Game of Thrones: 410 “The Children” (Finale) Review
Reviewed by Thomas Firth.
The Children. What is the significance of the title? Is it in reference to the Stark children: Jon, Bran, Arya and Sansa, who have been affected by the death of their parents and brother and who are now desperately trying to reach sanctuary somewhere? Could it be the Lannisters: Tyrion, Jaime and Cersei, who each have had a part to play in their betrayal towards their father and his hopes for a clean legacy? What about the Children of the Forest, those who were thought to be lost who helped Bran on his quest? It could even be the small corpse brought to Daenerys in her keep, the remnants of what her oldest dragon had done. Or could it be the dragons themselves, the Children of Daenerys, who have become so uncontrollable, that she has been forced to chain two of them for the safety of her people and the safety of her rule? So many possibilities for one title; the Children has its own way of telling us how brilliant it is!
Literally seconds after the previous episode, we now find Jon travelling to meet Mance Rayder beyond the wall. Alex Graves creates a wonderfully atmospheric place amongst the trees where Jon is suddenly surrounded by the Wildling camp and is taken to see the King himself. The dialogue play between Jon and Mance is simple, yet effective. Despite being mortal enemies, Mance is still kind enough to offer a seat and a drink (not poisoned, of course). Perhaps this is because Mance believes he has won anyway, and doesn’t care about wasting a bit more time. It is good to note that Mance has seen through Jon’s lies about the numbers at Castle Black and is clearly a wise leader. Even though the young Stark is prepared to die to kill Mance, there’s evidence that Jon is too naive to even contemplate such an act. Their discussion, however, is cut short by the sound of horns and Stannis’ army finally arrives north – and in quite a stylish way.
Another useful directing technique from Alex Graves allows him to bring the army from both sides, conclusively causing a massacre of the Wildlings. The episode was built on moments like these, and to join two storylines in one go gives us something wonderful to look forward to. It’s important to note that the emotional punch that we received during Ygritte’s death last week, was prolonged by her pyre, built by Jon himself in the episode, as Tormund had suggested. Almost effortlessly, Season four’s storyline involving Ygritte and the Wildlings south of the Wall is completed, and that is one contributing factor in this masterpiece finale.
In the East, things have been treacherous recently, especially with the banishment of Ser Jorah Mormont. Things appear to be piling in front of Daenerys, most of which is caused by her oldest dragon, Drogon. It’s ironic that her wisest adviser, Ser Jorah, has left simultaneously with her decision to finally chain her dragons. He said to her many times before that they were untrainable – even by their mother. It’s actually quite pitiful to see her leading two of her children – the two that had probably done nothing to hurt anyone – into chains. Once she was the Breaker of Chains, but now, in metaphorical terms, she’s become a hypocrite and like the slave who came for her council, she’s chaining those she’s only just liberated. The clueless dragons soon realise her intent, and scream for her return and you can easily tell, it’s hard for her to close the entrance to the catacombs and leave them in darkness. Similar to the Night’s Watch storyline, an open door has now been closed, with the new quest being to find Drogon, who has apparently flown north towards the Dothraki Sea.
Cersei has finally learnt how to argue with her father. She’s finally realised that he’s been completely selfish and it’s interesting to see her threatening him with the truth about her and Jaime. Lena Headey is a terrific actress, and it’s nice for her to finally be able to show a more obvious fierceness, especially to an overbearing character like Tywin. In the sequence between her and Jaime, she calls her father by his actual name, hinting at the fact that perhaps she feels he doesn’t belong with ‘her’ family, and she hopes to bring her loving brother and son with her. Jaime appears less confident about rebelling, but their consensual relations proves otherwise. Maybe the legacy of the Lannisters will fall after all.
Bran’s story has been slow this season, but its resolution doesn’t disappoint. The fantasy side to Game of Thrones is quite evident in this scene, with what appears to be wights, sprouting from the ground. Their intention is unexplained (I suppose they want to kill), but they’re impressive CGI, and the fight involving Meera, Hodor and a Child of the Forest, Leaf, delivers a stunning battle scene. Jojen’s death comes as a surprise, but with the streak of death that we’ve had recently, it’s inevitable that someone was going to die. Meera’s mercy is quite painful nonetheless. Finally meeting the three-eyed raven, it’ll be intriguing to learn what will come of their encounter. Suffice to say, the scene was enough to make us want more.
Amongst other things, the fight between Brienne and the Hound was considerably brutal. Brienne’s realisation that she’s found Arya brings out the honour in her, and she’s determined to protect Arya from anything in order to uphold the oath that she made to Catelyn. Did anybody else notice, during the fight scene, the parallels between The Hound and the Mountain? There was a moment, where Sandor Clegane appears to almost want to crush Brienne into the ground, a nod perhaps to what happened previously in episode eight. Unlike Oberyn, however, Brienne has a little more luck on her side, and less of a cocky attitude to protect herself and succeeds in knocking the Hound from the cliff. Whilst Arya is cruel to Sandor, the only friend she has had for the whole season, she no doubt deserves her freedom. It’s quite fitting that she leaves in this fashion, and that her coming of age in the first episode of the season has led to this independent state. Her perseverance has been strong throughout, and it’s nice to point out that at least one of our favourite characters has made a breakthrough and could actually be winning the game of thrones. Her freedom is highlighted beautifully in the end and is one of the greatest resolutions to the season.
The writers probably knew that everything would be relying mainly on the success of the penultimate sequence with Tyrion. A character who’s brutality has been moulded by the hatred of his father and sister and most of Westeros, has finally come to terms with his situation. Following a poignantly emotional moment between him and his brother, Jaime, Tyrion (wearing a face that might as well be made of iron) has his long-awaited revenge. Shae, who’s betrayal in episode six was probably the highest ever recorded on the show, is found lying in his father’s bed. Somehow, when she sees Tyrion approaching, she looks different, almost as if she’s changed her identity. In a loose way, that’s exactly what happened and Tyrion feels he’s lost someone very special. In a very emotional display, Tyrion throttles Shae to death, something we would never have considered back in the second season. Intent on a more pleasurable revenge, Tyrion finds his father in the privy, perhaps the most vulnerable place we’ve ever seen the head of the Lannisters. The Hand of the King is genuinely unconcerned by the fact that he has a crossbow pointed directly at him, and it just underlines how little his faith was for his son. Tyrion proves him wrong, however, firing two bolts and murdering his own father (Happy father’s day!). This season, episode ten turned out to be the bloodbath.
Varys may have finally revealed his true identity as a friend of Tyrion’s, but it comes too late as the youngest of the Lannisters has made a terrible act in consequence to the build up of hatred towards him. The last sight we get of Tyrion is his darkened eyes through the hole in the crate, personifying that he may perhaps be a monster after all, but not in the way that we’d first thought. And to end with both his and Arya’s freedom is gift enough to last us until Season Five (not really).
The finale, as it goes was very close to perfection, but for mathematical sakes, I’m giving it full marks, despite a few niggles that I had with a couple of resolutions. Following the Watchers on the Wall, I would have liked Ser Janos Slynt to get his comeuppance for his cowardice. In addition, the storyline around Stannis Baratheon was weak this season and needed some sort of boost for next year. The exchange between Jon and Melisandre over the fire wasn’t enough. But other than that, the season was ultimately more than satisfying for myself.
The Children was by far the best this season, with the advantage of being able to stretch scenes to their success limit. Alex Graves provided some stunning displays of directing, perhaps not rivalling Neil Marshall, but getting close. Maybe not all the characters made an appearance, but perhaps their stories have already been concluded. Book readers I know were hoping for an extra appearance, but were disappointed to discover otherwise. I don’t think that’s a reason to drop my verdict however. As another season ends, so come the groans of the Thrones fans as we wait another year for another season to come around. Until then, with some Dornish wine and lemon cakes, here’s to another impressive season of Game of Thrones!
P.S. Next week, I will be writing an overview of the season as a whole. I will take a look at the greatest moments and perhaps places where the show can improve.