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Recap: 'Game of Thrones' Season 4, Episode 10 'The Children' Bids Farewell

by Katie Walsh
June 16, 2014 6:56 AM
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Here we are, time to bid farewell to another season of "Game of Thrones," just as soon as we get through this extra long (66 minute) episode—with slim chances that all of our characters are going to make it out intact. If anyone checked out the news about the Emmy submissions last week, you might have noted that this week's finale "The Children" was the only episode that HBO submitted for best writing, so we were expecting a lot from this one (though last week's episode "The Watchers on the Wall" would have made a fine submission too, as though it was rife with action and bloodshed, had some damn fine speeches and story moments. Also giants). But this finale definitely lived up to the hype, with some incredible twists, turns and monologuing along the way as well.

Directed by Alex Graves, who has directed several episodes this season (including the incredible Purple Wedding and the botched Jaime/Cersei rape scene, so, mixed results), this is an episode that has to wrap things up, move things forward and check in with many dispersed characters whom we've left for many episodes to focus on other, more pertinent matters (like the massive Wildling army). That's definitely a tall order, and "The Children" pulls it off.

The Wall
I was a bit surprised that this episode picked up right where the last one left off, to the minute in fact, with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) making his way out beyond the wall to find and kill Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds). He doesn't make it more than a few feet into the woods when he's surrounded by guards and in front of Mance Rayder's tent. Quite the accessible guy, this Mance! He invites Jon inside for a chat, despite his clear disapproval at Jon's return to the fold at Castle Black. Of course, Mance brings up the issue of Ygritte (Rose Leslie), and the two men drink to her memory with some hideous fermented chunky milky moonshine. They also drink to the departed Grenn and Mag the Mighty (the giant who lost his life in the tunnel).

While one of Mance's men prepares a snack, Mance lets Jon know that there are already Wildlings climbing the wall at another location. Mance explains they want the wall for protection (from WINTER) and need to get access to the tunnel, so that they aren't beyond the wall whenever WINTER arrives. Essentially, Mance is just a guy trying to defend his people. All the while Jon eyes the knife left out, though it's clearly a suicide mission to attempt to kill him.

Before anything can happen between these two enemies, a massive army on horseback descends upon the woods, efficiently hacking and axing the Wildlings to smithereens. Excuse my French, but who the FUCK could this be?

Out of the mist rides Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham). Wha-wha-WHAT? Apparently these dudes have spent the last couple of episodes bringing their massive army all the way up to the Wall. Mance quickly surrenders, but he won't kneel to Stannis (who is way too obsessed with his quasi kingly status and the useless rituals that go along with it—this ain't King's Landing, bro). However, Jon Snow manages to save Mance's tail by offering up his opinion what they should do with Mance (take him prisoner; listen to him), which Stannis respects because he's Ned Stark's son. How the tables are turned. Jon also gives them a hot tip: burn the dead before nightfall as a preventative tactic against those icky zombie wights.

At Castle Black, Aemon Targaryen (Peter Vaughan) is presiding over the mass funeral pyre of the fallen Night's Watch men, along with witnesses Davos, Stannis, and Stannis' family. Of course, Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) gives Jon Snow the creepy eyes through the fire. Watch out Snow, she's gonna strip you down and leech you if you aren't careful. (Speaking of, did Gendry ever make it out of that boat?) Massive Ginger King Kong Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) has recovered from his multiple arrow wounds and he is PISSED about it too. Jon invites him to say some words over the dead bodies before they burn them and Tormund seems to find this ludicrous. Though he doesn't seem to hold any great sentiment for the dead, he does tell Jon that Ygritte belongs in the North for her final resting place. Jon grants this request, burning her a pyre just beyond the Wall.

King's Landing
The Mountain/Sandor Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) is not dead after squishing the head of Oberyn Martell, but he is in bad shape, his wounds poisoned by Oberyn's sword. Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) wants to drug him up and let him die in peace, but Cersei (Lena Headey) wants to keep him alive, something promised by the young quack she lets take over (he's not a Maester). The doc quickly sets up some horrific blood pumping system and tells Cersei he won't be the same—not weaker but not the same (so you're making the Hulk? Is that what's going on here?).

Cersei, emboldened, goes to her father, Tywin (Charles Dance), to contest her impending marriage to Loras Tyrell. She refuses to leave King's Landing, to leave Tommen, her son, the new king. Now that Joffrey is dead and Myrcella is off in Dorne, she refuses to leave her last child. Cersei plays the only trump card she has left, and wow, it's a doozy. She threatens to tell the truth, which is, of course, that she and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are lovers and parents to her children, which appears to be a fact that Tywin is in denial about. It's the first time we've seen Tywin actually look bewildered, upset, off-put. You're losing it man! The kids are revolting!

Cersei then goes to find Jaime obsessing over his page in the book of knights (very cool hobby). They argue about Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), who is slated to die tomorrow. Cersei kisses him and tells him that she told Tywin about their relationship. She declares that she chooses him, kisses his golden hand, and then the two get busy on top of the table. Okay, but isn't it a LITTLE weird that Cersei would aggressively seduce her rapist so quickly after the attack? Come on now, 'GoT' writers/directors. I'm gonna keep calling out your incredibly poor execution of this whole Jaime/Cersei situation this season. It's a mess! Please get your heads out of your asses next season.

Over in Meereen, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is up to the very difficult task of ruling a city she has just overtaken and completely changed overnight. An elderly teacher asks her to let him be sold back into slavery to his master, as the shelters that Daenerys has set up are inviting chaos and predatory behavior amongst the freed slaves (question: why doesn't the guy just move back in to the master's house as a freed man?). She allows him to set up a one-year contract (and thus, employment was born, thank you great Khaleesi), though Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) warns her this loophole is going to reintroduce slavery into Meereen.

Khaleesi has got MUCH bigger problems though, as the next complainant is a man whose toddler has been burned to a crisp by the biggest dragon, whom they've lost track of at this point. She realizes the only right thing to do is to chain up the two smaller dragons in the catacombs, which she does tearfully. Breaker of Chains? Better scratch that title from the list, Miss Daenerys!

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  • Emily | June 26, 2014 1:28 PMReply

    The Jamie-Cersi rape was NOT a rape. Re watch it. She is saying no, but pulling him into her, sticking her ands down his pants and helping to push his pants down. Not a rape. Just 2 sick twisted people.

  • Lord High-Castle | June 25, 2014 1:09 AMReply

    For the record, Cersei is into being dominated (even smacked around and held down). Its her thing. Its much more obvious in the books, so I get why many show watchers are having trouble getting the dynamic between her and her brother.

    Other than that, good article.

  • digdug | June 22, 2014 9:35 PMReply

    Fink has a point. Just because you don't like it rough and dirty on the floor doesn't mean Cersei wouldn't. If anything, it makes perfect sense that she did. It's like when abused women go back to their husbands or a man who keeps returning to his cheating wife. I agree that this only adds to her character flaws, which she has many. Any visit to a submissive blog on tumblr will showcase an entire community of fascinating and flawed women who enjoy being taken by their man. To accuse the writers of screwing that up is shallow and lacking thought on your part.

  • finkdwink | June 22, 2014 9:29 PMReply

    do you actually think cersei cares that jamie took it from her? she's a twisted and broken woman. is it so hard for you to think that she actually liked it? she went right back to him all sweet and snuggly. apparently she likes it that way. that isn't a writing issue. that is a character issue. she's flawed. accept it.

  • Non-Dilletante | June 18, 2014 5:37 PMReply

    Its Gregor 'The Mountain that Rides' Clegane & Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane ... Get it right! Lol

    Also The Eyrie is a castle, the seat of House Arryn. You could say they were in The Vale, the region in which the Eyrie resides. Even though in the books Arya and Sandor 'The Hound' Clegane never reach the Vale, he gets wounded from that fight in 'Two Swords', Arya tries to help sees he's a lost cause, steals his coin, chucks up the deuces and boards a ship to Braavos.

    And yes it was never intended to be a rape just a really botched grief stricken sexual encounter. Cersei in the books is begging for that D!

  • Whatever | June 18, 2014 1:50 AMReply


  • Jared Nelson | June 17, 2014 7:41 PMReply

    The only thing that made Martell's death somewhat palatable was the notion that, at LEAST, he killed the monster. But the POS is still alive??

    There is truly no justice in this show! Evil is nearly always rewarded or wins. And every "victory" for a character with a scintilla of honor or sympathy is incomplete or comes with tragedy. The Hound and Brienne, fighting to death for no good reason? Really? We have to choose which we want to die??

    Damn this show! And I will be watching like a lapdog again next year, waiting for some psychological satisfaction from justice we'll never get!

  • Seb | June 17, 2014 9:22 AMReply

    "The Mountain/Sandor Clegane" OUCH. GREGOR, not Sandor !!!

  • Mike | June 16, 2014 10:04 PMReply

    I've been reading your reviews but this will be my last. I couldn't read passed your whole rape whining. She wasn't raped. You need to pull your head out of your ass and understand that in the scope of the story she wasn't raped and it's all in your mind because you're incredibly sensitive to penis. It's a story you quack. In the story she was never raped. You don't get to decide whether a fictional character was raped or not just because you're a feminist with a vagina. It's amazing that instead of thinking "hmm... maybe she wasn't raped." you blamed the writers for making a female character make sexual advances on a "rapist."

    Okay, that's my rant. Really though. I hope this isn't because something happened to you. I hope you're just like a man hating lesbian or something. It's brutal to read, and yet I enjoy you otherwise.

  • Rob | June 17, 2014 1:53 PM

    Jesus christ you subhuman ass

  • Pants Rayder | June 17, 2014 1:43 PM

    The rape thing has done my head in as well - I feel your pain Mike. It wasn't rape. Jaime and Cersei are not the Waltons, they have rough sex, fantasies and play political games, indulge in manipulation and power struggles with each other. Cersei objected to the timing and the place - not the act, she had been distancing herself from Jaime as a power struggle of sorts and it wsn't going to last, so once the act gets going she falls back into the old routine and is kissing him and grabbing him before the scene is done. This Internet meltdown has been the most dreary and self defeating thing ever. Not only is it not rape it's also a good scene, ugly and jarring - a typical GoT tryst.

  • jawsnnn | June 16, 2014 7:39 PMReply

    Here's my two cents on this episode. While a fitting finale, it was nowhere near as gripping or tightly written as some of the other stellar episodes of this season. Highlights: Stannis's army riding into the wildling camp. Well done, for capturing the total mayhem a well coordinated army can inflict upon an unprepared camp. Two, the ending shot was cool. So was the fight between Brienne and the Hound.
    The so-so moments were Tyrion killing Tywin. As a reader, I was not really shocked by this scene - and that is ok. The show cannot surpass the books everytime (it does so quite often though). I am also not sure what to make of the added cold psychopathy to Arya's character. In the books, she bid farewell to the Hound in a touching, almost tender scene. The show changed it to Silence of the Lambs level cold-heartedness. It did not make sense with the other events of this season, and no - I am not sad for the Hound - he did deserve to die, but it had to make sense from a narrative pov. Lastly, as I suspected - the scenes at Mereen were the weakest - as they are in the books. Frankly speaking, I lost interest in Danaerys' and gang's excellent adventures long ago (end of season one to be specific) and her long march to power queen is mildly interesting at best and highly predictable at its worst. Hope the next season introduces the same flare to the original story as this one (really really hope, because the book was average to put it mildly), and also introduces us to the Winter that we have been waiting for the past 4 years.

  • jawsnnn | June 16, 2014 8:18 PM

    Forgot to add. The worst part of the episode was the whole buildup to the cave sequence (North of the wall). I mean skeletons and fireballs? It was like watching a story from Arabian Nights. And why doesn't Bran warg into the wolf instead of using poor Hodor. Hodor maybe a powerful big man, but he is no direwolf.

  • Kevin | June 16, 2014 4:40 PMReply

    It was good, but it won't be winning that Emmy. The good portions were all straight from the book, and the parts that deviated were fairly bad.

  • liz | June 19, 2014 1:19 PM

    It doesn't matter if the parts that you thought were good came from the book… they judge the entire episode as a whole…they don't separate what was straight from the book and what wasn't because frankly it doesn't really matter.

  • Alex | June 16, 2014 4:16 PMReply

    I want to see a show, ala Blackadder, with Brienne and Pod.

    This was a pretty good finale, but I'm sorry to see Tyrion and Arya go off on their own. Not looking forward to their stories next season. And the skeletons were right out of Ray Harryhausen. This is 2014, you'd think they could do a better job with that. Somehow they weren't frightening at all, just kind of silly looking.

    And the kid throwing laser bombs --- Hello? Why haven't we seen or heard anything about them before? No myth, no nothing. And in the midst of everything, Bran still holding onto hope that he would walk again was probably the saddest moment in the whole episode. That was well done.

  • Erik | June 16, 2014 5:05 PM

    The nanny told bran a tale in season 1 I believe these creatures that have magic obviously were mentionned, but im not sure. It is in the book anyways, another of those prophetic moments they dont seem to want to carry onto the show...

  • pod | June 16, 2014 2:59 PMReply

    Weak finale. And Emilia Clarke for an Emmy? Ever since she stopped getting naked, she's been blah.

  • Liz | June 19, 2014 1:20 PM

    She didn't really have that many scenes this season to work with anyway… And if all you care about if her getting naked then you obviously weren't paying much attention to her actual acting skills anyway so

  • Tulacastrej | June 16, 2014 12:21 PMReply

    I enjoyed most of the season (rapes at Cratser's keep not so much, thanks for asking) and was surprised by the twists from the books. I think that's why they went in other directions, to surprise the bookfans. I am going to miss Tywin, and am certain that Westeros sill miss him too. But I'm very sad for The Hound, I grew fond of him while I learned some of his dasseint. He was part Arya, part Sansa and a lot of Jon Snow but with fatality all over his sad story.
    Although Peter Dinklage gave astonoshing performances during a challenging storyline for his character, Rory McCann deserves an Emmy as well. I liked better The Hound's agony than Tyrion's rawr for justice.
    The crueler aspect of Game of Thrones, is waiting ten months to meet again our beloved characters.

  • Mr Anonymous | June 16, 2014 8:24 AMReply

    PS. By the way The Playlist, what happened to your Louie recaps. Are you not reviewing Season 4 of Louis this year?

    I'm positive you reviewed previous seasons of Louie. What gives?

  • Mr Anonymous | June 16, 2014 8:23 AMReply

    The Leftovers on HBO to fill the void until GOT returns next year.

    Hope you review it for the The Playlist.

  • Steve | June 16, 2014 8:17 AMReply

    We didn't actually see the Hound die and though he hasn't appeared in the books again there are many fans who think he is still alive and living in a monastery on an island nearby where Arya takes the ship. So we may see Rory McCann in the future as the Hound.

  • Jimmy Cincinnati | June 18, 2014 11:55 AM

    I remember after the viper fought the mountain everyone thought the mountain was dead... if you dont actually see the character die do NOT assume they are dead. I expect the hound to return later in the series, hopefully in some shockly awesome way.

    While it was a decent finale I felt there has been better episodes. The story line I absolutely cant stand is Brans... every scene I watch with him is like pulling teeth. I wish they would allow him to walk again so he could just swing a sword.

    I was also dissapointed who Arya left the Hound, it seemed like they had made friends with each other. He obviously knows at this point there is no where to take her yet he was still traveling with her and fought Brienne in an effort to protect her.

    I was really into Dany's story line until about mid season 4... it has sent grown stale and boring. I hope she units the cities and takes her army across the narrow sea.

    Finally, I want to just say. I love Game of Thrones... best series ever. I might be the only fan to say this but I have no interest in the White Walkers either... i can tell they will be the major conflict eventually but I am content with the rest of the storylines and could go without their story. Needless to say they will not detour me from watching.

    FYI Do all book readers bitch about the show? I never see positive comments from book readers. I would image after all the time spent reading the series watching it on TV with some new twists would be a welcoming change.

  • George R R Martin | June 16, 2014 6:07 PM

    No, he is alive you prick!

  • Andrew | June 16, 2014 10:34 AM

    Many book readers believe he is still alive I'd like to hear your justification why he is not since we never directly see him dead.

  • D.B Weiss | June 16, 2014 8:39 AM

    No. He's dead.

  • Brad | June 16, 2014 8:09 AMReply

    I was looking back at a previous recap and came across this response to a criticism of Ms. Walsh's writing abilities: "im sure you are a major success story that everyone loves and adores and agrees with. im sure it has to do with how your mother loathed you amongst many things , i for one praise her for knowing what a moron she gave birth to"? The writers on this site are insane.

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