Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Game of Thrones 4.10: "The Children"

“I’m not interested in hearing another one of your smug stories about the time you won. This isn’t going to be one of those times.”

It’s hard to know where to start talking about the “Game of Thrones” fourth season finale, “The Children.” Typically, HBO shows, “Game of Thrones” included, use the season finale as a denouement, with most of the action taking place in the penultimate episode. “The Children” broke the mold. There was a lot of action happening in last week’s episode, but there was even more in this one. I can’t even tally the death toll off the top of my head. Let’s revisit that issue at the end of the blog post. We can count up how many people have died as I write about them. There was quite a lot of violence and death in this one. I know we’ve had ‘splodey heads and axes to the head this year, but the violence didn’t really get to me until this episode. There’s some hand-to-hand combat that is just really intense, and I kept hoping those particular scenes would be over quickly. While I didn’t really like the level of violence in this episode, I will say that all of it was at least grounded in emotion and storytelling. It wasn’t just violence for violence’s sake.

Let’s start this recap with some plots that didn’t involve deaths of major characters (although there was still plenty of death). We open this episode in the North, wrapping up the plot that we followed in last week’s episode. Jon has gone to talk to (and probably kill) Mance Rayder, and he finds him pretty quickly. Mance explains to Jon that the Wildlings just really want to move south of the Wall to get away from the white walkers. He also says that if the Night’s Watch surrenders, the Wildlings will spare their lives. I guess I should have put together the Wildlings’ true motivation before now, but I didn’t. I’m a bad geek, what can I say? None other than Stannis and his army ride in and subdue the Wildlings. Jon convinces Stannis to treat Mance with mercy. I’m sure this will have plot ramifications moving forward. Jon also buries Ygritte’s body near a Weirwood tree. I’ve read some interesting work on the use of religion in A Song of Ice and Fire recently. I’d recommend Googling the topic. It’s pretty interesting.

At King’s Landing, the Mountain is dying because Prince Oberyn poisoned his weapon. Cersei doesn’t want to accept this, because she’s paranoid and thinks she needs somebody like the Mountain for protection. Grand Maester Pycelle says there is no hope, so Cersei dismisses him and brings in a new doctor, Qyburn. Cersei then proceeds to tell off Tywin, saying there is no way she is going to marry Loras Tyrell. She threatens to reveal that all her kids are the product of incest, and this news rattles Tywin. I’m surprised he never believed Twincest was true. I guess it was willful ignorance. Then Cersei goes and starts kissing Jaime. As I’ve been saying a lot lately, this can’t possibly end well.

We then go across the Narrow Sea to Meereen, where Dany is still holding court. Today’s complaint is from a peasant whose young child was killed by one of Dany’s dragons. He’s brought the charred skeleton with him and everything. Dany is devastated that one of her dragons would do such a thing (really, though, what did she expect?). Her biggest dragon is still MIA and clearly off causing destruction somewhere, but Dany chains the other two up in a cave. It devastates her, but she can’t take the idea of anybody else getting hurt. It’s an interesting contrast to her “breaker of chains” reputation.

Our next spot is deep into the North, where Bran, Hodor, Jojen, and Meera are still looking for the Weirwood tree from the vision. They’re trudging through a rather desolate expanse when they’re attacked by wights (corpses that are reanimated by White Walkers). It’s pretty gross, and Jojen doesn’t survive the attack. The surviving members of the group are rescued by a fire-slinging creepy little girl. She turns out to be one of “The Children,” who are a non-human race that inhabited Westeros before the First Men. She takes Bran to the Weirwood tree from the vision, and there Bran meets an old Seer who happens to also be the three-eyed raven from Bran’s dreams. Bran is told that he will never walk again, but he will fly. Whatever that means.

We next head to the Riverlands, where a pretty epic character meetup takes place. Arya and the Hound run into Brienne and Podrick. Yep, the two awesome lady warriors of the story get to meet! The meeting doesn’t exactly go well, though. Arya doesn’t trust Brienne, and she doesn’t want to go with her. The Hound doesn’t help, saying that Brienne can’t keep Arya safe in a world as crazy and violent as Westeros has become. The whole situation escalates into a knock-down-drag-out fight between Brienne and the Hound. It starts with swords, but it eventually becomes a fist fight. It’s just brutal to watch. This is the part where the violence really got to be too much for me. It was too raw and too prolonged. Brienne prevails in the fight by pushing the Hound off a cliff.

There’s plenty more murder and mayhem taking place back in King’s Landing. Jaime has secured passage for Tyrion away from Westeros (so he can avoid his death sentence). Before he leaves, though, he has some unfinished business. He finds Shae in the Tower of the Hand. Apparently she’s been screwing Tywin, which is just plain gross. Shae came from humble beginnings, but I always thought she was kind of classy. She’s definitely not classy anymore, although I suppose I can see why she did what she did. She was very hurt by Tyrion’s rejection. Still, that’s not a good reason to sleep with his dad! Tyrion stabs Shae to death, which is just brutal. I think I wasn’t really looking at the television anymore by this point because I had had it with the violence. Tyrion was just that hurt by Shae’s betrayal. He then follows it up by murdering Tywin, too. This murder made me a little more happy (if a murder can make one happy at all). Tywin had it coming for being an evil asshole. The episode ended on a somewhat more positive note, though. Arya uses the code word she learned from the Faceless Men to get herself ship passage to Braavos. You learn to water dance, girl!

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