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article imageReview: Game of Thrones — 'The Children' (season 4, episode 10) Special

By Michael Thomas     Jun 16, 2014 in Entertainment
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Another season of 'Game of Thrones' ended last night with a finale that was a double-edged sword — while probably the best finale so far, it also demonstrated that the show may need to right itself.
The latest season of Game of Thrones has somewhat bucked the status quo of its previous seasons' structure — several episodes of setup and a huge climax in episode nine, followed by a denouement to end off the season. Season four has managed to produce three action-packed episodes in a row, starting with the epic fight between Oberyn and Gregor Clegane, followed by the siege of the Wall, and ending with Tyrion killing his former lover and his own father.
That's only the tip of the iceberg for "The Children," which also brings to an end Bran's quest to find the "three-eyed crow" and the unlikely pairing of Arya and the Hound. Throw in a scene where Daenerys is forced to abandon her "children" and it works out to an overall excellent episode.
We begin with the aftermath of the siege of the Wall — about half of the men at Castle Black have been killed and Jon Snow decides to try and negotiate with Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall. A brief conversation between the two shows that Mance has no plans to let his men bleed more — the wildlings simply want shelter behind the wall, as the White Walkers are becoming more and more of a looming threat. Their conversation is interrupted by a flood of knights seemingly out of nowhere, which turns out to be the swelled forces of Stannis Baratheon.
That spectre of the White Walkers becomes more than a threat in Bran's storyline, which sees the group finally reaching the heart tree Jojen saw in his visions. But before they can go to it, an army of wights rises from the snow and attacks the group. Bran is able to defend himself by slipping into Hodor's body, but the living skeletons manage to kill Jojen, whom the group must leave behind. They are aided a young girl (actually one of the ancient Children of the Forest) and are led into a cave that is safe from the undead threat. There, the survivors find the three-eyed-crow — actually a man — who says that while Bran will never walk again, he will in fact "fly."
Over in Mereen, things continue to unravel for Daenerys. She first meets a man, formerly a slave, who says his life is now worse off without the collar, and asks to go back into service as a slave. But what truly marks a turning point is when a man presents Daenerys with the charred bones of a three-year-old girl. And only one perpetrator could have done it. Daenerys then makes the decision to lock up her dragons Viserion and Rhaegal, with the intention of doing the same for Drogon once he is found.
Near the Bloody Gate, two odd pairings clash. Brienne and Podrick, on their quest to find Sansa, and Arya and the Hound, who reached the Bloody Gate but now have no business in the Vale. When Brienne insists that Arya come along with her, the Hound and Brienne clash in the second-most brutal fight this season. Long story short, Brienne critically wounds her opponent, leaving the Hound dying. He tries to get Arya to finish the job once Brienne and Podrick leave, but Arya leaves him to his fate and ends up going off to Braavos thanks to the coin she got from Jaqen H'Ghar all the way back in season two.
Finally, in King's Landing, Tywin tells Cersei that she is still to marry Loras Tyrell, a marriage Cersei wants to avoid at all cost. Cersei finds some consolation in Jaime, and the two reunite as lovers once again. At the end of the episode, Jaime is seen freeing Tyrion from his fate. Before Tyrion ships off across the Narrow Sea, he commits two murders. First, wordlessly, he enters Shae's chamber and strangles her to death. Kudos to the director for not blowing this scene out of proportion, and for the grim look in Tyrion's face as he commits the act.
He then heads over to the bathroom, where Tywin is sitting on toilet. Tyrion and his father have a brief discussion, which basically ends in Tywin telling his son he never loved him, and Tyrion pumps him with two bolts.
The finale clears the slate for a bunch of new characters to be introduced next season, but it also shows that while the series continues to be a thrilling watch on a week-to-week basis, the show's minor changes from the book have rippled into something huge. Storylines have been sped up and slowed down, and the showrunners have continued to invent new characters and plotlines to help them escape from narrative traps.
Perhaps the biggest example of this was the brief glimpse into the apparent society of White Walkers — a thread picked up but quickly dropped. The scene adds a slew of possibilities for the future. Other storylines, like the former Night's Watch men taking over Craster's Keep, exist solely to add more action where it's absent in the books.
David Benioff and Dan Weiss are now heading into their fifth season as showrunners and will be adapting A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, both books with fewer dramatic events like the Red or Purple Weddings of the beheading of Ned Stark. While the series will probably continue to be enjoyable, Benioff and Weiss must figure out a way to balance the many scattered storylines of Westeros and Essos and maintain the momentum this series has had since its inception.
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