In the final episode of the series, we were having serious Jason and the Argonauts flashbacks.
Here we are again, the end of another season of Game of Thrones. It’s been the weakest season so far overall, but that says more about the quality we’ve come to expect from this show than anything else. Still, The Children was a very good episode to finish off, with almost as big a body count of major characters as The Rains of Castamere, and which really hammers home the show’s theme of family.
Lots of stuff happened up north. We finally got to meet Ciaran Hinds as Mance Rayder again, and considering how great he was on HBO’s Rome, it’s a pity he hasn’t had more to do here. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of him next year now that Mance is a prisoner.
And he’s, of all people, Stannis’s prisoner at that, who defied all expectations and actually did something useful for a change, showing up to rout the wildlings and help protect the Wall. It’s been a while since we saw him, but his and Melisandre’s last appearance did hint that this was their next plan, so it’s not the deus ex machina it might initially seem. Lots of wildlings get slaughtered here.
Further north, Bran reached the Three-Eyed Raven, who turned out to be an old guy living in a tree, and looks unsettlingly like Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China in the above image. We did get a pretty great action sequence out of it, fortunately, which saw Bran and his companions take on a troupe of undead skeletons that looked strangely and pleasantly stop-motion-y. Jojen got stabbed to death, in one of this episode’s many big-name character exits.
The Weirdest Surrogate Family of Arya and the Hound made their final appearance here, running into Brienne and Podrick. It strains credibility a bit that they’d just happen to meet each other, given how vast Westeros is, but it does lead into a thrilling, astoundingly brutal fight scene between Brienne and the Hound (she bit off his ear!). It’s great stuff.
It’s unclear what the Hound’s fate is: he surely couldn’t have survived, but we didn’t see him die. His final (?) moments were exceptional, though, with Rory McCann giving voice to the pain and despair at the core of his character, begging Arya to kill him quickly.
Across the sea, bad things continue to happen to Daenerys’s attempt to be a good queen. In possibly the episode’s most affecting death, we learn that Drogon has incinerated a three-year-old girl, which results in her having to chain up the other two dragons. Emilia Clarke continues to be great, here completely convincing as the heartbroken mother who needs to confine her children to keep her citizens safe.
In case this wasn’t enough family business for you, the King’s Landing thread saw Cersei lash out at Tywin and finally tell him that she and Jaime are in an incestuous relationship. It’s really impressive how sympathetic they’ve managed to make her: at this point she’s entirely motivated by a desperate need to hold on to her son Tommen, who’s the only thing left to her after everything that’s happened. Charles Dance continues to excel as the manipulative, Machiavellian King Asshole that is Tywin Lannister, and it’s a real shame that we won’t be seeing more of him.
Because that’s this episode’s final shocking scene: after being rescued from the dungeons by his brother Jaime, Tyrion decided to take his revenge on his father. Unfortunately, it turned out that Shae, his lover, had been sleeping with Tywin, so Tyrion strangled her: it’s a little problematic that her face isn’t in shot when she dies, but Peter Dinklage expertly – and wordlessly – plays his abject anguish at having to destroy the one thing he truly loved.
He hated his father, though, and gave him the least dignified death imaginable by shooting him with a crossbow while he was on the privy. Tywin remains the manipulator right up to the end, trying to talk Tyrion out of it, and it’s quite amazing how statesmanly Dance can be while on the toilet. He was possibly the best actor on the show, and he’ll be missed next year.
The final scene saw Arya cash in the coin Jaqen H’ghar gave her back in season two, using it to secure passage across the sea to the Free City of Braavos. And the adventure continues.
Which brings us to the final scores. Since Stannis finally left Dragonstone and did something productive for once, he’s now, presumably, a major player in the North, despite his limited forces: he can have 10 points. Bran and Arya Stark can each have five for reaching major milestones on their quests, which means the Starks are this season’s clear winners.
Lannister: 30 / Stark: 55 / Baratheon: 35 / Targaryen: 35
Yes, for all the talk online about how the Starks spend all their time losing and getting massacred, the children of Eddard are actually doing pretty well for themselves. It recalls a line from the books: the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.
And now, the final death toll of the season. Lots of wildlings – let’s say 50 – died up north, plus Jojen Reed, the child killed by dragon, Shae, Tywin, and (maybe?) the Hound. The skeletons don’t count – they’re already dead. That brings the body count up to 795, but in the interest of neatness, let’s call it a round 800. Not bad, all things considered. Now to re-watch the previous three seasons and see how many have died overall.
Don’t miss: Last week’s GoT recap, of Watchers on the Wall
All images: HBO