Game of Thrones concluded its fourth season last night with the aptly named episode “The Children”—a sprawling episode that jumped between the north and the south wrapping up storylines and killing off characters. The theme of the episode, and of the series as a whole, was summed up nicely by The Hound. “Safety? Where the f*ck’s that?”
As the characters of Game of Thrones were reminded last night, safety is fleeting at best. Mance Raider wasn’t safe even when surrounded by his entire army. The Mountain wasn’t safe even though he bested Oberyn. Daenerys already knew her dragons made Mereen unsafe for its sheep, but now because of her, children are dying too. The weirwood in Bran’s vision finally appeared, but even there safety was not found, as Jojen was killed while doing his best Talisa impression.
This brings us to The Hound’s quote and to what was, in my opinion, the best fight scene of the season between him and Brienne. This fight didn’t need to happen, and had these two groups teamed up, they might have even found safety. But as it often does, pride gets in the way. So as Brienne and The Hound took turns bloodying each other, the fight began to represent the actualities of war—there are no winners, only losers. The Hound was left dying on the side of the mountain with no money, no water and no ear, while Brienne will be forced to dwell on the fact that Arya slipped right out from between her fingers, once again failing an oath she swore to keep.
The most poignant example of the fleeting nature of safety came at the end of the episode, where a bed and a bathroom turned into sudden tombs. But more on the ill-fated bathroom break later.
Riser of the Week: Stannis Baratheon
“I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.” That’s a quote from the books that wasn’t said last night, but will probably come next season, and it is the perfect way to describe Stannis. While all of the other hopeful kings were too preoccupied to answer the Night’s Watch pleas, Stannis came. The Stannis Inquisition saved the Night’s Watch and the kingdom along with it. Coupled with the fact that Stannis seems to have won over the support of the Iron Bank of Braavos a few episodes ago, it’s safe to say he’s risen as high as he’s ever been. With a great distance between him and Lannisters, and the wide lands of the North there for the taking, Stannis has positioned himself well for next season. Despite his permanently-clenched jaw and his seemingly-blind trust of Melisandre, Stannis is a just and dutiful leader. Show-watchers might have been slow to support Stannis, but now that he’s been plucked from the sidelines of Dragonstone and thrust back into the story, I’m guessing more will come around.
Honorable Mention: Bran Stark, for learning how to fly.
Faller of the Week: Tywin Lannister
Tywin Lannister, the most powerful man in Westeros, was killed by his son with a crossbow while using the toilet. Talk about a shitty Father’s Day gift. It’s a fitting end to a man who orchestrated a wedding feast massacre while sitting in the comforts of his office chair. Forever lambasting Tyrion for his whorish obsessions, Tywin’s duplicity became evident when Tyrion discovered Shae warming his father’s bed. Where many assumed Shae’s betrayal of Tyrion on the witness stand at his trial was the work of Cersei, the fact is that it was Tywin all along. He’s always despised Tyrion, for a myriad of reasons, first and foremost for killing his wife during childbirth. Tyrion was right, he’s always been on trial for being a dwarf. And last night, he’d finally had enough. With Tywin dead, it will be interesting to see what happens to King’s Landing now. The Tyrells are swarming and the only Lannister left to protect Tommen and rule until he’s of age is Cersei. Needless to say, it should be interesting.
In his last moments, Tywin proved to be a hypocrite. There’s a line from the book I’d like to share that couldn’t be used in last night’s episode, as it was a thought Tyrion had right after he killed his father and it highlights one other thing Tywin proved upon his death. “Lord Tywin Lannister did not, in the end, shit gold.”
Before moving on, I want to say one last thing and quickly praise Charles Dance for his portrayal that turned a one-dimensional villain from the books into one of the most captivating, calculated, and cruel characters in Game of Thrones.
Honorable Mention: Daenerys Targaryen,for being just like that mom at that restaurant who lets her kids run around without any discipline.
Backstory of the Week: Children of the Forest
Thought to be long extinct, the Children of the Forest were the original inhabitants of Westeros, existing even before the White Walkers. When the first men arrived from across the sea, a long and bloody war was fought between the Children and men. The humans cut down all the weirwood trees they could find—it's these trees that serve as the power source for the Children of the Forest. The Children of the Forest retreated north, but when the White Walkers emerged, the Children suffered heavy casualties. When the White Walkers turned their attacks towards the humans, the Children teamed up with them to drive the White Walkers back. In working together, a peace was struck, and rumor has it that the Children helped Bran the Builder construct the Wall.
But all of that occurred thousands of years ago, and over time, the humans remembered less and less about the Children of the Forest. In fact, during Season 2, the late Maester Luwin tells Bran “The dragons are gone, the Giants are dead, and the Children of the Forest forgotten.” (Boy, he couldn’t have been more wrong.)
The true nature of their power is unknown, but as evidenced by the unlimited supply of fireballs shown last night, the Children of the Forest will be a powerful ally for Bran to have.
Item of the Week: Jaqen H'ghar’s Braavosi Coin
Remember Jaqen H'ghar from Season 2? If not, here’s a quick refresher: He was the master assassin who helped Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie escape from Harrenhal. After freeing them, Jaqen offers to take Arya to Braavos and teach her how to become an assassin. She declines, saying she needs to meet up with her mother and brother. Jaqen then gives Arya a coin and tells her that if she ever wishes to take him up on his offer to present the coin to a Braavosi and say the words Valar Morghulis.
With no other feasible options left for Arya, Braavos seems like the safest bet. She doesn’t have to worry about being Arya Stark. Instead, she can just be no one.
And that wraps up Season 4 of Game of Thrones. The show might have changed a few storylines (and left out one major twist), but Thrones is definitely getting stronger as it ages. With three major reorganizations in place after this episode (Stannis at the wall, Arya bound for Braavos, and Tyrion and Varys on a mystery boat), it will be interesting to see where the pieces land. And who knows, maybe one of them will bump into Gendry.
To everyone who’s stopped by and read each week, thank you. I’ve had a blast writing these and am already looking forward to covering all the carnage that awaits us next season.
Season 4 has ended, and now our wait begins.
Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element who graduated from Marist College. He spends his time obsessing equally over the Game of Thrones series and the New York Giants, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.