Game of Thrones: The Children (4×10)
Synopsis: Stannis comes to the rescue of the Night’s Watch. Daenerys locks up her dragons. Brienne and Podrick find Arya. Bran makes it to the Three-Eyed Raven. Jamie helps Tyrion escape.
Did you think the writers of Game of Thrones actually thought “Since the finale would be out on Father’s Day, let’s litter the finale with a ton of father figure references and feels, then make our audience cry deep into their pillows when they’re done watching the episode”? I feel like the answer is yes; they definitely thought that.
We start off where we left off essentially, Jon Snow walking into Mance Rayder’s camp to discuss some sort of peace after the decimation of the last episode. As if we didn’t already have feels for the wildlings, Ciarán Hinds’ Mance Rayder is full of emotional depth about how the wildlings just want to escape and hide on the other side of the wall from the Wight Walkers.
There’s a brief moment when it looks as if Jon is going to go for the blade between he and Mance and go for broke. But of course, in that split second there’s a severe dilemma. Killing Mance will mean eliminating any danger to the people of Westeros. Sure, he’ll get tortured by the wildlings and face a slow and painful death, but the free people can’t ban together without their king. But Mance Rayder is no villainous spider, he’s a man who looked at Jon and he’s not a man without honor. Mance has become a person that Jon can respect. Plus there’s the whole killing the host when you’re a guest in their house business. That shit is serious.
Thankfully Jon never has to fully deal with this existential dilemma because the war horn sounds and who is it, but Team Salt n’ Peppa, Sir Davos the Onion Knight and the One True King: Stannis Baratheon. It’s not really a battle more like a strong arming, and Mance realizes he’s defeated quickly enough to surrender. Unyielding until the end, he refuses to bow before Stannis (probably another blow to this fragile fucker’s ego) and is pretty much staring down the barrel of a gun until Jon speaks up.
In his time with the Night’s Watch, we don’t ever hear him mention Ned Stark’s name in order to gain him any kind of favors. In fact, his lord-like status is more likely to get him more time doing chores than anything else. But he knows an opportunity when he sees one, and quickly name drops his father to Stannis in order to spare Mance’s life. Jon effectively names his own father in order to honor a man who has become like a father figure to him.
While with the wildlings, Jon couldn’t exactly deny that he had the experience of a lifetime. Meeting Mance, Ygritte, Tormund, and the other wildlings he not only gained a measure of knowledge and wisdom, but also an understanding and ability to truly call himself a northerner. His (presumable) last conversation with Tormund is evidence of that. Tormund is able to entrust Ygritte to Jon, despite denying last words to his other men, he requests that she be laid to rest north of the wall in the true North and Jon follows the request.
As if I didn’t cry enough last week with Jon and Ygritte, the scene of Jon laying Ygritte onto the pyre that he built for her and setting it ablaze pretty much had me in a puddle.
While Jon is mourning his lover and reclaiming his title as son of Ned Stark, Cersei is probably wishing she had no father at all to begin with. It’s hard to imagine a worse father than Tywin Lannister. For most of this season, he’s been working quietly in the back to regain what respect and dignity the Lannister name had before his insane grandson ascended the throne. In the end, he dies without a grain of dignity and even less respect. Having alienated Cersei, with her betrothal to Loras Tyrell, he really loses the last person who had any amount of respect or semblance of affection for him. It’s hard to imagine Cersei having feelings for anyone other than her children and in some cases, Jaime, but I believe she truly desired respect and equality from her father, who never saw her more than a golden cow to be sold.
So while there have been painful and heartbreaking deaths, aka The Red Wedding, G.R.R. Martin has also given us an incredibly rewarding and satisfying death. With the help of Jaime and Varys, Tyrion is broken out of the dungeons in order to escape his death sentence. It’s a heartwarming and tear jerking moment between the two Lannister brothers who despite all of their physical and emotional differences, still do love each other very much.
It’s a very interesting scene between Tyrion and Jaime, whose love for each other is perfectly defined as a stronger and truer love than Cersei and Jaime’s corrupt love. Cersei’s hate for Tyrion comes completely from the her children, or rather the loss of her children. From Myrcella’s departure to Dorne to Joffrey’s murder, Cersei blames Tyrion for all of it. And taking away the one thing she treasures in the world is enough for Cersei to break family ties from Tyrion and order a witch hunt for Tyrion’s head, we’ve seen this. But despite any love that Jaime might have had for his sister, it’s clear in this defiant act of freeing Tyrion, he loves his little brother just as much, if not more.
Instead of running straight for the docks, Tyrion goes in search of his father. Who does he find in his father’s chambers but Shae, his paramour in his father’s bed. I honestly don’t believe that Tyrion would have killed Shae had she not reached for the blade first, but she did, and then it was a matter of survival. Strangling her on his father’s bed, Tyrion cries painfully and apologizes to Shae as he leaves the chambers in search of his father.
When he finally finds Tywin, there is definitely no love lost between the two. Despite Tywin’s maneuvering in the last scene, telling Tyrion he’s truly a Lannister and his son, we are already all too familiar with this snake’s words. He’s never forgiven his youngest son for the death of his wife. And Tyrion’s pain has only been increased tenfold in his life because of his father. From his marriage to Tysha to his romance with Shae, nothing is sacred, anything can be corrupted by Tywin.
Tywin’s final words aren’t words of forgiveness, but a call for some dignity, he repeatedly requests that they leave the privy. But the old bastard does not know how to use his words, and insults Tyrion while belittling him. In the end, it takes calling Shae a whore to end his life. Shae, who has betrayed Tyrion and sentenced him to death, is still a representation of Tyrion’s love and everything that Tywin has corrupted. For that, he deserves to die on the toilet, stripped of all his falsehoods and dignity.
Across the sea, we come in on Daenerys in her throne room receiving citizens as per usual. I always thrive to see Daenerys slapped with some sense and reality from her pipe dreams, and this episode was the one to do it. Not only does she have to deal with the reality of the slaves who have no other home and no way of survival, forcing her to create an easily corruptible contract between slaves and their masters in order to continue work. But she also has to face the reality that her dragons are not tame humans but beasts (ehm, like Jorah told you in episode 1). Despite Dany’s stupidity, it’s still kind of sad to see the dragons calling out to their mother as they are locked beneath a pyramid.
Farther north than we’ve seen yet, we come in on Bran, Hodor, Jojen, and Meera. They are finally at the end of their long trek towards the three-eyed raven, but not without some hardship. They’ve survived the corrupt Night’s Watch and the perilous cold of the North only to be foiled right at the end of their journey by a group of skeleton, brought back from the dead. Bran goes warg on their asses with Hodor and Meera fights of a few skeletons with her axe, but they are painfully outnumbered. Jojen is stabbed to death by one of the skeletons before a child of the forest comes blasting in with their lasers. No, seriously. Lasers.
It’s lights out for Jojen, but the child of the forest bids Meera, Bran, and Hodor to hurry and hide. The child takes the three to the three-eyed raven, who is in fact a person and not a talking raven (I am disappointed, and you can tell where in the books I stopped paying attention). There Bran learns he will not walk again, but fly!~~~ Yeah, I’m skeptical on all accounts, but who am I to question the show when skeletons just came back to life.
In the Vale, we have a climactic meeting between Brienne and Podrick and Arya and the Hound. Not knowing the other, Arya comes face to face with an image of what she could have been when she meets Brienne. Events of the story aside, Brienne and Arya come from a very similar background. They are both daughters of lords, they both have an affinity for the blade, and both of their fathers encouraged them towards their sword skills. We are once again reminded of the love that the Starks had for their father, Ned Stark.
But the affections end quickly when the Hound appears, and Podrick spots him as the man that he is. It doesn’t take Brienne long to figure out what is going on, however Oathkeeper is clearly a sword forged by a Lannister, and the Hound immediately assumes Brienne is lying about her intentions to protect Arya and the two clash. The fight between the Hound and Brienne is matched evenly, and ends in the Hound’s own defeat and Brienne without Arya. She and Podrick search for Arya, but she’s got those stealth tricks up her sleeve and she escapes the grasps of Brienne and Podrick to return back to the Hound’s side.
Beaten, bruised, and on the verge of death, the Hound’s last scene with Arya is a brilliant scene. Snaps to Maisie Williams and Rory McCann for their perfect performances of a duo that we have had the pleasure of watching grow in this season. As gruff and rough as the Hound is, this entire season has been sympathetic to him. Ever since the Battle of Blackwater, we’ve seen so much more dimension go into the character of the Hound. He is an honorable man in his own way, he’s just also a pragmatic man, and that honor is hidden under layers and layers of protection.
While the Hound has found a part of himself in his own honor (a little late, some might say), Arya moves farther and farther away from honor. What has honor taught her? Her father was an honorable man, and for it he got his head chopped off. Her mother was an honorable woman, and she got her throat slit. Her brother was an honorable man, and he got shanked at his own wedding. There’s been no evidence to her that honor is anything other than a death sentence, and her time with the Hound has pretty much reinforced that idea.
In the end, instead of giving the Hound the dignity of a quick death, she takes his gold and leaves him at the bottom of the hill to his own devices and leaves for Braavos. She’s learned no lessons of honor in her time away from Winterfell, and all that she’s truly learned is that all men must die, and all men must serve. She takes the coin she got from Jaqen H’ghar and approaches the Braavosi captain with it, who offers her a cabin and a free trip to Braavos the minute he sees it. As the season slows to a close, we now have Tyrion, Varys, and Arya all headed for Braavos.
This was one of the best season finales I’ve seen of this show. It was satisfying on all accounts, it completed massive story lines that we’ve spent all season building up to, and it left us with no false sense of hope but rather a new page for a new chapter of the story.