Game Of Thrones: 4.10 The Children
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Do not read this unless you have seen episode 10 of Season Four.
Due to unforeseen circumstances last week’s Game Of Thrones review never happened, apologies for that. So here’s a one line review of episode nine, ‘The Watchers On The Wall’: The Wildlings finally attack Castle Black and it’s TV on an awesome scale, one swirling tracking shot is fantastic, oh and Ygritte dies, but not without one final “You know nothing Jon Snow.”
So, on to the Season Four finale, ‘The Children’. There are a lot of loose ends to tie up but this being Game Of Thrones nothing is ever that simple, and as we know there are at least two more seasons to come there’s no rush to tie anything up.
Starting off with the best scenes filmed in the north since Ned Stark was still alive, we get Jon Snow facing up to Mance Rayder, the mutual respect for each other meaning Jon can’t bring himself to go through with his plan. Midway through raising a glass for their fallen comrades (Ygritte, the giant from ep. 9, Jon’s mate Grenn) they’re rudely interrupted by an attack on the Wildings from a huge army, and it’s someone we haven’t seen since the second episode, Stannis Baratheon! A quick chat and Mance is off to be kept prisoner, Jon and Stannis have a bit of mutual respect, The one true King knew and respected Jon’s dad. These scenes are good for two reasons, it’s great to see Stephen Dillane (Stannis) have something to do other than mope around Dragonstone, and it’s great to see Kit Harrington (Jon) show a little light and dark to his acting. Some people hate these two characters but there’s something that says they’re going to have a big say in the next season or so.
Next is King’s Landing where Cersei is trying to save The Mountain from certain death, turns out Oberyn Martell had poison on the end of his stick which is doing the big warrior in. But, Jaime’s friend Qyburn has some witchmastery to pull that might save him, although ominously Qyburn suggests that he can stop him from dying but that he might not be the same man if he lives. With Qyburn’s history of medical experiments you can wonder what that might mean.
Then Cersei does the rounds, telling her father, Tywin Lannister, that she’s not marrying Loras Tyrell or leaving the capital, before blurting out what everyone else knows but Tywin seems not to, that Jaime is the father of her children. All this leads to her approaching Jaime and professing her love for him (“I choose you.”), and he’s so weak when it comes to Cersei he just gets on with it. Their relationship is one of the most complex on the show, but Season Four has underplayed it a bit, and muddied the waters with that rape/consensual sex scene in episode three.
Then a switch to Daenerys in Meereen, sadly this is, along with the Bran Stark storyline, the weakest of the show’s stories. Now The Mother of Dragons has the potential to have a great storyline, she’s got dragons!, but sadly it’s just the same scene over and over, someone comes to moan to her about something, she resists, then is persuaded, feels bad, and we cut away to something more interesting. It’s also been a season where the writers are ramming home the complexities of ruling, decisions, free will, and doing the right thing. The hope is that next year we’ll see a more exciting story for Dany. Or at least one that’s going somewhere.
And talking of dull story lines, Bran really needs to start going somewhere. It feels like this is going to be important in the grand scheme of things, but over the last two seasons we haven’t spent enough time with the Stark boy and his friends to really know them and their quest. Making it doubly as hard is the fact that they’re north of the wall, where all of the non-human, and more fantasy, elements of the story are happening. The scene with the skeletons was great though, and finally seeing the three-eyed raven starts to set that story element up.
But everything that has gone before seems just a precursor to the final two big scenes. First up something that apparently isn’t in the books, The Hound versus Brienne of Tarth. With both heading for the Ayrie over the course of the season this meeting wasn’t unexpected. What was a surprise is that the ensuing sword fight was the best the show has ever produced, brutal, superbly choreographed, surprising, bitter, two people literally fighting for their lives. These are both characters that are easy to love, but for very different reasons. Brienne is played with a lightness of touch by Gwendoline Christie, and her role in the (partial?) redemption of Jaime Lannister can’t be understated. She epitomises good and honour. Then there’s Sandor Clegane, The Hound, who doesn’t. All he cares for is money, chicken, wine, and staying alive. But Arya Stark has learnt more from him than she learnt from her own father, and the interplay between the gruff battle worn soldier and tough as nails little girl (“You can shit later, there’s people coming.”) has been one of the star turns of this season. If The Hound is actually dead, then Rory McCann you will be missed, from bit parter to one of the stars of the show.
And right at the end we tie up this part of Tyrion’s story. In usual Game Of Thrones style there’s joy, Jaime coming through for his brother and freeing him, before the fall, the true love of Tyrion’s life, Shae, in his father’s bed. Think that’s bad? Well how’s about then strangling the life out of said true love, the focus on Tyrion’s face was a genius idea and gives Peter Dinklage the chance to shine on the show once more. If that was bad enough, the subsequent killing of his own father, yes Tywin Lannister is dead, shot on the bog by his own dwarf son, was not the glorious end we expected. As Varys and Tyrion sail away you’re left wondering if we will ever see scenes as stunning as this again.
Another exceptional hour of television from David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, by all accounts we’ve seen the best action from the books now, but based on experience there’s only fascination and joy to see where the journey goes next.