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Game of Thrones

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Episode 10 - The Children

18 June 2014

Credit HBO

Synopsis: Bran's companions encounter undead enemies at the giant Heart Tree. Jojen is killed but a child of the Forest takes them to safety where they meet the Three Eyed Raven. Manse is surprised by Stannis' army and taken prisoner. Brienne encounters Arya and the Hound. Brienne badly wounds the Hound but loses Arya. She lets the Hound die and jumps on a boat to Braavos. Cersei refuses to marry Loras. Jaime helps Tyrion escape but he chooses to kill Tywin instead. He and Varys leave on a ship. Daenerys is forced to chain up two of her dragons after they kill a child. 

The Good: Arya's story was the strongest here. The build up to the fight between Brienne and the Hound was very tense. The fight itself was poorly staged initially with lots of quick or distant cuts so we wouldn't glimpse the stunt doubles at work. But once they went hand to hand it became more visceral and exciting. Arya's choice to leave the Hound was a wonderful bit of writing. The way I took it was that she recognised all that he'd done for her and therefore took him off the list. But at the same time she still believed he deserved to pay for his crimes and so left him to expire. The lovely irony being that if he was less kind she would have put him out of his misery. It seemed like the ideal demonstration of the weird code of ethics she's been left with. Her facial expression while weighing up her options was excellent and his attempts to sway her were well delivered.

It was pleasing to see her head to Braavos in the end. It was also highly convenient. But hopefully it will be worth it to see her searching for Jaqen H'ghar next year. Perhaps Varys and Tyrion will bump into her. I thought it was a tremendous moment when Varys heard the bells and calmly abandoned his life's work in King's Landing. He did a pretty selfless thing for a friend and Tyrion's selfish choice has cost him everything. Again the complex moral universe of Game of Thrones worked out very nicely in that moment. I don't know whether their friendship is strong enough to cope with this disaster.

The two dilemmas faced by Daenerys were superbly thought through. Her naive faith in freedom for its own sake could be seen as a direct commentary on our own times. But in Meereen it has the consequence of anarchy. With economic and social bonds destroyed the strong have already begun to take advantage of the weak. Allowing contracts of servitude will simply move Meereen from slavery to feudalism but given that that's the law in Westeros it's hard to know what else she could offer. And of course while she ponders political theory her dragons kill a child and the breaker of chains is forced to shackle her own "children." Two harsh wake up calls which will doubtless leave her rattled when we return.  

The Bad: This felt like an anti-climax. Clearly the death of Tywin was meant to be an Earth shaking event but then I question why we ended on Arya instead of desperate chaos in King's Landing. There were so many questions left not unanswered so much as not even asked. We've suspected for a while that Stannis was heading for the Wall but it would be nice if someone asked him why he was there or how he planned to feed his army in the frozen north. Similarly I think Bran should have asked what on Earth the creatures were that attacked him. I know he's seen an awful lot but I think if the cast of The Mummy really did jump you you would be suitably curious.

The big question of course is where were the Guards? There's no one on duty between the dungeon of the Red Keep and the Hand of the King's bedroom? I suppose it's possible that Tyrion could go unnoticed but it didn't feel right. Nor did Tyrion's decision making. Was knowing why his father convicted him more important than his life? Perhaps I would have believed that if Tyrion had asked that very question a few episodes ago as I have repeatedly pointed out.

Without that context and with no mention of why Tywin wasn't concerned about the real killer being loose I had little emotional reaction to what followed. I understand that seeing Tywin with Shae brought up all those bitter feelings over Tyrion's first love. I can buy that he would kill Tywin. But it was a very selfish decision to then escape leaving Varys and potentially Jaime to face accusations of treason.

Worse than that though the murder of Shae made me dislike Tyrion. It put him in the same murderous, misogynistic camp (at least briefly) as so many other men on this show. I think the writers really botched the Shae story. They created the strong impression that she really loved him in Season Two. But either that was a false impression (which would be poor storytelling) or we are meant to believe that she's either really twisted or really greedy and would willingly sleep with Tywin. I suppose the alternative is that she had no choice but to sleep with Tywin or face execution or poverty. But in that case Tyrion's decision to murder her feels even more pathetic.

The Unknown: It was all very messy and had the unfortunate feeling of being a shake of the chess board more than the conclusion to a crafted tale. Our main characters remain largely in tact we just have new faces at the Wall, in the small council chamber and across the sea.

I assume Stannis' army were hired from across the sea. They didn't look that different, on first appearence, from Westerosi Knights. I also assume that they didn't wipe out the whole Wildling army, only the portion around Manse's camp. There are still Wildlings crossing the Wall now so that struggle will continue.

Who would Tommen name as Hand of the King? His uncle Jaime perhaps? That's what Davos predicted and a Cersei-Jaime partnership is bound to be volatile and almost certainly alienate the Tyrells which could lead to the very civil war that I predict Little Finger is looking to start.

I don't know if the promise that Bran can fly is simply an allusion to the ability to warg or indeed take the form of a raven. That was another story with a pretty flat ending that left us only a little further along in the grand scheme of things. The fight with the undead creatures was an awkward one. I think introducing a new kind of zombie, having already established the Wights, felt a bit cheap. It felt like the supernatural universe was expanding willy nilly. Jojen's death had no resonance at all given how little time we've spent with him and the zombies ended up feeling like a silly obstacle.

What on Earth is Qyburn going to do with the Mountain? Is this another supernatural element to proceedings?

Best Moment: Arya weighing up what to do with the Hound.

Conclusion: I'm still very invested in Game of Thrones. It still sucks me in and delivers emotional moments. But I don't feel excited for where these stories are going. This season only increased my sense that for every plot based on grinding logic there's another built on surprise for its own sake. The Tyrion story exemplified this problem. It never felt like his death sentence was actually the story being told. And in the end it wasn't. It's a weakness in the show to encourage viewers not to invest in what they are seeing but to wait for the twist that will inevitably kill off someone and shake things up again. I asked all season for someone to ask Tywin what he was up to. If they had then Tyrion choosing to find out that answer for himself could have felt like the appropriate conclusion.

This wasn't bad but it didn't deliver any of the emotions one associates with a season finale. Perhaps there's nothing more the writers could have done about that. But I think a number of stories this season suffered from being spread too far apart. Surely some could have been bunched together to deliver more of a punch?

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  • Benioff and Weiss talk about S4E10. From GOT's Youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vR5O9sd1N3U

    Posted by Fluids, 16/07/2014 6:04am (4 years ago)

  • @Brando At least someone else has taste. I will say I can see people's problems with Book 5 (and to a lesser extent Book 4) but I think they'll make for great TV. The best scenes on this show are just people talking and that's the majority of those two books.

    Posted by Derek, 25/06/2014 1:13pm (4 years ago)

  • Hey @FLUIDS! I love English as a language and I hope to be able to record an English speaking GoT podcast one day, but I fear I'm not quite there yet. Most of what I read, watch or listen to is in English, but I very rarely get to actually speak the language and I don't think I'm good enough for "radio". =)

    But obviously, I'm very flattered by the question - and now I feel like I maybe shouldn't have mentioned the podcast when it's only really available to a handful of listeners. However, the good news for all of us is that we're one of the least professional podcasts around and have spent most of our Star Wars discussions being confused and frightened. So you won't miss all that much! ;-)

    Posted by Tim, 23/06/2014 9:15pm (4 years ago)

  • @ Derek: I also love the much maligned fourth book. It seems to be the least favorite (or at least one of the least, along with Book 5) among the greater fandom, and I never quite understood why.

    I'm not going to say anything about the book, since this is a discussion of the show, but I figured this was the easiest venue to speak out and agree with you :P

    Posted by Brando, 23/06/2014 3:25pm (4 years ago)

  • I don't think Tywin has ever been hypocritical about whores. His point is not that you don't use whores, but, that you don't treat whores as equals or love them. His actions towards Tyrion's relationships with whores has always been about breaking Tyrion's emotional bond with his whores.

    Tywin is always about massive self confidence. He thinks he can control everything. His hatred and lack of respect for Tyrion means that he enjoys taking Tyrion's toys away from him and showing he is better by owning them. (And proving he is a better man and lover.)

    I think Shae's reaction to Tyrion's presence is a combination of fear of his reaction to her betrayal, shame at being forced to sleep with Tywin, a big dollop of self hate for the position that she finds herself in and a poisoned love becoming hatred for Tyrion not leaving everything behind for her.

    Tyrion's self defense is fueled by her obvious betrayals, his anger and hatred for her actions results in his killing of her.

    Murder is not usually rational. It is fueled by emotion. Most people with time to calm down and think about things will not choose to murder someone. Shae and Tyrion's actions are forged in brief, intense emotions and bad reactions.

    If they had seen each other while they where 50 feet apart, I doubt that murder would of been the immediate result. At that distance, Shae's fight or flight reaction, probably would of been to flee not fight.

    I find their actions and reactions understandable.

    Viewer score: 72 / 100

    Posted by Brian, 20/06/2014 8:44pm (4 years ago)

  • As a book reader I made my peace with how they were handling Shae's death all the way back at the break-up scene. But I love David F's idea of what they could of done instead.

    Also I'm pretty sure the show will overtake the books and finish the stories, I'm pretty sure the show runners have said as much. Honestly I'm fine with this, I think the show does some things better then the books and they might actually be able to become a even better show not beholden to the books. FYI Book 4 is my favorite book due to its lack of shocking twists.

    Posted by Derek, 20/06/2014 6:25pm (4 years ago)

  • ***POST PODCAST***

    Robin and Roberto: I loved the Feedback podcast. You not only covered the episode really well, you also covered certain characters throughout Season 4 well.
    I particularly loved how you both draw the lens of focus backwards at the whole show to point out its shortcomings.

    • What seems to come across over and over is the need for more screen time to develop more emotionally impactful characters and moments with those characters.

    • There also needs to be some better way to convey back story; inner conflict and perspective for Tyrion, Tywin, Jaime, Cersei and Shae then what we have been provided. As Tim and others mention this could be done with flashbacks; just saying what they feel; adding an inner monologue sound track or bouncing people’s inner thoughts off of other characters.

    • The dropping of details relating to impactful moments (in latter episodes) has to change. Otherwise those key moments won’t resonate as emotionally as they could and never reach their true potential as we are watching them unfold. Example, I would have felt a lot more about the death of Mag the Mighty in S4E9 if I had known he was Mag the Mighty in S4E9 not S4E10 after he has been killed. In other words they really need to flesh out dialog and characterization better in the moment then they have and I think they can do this without fear of spoilers.

    • I feel there needs to be less focus on adapting a story to TV and more focus whether the TV show makes sense on its own merits; following its own direction based on what has already been layed out in the show. The Walking Dead was able to do this; why not GOT? To be fair to the GOT TV Show, I think the show does float on its own, however there are moments throughout different episodes that left me feeling indifferent emotionally or confused trying to ascertain how I should feel about something I was shown.


    David F’s version of the beats below I think is wonderful. Much more impactful sounding then what I saw on the show.

    The only sticking point in that version would be who is used and what is said to Sansa to get her to wear the necklace. Little Finger could have given Shae the necklace to give to Sansa at the beginning of Season Four. However I think it has to be gifted from someone who no one really knows except Sansa, who she finds through the gesture, endearing.

    Finally thing. Tim would you please consider doing a version of your GOT podcast also in English? I was very excited to hear you are presenting something, however I don’t know German.

    Posted by Fluids, 20/06/2014 3:13pm (4 years ago)

  • I forgot to add my disappointment towards the Tyrion and Tywin confrontation. Botched was used to describe the scene and that's what I would also describe it. As Roberto said in the podcast there was a crucial discussion between Tyrion and Jamie that led to Tyrion to do what he did with Tywin and Shae. Complain about TV and novels comparisons all you like, Tyrion going up to Tywin doesn't make sense if you remove that discussion between the two brothers like the show did. When the show runners decided to omit important scenes leading up to it only to come to a conclusion similar in the books, it may sometimes come across as disjointed.

    Robin, just because I didn't label Tyrion killing Shae as murder, doesn't necessarily mean that I believe Shae "deserve" to die. It's like if a police officer was forced to shoot dead a person who's charging at him with a knife, I don't consider the police a murderer as I believe it wasn't an excessive use of force, but the same time, I'm not exactly comfortable he had to do so. I see it's an unfortunate circumstance where the police had to use deadly force. I hope I explain myself more clearly where I'm coming from.

    Posted by Dave, 20/06/2014 11:42am (4 years ago)

  • @David F, I like this suggestion a lot. It definitely fits with show Shae a lot better than what we got. I'm afraid that's all I can give you though as there is no wrap up podcast :-(

    Posted by The TV Critic, 20/06/2014 12:21am (4 years ago)

  • I think these last two episodes would have been better served by Jon/Mance and also Stannis's intervention taking place at the end of episode 9. I, for one, would have willingly given up some war action in order to make room for important movements such as these. Instead, tacking them on to the beginning of this episode was a bit anti-climactic.

    I certainly feel the escape for Tyrion was a little botched. It was very rushed and lacked explanation and logical progression, at least given the level of quality and complexity this shown *can, but doesn't always, deliver.

    This episode was chock full of revisions & omissions from the books. My initial reaction was that of disappointment, but upon further reflection I actually hope that the show starts to deviate more and more and take on its own trajectory.

    I feel it would provide, for me, the following:

    •The ability to watch the show more objectively, and without the ability to fill in the many blanks.

    •I would no longer have to worry about whether or not the show will catch up to GRRM. If it takes on a life of its own, then have at it. The best case scenario is that I will enjoy the show's trajectory and the book series' trajectory in their own right.

    •I will not have to worry about any discrepancies foreshadowing or spoiling things in the books. So Jojen died in this episode. I hope that it is only because B&W ran out of source material and felt it was time to take the reins and make their own decision, independent of GRRM's plans for this character.


    All in all I enjoyed the season. Way back in Season 1, before I had read the books, I remember saying in the podcast Robin and I recorded that the show would be better served if it had more episode. Certainly 15-20 could allow some space for it to breathe and fill in the gaps. I think 12-15 would even work. Jamming everything into 10 episodes is a tall order, for sure. I tire of the endless comparisons of TV to Book, because it's simply not fair and it is not comparing apples to apples.

    Posted by Brando, 19/06/2014 9:07pm (4 years ago)

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