Game of Thrones: The Children (Episode Review)

Warning: Full Spoilers for Season 4 Episode 10 to follow.

This finale, The Children, was perhaps the largest single play in the Game of Thrones TV universe. So many pieces either moved entirely or were completely struck from the board that it’s a wonder the episode flowed as smoothly as it did. Often this program is strongest when, rather than diverting your attention from one character to a next, it laser focuses in on one story line, like last week’s huge battle. This episode did not; this episode proved the power of the finale.

The Children finally saw Bran’s quest take shape. For a character that’s mostly fumbling around in the background, causing little to no consequence to the overarching story, this week’s revelation involving the mystical ‘Children of the Forest’ was totally unexpected. Suddenly Bran’s storyline seems like one of the most interesting of the entire show, but with that we bid farewell to Jojen Reed as he died at the hands of the creepy skeletal monsters. Game of Thrones isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to the fantastical elements of the story anymore. The shows creature designs once again shone with the introduction of the mystical skeletons that move with a deathly lifelessness that masks the CGI well. Bran fought with his special Hodor control powers, with aid from the mystical Children and their crazy fireballs. It’s about as fantasy as the show has got so far and I absolutely loved it. Here’s hoping for more moving forwards.

Obviously though, the show hasn’t completely relegated all its mystical creatures to folklore and character monologues. Namely Dany’s dragons, who made a sad appearance in this week’s finale, have been a huge cornerstone of Game of Thrones. At this point, Dany is undeniably a conqueror. Having gone from city to city freeing slaves and overthrowing their slavers, she’s beginning to learn that when one rule is over, another must begin. Nothing but chaos will happen without a strong regime, and this series has seen her struggle to take the reins of leadership. So when it comes to her pack of savage dragons, she seemed to have no choice but to lock them away. It was a strangely harsh scene, considering they’re CGI magical beasts, but they’ve always been her children and now she’s chaining them up in stark contrast to her efforts to abolish slavery.

Following the previous episodes Battle, John Snow took the task of entering the enemy’s camp once more to bargain with the infamous Mance Rayder. And apparently he wasn’t the only one to do so, as hundreds of unknown men on horseback came charging in, followed by the surprising, yet familiar face of Stannis. Whilst only vaguely hinted at in previous episodes, his arrival seemed almost out of the blue, yet it was both tense and exciting to see him come across the hardened Jon Snow. It leaves the show in a really interesting place moving into season 5 next year, and importantly, puts a neat bow on the season’s events at Castle Black whilst leaving plenty more for the new season.

Other characters crossing paths for the first time in the show included Brienne stumbling across Arya and The Hound. It’s almost ironic that if you really think about the person Arya has become over the last 4 seasons, and having somewhat of a mentor for each of those years, Brienne would be the perfect Yoda to her Luke. Yet it just so happened that Brienne came across her whilst wielding Lannister gold. At this point The Hound seems to have developed some sort of a bond with the Stark Girl, perhaps not to the point where he wouldn’t sell her off for a quick buck, but she’s pretty much his only friend. So before anyone could get a word in edgeways, Brienne and The Hound were exchanging blows whilst Arya ran off into the distance. After another example of Game of Thrones’ exceptional choreography, Brienne left The Hound half dead on the road, begging Arya to take his life. Yet despite him being on her kill list, she doesn’t. And I’m glad the writers left it up to our interpretation as to whether she left him due to their bond on the road, or that she perhaps wants him to suffer. The ambiguity of that decision was both satisfying and intriguing, and whatever the reason, it’s likely to permeate her character in the coming season as she sets sail for Bravos.

But she shan’t be there alone. Tyrion Lannister, the man sentenced to death by his own father, staged a break out along with the help of his brother Jaime. But he just couldn’t leave without paying his dad a quick visit, only to find his lover, Shea, in his bed. Tyrion killing Shea in that moment was alarming but as she uttered “my lion” and you realised it wasn’t for him, a sense of pure revenge came over him. As the usual quick-quipping man strangled her without uttering a single word, you knew he had been pushed to his absolute limit. He then got to finally go head to head with his father, Tywin, before shooting bolts into him on the toilet, killing him in a way I think he, or any of the audience, least suspected. And so Tyrion and Varys are on their way to Bravos, hopefully to run into Arya and, if we’re lucky, a certain Mother of Dragons.

I’ve spoken in previous reviews about Game of Thrones’ tendency to use episode 9 as its finale and leave episode 10 for the dust to settle. This season changed things up just enough give a killer penultimate episode, and a finale full of twists and enough questions to make the wait for season 5 even harder. This season has seen a lot change, perhaps more than any other, yet it kept a coherent and stead through line in the form of Tyrion’s trial. Episode 10, The Children, really stacked up the big reveals, yet brilliantly it was never overwhelming. It’s arguably the strongest episode of the show and one that will set the standard in the years to come. Here’s hoping for a short winter as the wait for Game of Thrones’ season 5 begins.