything that happened in this super sized episode. I’ll try to limit my thoughts to the show itself without direct comparisons to the books. If you’re looking for great reviews of each episode without any book spoilers, I’d recommend you also check out and follow The Triple Option blog. If you like book comparisons and full recaps, be sure to check out Cinematic Corner.
Everything after the break will contain spoiler filled thoughts for Game Of Thrones Season 4, Episode 10.
Previous season finales were focused on the aftermath of the big episode 9 event, checking in on characters and setting the stage for next season’s story lines. The Children certainly had those elements but with Stannis’ attack on the Wildlings, the death of three regular characters and the climatic, action-filled conclusion to some story arcs, it made for a stronger, satisfying way to cap off a season. Some of this is a by-product of the Battle At The Wall being a relatively isolated event up North whereas other finales needed to show many character reactions to Ned’s death and the Red Wedding. The finale covered a lot of ground while feeling focused which in part is due to a good decision by the show runners to wrap up Sansa/Littefinger ‘s and Theon/Bolton’s story in episode 8, even if it meant not seeing them again for the rest of the season.
Some fans felt that last episode’s ending with Jon walking through the gate was anti-climatic which I can’t argue with but I wanted to reserve judgement until watching the finale. There may be an early scene or two in episode 9 that could have been cut to make room for Stannis’ battle. But it could have felt rushed to tack on Stannis at the end of episode 9 when it would be better to give those scenes more time to play out in the finale.
And to wrap up Jon’s story in episode 9 would be premature since he still needed to pay respects to the fallen and check in with Tormund which would work better the episode after. Tormund had one of the best lines, “I knew she loved you because all she kept talking about is killing you.”
It’s easy to second guess Jon for walking into the enemy camp to negotiate so I liked that he also had an ulterior motive to cut off the snake’s head, ie. kill Mance Rayder. What I like about Mance is that’s he’s a man of principle and honor. His motivation isn’t to conquer, he simply wants a peaceful treaty for passage through the Wall to ensure the survival of his people.
Many fans aren’t as invested in The Wall and Stannis’ story compared to King’s Landing. Having all those characters together at The Wall should hopefully shake up the landscape with exciting new story possibilities instead of feeling that their scenes are stalling tactics. I’m more a fan of Ser Davos than I am of Stannis. I do give Stannis credit for helping out the Wall when they asked for help, even if it was Melisandre telling him to do it way back in Season 3’s finale. Stannis sees the bigger picture. He wants the Iron throne but he’s also protecting the realm. One of my favorite shots of the episode is Melisandre looking through the flames and what she sees is Jon.
When the camera held on Bran’s group looking at the giant heart tree for a lengthy time, I got the feeling it would cut to another storyline. I’m glad I was wrong. I’m okay with only checking in on Bran when something significant happens, which wasn’t much this season. One issue with Bran’s storyline is that I never grew to care about Jojen over the last couple of seasons. This lessened the impact of his death and I did not sympathize at all for Meera’s loss. Meera was pretty bad-ass in this episode though. On the other hand, when Hodor got surrounded by the wights I felt worried for him.
I’m not sold on the look of the magical blast attack from the child of the forest. I suppose on a show with shadow creatures and White Walkers, it’s not visually out of the question. After building up the three eyed raven since season 1, it was a bit anti-climatic to find the old man/Bloodraven. “You’ll never walk again, but you will fly”… is that enough to get you excited about Bran’s story line next season?
Dany is at the pinnacle of her power. She’s has an army, conquered a few cities and she’s become the Queen Of Meereen, plus that long-winded intro of names that poor Missandei has to say. I’m glad Dany’s scene is placed in the middle of the episode due to its nature. This isn’t a moment of triumph or empowerment for her unlike other season finales. In principle, her belief in everyone’s freedom is a just cause but she had to come to terms with the consequences of what it means in practice. It’s heart breaking to have her chain up two of her dragons, the imagery is a nice way to sum up her story line without the need for words.
When Brienne and Arya’s story lines intersected I got nervously excited. I don’t watch the previews so I didn’t know it was going to happen. I like that they both immediately found common ground with each other and the idea that Arya could be Brienne’s apprentice would be a very cool pairing. At the same time, after everything Arya has experienced she has no reason to trust a stranger with a connection to Jamie Lannister. Going with Brienne as a possible option added to the weight of Arya’s decision to follow a path of her own choosing.
In the early part of the fight, it looked like Brienne was holding back but things quickly turned brutal. I loved that Brienne fights dirty; biting an ear off, going for the groin. Where do you rank Brienne among the best fighters in Game Of Thrones? The Hound’s farewell scene is my favorite dialogue of the episode and Arya had me guessing if she’d give the mercy killing or not.
How I interpreted Cersei’s scenes is that she’s owning her power. Her champion, the Mountain, might just live and become even stronger, Tyrion is about to be executed or so she thinks, and she defiantly goes against Tywin’s order to marry Loras. Her scene with Jamie is like a reverse of that terrible scene in episode 3, this time she initiates. I wish Jamie would have rejected her. He’s been staring into his entry in the Kingsguard book but I don’t think banging his sister is considered a worthy, notable deed.
Let’s move on to the big ending. I liked it but I have some issues with how Shae has been portrayed. It goes back further but I’ll start with the scene early in the season when Tyrion says he doesn’t want to be with her so she’ll go away on the boat. This turned her trial scene into a woman scorned instead of coming across as being afraid for her life if she didn’t give damning testimony on Tyrion. And this in turn, changed the context of finding Shae in Tywin’s bed. It would have been a bigger dagger to Tyrion’s heart to learn that Shae never loved him from the beginning. In the season premiere, there was a line where Tywin tells Cersei to arrange to bring Shae to his chambers. So some time between then and before the trial, Shae got bought out. It’s a nitpick. Dinklage does a solid job with the scene and I liked the framing as the camera slowly moved from Tyrion to Shae’s strangled neck.
On to Tyrion’s next victim. Tywin is always poised and in control. That changed in this finale from Cersei refusing to leave Tommen against Tywin’s will, to confronting him about her incestuous relationship with Jamie and then getting caught with his pants down. Tywin did try to worm his way out of a compromising position “You’re my son, I’d never execute you”, of course Tyrion’s not one to be easily fooled. The dialogue could have been stronger here if the writers pulled lines directly from the book and let this scene play out a bit longer.
While I was writing this/rambling, I had 24: Live Another Day on in the background and was surprised to see Michelle Fairley on that show. It’s good to see her somewhere.
Season four is in my top two favorite seasons. How do you rank the seasons? What is your highlight from the finale?