TV Review: The Children Take Over On “Game Of Thrones”

If you weren’t blown away by the Game of Thrones finale, then you’re very, very lucky Tywin had such a bad Father’s Day.

“The Children” is surely the strongest hour this season, and quite possibly the series to date. It takes everything we’ve come to know and accept about the ambitious, bloody quest for power in Westeros and turns it on its heels. The best part is that is does this my examining the legacy of the left behind by the previous players on the board, and one long since forgotten. As the years have passed on the show, we’ve learned much about the various houses, provided, of course, we can keep all the characters straight. Lannisters are rich and ruthless, Starks honorable, Freys proud, Boltons crazy as hell…you get the picture. But the landscape is rapidly changing, portrayed in “The Children” in numerous dazzling sequences.

Jon Snow arrives at Mance Rayder’s camp with a suicide mission in mind, but gets a reprieve when Stannis swoops in with a big ass army that swiftly takes the wildlings camp. It has to be the first time we see Stannis succeed in something, and he practically beams with pride, standing tall and looking like a king for once. When the question arises about what to do with Rayder, who refuses to kneel, it’s the lessons that Ned imparted in Jon, and Stannis’ recognition of that honor, that spares the King Beyond the Wall’s life. OF course, that may not be such a great idea with Melisandre sniffing around the camp, with a front row seat to the burning of the dead (RIP Grenn!).

Dany’s still trying to find the balance of justice in her new rulership, but she’s having a bit of a dragon problem. One of her citizens lays the crispy body of his daughter at her feet, burned by Drogon (that’s the best name she could come up with?), and the Mother of Dragons realizes she won’t have much of an empire if her “children” run rampant, creating chaos and fear. So the Breaker of Chains must put her dragons in chains in the most emotional scene you’ll see starring CGI dragons who are scary as hell. it’s worth noting that she only has two of the three. Drogon, the largest, has been missing for three days now, probably out tomcatting around.

From here, “The Children” begins to line up scenes that basically serve to punch us in the gut. Brienne and Pod stumble across Arya (the Hound is pooping), each passing to and from the Vale. I LOVE the exchange between Brienne and Arya, each talking about their fathers and their paths, especially as Brienne realizes just who stands before her. But then the Hound comes out from behind the rocks and everything goes to hell quickly. He and Brienne have an agonizing battle that I had to look away from on occasion, except for the awesome take where she bites off his ear and spits it across the terrain. Brienne finally gets the full chance to show what’s she’s made of and doesn’t disappoint. Kudos to the writers for making us somehow care for the Hound, even just a little bit, that his end comes with a little emotional baggage. Although we never see him die, Arya’s exit is equally badass.

Of course, “The Children” doesn’t stop there. King’s Landing is the setting for two big changes. With Tyrion sentence assured, Cersei pushes her advantage now, telling the overbearing Tywin she will not marry Loras. If her father pushes the issue, she’ll confess the truth about her and Jaime’s relationship, which would lay to waste all he’s worked for his life. Tywin seems truly taken aback by the news, which is strange cause I always assumed he was aware. Cersei blames his shock on Tywin’s blind eye when it came to actually being involved with his children. Tywin’s absence at home and focus on ambition created the children he has, and as we’ve seen this season, his ability to keep them in check has been slipping. Both Tywin and Cersei cite “family” as the reason ambition informs their choices. Each character defines it differently.

Later, Jaime, fresh from a reunion with an emboldened Cersei, breaks Tyrion from his cell. It goes down rather simply after the extended time devoted to ensuring we saw Tyrion’s fate as doomed, which is a bit off putting. Varys waits to whisk Tyrion away, but first he decides to pay a visit to his old quarters, now occupied by Tywin. It’s difficult to tell just why Tyrion goes here. My take is he’s compelled to confront his father just like Cersei, but upon entering he catches sight of Shae in his bed and it’s the final break for Tyrion. He strangles his love with her necklaces before taking a crossbow from the wall, and finds his father actually sitting on the toilet. As a side note, is it weird that both Tywin and the Hound are caught with their pants down? Anyway, just as the scene with Cersei, Tyrion takes control of the situation as his father tries hard to appear dominating, something difficult to pull off with your pants around your ankles. Tywin continues to bait his son, first insisting he would never allow his son to be executed, then referring to Shae as a whore, which ends up getting Tywin a few arrows to the chest. Tyrion commits his darkest acts (remember no one is as cursed as the kinslayer), and makes his escape by cover of crate. It’s a huge step for the character, and I can’t wait to see how this plays out. Charles Dance will be missed on this show. He created a formidable presence on screen with ease.

Lastly, we must address how Game of Thrones is slowly sneaking in more of the fantasy elements of the novels. The scene where Bran, Hodor, Jojen, and Meera are attacked by wights on their way to the impressive weirwood is another excellent battle right out of a Harryhausen production. Jojen’s loss is a hard one, but the introduction of the fireball wielding Children of the Forest promises some real craziness for next season. Bran has a mysterious encounter with a warg king (?) under the tree, who promises he will fly. I’m assuming as a warg, not with a Stark “S” emblazoned on his chest and a red cape, soaring through the sky.

So, with the book closing on the fourth season, Game of Thrones is eyeing very interesting changes on the horizon. The children are growing into, or thrust into, the major player shoes once occupied by the patriarchs of their houses. How will this change the quest for power and the landscape of Westeros? I, for one, am already excited to see where this leads.

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