TV Review: “Game of Thrones” – “The Children”

Written by Spencer Sterritt June 18, 2014

Game of Thrones, the children

All men must die, and each season of “Game of Thrones” must end. Though “The Children” does not reach some of the highs of earlier episodes this season, and features some uncharacteristically poor direction, it is still the best season finale yet.

Previous “Game of Thrones” season finales have acted more like epilogues following the more exciting penultimate episode, such as the season two finale “Valar Morghulis” which followed the amazing “Blackwater”. Since “Watchers on the Wall” was fairly disappointing, and was so focused on The Wall, “The Children” gets to deal with everyone else’s plot and make the central set-ups for next season. There are no big climaxes or cliffhangers, but everything in the episode upends the status quo. This is especially true in the case of Tyrion shooting his father before fleeing the city. Arya leaves the Hound to die, Stannis “The Mannis” Baratheon rides into the North to save the day, and Daenerys chains up her dragons. Bran finally meets the three-eyed raven after four seasons, but I couldn’t care less. It is Tyrion’s patricide which shakes things up the most.

“I would do things for my family you couldn’t imagine.”

Having exhausted the concept of justice by this point, “The Children” instead focuses on none other than the various orphans who have been spread far and wide. Since Tywin was the only parental figure in the episode, we don’t see how parents and children interact with one another; instead we get a reminder of the legacy that parents pass down to their children. North of the Wall Jon Snow is given Stannis’ respect not because of his capable defense of the Wall, but because he is Ned Stark’s son. The various responsibilities of parents is also considered when Daenerys has to chain up her dragons to keep them from eating civilians. It’s not easy being a parent when your children are being unruly, and it’s especially difficult to be responsible when you are compromised like Tywin is.

Tywin, Game of Thrones, the children

“Game of Thrones” has always sprawled, but it looks like season five will be the most spread out season yet. Nearly everyone is off to somewhere else by the time “The Children” comes to a close. Arya is off to Braavos and Tyrion is off…somewhere. Now that Stannis has arrived at the Wall with his usual glower I expect that the Wall and all that lies North of it will be given a greater focus next season. I really do like everything involving the Night’s Watch and Jon Snow, but I just can’t stand Kit Harrington. Last week his emotional scene with Ygritte fell flat, and his one emotional scene this episode, where he burns Ygritte’s body, suffers for the same reason. There’s just nothing conveyed in Kit Harrington’s eyes or facial expressions.

“Going at it alone, you won’t last a day out there.”

At 66 minutes “The Children” doesn’t feel as tight as some “Game of Thrones” episodes, while at the same time some sequences – like Jamie letting Tyrion out of his cell, or Daenerys shackling her dragons – feel rushed. The show is one of the most well-shot television series’ ever, and that makes the occasionally poor direction of this episode more noticeable. Director Alex Graves, who has already directed several episodes this season, captures amazing shots when all he has to do is pan the camera, such as when Tyrion strangles his former lover Shae or in the fantastic overhead shot that smoothly follows Stannis’ troops as they storm the Wildling camp.

Stannis, the children, game of thrones

Where the direction falls apart is in the fight scenes, specifically the fight between Brienne and the Hound at the end. The combination of shaky cam and quick cuts for an intimate encounter like a sword fight does not work, and I couldn’t get invested in the fight with the distracting camera work. Also, when Bran, Hodor and the siblings are attacked by skeletons, the CGI was a disappointment. To put it simply: Those skeletons looked silly. I get that skeletons are probably the most difficult things to animate, but they seemed unbelievably fake.

“You must be proud of yourself. There’s really nothing you wouldn’t do, is there?”

All in all, this has been the best season of “Game of Thrones” yet. Given how many talented directors and writers work on the show, and the caliber of the cast, the show can never really be bad. Even the worst episode this season, “The Watchers on the Wall,” still had amazing effects and wonderful direction. It’s been a packed season, though it unfortunately still slumped in the middle like all seasons of “Game of Thrones” do. This isn’t the deepest show on television, or even on HBO, but this season has been thematically rich, and it’s success comes from how nearly every story fed into the main theme of power and justice. Season finale “The Children” has done it’s best to upset the status quo of the show and become more of an adventure than a drama, but it was still a wonderful episode and the best season finale yet.

My Rating (for episode): 8/10

My Rating (for season): 9/10

 

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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