Season 4’s finale, “The Children,” concluded the two-season twenty-episode adaptation of A Storm of Swords—the most popular of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The filmed adaptation of A Storm of Swords lacked the cohesion of the novels. Benioff and Weiss accepted a great challenge in adapting the massive books for HBO. It’s a story that spans thousands of miles in setting and populated by thousands of characters. The Game of Thrones adaptation has been an accomplishment. It films in five separate locations; the cast continues to increase despite the number of prominent deaths in the show; Benioff, Weiss, and the crew, continue to admirably adapt, stage, and produce tremendous set-pieces. Fans loved A Storm of Swords for many reasons which seem irrelevant to the TV series. Fans may or may not love “The Children.” The 4th season finale shifts focus and perspective as the threads of the various stories fall away as other threads connect with newer, fresher ones.
Three major characters use a boat to drastically change their situations/plights/arcs. A fourth, secondary, character also makes use of a boat to flee from a situation in King’s Landing. Jaime saved his brother’s life in the dead of the King’s Landing night. Awaiting his brother, Jaime relayed, was Varys, who had arranged a safe escape and passage to Essos. The escape plan and subsequent sequence happens quickly. Jaime and Tyrion hug, exchange words of fraternal warmth, and then Jaime leaves. Tyrion stands a moment, looking where his brother went, and then he peers back into the blackness of his cell. He ascends the ladder into the room of the Hand of the King, his father’s present lodgings, and quietly observes the surroundings. The room is quiet. Candle flames flicker. Shae lies in Tywin’s bed, breaking Tyrion’s steely, courageous resolve to not follow the behavior of his cousin, who mercilessly crushed beetles in another time. Shae’s lion, her Tyrion, strangles her to death. A minute later, he murders his father in the privy, for calling Shae a whore twice. And, finally, Tyrion meets Varys, where he’s packed in a wooden crate, lifted onto the boat, to somewhere where he’s not sentenced to die.
Tyrion’s murderous path to freedom marks a darker turn for the character. Tyrion separated himself from his family in numerous ways. He read books; he whored around; he hired sellswords to protect him. One may argue his family influenced his behavior, or, rather, he behaved in reaction what his family wouldn’t do for him, which was save him or love him or protect him. Tyrion achieves a measure of victory over his father, but shooting an arrow through his flesh and bone twice won’t kill the past or his memories of what his father thought of him, how he dismissed his son as monstrous. The slings and arrows of his life won’t disappear because he killed his father. Similarly, the murder of Shae does not resolve an aspect of his arc. He committed the murder in passion, similar to the moor in Aleppo: it’s a tragedy in both instances. Tyrion does not imagine infidelities. He experiences the agony of seeing his love in the bed of the man who sentenced him to death rather than spare him for a crime he did not commit. The tragedy for Tyrion is that he succumbed to the visceral, physical form of revenge that seemed removed from him, as unnatural to him as it was for his sister, brother, and father, (and nephew).
Arya boarded a boat to Braavos in the last scene of season four. In her previous scene, she met Brienne, who minutes later engaged in a bloody fight with The Hound. Brienne urged Arya to come with her to safety. The Hound scoffed, because there’s no safe place in Westeros. Brienne destroys The Hound in the fight. Arya hid behind a cliff. She blended into the rock-face. Her brown garments mimicked the brown cliff—that shot is probably the best shot for the character ever storyboarded/planned. Arya’s had to mimic since she watched her father die at the Sept: as a boy headed to The Wall; as Tywin’s cup-bearer; as an anonymous hostage of The Hound’s. She met a most perfect companion at Harrenhal, Jaquen, whose face changed in front of her very eyes. A part of Arya’s survival involves murdering people, which also has tragic undertones to it, more subtle than Tyrion’s. The women of Westeros share in common, in a broad way, a lack of power and agency. Cersei threatened to expose the incestuous line of Lannisters during a power struggle with her father. Arya can’t survive without killing people, but she’s a young girl. Arya’s tragedy is her life—that the specific events of her life, the horrible deaths of her family, had forced her to make these choices her father wouldn’t want her to make. She told Brienne she learned how to use a sword but her father didn’t want her to learn it. There’s that scene in season one, possibly episode six or episode four, when Ned watches her practice her water dance with an expression of worry, dread, anguish.
The third character to use a boat, presumably, was Stannis, who stormed the wildling camp. Eons ago, Melisandre told him the true war lies north of The Wall. Stannis listened and saved Jon Snow’s ass along with the asses of all the Night’s Watch. Stannis follows the theme of Tyrion and Arya in that he has made tragic decisions in life, albeit for different reasons. He murdered his brother because of their differing claims to the throne. He almost murdered Davos. Stannis seems like a savior, but he’s Stannis Baratheon. The man oozes stubbornness. He’s a magnificent prick. Him and Jon form a solid base for communications. Stannis asks what Ned would’ve done to Mance. Jon spares Mance’s life, explaining his father would’ve imprisoned him and let him speak. The next scene finds Jon and his brothers burning the bodies of their slain brothers. The men of the Night’s Watch stand around their deceased brothers while Stannis stands above the rest, the true king of the North, though the Night’s Watch does not acknowledge a specific king. Melisandre, though, emerges as if from the flames. Jon sees her through the rising smoke. She stares; he stares. The best thing about Stannis’ presence in the north is that the happenings at The Wall matter to some character. Game of Thrones never presented the threat of the wildlings as too dire. Numbers were thrown around that suggested the Night’s Watch would have no chance, but not even the Night’s Watch seemed hopeless about the situation. It wasn’t hopeless, the producers knew from the books, and so it wasn’t treated as such. It is different, and it brims with a number of intriguing possibilities for the future of the Seven Kingdoms.
Stannis becomes more and more a legitimate figure of ultimate power, authority, and regality in Westeros, i.e. he seems likely as one to sit upon the throne by series’ end. Jon Snow lurks, too. He is the character fantasty epics would be lost without: the unwanted bastard son, the unlikely leader, the brave and courageous leader when chosen to lead. Dany’s the other likely ruler of the Seven Kingdoms; however, she’s lost in Meereen. Older gentlemen would like to return to their masters, which she grants. Drogon burned a 3 year old girl to death. Dany chains Viscerion and Rhaegel in the catacombs because she’s unable to control her children. Drogon continues to fly and burn somewhere near cliffs, though unseen for a number of days. Dany lost her most trusted friend and confidante and, now, her children, her dragons.
The title of the episode does not come from Dany’s tearful decision to chain her children in the catcombs of Meereen. Bran and his merry band of adventurers, who’ve all been absent for over a month, arrived at the tree. Upon arrival, axe-wielding skeletons attacked, bursting through snow and ice from underground to attack. A small girl saved their lives, but not Jojen’s, who was stabbed numerous times and thus perished, and brought them into the cave, which leads to three. She introduced herself as one part of the children, short for the children of the Forest, an ancient race in Westeros, existing for as long as the giants. The skeletons were destroyed once they crossed the threshold. Bran meets the three-eyed crow, a very elderly man who is part of tree, who uses a kind of riddle to explain why he led Bran to him. He’s been many things and has seen many things (“a thousand of things”). Brand wonders will he return his ability to walk, to which the man tells him no, but he will fly. So, Bran becomes another possibility to sit on the Iron Throne or to restore Winterfell. Bran’s hero’s journey is as clearly drawn out as Jon Snow’s, and underlined in red with stars surrounding it in “The Children” when he crossed the threshold.
The last shot of “The Children”—Arya looking at what the boat approaches—was a wonderful image to close the season with because it acted as a tease. What matters more than what happened already is what will happen beyond, for the future represents the possibility of change and agency. A cripple may fly, and a girl will survive without a strong, scary male around her (Tywin; The Hound). Jaime looked at his chapter briefly in an early scene. Jaime’s not the lone person who can write history. History will be written by the Starks.
-Arya did not kill a very wounded and suffering Sandor Clegane. Sandor helpfully recounted the cruel acts he did to people Arya cared for. Maisie Williams’ expression during that scene was the most chilling Arya’s been in the series.
-David Benioff and D.B. Weiss wrote “The Children.” Alex Graves directed.
-I’ll see my hundreds of thousands of readers in 2014 for season five of Game of Thrones. Continue checking the blog for content. I’ll write about stuff. Probably Lindelof’s The Leftovers. Maybe Cuse’s The Strain. Perhaps I’ll write about books, too. Or I’ll entertain all with more WB retrospective reviews. Dawson’s Creek season 3, yo.