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GAME OF THRONES Season 4 Finale Recap: The Kids are Alright

Just in case you’ve never read a recap before and have no idea what that might mean: this post is basically one big SPOILER. It is a grenade of spoilers going off at every single moment. Don’t get mad at us if you read it and get spoiled on some B-I-G Game of Thrones finale doings. If you want you can read last week’s recap instead. But just know we tried to warn you. We tried!

They’re a funny thing, children: a mish-mosh combination of the past, propelled into the future, holding within their grasp the fate of, well, everything. Children aren’t just the evolution of one’s lineage, they’re also a promise: one that scares just as easily as it excites. One that is yours… until it isn’t. Until it grows up. Given that this is Westeros, though, children take all shapes and sizes. Human children, dragon children, and children older than anything we’ve seen on the show: all born again out of circumstance and opportunity. The kids are alright, even if their futures hang on on a shoestring. But that’s why we love us some Game of Thrones. These kids are ready for anything. Particularly change.

Big change was exactly what was promised to us in the season four finale, “The Children.” And it’s exactly what was delivered — in addition to being arguably the best episode the series has ever done. If you’re only watching this show for the boobs and the dragons, you are seriously missing out on the heart of the stories being told beneath the surface layer stuff.

First and foremost, there were the deaths. And not just minor ones: big, big ones. Like, of course, Tywin Lannister and Shae. But first let’s discuss the events at The Wall. Stannis came through with his impressive army, following Melisandre’s words that declared the real war was to the North. (It’s the one thing she’s really right about. Finally: a reason to be thankful for Melisandre.) Thousands of Baratheon-bannered men on horseback came barreling into the woods unannounced with Stannis and Ser Davos at the front. It was a goddamn slaughter. The Wildlings never really stood a chance.

But it seems as though they should at least be shown some mercy, as Mance’s quarrel is not about controlling the south, it has always been about simply protecting the freefolk from what lies far north of the Wall. Something tells us that the White Walkers and lord-knows-what-else we’ve yet to uncover on this increasingly magical show, will play a large part in seasons five and six.

Not so much “important” but certainly a death that changed things in a big way was the fiery demise of a 3-year-old girl in Meereen, brought to you by Drogon and his pure, unbridled dragon rage. Drogon, who — of all the dragons — is not only the biggest but the unruliest, has had a sort of reign of terror over anything living in and near Meereen. All season long, Dany let him get away with things, but when a child is dead, as we’ve longed learned with Dany, it’s game.fucking.over.

Mommy dearest will have no more of that if she can help it, and she certainly holds the strings now. The Breaker of Chains is also the Maker of Chains …if you’re an unruly dragon that cannot be controlled by words and morality alone. So Rhaegal and Viserion are forced into the catacombs and shackled at the neck, left for who knows what. Their future is uncertain thanks to their inability to be contained by their mom. (Just wait until they’re teenagers, Dany.) Oh, the irony.

Speaking of teens: let’s hop over to the questing duos, starting off with Arya Stark and The Hound. The Hound, whom she could have so easily mercy killed, she instead left for dead (which, given the fact that WINTER IS COMING, feels like less and less of a good idea with every passing episode) because it was exactly what he didn’t want. But it wasn’t Arya who did the major maiming: that was all Brienne of Fucking Tarth.

The two motliest crews in all the Realm finally intersected outside the Bloody Gate of the Vale, and in a moment, Brienne took down The Hound in a truly epic lil battle. Two unruly former knights, going cut-for-cut in a no-holds-barred sword fight royale. If only The Hound hadn’t said, “There’s no safety, you dumb bitch. If you don’t know that by now you’re the wrong one to watch over her,” he may have just survived.

Instead Brienne Mike fuckin’ Tyson’d the shit out of The Hound, causing him a giant fall from which our metaphorical Humpty Dumpty would not be put back together again. And shoutout to Rory McCann for giving us some of the best acting the series has seen to date. The nuance in his performance of death was truly something spectacular to see: flecked with anger and spite as a way to beg for his own mercy death. He taunted Arya, hoping to egg her on with his evil deeds, but Arya may just be eviler. And now that she’s on a ship to Braavos thanks to her Faceless Man coin, she’s a true lone wolf now.

But as is so often the case, from death comes new life — and certainly there are more than a few new lives (metaphorical or otherwise) that arrived this episode: not just Arya’s. In particular we’re referencing the Children of the Forest. These magical humanoid creatures live off the land and are the reason there are weirwood to begin with (they were the ones that carved the faces on all the heart trees that the people of the North worship as the religion of the Old Gods).

If you’re surprised by the addition of another magical race, well then, you haven’t been paying attention. The series has all but told you as much: there are many, many creatures and races that live beyond the Wall. And Benioff and Weiss have done well to introduce them slowly so as to not scare off the less fantastical among its viewers. Giants, White Walkers, Wights (we’ll get to those in a second) and more. Just as in this world as well as ours, there’s so much more than meets the eye. Life teems and bubbles beneath the surface just as much as it does above — whether we deign to acknowledge its existence or otherwise. That’s what the Children of the Forest are: the resilience of the earth regardless of circumstances.

This may have meant the end of the road for Jojen Reed (who foresaw his own death long, long ago: brave little toaster that he is), but it was the start of something really, really major in relation to the series as a whole. And it also introduced those fighting, agile skeletons, which we think may have been the show’s interpretation of a wight: what happens to dead people who aren’t burned in the north, largely controlled by the White Walkers (whom you’ve already seen before). But we’re not entirely sure there so take that speculation as you will.

We also finally — finally! — met the elusive Three-Eyed Raven, embedded in the roots of the tree as if almost a part of it. (Perhaps maybe even in the heart of it?) “I’ve been many things. Now I am what you see. … I’ve been watching you. All of you. With a thousand eyes and one.” When Bran shows anger at the death of Jojen, the Three-Eyed-Raven said only this: “He died so you could find what you’ve lost. … You’ll never walk again, but you will fly.” Is Bran going to become the Three-Eyed Raven himself? Or is there something much more magical (and movable) in the mix here?

“Another smug story about how you won: this isn’t going to be one of those times.”

Now: let’s get to the part everyone’s most atwitter about: the death of Tywin Lannister. On the shitter. With a crossbow. At the hand of his imp son Tyrion. Somebody is having the WORST FATHER’S DAY EVER, and his name is 100% Tywin. First he had to have his whole universe shattered by being told pointblank by Cersei that she and Jaime are schtuppin’ and the kids are all fully Lannister. “Everything they say is true about Jaime and me,” Cersei spat. “Your legacy is a lie.”

Now thankfully there are still a few Lannisters out there that love each other (not in that way): Jaime and Tyrion. After plotting with Varys, Jaime set Tyrion free as a way to escape his death sentence. But the escape route had a bit of a roadblock for our littlest Lannister: namely Shae in Tywin’s bed. And as if that weren’t enough, she called Tywin (well, she thought it was Tywin entering the room) her LION OF LANNISTER. Damn, that’s cold. Not that we really blame her for any of it: this was probably the only way she was able to stay alive. And our money’s on the fact that Tywin probably really, really liked that nickname and asked for it himself. Eugh.

Still, nothing could save her life with Tyrion there. His eyes, so filled with rage and tears and sorrow, choked her in the very bed they used to make love on together. His “I’m sorry” was probably, in his defense, one of the only genuine ones to ever exist in all of King’s Landing. But still: yikes! What complicated characters human err and emotions make.

But even then Tyrion wasn’t done. Oh no, he couldn’t end it like all that. Hoisting one of Joffrey’s favorite playthings on his shoulder and barging into the privy, Tyrion shot his father on the privy. And their exchange was pretty fantastic. “All my life you’ve wanted me dead.” “Yes, but you refused to die. I respect that, even admire it.” Tywin tried to convince Tyrion to talk this one out and not be a shooter while he’s on the pooper, but with a single slip up at his son’s refusal — “You afraid of a dead whore?” — the Hand to the King was all SHOT THRU THE HEART, AND YOU’RE TO BLAME, TYWIN YOU GIVE DADS A BAD NAME. “You’re no son of mine,” he shot back assuredly. But Tyrion had the last word: “I am your son, I’ve always been your son.” Don’t put this man in a box, son! Unless of course it’s an actual box that’s then put on a ship and taken the heck out of Dodge and/or King’s Landing. Thank goodness: Tyrion lives!


Stuff and Things and Other Loose Ends:

– Fennesz, a Meereenese slave, summed up the struggle of this episode perfectly: “The young prey on the old … For those of us too old to change, there is only fear and squalor.”
– Why was Melisandre staring at Jon Snow so? Does she believe he is the prince that was promised now? (We do.)
– Tormund on Jon Snow sounds like a goddamn revolutionary: “You spent too much time with us, you’ll never kneel again.” (With any luck, Tormund. With any luck.)
– Anyone else creeped out by the ominousness with which they said The Mountain’s treatment “process may change him. Somewhat”? Because obviously I was. Never trust the vagaries!
– And one more thing…

Listen: I know certain book-reading fans of the series are upset that particular characters were not introduced this season, especially during the finale. And to an extent, I get that… but only as a fan. As a showrunner, crafting a series that’s being made for a much, much wider audience, there’s a need for broad appeal as well as timed revelation. You can’t go blowing your entire magical wad in one episode. (That’s how you lose people and why the phrase “off the rails” was invented.) These guys know what they’re doing and are as big of fans as the rest of you: can’t you just, I don’t know, trust them for a minute?

What’d you think of the episode? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!

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35 comments

    • I can forgive no Lady Stoneheart, because we will still see her. What’s sad is no “Lance and Osmund Kettleblack and Moonboy for all I know” or “whereever whores go”. We won’t get those moments back. 

  • I thought the skeleton fighters might be “The Others” referred to in the book.  The wights I thought were the newly dead that come back to like with the blue eyes.  I could be wrong on that tho. Also. I love the Killer Instinct video game look of Spinal in real life!  Valar Morghulis!

    • The state of decay of the Wights that attacked Bran was advanced  – but they were basically the same wights we’ve seen this whole time.  I think it was artistic license to give them that Harryhausen vibe.  Which I applaud.  But for the sake of continuity, Harryhausen with blue eyes would have been better. 

      • Those were White Walkers (others) in the first scene in the first episode.  Unless the TV show changed that from the Prologue in a game of thrones–as far as I’m aware they did not.  They just changed their design of White Walkers a little bit.
        The Wights in yesterday’s episode I believe are just long decomposed Wights.  The absence of the glowing blue eyes were disappointing though.

  • I’m pretty sure they could have stuck to the book when it came to the story of The Hound. He got his “mortal” wounds from bar fighting and not from Brienne of Tarth. That was the only thing that bothered me, because it wasn’t a slight deviation. It was a catastrophically huge deviation. 

    • A good screen adaptation does not have to follow the letter of the book but should uphold the spirit & essence of the book. I loved the Hound’s story-arc and death scene (Arya–so cold! What perfect and morally ambiguous revenge!) and that Brienne got to kick his ass. It embodied Arya’s dilemma (what protector to choose? where to go? who to trust?) and themes of good vs. evil. The Hound, a cold-hearted killer and “black knight,” was right that Arya couldn’t trust Brienne or anyone. Brienne embodies the loyal “white knight” and the female warrior that Arya might one day become, but she is also naive, trusting and unworldly. Arya must choose which way to go–light or dark–and how best to avenge her family & live her own life. These are key themes of the series and books and I don’t think they would have been captured as succinctly or poetically if the Hound died in a bar fight!

  • While they haven’t discussed it in the books, I do think that Jon is the prince that was promised.  I’m fairly certain that he’s not Ned Stark’s son at all, but Robert Baratheon’s son with Ned’s sister.  I think she died during childbirth, and he took the baby to protect him from those that would want to kill him.  But that’s just me.

  • I just read an Entertainment Weekly interview with the show creators and one of them specifically referred to the skeletons attacking Bran and crew as wights.

  • So I haven’t read the books, and don’t really plan to, except maybe after everything is done and over.  Anyway, just curious if Brandon Stark “will fly” by controlling/riding the black dragon called Drogon?  Seemed possible when the 3 eyed Raven guy talked about the black shadow and the Drogon last being seen headed out to sea?

  • Really, nobody’s gonna bring up the fact that Varys who “only wants whats best for the kingdom” also boarded the ship with Tyrian? The man who refused to go back to Essos since he was cut? the man who keeps the man who cut him in a cell under his room? Varys is ellusive and didn’t need to run from Kings landing, so why did he decide to hop on board with Tyrian? … Arya, Tyrian, Varys in Bravvos next season .. also syrio forell isnt dead im calling it

  • If anything was omitted this season worth lamenting – it was Wolf Dreams and the Great Pack.  One 30 second scene and could have lead to so much speculation for unsullied viewers going forward. 

  • My one beef this season is Shae’s betrayal of Tyrion. Uncharacteristic for the show, it’s never fully explained. Was she captured & forced by Cersei & Tywin to betray him? Was she getting revenge for Tyrion “white-fanging” her (i.e. cruelly rejecting her for her own good/to keep her safe)? Was she simply acting all along, spying on Tyrion and pretending to be in love? I refuse to believe Shae was actually dumb enough to be jealous of Sansa Stark! GoT so far has been way smarter about injecting nuance and suspicion in all characters. There’s always clear reasons and consequences for character’s actions and insights into people’s inner motivations and intentions. But we had no inkling not to trust Shae. She was always portrayed as passionate/fiery but also open and loyal to Tyrion. No hints were dropped (unless they were so subtle) in the last 4 seasons that she might be lying, wasn’t really in love with Tyrion, wasn’t loyal, etc. Shae showing up at Tyrion’s trial was surprising but plausible; a passionate spurned woman under threat by the Lannisters would naturally spit Tyrion’s words back at him. But Shae showing up in Tywin’s bed came out of nowhere! It felt like a cheap melodramatic trick and out of character. Shae should at least have been given a chance to explain herself OR been shown earlier in the series to have a duplicitous streak. Where was the slow-build that GoT is famous for?