Game of Thrones: The Children

"The dead can't hear us, boy."

This season finale, perhaps more so than other season finales, felt like a turning point in the series, a statement that 'The Children' of the show are finally growing up. While that theme of moving into adulthood was evident in so many ways, how each character took that step was both exciting and unexpected.


What does it take to commit patricide? How far does a parent have to push a child before they take that irrevocable step? It wasn't just the withholding of love; in Tyrion's case it was a lifetime of ridicule, humiliation, bigotry and some outright cruelty. Tywin wasn't so much a father as he was a ruler over his family, lording over his children and grandchildren like an intolerant and unforgiving tyrant.

Yet was it right for Tyrion to finally pull the trigger on all that built up resentment? I guess that's up to interpretation. Am I wrong, or was this truly Tyrion's first criminal act? If it was, it was a dozy. It was also a way of robbing Tywin of his dignity, something he repeatedly stole from Tyrion. Killing him on the privy was kind of perfect.

Unfortunately it wasn't the only murder he committed. Shae's death didn't work for me on any level. It was a complete character assassination. Everything I liked about Shae has been systematically destroyed since their fight back several episodes ago when Tyrion tried to ship her off to Pentos for her own safety. Leaving me to consider one of two possibilities -- either she was manipulating him from the start, or she honestly thought Tyrion was rejecting her.

If it was the former, her death was tragic but deserved. If it was the latter, then she was stupid and manipulated into betraying the man she loved. Sure, either way gives Tyrion motivation for revenge, especially after finding her in Tywin's bed. But it also means she was never the woman she was portrayed to be. In a lot of ways she was cast as Tyrion's equal. They shared a common wit and cunning that made their relationship work.

To have her be a dupe or a traitor destroys everything she was built up to be, and diminishes the character in ways that are both sad and tragic. I don't know what her motivations were in the book, but in the series it wasn't nearly explained enough, nor did it make a ton of sense. If she was ignorant of Tyrion's motivations, then one simple conversation would've repaired that damage. Ah well, moving on.


I've never liked Cersei. I mean she's a great character, but she's never been even remotely likable. She's selfish, manipulative, and downright evil. She tortured Tyrion for years, and blamed him for their mother's death. It's a hard thing to keep a character that negative. So eventually she had to have some kind of moment of redemption. I wouldn't go so far as to call her refusal to marry Loras a moral act, but it was an interesting and mildly redemptive one.

It showed her strength in a positive way, by finally standing up to her father. Admitting to him that Jamie was her lover and the father of her children was a bold thing to do. Threatening him with ruin was also a fascinating choice. Sure, Tywin wasn't long for the world, and he would've done everything he could to bury that information before revealing it to anyone, but damn, it was fun to watch him squirm.

Then Cersei finally made amends with Jamie, which has been a long time coming. That being said, their actions showed a big divergence in character. Jamie has been slowly shifting into a human being. His actions are occasionally still questionable, but he defended his brother twice in this episode, and his interactions with Brienne were a high point for his character. Perhaps this renewed commitment between Jamie and Cersei is the beginning of the end of their relationship since they are no longer as similar as they used to be.

Arya, Sandor, Brienne and Pod

I knew the Hound and Arya show would eventually come to an end. I should've guessed it would end on a tragic note. I've liked the Hound for a long time, probably since the first season, so that fight scene was incredibly hard to watch. Brienne is a lovely character, and there was no way I wanted her to lose. But at the same time I didn't want her to win. I wanted Sandor to survive somehow. That was probably wishful thinking on my part.

That fight was beyond brutal, it was heart wrenching. It was so real, so violent that every blow they gave to one another almost physically hurt to watch. Then just when I thought he was going to win the same way his brother defeated Oberyn last week, she turned the tables on him and threw him off a cliff. I honestly thought that was going to be the last time we would see him.

Leave it to Game of Thrones to give us another gut punch. Arya showing up by Sandor's side, and having him beg her to kill him to put him out of his misery got to me. He pushed all the right buttons, staying true to his character until that final moment when she refused to do it. It might've been cold and a touch heartless for Arya to let him die in agony, but in a lot of ways he deserved it. Still, their relationship was another highlight of this season for me, and this was a great way to end things.

But it wasn't the end. Arya spent that entire fight realizing that she was never going to be safe, and she was always going to be a captive in some way. So she set off on her own, hoping to get to the wall to rejoin her brother Jon. Only instead she stumbled upon a man from Braavos. What a wonderful way to cap her arc this season. Fulfilling that hanging plot thread, and having her finally use the coin given to her by Jaqen H'ghar was, again, kind of perfect. Having the Braavosi ship captain suddenly change demeanor when she uttered the words "Valar Morghulis" was incredibly telling, and I can't wait to see where her story takes her next season.


After the events at Castle Black things took an unexpected turn here. The scene between Jon and Mance was really well done. The subtle antagonism combined with mutual respect elevated the scene, although Jon was a bit too obvious with glances towards that knife. Still, it was interesting that Mance only wished to get his people beyond the wall so that they might survive the coming winter, that is, if he was being truthful.

I honestly had no idea that Stannis was going to show up, but it did make sense. Stannis showing respect to Jon was also a great moment, and I imagine Jon is going to have a larger role in upcoming events. I loved how much Jon has changed this season. The whiny boy is gone, and he's becoming a character I actually like. Looks like Stannis is going to take the north, which makes sense. That means conflict is coming between the Boltons, the Greyjoys, and the Baratheons. That should be bloody.


Finally there was Bran and his incredibly esoteric journey into the most fantastical part of the show. The scenes with Bran, Hodar, and the Reed's slipped totally into the realm of high fantasy, with magical childlike creatures shooting fireballs from their hands, and Wights rising out of the ice to attack them. At least it was exciting, and we even lost Jojen, and nearly lost Meera. Of course I have no real attachment to either character, but I was rooting for Meera to make it so maybe I like her a bit more now.

It all culminated in a practically incomprehensible meeting with the 'Three-eyed-crow' who turned out to be nothing more than a mysterious old man in a cave made of roots. I don't have any idea where they are going with this plotline, but it doesn't entirely fit with the rest of the story. Game of Thrones has just a touch of magic for the most part, and this delved a bit too deeply into that part of things in my opinion. But I'll reserve judgment until it fully plays out over the next few seasons.


There wasn't much Dany in this episode. We got to see her dealing with a former slave who wanted to become a slave again (talk about becoming institutionalized), and the repercussions of Drogon roaming wild. I knew that eventually someone would get hurt by the dragons, but I'd hoped it would be a soldier or something. Of course it was a child, because it had to be serious enough for Dany to finally chain up her dragons. That scene in the catacombs was so sad, and the look on her face was tragic.

So Oberyn got the last laugh and poisoned the Mountain with Manticore venom.  Pycelle all but declared him dead, until an expelled Maester named Qyburn stepped in to use a unexplained method that might heal him, but will definitely change him. I'm curious where this is going, and I wonder if that means yet another actor is going to be cast to play him next season?

Of course when Varys smuggled Tyrion out of Kings Landing, he had the presence of mind to go with him. I hope this means they will be interacting more next season. I've enjoyed their on-screen chemistry quite a bit.

The toast with Mance over Ygritte was bittersweet. Jon really did love her. And her feelings for him were confirmed by Tormund telling Jon that she constantly spoke of killing him, of course she had to love him to be that passionate about his betrayal. It made her funeral pyre even more touching. Although I kept waiting for her eyes to open and turn blue.

So the Giant that died in the tunnel was a king and the last of his line named Mag the Mighty, taken down by a farmer named Grenn.

Malisandre was staring pretty hard at Jon Snow from across the courtyard during the funeral scene. I wonder why that is?

This episode felt like a lot of set up, but it also ended quite of few plots as well. Overall, I think it was excellent, but not entirely without flaws.

3 1/2 out of 4 Children stepping out on their own.

Reminder: The comments on these episode reviews are appropriate for newbies. If you haven't read the books, you're safe! If you have read the books and would like to talk about upcoming events, please do so here, in our Season Four spoiler thread.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.


sunbunny said...

Yeah the writers really wrote themselves into a corner with Shae. What a pity.

I wasn't totally satisfied with the episode as a finale but on its own it was good. Ygritte's funeral was particularly affective.

And a very Happy Father's Day to Tywin Lannister.

Josie Kafka said...

Great review, JD, and super-fast, too!

During the wight-fight, I kept thinking of Giles sword-fighting with that skeleton in some episode of Buffy. It took some of the tension out of the scene for me.

I loved Brienne and Arya having a chance to talk, even though it ended badly.

Mark Greig said...

The wight attack was such a obvious homage to Ray Harryhausen I couldn't help but love it. I think the show's FX team deserve a round of applause for that scene, as well as Stannis' army attacking the wildlings. That was some serious LOTR scale action. I also liked how they were all in tactical formation, not just mass of charging horses.

I'm not keen on the Child of the Forest and the Three-Eyed Raven. I didn't think they worked well in the book and they sure as hell don't work in the show.

Josie Kafka said...

Not a big CotF fan myself, but I liked the way that the girl-Child was a visual echo of the girl-zombie from the opening scene of the series. It gave the impression of having reached a turning point, even if we don't know what's turning.

Austin said...

The show is making some...interesting changes. The Tyrion/Shae incident is completely different. When Jamie freed Tyrion in the books, he confessed that the woman Tyrion married when he was young wasn't really a whore. His father made it seem that way. Tyrion is outraged by the betrayal and hates Jamie, scornfully telling Jamie he really did kill Joffrey. Tyrion then goes to speak to his father about his wife, finds Shae (which offers no doubt that she was what she always was - a whore) and then almost emotionlessly strangled her with the Hand of the King necklace she was wearing.

He finds his father in the privy and confronts him about his wife. Tywin admits she wasn't a whore and offers no remorse for his actions. Tyrion angrily tells him not to call her a whore. He demands to know where he sent her. Tywin coldly replies "Wherever whores go." Twang! Tyrion shoots him in the gut. Totally different context from the show.

Docnaz said...

I was so traumatized by this episode. I love both Brienne and the Hound and was devastated to see them fighting. Brienne has always been noble, but overly idealistic. She hasn't suffered the life the Hound has been subjected to. He put on a gruff front but was the opposite of his brother. He had a soft spot for helpless things. Still, he was realist as evidenced by his past behavior.

I read a review by a Rolling Stone writer who said
"By contrast, Brienne and the Hound should theoretically be spared this kind of final reckoning. They're both ronin, masterless misfits who don't fit in with any side in the War of Five Kings. They even have the same motive: protecting the Stark sisters. Yet the show concocts a confrontation for them that's nowhere to be found in the source material, taking two beloved characters and crushing them against one another until only one's left standing. It basically weaponizes the affection we feel for them."

Based on the talk the two had had before euthanizing the man they met who was dying, Arya walking away from him without putting him out of his misery was brutal. I read a recap today that suggested maybe he survived. That brought me to tears. But Arya would might live to regret her actions if he met her again.

Arya is my favorite character next to Tyrion, so I hope they don't take her character in an unlikeable direction.

Juliette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juliette said...

Deleted and re-posted when I realised the first 3 words of my comment were a giant spoiler...

Tyrion killing Shae is absolutely my least favourite part of the books and was only marginally less awful on the TV show, but I've written a lengthy and probably rambling article on all that for Den of Geek going up tomorrow so I won't go on and on here!

I haven't really been feeling season 4 somehow, ever since the disastrous episode 3, but I did love episode 2. I miss Joffrey - the show is a less colourful place without him, horrible as he was!

Gavrielle said...

Great review, J.D. I agree the whole Shae thing is a lot murkier than it should have been. The books make it clear she was playing him, but the way they showed it on TV, we're left not sure how we should be feeling about her and her murder. They also went light IMO on showing how deeply Tyrion felt about her. Hmpf.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Wow! What an episode! And hell and devils, the confrontation between Brienne and The Hound I had dreaded happened. During the entire fight, actually well before the fighting started, I hoped and hoped and hoped they would call it a draw (and if you don't get that Monty Python-reference, feel free to visit this link:
But alas, The Hound is gone. And Tywin. And Shae. Having not read the books I had no idea Shae was playing Tyrion but found it a shame. Again, I thought Tyrion would stop before she was dead and again - no. But I do think she could have gotten out of it, couldn't she?
Anyway, this whole episode had me on the edge of my seat or more precisely - as the expression goes here in Sweden: Sitting on needles.
I kept thinking the freeing of Tyrion was a setup and that he would be skewered any moment. Going from that to killing Shae and his father, then crawling into a
And the look on Varys' face when he realizes something huge has happened and then just calmly boards the boat as well. Gold acting.
I was also utterly surprised by Stannis but I'm now totally psyched to see him tackle the Boltons - I'm assuming he'll be taking the north, perhaps with the help of Mance Rayder!?

I LURRRVED the skeletons, I'm a huge fantasy- and Harryhausen-fan and found the scene both thrilling and intense. Again, yet another scene where I had no idea how it would end. I also thought the skeletons had a much bigger sense of purpose. The went for the kill, the never let up and were totally determined - unlike Brienne and The hound who I think could have finished the fight much sooner. Brienne didn't 'cause she at first didn't want to fight at all, The Hound because he underestimated Brienne.

And what of the mountain!? Without spoiling it for me, is this what happens in the books as well or are they taking a step away? I mean, does what-his-face try and save him (and possibly...change...him) in the books?

I'm so looking forward to next season. And the reviews from douxreviews.

Great job all season on all sides!

Juliette said...

Henrik, the plot with the Mountain and Qyburn is following the books so far, as far as we can tell!

Henrik Bennetter said...

Thanks Juliette! Like I've said in previous episodes comments - I really have to read the books...

I thought again about my reasoning about Tyrions monologue a couple of episodes back - about the cousin that crushed beetles with a rock and how that was an allegory for the beetle Oberyn being crushed by a mountain held by Tywin.
The rest of that story was about how one day that cousin was kicked in the chest by a mule and died.
Tywin was "kicked" in the chest. Twice. Not by a mule, but still.
Poetic justice.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Hi again guys! *NO SPOILERS AHEAD*'ve read the books. All of them. Just finished Dance with dragons this morning.
I couldn't help myself. I thought about "only" catching up first but got so into the story that I just had to keep going.
Such fun to read so more about what happens - and realizing that much, much, more happens in the books than in the TV-show.
Those of you who have read the books as far as I have now that I now feel a bit sad, because of reasons that I once again did NOT see coming.
In any case - my wife expressed feelings of douchery on my part, seeing as I know what'll happen in the series when it returns in april, but I feel that they're two separate entities.
Sure, most of what happens in the books happen in the show, but to me it doesn't really take anything away.
I'll love seeing how the show interprets the writing.
If nothing else, the production value is SO epically high.
Also, it's been fun seeing all the actors faces in my mind when reading about their characters, how the actors would stand, move and show emotion on their faces.
Now I just want the next book, and then the last, to come out - but there's really no telling when that'll happen...
Anyhoo - see you in april, if not before!