There are serious spoilers in this one, you guys. Not just for the show but also for the books. But since they are mostly theories, does it still count as a spoiler? If not, then read on! And if it does, still read on!
I realize that by saying this was the most important finale, I anger a lot of book readers who watch the show. Fortunately, they are angered by everything the series does anyway so it’s not really that big of a deal. That isn’t to say I appreciated the basic assassination of Jamie’s redeeming arc by having him rape Cersei or the lack of Coldhands/Lady Stoneheart. But there does need to be some material left for future seasons.
There has been a major shift in the show’s run from the first season, which is to be expected as the series is not only made for the book fans but those who are looking for a grown up medieval fantasy show where all the beloved characters die. The show-runners stated from the very beginning that each season would get further from the books; only the core story arcs and that which would be important in later books would remain. Basically, the ending will be the same but the journey will be manipulated to keep viewers on their toes and to trim the fat by getting rid of characters and plots that make no major impact later on.
And this, dear readers, is why “The Children” was the important finale of the show yet. The fourth season held at least seven main character deaths (unless you don’t count Shae, which I do). SEVEN. In ten episodes. That is not counting minor, recurring characters such as Grenn and Pip (RIP), Locke (don’t RIP), and Ser Dontos. Some of these were made to simply wrap up hanging storylines but others were a true surprise. This is why “The Children” could be a major spoiler for things to come in the books.
Since D.B. Weiss and David Benioff already know the ending from G.R.R. Martin and have an outline of what it is to come, it is a curious thing that they decided to not put some of the theories of certain characters to rest while killing off characters that are still alive. Let’s take two perfect examples of this:
1) Jojen Reed. In the books, Jojen had been at Winterfell when Theon took over; but Bran got some of Jojen’s prophecies in the show. When they were introduced in the third season, Jojen’s greensight was vastly underused and dulled his character from the badass greenseer in the books. Also in the books? Still alive. His untimely demise on the show came as a complete surprise to book readers. Unlike a character like Grenn (also still alive in the books), Jojen was actually a major part of Bran’s story and had been with the group since the second book, providing important information about Bran’s abilities.
So why kill him off? Bran’s arc from the books is pretty much what we saw in the show. Jojen was no longer needed as they had reached their destination. But where does that leave him in the later books? Had he been an absolute necessity later on, the show-runners would most likely have kept him alive. However, throughout the season we saw Jojen’s health steadily decline the closer they got to their destination. In a way, no one should have been surprised at his death because he was on the Reaper’s radar the entire time.
Which brings us to Meera, Jojen’s sister. They could have easily killed her off in the same scene as her brother but instead she made it safe and sound with Bran and Hodor. This means her role has yet to be finished and one guess is that she will provide vital information about what really happened regarding Lyanna Stark and the whole Robert’s Rebellion thing, as Howland Reed is the only one still living that knows details about her. Perhaps Meera will be the one to bring the pieces together and/or possibly hint at one of the many Jon Snow parentage theories.
That’s thing about Game of Thrones: everything is connected. Despite its size, Westeros makes for a small world. Speaking of small worlds…
2) Sandor Clegane. It was a massive change from the books to have Sandor “The Hound” Clegane and Brienne of Tarth clash as well as bring Arya and Sansa within a hair’s breadth of each other. It was a vicious, brutal fight that kept viewers on the edge of their seat. I mean, who knows what the show-runners were going to change regarding either of them? Turns out, not too much.
In the books, Sandor and Arya separate in much the same manner – him begging for her to kill him and goading her about Sansa. He even had a leg wound that rendered him useless, kind of like after he fell off that cliff and broke his leg – not his neck or back, but something that could be healed. Right off the bat, a book reader could pick up on those subtle clues that perhaps the writers were leaving for us. His fate is never truly known in the books (so far) and if Martin really wanted to kill him off, we all know he wouldn’t be shy about it – neither would the show for that matter. Keep in mind that Weiss and Benioff stated that only the essentials would remain. Since Sandor is not shown being killed, it is highly probable that he is the Gravedigger that fans have long speculated about. True, the director of the episode did say that that scene was more about Arya, but what does he know? Nothing. Like Jon Snow.
In all seriousness, while that scene does illustrate how far gone Arya is it also gives book readers a gentle nod toward the Gravedigger theory. Since the characters pointed out many times that the Bloody Gate of the Vale was only ten miles away, it lends even more credence that perhaps Sandor’s quip about there being a maester behind one of the rocks wasn’t as random as implied.
Essentially, what I am getting at is that the writers decided to kill Jojen, a character very much alive in the books and kind of an important minor character, while they kept Sandor’s fate deliberately ambiguous with a touch of teasing. Why suddenly get so reluctant about one character’s death when they had no qualms about killing Robb’s wife, who is also alive in the books and wasn’t even present at the Red Wedding? The most likely answer is that Jojen will die in the next book when he goes back home while Sandor will help redeem his past sins by helping his Little Bird and Wolf Bitch take on their enemies – and maybe his brother too.
Besides those two examples, “The Children” is important because it is when things really begin to deviate from the canon. It also begins to delve into the mythology of the show and give hints along the way of what is to come. They won’t kill Arya off unless it pertains to the story; they kept Gendry alive and combined his story with Edric’s for a reason; Varys went with Tyrion because it is important that he did; Jamie didn’t bring up Tysha because his relationship with Tyrion will probably never come to blows in the books so why bring it up?
A lot of book readers hated that part of the finale and for good reason. In the books, Jamie’s confession that Tysha wasn’t a whore and actually loved him made Tyrion hate his family; yet all season long they have been building the brotherly bond. With Jamie rescuing Tyrion and the two parting on relatively good terms, it gives us an insight into Jamie’s character and where it is headed: he chose his brother over his sister despite the twisted love the twins share. That is a monumental first step in breaking off Cersei’s hold on him. On the other hand, it was rather disappointing that they made Shae the love of Tyrion’s life rather than Tysha (his wife that he talked about in the first season). However, from a non-book reader’s perspective, that would have made no sense to bring Tysha up because she was only mentioned once while the audience had gotten to know Shae. Plus, it made Shae’s betrayal that much worse.
Yet all of these things had been hinted at throughout the season. Why should any of us be surprised when things don’t go as we thought? Perhaps it isn’t the writers that make the show bad but the viewers’ expectations.
Book readers, in general, are never going to be happy with the majority of things that are on screen. It is in our nature to nitpick at the tiniest of details and overreact when things get changed around. There was a sharp divide in terms of reactions to this finale, but if they would stop their tantrums, they would see that “The Children” is the beginning of a whole new perspective on what could very well happen in the books. Yes, I realize that the first season is when everything started with dragons and that is when magic came back to Westeros. But this…this is new, uncharted territory for every viewer. For once, we are all on the same blank page, anxiously waiting for the stroke of a pen to tell us what comes next.
So while we had hints throughout the first season that the dragons would be born and got our first taste of White Walkers, this season introduced the Children of the Forest, the Bloodraven (the guy in the cave), and foreshadowed future events in both the published books and future ones. From here on out, it’s a detective game to try and pick up on the subtle clues the writers give us about the fate of Westeros and the characters. True, their main story arcs will stay the same but for the most part, after season five, we will all be in the dark.
And that makes everything so much more exciting.