‘The Children’ was the finale to Game Of Thrones‘ fourth season and, like many of this season’s entries, it was all over the map. While, in the past, that frequently meant that an episode was uneven too, in this case it was a good thing. Sansa and Theon aside, this outing focused on all the other characters and showed some very monumental moments during their journeys. By far the biggest achievement of ‘The Children’ was that, after watching it, it felt like a lot has changed and that, in the fifth season, we’re in for a lot of different dynamics and thrilling surprises. To stick to this episode though: ‘The Children’ was a fitting conclusion to this season, delivering fulfilling final scenes to many a plot strand while focusing on kids and their relationship with each other or their parents and parental figures.
The episode picked up where last week’s left off: Jon Snow went looking for Mance Rayder, which led to a great scene between the two characters in Mance’s tent. It was evident from the scene that Mance still had a lot of respect for Snow, even after all what happened, and the two toasted to fallen comrades. While Mance initially thought Jon came over to offer a truce, he was right on the money later and found out that Snow came to kill him. But then their conversation was interrupted by an unknown army of soldiers riding on horseback, an army that quickly overthrew Mance’s. It turned out that these men belonged to Stannis and, at the end of the scene, because of Jon, Stannis was merciful toward Mance and took him captive. Snow, on the other hand, is now with Stannis, even though he’s still very much his own man. Once Snow payed his respect to Ygritte and burned her corpse North of the Wall, we were off to other places, but the shift of power here and the possibility for new alliances really left an impact. Mance and Stannis, both played with stern resolve by Ciarán Hinds and Stephen Dillane respectively, have never appeared as powerful and kingly as they did in their scenes together and one wonders what’s in store for these two. It sure seems like an understanding could benefit both of them.
Talking about alliances: Jaime found himself in pickle this week. His sister declared her love for him and even spilled the beans about their incestuous relationship to her father. Cersei really wants Jaime on her side, but her feelings toward Tyrion he’ll never share: Jaime still kept defending his little brother and later even set him free with a little bit of help from Varys. What these two hadn’t foreseen though, was what happened next. After his escape Tyrion stumbled upon Shae, lying naked in his father’s bed, calling for her lion, the same nickname she’d used for Tyrion when they were together. This betrayal shook Tyrion to his core and the resulting struggle led to him choking her to death, with tears in his eyes, apologizing afterward. There can not be said enough about the amazing work Peter Dinklage continues to do on the show and, during this episode, he again delivered another heartwrenching moment. Tyrion hit bottom, was stripped down to his core, and when he later encountered and killer his father there was a sense of finality to the Tyrion we used to know. This new character is a broken man, someone who has to reevaluate his entire life, all that he thought he knew and stood for, and it’ll be interesting to see what Tyrion evolves into next season, when he and Varys get to the Free Cities.
The last three storylines were very diverse. Bran and company encountered a horde of skeletons that attacked them and killed Jojen before they finally reached the three-eyed raven, assisted by a fireball-hurling “child of the forest”, an ancient race. Bran then learned that he will be taught how to fly by, whatever that entails exactly. While it was an interesting and unique plot strand amidst the other ones, it felt very clunky and didn’t really gel tonally. It was overtly magical and action-oriented, quite blunt amidst the other proceedings and, despite their efforts to linger on it here, the death of Jojen didn’t register much because the character never really got properly fleshed-out and had very little to do this season. The episode’s other action moment did work very well though, despite the fact the camera work left much to be desired: a battle between Brienne and the Hound over Arya was brutal and had viewers on the edge of their seats. All bets are off with skirmishes like these, which makes them all the more tense to watch. Eventually Brienne won when she punched the Hound off a cliff, where Arya later visited him and didn’t respond to the pleas or insults he hurled at her to have her kill him. She left instead, got on a ship to Braavos. While all this was exciting, it was disappointing to see that Sansa and Arye had conveniently missed each other; apparently Sansa’s identity is still a secret to most people in the Vale.
Lastly there was Daenerys’ plot line, which saw her holding court again. First off she encountered an elderly man who used to be a slave and struggled with his freedom, thwarted at every turn by young men. He asked her if he could be returned into slavery, back to his caring master and purposeful life and she granted him that wish because, as she put it, freedom is making your own decisions. The story of the next visitor was entirely different though: Drogon, one of her dragons, had killed a man’s daughter, which led Daenerys to make a drastic decision: she locked her other two dragons away and a surprisingly emotional scene, while her two children panicked, didn’t understand why this was done to them. Meanwhile Drogon is still flying free. What will she do to him? And how will captivity change Viserion and Rhaegal and the bond they have with their mother? These are some interesting question that will likely get answered next season, but meanwhile it’s safe to say that Daenerys’ conquest really lost its momentum and it seems to get harder and harder for her to get away from Meereen and finally get to Westeros.
‘The Children’ was a wonderful finale to Game Of Thrones‘ fourth season and laid a great foundation for the show’s fifth. 9/10