Game of Thrones: “The Children” Season 4 Finale Review

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Where do I even start? This finale was positively shocking and proved, once again, that there really is nothing quite like Game of Thrones.

First off, I appreciated the structure of the last three episodes of the season. The Mountain and the Viper completed Theon and Sansa’s stories, giving us time for the epic battle in The Watchers on the Wall and much more satisfying conclusions to the remaining stories of the season in The Children. It’s proof that Thrones is learning, growing, and improving into a more cohesive series.

It’s difficult reviewing this finale without talking about the whole season (stay tuned for our full Season 4 review in the near future).

I will say that the first ten minutes or so felt like they could have been tacked onto The Watchers and the Wall, but I’m glad this was the first thing we dealt with. Jon Snow marches out to meet Mance Rayder and kill him. He’s interrupted by Stannis and his army who slaughter many of the wildlings but agree to take Mance prisoner. This combining of stories is exactly what Stannis’ plot needed. He’s always been more engaging when he collides with other main characters (his meeting Catelyn and then the Battle of Blackwater being perfect examples).

Ygritte’s lonely funeral was a nice closure on Jon’s two and a half season arc. Now it seems he and Stannis are ready for the war that comes with winter.

Further beyond the wall, Bran got a longer scene than he’s had all season as he and his crew reached the glowing red tree that I’m thankful the showrunners didn’t force us to watch too much traveling to. The action scene with the skeletons was excellent, effectively using Bran, Hodor, and Summer to create some badass moments. Jojen, however, was the first of many characters in The Children to bite the dust. It was a decent death, but nothing compared to what we’d get later in the episode.

The gang is saved by a fire-hurling little girl who takes them beneath the tree. Bran finds the Three-eyed crow, who says he’ll never walk again, but he may just fly. Whatever that means. I’m interested in less traveling for Bran and more becoming awesome.

Ironically enough, his sister appears to be starting a similar journey. In another meeting-of-characters, Brienne and Podrick just happen to run into Arya and the Hound on their way to the Vale. Once Podrick reveals who the Hound is, Brienne deciphers that his companion is none other than Arya Stark. This lead to a fight I never knew I wanted: Brienne vs. the Hound. It was brutal. These two goliaths did quite a number on each other in the best one-on-one fight of the season (yes, better than Oberyn vs. the Mountain). Luckily, the right character won for once, as Brienne kicked an already weak Hound down a hill.

Arya runs down, avoiding Brienne, to see the fate of her captor. Dying, the Hound begs Arya to stick that sword through his neck as she’s been promising. Instead, she takes his money, and walks away. On her own finally, Arya rides off to train with Jaqen. She gets on a boat, walks to the front and stares off to her future. Perfect shot to end the season on.

Before we get into the shocking events at King’s Landing, I have to at least touch on Daenerys locking away two of her three dragons. It’s unclear what kind of queen she’s going to be, this story giving us the least closure on a character of the night. But I’m intrigued to find out just what kind of queen she is going to be.

Now, the Lannisters’ lives all had major shifts in tonight’s episode. Cersei, played better than ever before by Lena Headey, finally tells her father about her incestuous relationship with Jaime. It was a clever way to give Cersei and, to a lesser degree, Jaime some catharsis after what happens to Tywin at the end of The Children.

From there, Jaime, the great brother that he is, freed Tyrion, telling him to go meet Varys and get out of the city. But Arya isn’t the only one with a list. In one of the hardest scenes to watch in the entire series, Tyrion murders Shae. Tyrion rarely acts on emotion, but this was revenge, pure and simple.

But the ultimate revenge came when Tyrion paid his father a visit with a crossbow. Tywin, sitting on the toilet, claims he was never really going to have Tyrion executed. Carrying the weight of Tyrion’s outburst at his trial, he fires a shot, and then another. Tywin’s hand falls limp and Tyrion walks away and joins Varys to get out of King’s Landing. Happy Father’s Day. Season 4 of Game of Thrones killed the show’s two biggest villains. Who will take their place?

The Children had a ton of payoffs for a number of characters, capping off another excellent season. Most stories got their due and took their time to satisfyingly end the season. It’s going to be a long wait for Season 5, but this episode was enough of a conclusion to a chapter in the overall Game of Thrones story to send us out of winter feeling fulfilled. Grade: A

By Matt Dougherty

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