Beyond the Wall: Season four ends with several changes

Game of Thrones Children Ellie Kendrick Isaac Hempstead Wright Kristian Nairn

The ‘Game of Thrones’ finale was one of the most hyped episodes ever. Did it live up to the hype, or was it just full of surprises that book readers didn’t see coming. Remember, spoilers everywhere!


Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss, along with episode director Alex Graves have been talking up the final episode of the season like they’ve never done before. If we believed everything we heard, “Children” might be more than “Baelor,” “Blackwater” and “The Rains of Castamere” combined. But when the final credits rolled, the episode might have provided more surprises for book readers than it did for show watchers.

These surprises were the of changes from George R. R. Martin’s source material. We here at Beyond the Wall have been universally supportive of these changes through the first four seasons, but “Children” had more diversions — large and small — than any episode that came before it. How did all of these surprises play out, and how will they change thing moving forward?

Unless you were left wondering what happened to a certain lady with heart as hard as rock, this post is not for you.
Before we get into those questions, though, our weekly SPOILER WARNING. Beyond the Wall is a column that is intended for those that have already read the novels that the series is based on, and is full of spoilers. So, unless you were left wondering what happened to a certain lady with heart as hard as rock, this post is not for you.

Bob: This had to have been the most hyped finale of Game of Thrones yet. I think I saw more articles and interviews about it than in any other year, and as the show continues to grow in popularity, it shouldn’t be a tremendous surprise. It was also clear to anyone who had read the novels that there was going to be a lot more action in this finale than we have been used to. Going into it, I was figuring there were going to be a few surprises for us book readers, and I was not let down.

Bob: I think my biggest surprise was that Bran’s story actually got kind of interesting.
This is going to come off snarkier than I would like, but I think my biggest surprise was that Bran’s story actually got kind of interesting. Bran’s story has always been my least favorite (in the books and on-screen). I get that his plot is a very slow burn that will most likely play into the endgame of the series, but I’ve just never been all that interested in three-eyed ravens, the frog-eating Reeds, or Bran’s adventures in his direwolf. Naturally, I was surprised when his story in the finale was one of the best parts of the episode.

The attack of the wights was maybe my favorite action sequence of the whole series (even with the awesomeness of the battle at The Wall). The special effects were top-notch, I loved the visuals of all the snow and ice, and because there were fewer characters the stakes seemed higher to me than with the giant battles. Plus, there were living skeletons bursting out of the ground — that shit is scary! … and Children of the Forest shooting fireballs out of their hands — that shit is awesome!

Ivey: Funny you should say that, Bob. Little about that scene felt “right” to me. Were those wights in the sense of what we’ve seen before? I’ve always compared them to zombies … the skeleton monsters that we saw were much quicker and frankly much more deadly than the creatures we’ve seen before. And those fireballs? I share your WTF reaction, but probably for different reasons. Who knew the Children had that kind of power (and considering that, why the hell aren’t they still in power?)

Ivey: The look on Brienne’s face as she realized exactly who she was looking at was incredibly well-played
If anything, I was a little surprised that we’ve lost Jojen Reed. I’m with you that Bran’s story has never been the most interesting (his raven-dreams in the first book nearly put me to sleep before I figured out what was going on). I did, though, enjoy his relationships with both Jojen and Meera. It is through them that we see Bran’s evolution … his conversations with Meera in A Dance with Dragons put into context that Bran will likely never find a wife if he follows his destiny.

One of the twists I didn’t see coming was the meeting between Team Brienne and Team (the) Hound. I really liked Arya and Brienne sizing each other up. There are several female warriors in the series, but they never really meet. The look on Brienne’s face as she realized exactly who she was looking at was incredibly well-played … and that might be the best one on one fight this show has seen since Jaime and Brienne met on the bridge so many episodes ago.

Bob: Before the episode, there was some speculation that the Hound might be meeting up with Brienne in the finale and I just couldn’t imagine how that would work out with those characters coming together, but I think the show really pulled it off. It was a fantastic fight, and I love that it showed just how scrappy and unhinged Brienne can get. We haven’t really seen that from her before, but it sheds some nice light on just how seriously she takes her mission (even if she has been in the presence of Arya and Sansa and managed to lose each of them). I believe that a lot of the desperation that we saw from her at the end of the fight was her drive to get to Arya and see that she was safe.

With her mission no closer to being completed, I’m very interested to see how her story progresses into next season. It is most likely going to stray from the novels even more as there doesn’t appear to be any rush to get to a Lady Stoneheart introduction. I saw that a lot of fans were upset that there was no appearance by Catelyn’s water-bloated corpse to end the season (as it ended Storm of Swords). It didn’t bother me. In fact, I think I was more excited for the reveal at the end of last season (I was convinced it was going to happen then), even though it probably made more sense to happen this year (even though it didn’t).

Bob: People would enjoy the show a whole lot more if they just went in with an open mind.
I think so much of the disappointment from viewers comes from expectations. With your comment about the battle with the wights not feeling “right,” I’m guessing the expectations game affected you during this finale as well. People would enjoy the show a whole lot more if they just went in with an open mind. I understand that there is a fine line between anticipation and faulty expectations, but it is a dangerous one.

Ivey: I can’t argue with that at all. I really thought we would see unCat (my favorite nickname) in the season’s final scene, and the disappointment did change my appreciation of the episode, fair or unfair. That being said, the reason I was hoping to see it would be to simply to see one last major swerve that show-watchers wouldn’t see coming. It’s the last major, out-of-left-field twist that involves existing characters. As far as a long-term plot arc, though, I never really cared much for the character. I don’t really think that she will play a big role in the endgame of Martin’s series, and as such, she is easily cut from the show. With so much material left and someone — be it HBO or the producers — trying to set an end date for the series, a great deal of story will find itself on the cutting room floor (See also: Most if not all of the new Iron Islanders).

But I have to admit that this is probably the first time that changes to the story have bothered me more than not. From unCat’s lack of appearance and the subtle (but important to character development) changes to the exchanges between Tyrion and his brother and father in this episode, to the glimpse into the world of the White Walkers earlier this season, the show is really beginning to see some creep between the show and the series. We’ve always been supportive of these changes, but I’m curious just how different things will be at the end of the two stories.

Bob: My guess? Things will be very, very similar at the end of the two stories. The producers keep making a point of saying that they are very cognizant of the destinations and fiddle with how their characters get there. I think the only thing that could really de-rail the story to a large degree is if Martin changes something in his end game without telling the showrunners.

Things are going to get really dicey as we move forward and the show runs out of material from the novels. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens then. Does the show take some time off (aging child actors be damned), do they just take their own path, or do they end the show prematurely for lack of source material? Hopefully we won’t have to find out and Martin will finish his series before it becomes an issue.

Photo Credit: HBO

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