[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 4 Finale, Episdoe 10 "The Children"

Courtesy of HBO
Another season has come and gone, and unlike in season's past, episode 10 was promised to be the emotional one. In the past, the big events of episode 9 have usually concluded the season's major arcs, and episode 10 has taken on the cinematic equivalent of an epilogue, devoted to getting the characters into tenable positions for next year. Not so with season four. As big as the Battle of the Wall may have been, it had very little to do with the rest of Westeros in the short term. So it fell to episode 10 to give us the conclusions we needed.

In a technical way, and in and of itself, it was a successful episode. Not the best the show has done, and not the worst. In 66 minutes, they managed to cram a hell of a lot in, and there inlies my issue with it. What they did, they did very well (for the most part). And as a book reader, I was pleased as punch to see so much that was original to the series. But I had issue with what the writers chose not to include. As an adaptation, it is the most difficult thing to decide what does and what stays, and I've applauded, for the most part, the choices Benioff and Weiss have made over the last four years. But to sacrifice major emotional and character developing moments for the sake of being a bit rushed, or believing that audiences won't follow the logic is disingenuous and short sighted. So, as much of a high water mark as season four has been, by the time the finale ended, it left me cold and damp.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that went full Jason and the Argonauts. You never go full Jason and the Argonauts.

Let's go through this bit by bit, shall we? First up was Jon and Mance having a con-fab about their situations, when Stannis came riding up and shut the Wildlings down. This ties in to what I said last week about pacing, because as a way to start the episode, the Mance stuff was solid, but the Stannis stuff was anti climatic. Far less effective certainly, then if his troops had flanked the Wildlings as they retreated from the Wall after last week. Removing Stannis' march in episode nine left more room for Jon and Ygritte to have their moment, and for that emotional weight to sit on the episode's chest a while longer, which I'm fine with. It's a hard choice, deciding between the big emotional thing and the big actiony thing, and myself I'd go emotion every time. But It meant that the action thing is forced to be a shadow of it's potential self here and now.

Up the road some, Bran finally reached the tree he saw in his vision earlier this season, and to keep the audience interested, the writers saw fit to bring a little Army of Darkness to the North. It was a weird sequence, in what is easily the weirdest storyline the show has going. But even by those weird standards, this is when things really reach for left field. Skeletons on an ice lake, grenade throwing elves, and Merlin wrapped up tree roots. At least they killed Jojen Reed, who has been a purposeless burden on the series since his introduction last year, and I'm glad to be rid of him. Now we have to get through the Three-Eyed Raven, which came off as probably the cheesiest thing the show has done. It seemed like, as a reflection of the source material, the writers and director just weren't interested in this development and put as little effort into it as possible. Why else add skeleton warriors?

Further south, the best scene of the night was entirely invented, as Brienne came this close to achieving half of her oath, when she and Pod randomly came across Arya and the Hound (a lucky bit of happenstance, considering how large Westeros, and the Vale, are). The merging of this season's two best story lines was certain not to disappoint, and it did not. I was lucky enough to see this episode live in theatres, and this was the scene when the audience came to life. It had the entire range of what has made these two plots the ones to anticipate: it started off humourful, then took a sharp turn towards bloody, and ended up dramatic and engaging. And seeing the Hound and Brienne square off against each other, no holds barred, really was too good an opportunity to pass up. The battles on this show are usually fun to watch, and beautifully choreographed, but I don't think we've had the chance to see a vicious and dirty fight quite like what we saw here.

Arya's story this season has been about stripped her of what made her a Stark. She is the character that has come the farthest, and I don't mean miles. No other has made the emotional transition she has. And while she still keep ahold of Needle, a point reminder of her origins, there is no place left for her in society. She wouldn't even be able to be a Brienne style shield maiden at this point, that role still caught up too much in civility. Arya is a wild animal, which was why her time with the Hound felt so right. Now, without him, without his guiding but still restraining influence, she has been driven into the wilds like her direwolf all those seasons ago. Her leaving Westeros behind in symbolic of her final abandonment of the world her father was raising her to be a part of. She's a special kind of monster now, and monsters lie to the east.

Speaking of the East, Dany's increasingly distended storyline received the least attention here, as the shadow of her dragons cast her into a greater darkness. After casting Jorah out a while back, this week she was forced to come to terms with the fact that she is a terrible mother. She was so happy to be the mother of dragons, she never actually taught them anything, and now they are eating children. So, like any bad mother, her response is to lock them in the basement. So too with her slave children, whom she freed and left to their own devices, without support or infrastructure, or any kind of plan for survival. She began this season claiming that she could no rule a country if she could not rule a city, and she is failing hard. So, again, she sends her children to their room and locks the door. The hardships of rule batter Dany as much as the inadequacies of her story batter the writers. I honestly have no idea what direction they will take her in next year.

And lastly, there was Tryion. His sequences should have been the crown jewel of the episode, the Red Wedding of season four. Paced, deliberate, tense, these could have been the moments that people spent the next ten minutes talking about. No doubt they will be talked about for what happened, but not for why they happened, or how. I don't usually complain about the writer's choices in adapting the books, but these sequences included two transformative conversations that were utterly excised from the series. One is a confrontation between him and Jaime, that I felt would have been all the more poignant considering how well their relationship has been established this year. In the novels, they reach a breaking point. And while some of the subject matter wouldn't carry over in the series, the core of the divide - Jaime choosing Cersei over Tyrion - was all the more relevant considering the earliest scenes of the episode. Tyrion was in a desperate place, where everything he knew and loved was turning against him, and despite helping him escape, Jaime's siding with villain of Tyrion's life is a final and intractable betrayal. One that would have scared them both, poisoning them as they move forward.

Then there is Tywin, whom I will miss. This is a conversation that shouldn't have been changed in the least. The writers stripped the entire point of the scene of relevancy by reducing Tyrion's anger from a life time of degradation into a few recent isolated moments. And for what? For fear that the fiercely intelligent viewers of the show might not remember back to a conversation from season one, a scene that won Dinklage an Emmy? This scene was the climax not of a season, or a series worth of slights, but an entire life time of animosity. It needed to be fed by all the disappointments and challenges made by each man against the other. Instead, it was knocked off, stripped of depth and gutted. I did, however, like the vastly improved sequence where Tyrion confronts Shea, which was heightened by emotionality and the delibert attention given to the moment. Everything that that scene was, is what the last between Dinklage and Charle Dance should have been. Dance has been one of the series' strongest assets, and his final scene deserved more gravitas than it received. While still taking place on a toilet.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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