HBO’s Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Episode Review “The Children”

It seems fitting that last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was called “The Children.” All of the offspring was running amok—Starks, Lannisters, dragons. While last week’s episode suffered a bit from focusing only on the mostly dull characters at the Wall, the season four finale was literally all over the map. It was a lot to absorb, but it had its high points and left us with some lingering questions to ponder in the long, long hiatus ahead.

Because we didn’t have enough of Jon Snow last week, we opened the finale looking at the aftermath of last week’s battle at Castle Black. Unlike Jon Snow, it’s not pretty. I have to admire the brazen stupidity of Jon bro-walking into Mance Rayder’s camp to negotiate or assassinate, depending on his assessment of the situation. What really surprised me about last week’s “The Watchers on the Wall” was that Stannis didn’t show up. Well, though the elder Baratheon’s been MIA these past few weeks, his sudden reappearance felt more like a “Oh, yeah. That guy” than an “Oh, yeah! Stannis! Huzzah!” …by which point it was mostly kind of anticlimactic. The ramifications of the stern rightful heir to the throne coming to the aid of the Night’s Watch and entering the fight against the Others are going to be great for next year, though. And I really missed Ciarán Hinds, so I’m glad to see Mance again. But I still wish Stannis’ arrival happened last week. There was just so much else to cover.

Game of Thrones The Children Meera Bran Hodor

Much further north, Bran and his party finally reached their destination: the weirwood tree that houses the Three-Eyed Raven. But not before a crazy battle with skeletal wights and Hodor being Hodor’ed and Summer and fireballs and a kid even more feral-looking than Jojen. Seriously scary wights. And I was pretty shocked to see Jojen get stabbed so mercilessly. That really kind of sucked, but he fulfilled his duty to the plot and what else was left for him to do once Bran reached his new teacher? Poor Meera. It’s not like she has much of a purpose without her brother.

What will the Three-Eyed Raven teach Bran next year? And how can they add any tension to his story, stuck in a cave as he is? “You will never walk again. But you will fly…” promises some excitement.

Speaking of flying… (these transitions get harder to do the more this damn huge plot jumps around) Dany’s babies are acting exactly like dragons. I felt truly sick for that poor shepherd and his little girl. Those sad tiny bones. Ugh. And I felt bad for Dany, having to chain her dragons. Well, the two that remained. Of course the one named after her late sun and stars is the dragon to draw first human blood. What else could Dany have done but turn her dragons into slaves to protect her subjects? And if she’s taking her dragons off the board for now, will she be able to hold on to her power in Essos? And will her babies ever really listen to her again after she’s done the unforgivable to them?

Proving Lannister children are even more dangerous than dragons, Tyrion does not go gently into that good night. Would anyone ever believe that the most popular character would get executed? Well, okay, it’s happened before, but Tyrion is just untouchable, okay? He’s no Ned Stark. It was no great surprise that Jaime would free his little brother either— with Varys’ help—and it was good, but I still can’t really get into TV-Jaime like I could in the books. Maybe it’s his terrible new haircut, oh, or that episode that turned him into a rapist…is he seeking redemption for his dishonest nature, an escape from his hateful lover, a knight’s honor?

Yet, as a book reader, I’m so extremely pleased that Tyrion and Jaime’s goodbye didn’t involve “Where do whores go?” That was easily the worst part of Tyrion’s chapters in A Dance with Dragons, so I’m more than happy to have it seemingly cut. I hope it stays that way.

Of course, a whore was the impetus for a very final familial fight, as Tyrion found his beloved Shae in his father’s bed. I really, really wish things turned out differently for Shae. Up until this season when she went all stereotypical jealous girlfriend for NO GOOD REASON, I felt like she was forced to this fate that didn’t quite fit. If she loved Tyrion and was as smart as she seemed, she would have listened to him, and she wouldn’t have seemed so quick to betray him. She could have given him some sign of being sorry for what she was forced to say against him. But instead, she just looks cruel and some people (not me) would say she deserved to be killed by Tyrion. It didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth. And to Tyrion’s credit, it didn’t sit well with him.

Game of Thrones The Children Tywin

But before we can really turn over the idea that the show’s most beloved character strangled his ex, let’s just take a moment to cheer Tyrion for killing his father on a chamberpot. Nothing but the best for an old lion. That felt satisfying. Especially after Cersei had already told him that his legacy was a lie and the rumors about her and Jaime we true. Comedy, Game of Thrones-style.

But I will miss Charles Dance, who was so great as the venerable, ruthless patriarch, who sent the king to bed without supper, befriended his cupbearer Arya Stark, and orchestrated the massacre that killed her brother and mother. Season four was not a good season for hateful characters.

As much as I’ll miss Tywin, it’s just a fraction of the sadness I felt when Arya left the Hound bleeding on a rock in the middle of nowhere. Oh, Sandor. I will eat a fucking chicken in your memory. The Hound was this season’s MVP, no question. From the premiere to the finale, Sandor Clegane stole the show with every insult, every swing of his sword, and every hard truth he taught Arya. What a fantastic fight scene between Brienne and the Hound! So meaty, so brutal. I loved Arya’s wonderment at seeing a female “knight” and then how quickly things turned to shit.

Next season, I really hope we get more run-ins that never happened in the book but should have.

Until then, we leave Game of Thrones with Arya on a ship bound for Braavos. Bravo! Arya’s chapters were the best thing about A Feast for Crows.

This wasn’t my favorite season of the show—it all felt downhill after Joffrey’s wedding. Dany’s Meereen plot never advanced very far, what with all that talk of unhappy former masters and suffering ex-slaves. Theon’s sister’s rescue attempt was foiled by a few dogs, things veered off course at Craster’s Keep but it was merely a holding pattern for Bran, and Tyrion spent most of the season in a cell, not being awesome and drunk. And Oberyn never got naked enough, then got his face caved in like a rotten pumpkin.

But at least we had Arya and the Hound. Good times. And I really can’t wait to see how the cold-hearted little Stark will fare on her own in a city of Faceless Men.

Lastly, I know I wasn’t the only one waiting for a post-credits scene to match the epilogue of A Storm of Swords. I really hoped for that giant WTF moment on Twitter. But, with A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons firmly in our sights, I’m with the showrunners in wanting to keep that awesome surprise for the start of season five. Thanks as always to all of the commenters this season. Your weekly insights make Game of Thrones the most fun show on TV to discuss.

Next week: I drink tequila heavily while watching True Blood’s final season and hating myself for it. Also, The Leftovers premieres and it’s got my favorite Doctor, Christopher Eccleston!


Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com, covering True Blood, Game of Thrones, and gaming news. She’s also the resident Hannibal fannibal at Boing Boing. Follow her on Twitter @tdelucci

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