Game of Thrones: The Children (Episode Review)

*This article contains spoilers*

It’s peculiar to think that Game of Thrones is on its 4th year already, yet it never fails to provide shocks and surprises, let alone a single dull episode. For the past three seasons, almost on cue, the ninth episode has been the one with the most discussion filled, heart pounding moments for the characters of Westeros. Sure, George R R Martin isn’t exactly known for playing host to the most pleasant of weddings, but we’ve almost been conditioned not to expect something this big so early in the season. But there it is, Joffrey is dead!

Being a wedding, this episode saw a lot of the current star characters together to eat, drink and exchange pleasantries. And who best to do so with than the least pleasant woman in Westeros, Cerci Lannister. The wedding saw her go nose to nose with the passive-aggressive Martells, who continue to show they’re distain towards the golden haired lions. But when it comes to passive-aggressiveness, no one tops Cerci. Pouncing on anyone she could, the ex-queen even managed to take a few shots at her polar-opposite, Brienne, who artfully dodged her incoming jabs but hinted at her feelings for Jammie. But it was towards the end of the wedding when the pure anxiety over Cerci’s diminishing power became abundantly clear as she lost all passive and went full on aggressive against old man Pycelle. As a distinctly spiteful character we’ve grown to hate, it was with a sense of slight pitty that we watched Cerci realise her son was dying in front of her. Yet as two characters so easy to hate, it was a satisfying blow to the house that has brought so much pain upon the ‘protagonists’ of the show.

And those protagonists were distinctly absent from this episode. With the majority of them now dead, the Starks are few and far between. This episode brought us back to the mysterious tale of Bran, if only briefly. As he glimpsed into the future, his vision seemed to be somewhat of a teaser for the future of the show, and whilst it was exciting (giant dragon shadow!), it was all too short-lived and moved on too quickly. The show tends to work best when the cast and writers get a good chunk of screen time to really dig into the deeper motivations and meaning of the characters and their actions; sometimes the smaller scenes getting buried under the immense weight of the show and I hope Brans journey is well fleshed out in future episodes.

Staying in the North just a while longer, Theon has made a not-so proud return to Winterfell, and how things have changed. His last visit saw him selfishly taking the city whilst murdering children and old men. Now he’s a whimpering idiot, slave to Lord Bolton’s bastard son. His straight razor shaving skills aside, Theon is useless; merely a puppet for the Boltons to play with at this point. Answering to the name ‘reek’ and divulging information as to the whereabouts of John Snow, he has become somewhat of a pathetic lap dog to his foster family’s killers. Yet brilliantly, and I’m yet to figure out quite how, there is a distinct sense of sympathy for Theon. We’re talking about a guy who murdered innocent children and burned their bodies just to make a point. Perhaps it was all the nail biting torture of the past season, but the mix of soullessness and fear on his face as Ramsey reveals the death of Robb is saddening. We’ve yet to see his sister, Yara, but supposedly she’s on her way to bring him back. For another week, we’ll have to wait and see.

But the real star of the episode was Tyrion. As a show favourite, Tryion has suffered a lot of abuse over the years, but perhaps none so much as in this episode. To begin with, he is forced to lie to Shae in order to convince her to leave King’s Landing. The scene left me with mixed feelings. It was well executed for the most part, with interesting dynamic camera work that gave it a sense of urgency. Peter Dinklage, as always, was fantastic and the scene could have been heart wrenching where it not for Sibel Kekilli who has been lacklustre onscreen as the secret lover, Shae. It’s her characters constant misunderstandings coupled with the passable performance that left me feeling honestly apathetic towards the whole situation. In the end, despite Tyron’s heartbreak, it was good to see her go.

However, it comes back to Cerci to deliver the final blow to his downfall. After the hateful Joffery spends the entire latter half of the episode tormenting Tyrion in every way possible, destroying his gift, insulting him and having him act as servant, it’s almost no wonder he’s immediately blamed for Joffery’s murder. But it’s a bittersweet end. This episode spells more doom and gloom for our little hero; despite his good intentions he can’t seem to catch a break. Perhaps if he somehow manages to squirm his way out of this one, Tyrion will finally turn against the family that has treated him as an outcast for so long. For three years, Jack Gleeson’s Joffery Baratheon has played the most spiteful and hated little king on television. The episode saw some of the worst in him, and as brilliantly played out as it was his distinct mix of psychotic violence and unbearable whining made for a villain that everyone loved to hate. But it’s surely a much needed and crowd pleasing moment to see the King gone.

The Lion and the Rose wasn’t a perfect episode; too many characters were skimmed over too quickly. However the price we pay for that is another extended and intense wedding for Game of Thrones. Trying to count all the characters at this point would leave even the most die-hard fan scratching their head, so for that it’s admirable that the royal wedding was given so much time to play out the way it should. By allowing all the pieces to fall perfectly into place, and by letting Joffery display his worst side one last time, HBO have created a brilliant mystery crime scene that’s sure to punctuate the rest of the season.