Game Of Thrones season 4 episode 10 review: The Children

Review Ron Hogan 16 Jun 2014 - 19:15

Game Of Thrones' groundwork this season pays off in spectacular and violent fashion in the finale. Here's Ron's spoiler-y review...

This review contains spoilers.

4.10 The Children

In the world of Game Of Thrones, you win or you die. On the show Game Of Thrones, you act and then, inevitably, your character dies. It seems the show exists solely to introduce us to great new characters, and then later that season, or the next season, or four seasons down the line, that character is doomed to die. Valar Morghulis. If you didn't get your fix of character deaths last episode, then you'll definitely get it this episode.

Usually, the tenth episode of the season is kind of a chance to relax, reflect on what happened in crazypants episode nine, and generally just catch your breath and get ready for the next season of weirdness in Westeros, Essos, and the whole of George R.R. Martin's imagination. However, The Children offers no such breathing room. From the very beginning, as Jon Snow marches north to palaver with Mance Rayder, to the very end, as Arya Stark flees Westeros for her new life as a Braavosi sellsword (or Faceless Man), there was not a chance to breathe, and the extra-long episode allowed for more exploration - albeit still not enough for most fans of the show.

I'm really not even sure how to approach everything that happened in the episode, except to say that all the groundwork the show laid across this entire season, from the trial of Tyrion Lannister to the journey of all and sundry associated with Arya Stark to the Eyrie, ended up paying off in spectacular and violent fashion. Brienne and Sandor Clegane engaged in one of the most brutal fights in the history of Game Of Thrones. There have been stellar fights this season, from the Mountain and the Red Viper to the last episode as a whole, but the brutal street fight between two non-knights with very different concepts of honour and fighting fair started out as a pretty straightforward duel and degenerated into something incredibly brutal and messy, with an ending left depressingly ambiguous.

Still, while it lasted, it was great stuff, and full credit to Gwendoline Christie and Rory McCann for making their fight into something more than just bashing one another with swords. It, and their exchange before the fight, was a major moment for both characters (and perhaps a final moment for The Hound). There are ways to show characters without speaking, and this was a great example of just how well Game Of Thrones does meaningful combat. Even when the combat isn't particularly meaningful, as Stannis the Mannis and Davos Seaworth's mercenary army ride to the rescue of Jon Snow in the midst of Mance Rayder's camp and lay waste to a few hundred more wildlings in a thrilling, out-of-nowhere scene, it's still well executed, plus any excuse to have Stannis hanging out somewhere other than Dragonstone is great to see.

Given the show's tendency to pair off characters, I'd love to see Stannis and Mance hang out and talk king stuff while Jon Snow gets to apprentice at the side of the brilliant Onion Knight, the guy who really knows how to get stuff done. This seems to be the direction they're heading with Tyrion and Varys, the relationship the show has hinted at several times, but not outright shown all that much considering just how alike the two are and how the two seem more concerned with the good of the realm rather than the survival of one particular king or ideology.

Alex Graves has turned in a great episode this week. The action scenes are handled with visual aplomb, particularly the helicopter shots of Stannis literally riding in with the cavalry and running the wildlings out of the forest north of the wall. However, the most effective scenes, as usual, involved Tyrion Lannister. From the shared hug with brother Jaime to ending the life of the woman he loves, Tyrion (and Peter Dinklage) was on fire this episode, and Graves did a great job showcasing these brutal, vitally-important actions from the little Lion of Lannister. The death of Shae was great; claustrophobic and heartbreaking in turns, with a memorable last shot of Tyrion and Shae sharing one last tender moment after Tyrion strangled her to death with a gold necklace. The final moments of Arya celebrating her new life, the mad scientist lair of Qyburn (Anton Lesser) and his experiments on the dying Mountain, and of course the Ray Harryhausen skeleton warriors chasing Bran, Meera, Jojen (RIP) and Hodor into the arms of the mysterious Children of the Forest.

Game Of Thrones has some of the best special effects on television. The swarming armies of Stannis Baratheon, the skeletal wights emerging from within the frozen north near the three-eyed raven's lair—and the three-eyed raven's lair—Daenerys' heartbreaking imprisonment of two of her three dragons due to the misdeeds of the bad-tempered Drogon, the magical fire from the Children of the Forest that turned back the skeleton attackers (and the way those attackers burst into dusty bones when they crossed into the sanctuary of the Children)... all of these things that, on a different show, would have looked cheesy and cheap, but on Game Of Thrones, these effects all looked awesome, particularly the dragons.

The combination between director skill, great writing (from Dan Benioff and D.B. Weiss, as per usual), and great special effects is one that's hard to top. Even the wind-down episode of the fourth season was a thing of tense, affecting beauty, with heartbreak, celebration, violence, and tragedy in equal measure. It's part roller-coaster ride, part check-in, part set-up for next season, and definitely a sign that the show is moving in the right direction. After an action-packed fourth season, I'm not sure how Game Of Thrones will live up to its own reputation, but I'm sure it will be fine.

The fifth season is only ten long months away...

Read Ron's review of the previous episode, The Watchers On The Wall, here

US Correspondent Ron Hogan is very glad to report that Hodor made it north of the wall without any major incident, and that Bran was able to protect him from evil wights. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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Disqus - noscript

Tonight is the night! Can't wait!

"Stannis the Mannis"

ROFLMAO!

"However, the most effective scenes, as usual, involved Tyrion Lannister."

I disagree. I think that the most effective scenes were between Arya and The Hound. Her silently watching him die as he begs her to kill him was great. I was dissapointed that she didn't take mercy on him though and put him out of his misery. I wanted to see a little of the old compassionate Arya come back before she heads out to become a merciless, blind Face Dancer.

Tyrion is my third favorite character (after Khaleesi and Arya), but for some reason I found this week that his parts were very dull. And it's not just because I knew everything that was going to happen already. The scene with his father was not as emotional as I remember it in the book because he wasn't talking about Shae, he was talking about another woman. I don't like that they changed it.

Anyway, overall a very good episode. Can't wait until next year.

Excellent episode yet again, ..maybe it's just me but the whole Children of the Forest/BloodRayne/Skeletons scene was a bit too soon and should have been kept for next season, as this is where the fantasy element begins to go up a gear

Melisandre looking at Jon across the flames. My life is complete.

Maybe it's just me, but I found parts of this episode a tad underwhelming. I loved the Arya/Hound/Brienne stuff, I thought it was by far the best part of the episode but I dunno, that final Tyrion scene just didn't have the impact for me.

Just watched this before work cos I couldn't stand for it to be spoiled by workmates or the internet and now I'm late but it is worth it! So glad for the extra 15 minutes! Woooah best episode 10 so far!

Brilliant episode, but I couldn't help feeling a little short changed by the lack of a certain "Lady" (tthat's not a spoiler is it?). I was sure they were going to do that this season, and now I have to wait another year, if they do it at all (they have to, surely. Not doing it would be insane).

once a whore, whore forever. sad story of shane & tyrion. on the bright side, nice to see stannis up north (where no one south seems to care), red hair witch must have some scheming plans again. Probably she's out for Jon's blood as well, and if the rumors are true, that jon is targeryen (by rhaener and lyanna - ed's sister), well jon snow and danaerys could be the love duo everyone is shockingly waiting for since targaeryns only marry within their family supposedly. nah, i'm just second guessing martin's imagination. see you next yr season 5 ! shet im one year older then.

How about a certain someone with frosty appendages being completely cut out? ;)

A whole review and not one mention of Tywin!

I thought they would as well, but I suppose they maybe thought so much happened at the end of this season that they could afford to push it back.

Totally agree with both of you, were are Lady Stonehart & Coldhands!? & don't forget Strong Belwas, these aren't spoilers any more they have missed Belwas & Coldhands best scenes from the books, they aren't going to ever be in it now, & what upsets me is that Coldhands & Belwas are fan favourite characters why cut them out?

This season's been a real bore almost as bad as walking dead, definitely not worth buying the box set! It makes me laugh how by sprinkling some nonsense at the end of the episode it's supposed to make it appear exciting......it don't!

This season's been a real bore almost as bad as walking dead, definitely not worth buying the box set! It makes me laugh how by sprinkling some nonsense at the end of the episode it's supposed to make it appear exciting......it don't!

Well considering he has, so far, only served to get Bran to where he is now, he wasn't really needed in the show. It's easy enough for them to introduce him as a "friend of the children" if and when he becomes vital to the story, otherwise, Bran having visions of where to go sufficed.

The show does seem to be departing more and more from the books and a few characters seem to have run out of published plot already. I assume we will get a late epilogue. The background for it was all set up in Season 3.

I am too disappointed by a lack of stoneheart, however I still hope she will be in it. Brienne and pod have to do something next season, and why introduce the bwb if no stoneheart?? As for coldhands, meh, I do like it in the books but his purpose has already been served in this series. And the loss we all feel for belwas can never be filled

*doesn't

*it doesn't

Coldhands would have probably required CGI, and they have a pretty limited budget for that. Minor characters like Belwas just get cut because there are too many characters to keep track of.

I think Stoneheart is merely delayed. There is a colossal interaction coming up in Winds of Winter between her, Brienne, and Jaime that should be defining for those characters (and likely wind up in the demise of at least one, I would suspect). Brienne's plot in particular is off-track right now, but I think they will rope it back in and she will encounter Stoneheart in S5.

I waited, and waited... and waited for a final scene with the 'lady', I'm not sure why they haven't included her. Surely they must bring her into the fold next season, otherwise brienne has no story...

I personally would have been in unspeakable pain if we had to wait another 10 months for some Stark story movement! This is welcomed from me :)

wat

Although I was ticked at first by the
absence of a certain “Lady”, in retrospect it makes perfect sense. In the
Epilogue of book 3 (and I apologize if this seems like elitism), she only shows
up to kill an unimportant character, just for the sake of introducing her.
After thinking about it I think it will be much better to introduce her with
her second known appearance. The impact will be much more powerful, I think.

As for Coldhands, Bran’s guide through the
north, the showrunners have said he would never show up. Since they have access
to the rest of the Song, it is safe to speculate that he is not as important to
the story as we might first believed, however “cool” he may be (same goes for
Jojen Reed).

Overall I found this finale on par with the
rest of the season. Fantastic quality, acting, script, effects, etc. They
managed to pack a huge amount of story and wrap everything up in a neat little
package. Hats off to Alex Graves!

And that fight was… wow!

Fantastic as always the quality has been maintained throughout this series, really enjoyed the scene with Varys getting on the ship, one of my favorite characters

Considering what little happens to Bran in the next 2 books, I assumed that Coldhands would be introduced this episode, with half or all of next series showing them travel further North. I was quite surprised to see them reach their destination.

Yeah, by never calling back to his previous wife (I forget her name) over the last few series, they didn't allow themselves the chance to bring her up again and give him that bit more venom he needed to commit the murders. He was sad more than bitter, and that seems a big change considering his general attitude through book 5.

It's interesting to see Varys going with Tyrion though. I wonder what role he will play next.

Wait? Did the bathroom scene with Tywin happen? Book reader here without HBO, but I like reading the reviews.

"I look into the flames for the Red God to guide me with his light. Yet all I see is snow...."

BLAMO

I have a funny feeling things are eventually gonna come back to bite Daenerys on the backside with her dragons. Her perfect, perfect backside...
Ahem.
I thought Varys' little moment at the end was great, put a nice bow on things. And I have a feeling the focus will soon be shifting away from King's Landing as Arya and Tyrion make good on their individual escapes. Fantastic episode overall, and now The 42 Week Winter begins...

Oh Rachel, you scallywag you.

I can kind of see their reasoning in leaving Lady Stoneheart out. She only really pitches up in ASOS to kill of a character of unimportance, if they save the first appearance it will have a much bigger impact. The other reason would be that AFFC and ADWD, despite spanning over 3000 pages all together, don't really have as much happen in narrative terms as ASOS does. You could probably cover the majority of the events in just over one series, one and a half tops. There's a real possibility that series five could be a bit of a come down if the producers aren't careful, through the fault of the source material rather than their own fault. I can't really blame them for saving such a fantastic twist and brilliant character for next series, even if there's a real chance the wait will drive me clinically insane.

She's too busy being the instrument of revenge on the 24 miniseries right now :)

Yes

watch full episode for free no survey socshare video watch it at Stream32com

So is Jojen's death the first instance of the book readers being spoiled? I imagine there will be a lot more of that to come if the show writers indeed know what is going to happen, and who is expendable to the ultimate plot.

I suspect the actor was unavailable for next year, they asked GRRM if the story could carry on OK without Jojen and he said 'yeah, sure, wasn't going to do a lot more with him anyway'

Its standard for the show NOT to bring an actor in for a single scene in a season - they tend to move appearances into the next season for practical purposes - hence no Ramsay Snow in season 2, despite him begin present for the sack of Winterfell in the book

He'll stay in Pentos and Tyrion will move on. In the books Varys disappears for a while after Tyrion escapes, the show just showed us where he went.

Felt bad for the hound. Ayra left him lying there like a G.

There's an interview with the episode director online. He says they felt it was unreasonable to have such an intense battle without a fatality. Jojen's death was signalled fairly clearly back at Craster's

Was a bit underwhelmed really, shame to see the Hound left for dead (I love his characters unrepentant nasty nature and he was also good darkly comic value at times) and having Tywin shot while on the lav seems a poor way to have done with his character who I will also miss (for similar reasons). Also could have done without the more overt fantasy elements in this episode since I much prefer the show when it’s more grounded in a pseudo medieval reality. I hope such fantasy elements don't overwhelm the next series.

Yeah, I was absolutely sure she'd turn up right at the end for a brilliant "WTF?!" moment to end on. Really loved the episode, but thought they left it on the wrong moment personally.

Yeah, I assume that's the reason why. Still seems a shame though, but oh well.

More of a box of chocolates than a single dish but scarcely less enjoyable for it.

I've enjoyed this series a very great deal and am constantly surprised at how effectively the episodes have drawn together, compared and contrasted disparate events around themes and ideas. Jolly good.

I understand where you're coming from, but I think there's a reason why there's an Other in the first scene of episode one, season one/A Game of Thrones the book and that's to set out, right from that start, that this is a full-on fantasy series. I think, sadly for you, that it's only going to get more and more overtly fantastical from here on in.

I guess Martin's (and now HBO's) hope is that, by this point, fans who'd normally be put off by out-and-out fantasy will be so hooked on the characters that they'll go with it as it things get increasingly weird. I guess time will tell if they're right.

Well if so it’s probably time for me to bail (sword and sorcery,
dragons et al has never really been my thing), but I’ll nevertheless first give the show a go next series and see how they handle things in this regard.

So.... Bran will fly.... Worging into Danys Dragons???

Surely

I really hope she turns up in S5. Though even as good as this finale was (and after thinking about it for some time), I think the writers made a huge mistake in not leaving the season on her first appearance. It would have been a genuinely epic cliffhanger, and would have equalled, if not bettered, the heights attained by Breaking Bad's Ozymandias, or Felina. That, plus leaving Tysha out of Tyrion and Tywin's confrontation was a bad decision. Also killing Jojen Reed, who is alive in the books. So basically, as a TV episode separate from the books, fantastic. From a book reader's perspective, lacking in key areas.

Loved the Pre-Raphaelite image of Ygritte's death pyre.

Great finale to a great season. I have a feeling that Bran will be trained by the three eyed raven so that he can Worg into the rogue dragon (hence the "you'll fly" line). It'd make sense after seeing Danaerys (sp?) fail to control the dragons despite her claiming to be their mother.. I suspect her great grandfather who conquered Westeros with his three dragons was some kind of super Warg too, which gave him the ability to truly control his dragons.

Or I could just be reading too much into the show ha. Don't want to read the books but. I don't know if I can last 10months without my GoT fix.

Really enjoyed this episode, even the more 'high fantasty' bits with the skeletons and Children of the Forest (reminded me of Krull in a weird way). I like how the more fantastical elements are lightly peppered throughout the series - the focus is always more on the relationships and characters, and things are always on a 'human' level. It'll be interesting to see how these elements develop in the next series (such a long wait!)

I liked the mystery of Varys missing in the books while surely still being around in disguise to gather intelligence. But it's probably hardly to portray that in the show without having people overtly saying "where is he?" repeatedly, and the alternative is nobody mentioning it and the audience forgetting that he's missing.

The raeson for the lack of LS is the same as the reason Ramsay Snow was not at Winterfell in season 2 and Jojen and Meera Reed didn't turn up until after the sack of Winterfell - practicality. Getting actors to fly halfway across the planet to shoot a single scene in a season is something they would rather avoid, so they have moved her into the next season. Not ideal for the viewers but the kind of compromsie producers have to make in real life.

Thats what readers of the books assume.

The Ravens used by maesters to send messages are supposed to contain the leftover spirits of dead wargs - enablign them to carry out their missions. Maybe Bran just becomes a Raven?

That's no excuse, Coldhands is a fan favourite & has loads of mystery surrounding him, he should have been in it last season, agreed Belwas is less important but still a very liked character, & after recasting Daario with another Stark-esque lookalike it would have been refreshing to have a tall fat warrior join the cast

Best fight in the show so far, IMHO.

SPOILERS!!!!

************************************

He can eventually warg into Weirwood trees, allowing him to actually view time and communicate in some way with everyone who has ever been in front of one of those trees, including his father... So the possibilities with Bran are endless and I can't wait for the next book to come out, to see just how powerful he will become.

They've shown us cold hands already - the nights king. They are just streamlining his story so he is just pure naughty and didn't go through a betrayal type arc with Bran.

Re Coldhands I'm assuming they haven't introduced him because doing so on the screen may leave no doubt about who the character is, which is something they can get away with in the books. Remember that it takes a while to reveal Barristan Selmy to Daenarys in the books...

Great episode, great review, but how have you written it without mentioning Tywin! I know there was a lot to fit in, but come on!

Why do you have to post spoilers EVERY WEEK?????

Writing SPOILERS then putting the spoiler the next line still spoils it because of peripheral vision.

Honestly, you write spoilers every f'n week.

It makes sense not to have Stoneheart in for one scene. She doesn't have a great deal to do up to now in the books so it makes sense to me to have the actress in for a day and film all of her scenes for the next series in one afternoon/day.

Loved this episode. I haven't been reading the books but I know that Arya was headed to Braavos and was so satisfied when she give the captain the coin and said the words. The CGI was top notch as well this week. Those skeletons could have looked so silly in anyone else's hands.

But I still instantly thought "Army of Darkness!"

Agree, just because someone is asking a question it doesn't mean it needs an answer as they are clearly not a book reader. Posting spoilers just comes across as being a massive book know it all and a bit needy. It spoils it for any one who doesn't know where its going (and I'm saying this as a book know it all who has read them all twice)

Primary fan theory is he dies at the Children anyway, its just not clearly signposted in Dance With Dragons. He is very poorly if I remember so its not a great shock and I don't think that is really a spoiler. He talks constantly (oh god does he go on) about how he has seen his own death.

Great episode and again showed that some deviation from the books can be a good thing. The Sandor v Brienne fight was excellent and, if this is his end, a more fitting send-off to the Hound than an infected wound. The Cersei moments, particularly with her father, were also very powerful and again showed a bit more humanity to her character (through her love of her children in partiuclar) than just being a scheming evil b***h. Killing Jojen Reed off was also a welcome change, as GRRM seems to have run out of things for him to do in the books and he just serves to delay progress (not much need for his foretelling skills etc when Bran is getting more powerful and they've found the raven). That said, I do think that carving out revelations about Tyrion's first wife, Tysha, was an error. They have already told us the story about her as far back as season one and these revelations seem to be a major part of Tyrion's story (or at least his mind set) going forward. Normally, where changes are made, they bring the story back on track another way.

Coldhands is almost certainly not Benjen, if that is what you are hinting at. One of the Children says Coldhands has been around a long, long time. A better theory is that he is Duncan the Tall from The Hedge Knight, etc, just as the Bloodraven is Bryndyn Rivers from the same series.

Virtually everything that happens to Bran in AFFC/ADWD has already happened. There is what, maybe one chapter of material left?

First, I don’t post
spoilers every week. I did last week though.

Second, I apologize,
but I had nothing but good intentions in answering. If I didn’t I would not
have included a spoiler tag with asterisks.

Third, since I can’t
edit my post: DoG, if possible please remove my spoiler post above.

Thank you and good
day.

What about that Crow that married a white? Everyone thinks he is the king of the White walkers but it could be him, or a product of their unholy union???????

I think after all that it makes sense that bitterness would follow.

I see both these points. I was surprised it happened so quick and they just didn't include a character but yeah something has needed to happen there so it is welcome.

You be crazy yo.

No need for HBO when you have the internet. Shhhhh.

Yeah I get where your coming from. I fond the weird fire ball things a bit much. It is going to get a bit more fantastical as the seasons go on though I think.

I know it wasn't meant with bad intentions, but you do it a lot. I get your excited about the series - that's cool and I dig that, but that doesn't mean I want spoiling all the time (or ever).

This is why I think DoG should add a book readers thread for this and The Walking Dead (and other book adaptations) so book readers can discuss the show in that context without worrying about spoiling it for non-readers and the non-readers don't have to get frustrated at the readers that just want to discuss openly what they love.

That would be lame.

You're right.

I apologize and will try to be more careful in the future.

I disagree about people not investing in CGI entities, look at all of Pixar's output for example. But each to their own.

WHAT ABOUT TYWIN? I want to talk about Charles Dance, who I will miss.

Also this sentence doesn't appear to mean anything, something lost in the edit?

"The final moments of Arya celebrating her new life, the mad scientist lair of Qyburn (Anton Lesser) and his experiments on the dying Mountain, and of course the Ray Harryhausen skeleton warriors chasing Bran, Meera, Jojen (RIP) and Hodor into the arms of the mysterious Children of the Forest."

I should have been clearer in referring to CGI characters as fantasy elements in the context of this show which already has great human characters grounded in a kind of reality.

Who for instance gives a stuff about the giant 'King' who was 'killed' in episode 9 (the last of his line and all) not to mention the Viper and the Mountain fight vs. the skeleton fight in this last episode, I know what I was invested in and it wasn't skeletons been blown up by some kid throwing great balls of fire!

The only GGI characters I’d actually like to see a little more of are the dragons which seem to have been woefully underused, since they have the potential to be real game changers in this universe (as weapons of mass destruction) and maybe they will be. I have not read the books (as is probably obvious!).

Shhhhh indeed Greg, don't tell, since everybody (not me obviously)
would be doing it!

Why no mention of Tywin??

Anyway, I wasn't really blown away by this season. Other than a few deaths, nothing extraordinary happened. Until this episode, the beyond the wall story and Stannis Baratheon story were depressing. I also really miss Joffrey terrorizing people.

I know Game Of Thrones has got a lot left to reveal, but this season was just disappointing for me.

This image will haunt my sleep!

Cold Hands is not the Night's King. He's a wight, not a white walker, and was a man of the Watch.

What you have heard about it too? What is the first rule of internet club?

So you are saying that he is a sentient Wight?
Also, I think you will find that both Coldhands and the Nights King are both men of the watch. Is it just a coincidence that the show showed an 'Other ' in black like Cold Hands? I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the connection if I were you, after all he "died long ago"

But we've seen the Night's King in the show, quite clearly.

Coldhands does seem to be a sentient wight. Who knows what or who he is (Brandon the Builder is one theory, as is the Night's King) but I do think that the show showing him has put paid to Coldhands being the Night's King

am i the only one who felt tyrion's scenes were seriously manhandled and SO much weaker than what they could have been??....they held him back and the show wimped out.

Fantastic fight between Brienne and the Hound. Absolutely brutal. Loved it.

Yeah absolutely true. I wish they'd referred to his wife. It seemed to me in the book that learning the truth about what his father had done and the final hypocrisy of taking a prostitute into his bed after everything he'd said was the final straw for Tyrion. The scene was effectively Tyrion blubbing about never being loved by his daddy and Tywin trying to get him to put the crossbow down whereas from what I remember of the book, it was a stubborn, unapologetic Tywin facing an angry Tyrion who'd had enough. I usually like the TV show better than the books, but I thought this scene lacked impact.

Agree with you about Varys as well - going to be interesting to see where his loyalties really lie!

Or maybe something like the imdb boards have where you can cover possible spoilers. That would be useful.

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