Hello, friends and bannermen. The Season 4 Game of Thrones finale played out like A Million Ways to Die in Westeros. How did it match up with the books? How did it differ?
This weekly chat series is for fans of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books, upon which HBO's fantasy drama is based. It's meant to be a safe haven to discuss spoilers and changes from the novels and how they have played out or will play out in the TV series. Hanh Nguyen and Sadie Gennis are longtime fantasy fans of varying levels of geekiness who will sound off on all things Westerosi (and beyond!).
[Warning: If you're a Game of Thrones fan who has stumbled upon this chat and haven't read the books yet, begone! Instead, check out our postmortem for "The Children" for a spoiler-free discussion.]
Hanh: First off, an apology and heartfelt thanks to all of our friends and bannermen who dropped by to participate in our canceled live chat on Monday. Maester Qyburn is still working with us on integrating the new technology, so there were a few bugs. We will get it up and running eventually, but in the meantime, we didn't want to deprive the readers of a proper forum to discuss the finale. Before jumping into the whole Lannister soap opera, let's discuss the biggest disappointment of the episode: NO LADY STONEHEART?! What the Seven hells?!
Sadie: It's all Lena Headey's fault. She is the Patton Oswalt of Instagram trolling (and I kind of love her for it). But [showrunners] David [Benoiff] and D.B. [Weiss] are definitely on my List now.
Hanh: Ha! Who else is on that list?
Sadie: George R.R. Martin, obviously, for killing off everyone I love. I cannot think of a single reason not to put her in the finale. And director Alex Graves' "she's too good an actress to just bring back for a zombie cameo" does not count.
Hanh: Ugh, if in fact they wanted to build her arc, I still think it was a missed opportunity. I think what pisses off book readers like me the most is that we were all stunned when we got introduced to Lady Stoneheart as the most massive cliff-hanger since it was at the end of a book. We wanted to share that feeling with the non-readers.
Sadie: And now they've lost all dramatic momentum! Whenever Lady Stoneheart does show up (and she better show up), the wind has really been knocked out of book readers' sails.
Hanh: Yes, even if they introduce her midseason next year, I'm not sure if the impact will be the same as at the end of a season. It could have fueled conversation for months after the finale, not to mention increased book sales.
Sadie: And for me, it would have been the perfect thematic conclusion to the episode. "The Children" was so focused on the younger generation defying their elders and breaking out on their own. Tywin was the last real survivor of the older generation (or so we thought) so the finale had this feeling of a new world, new hope, new generation, type thing. But then to have Catelyn reappear in this twisted form would have really just capped it off and reminded us that the past is not forgotten. As they say, The North Remembers.
Hanh: Yes! I thought that too about the episode. Obviously the title refers to the Children of the Forest, but also Bran & Co. and Arya had big turning points.
Sadie: Not to mention the Lannister kids!
Hanh: In fact, all the mystical stuff with Bran already set the scene for the unexplained mystery of Lady Stoneheart. Although magic has taken a backseat in the series, it came on full force with those skeleton wights, which WOW. How scary were they? Like Hodor, I was barely keeping it together.
Sadie: Seriously? They were way too Jason and the Argonauts for me. This was one of the times in the show that I just felt the CGI was a little too cheesy for me.
Hanh: A-ha! That's exactly what they were supposed to be like. I believe Alex Graves said it was their tribute to the late Ray Harryhausen. There was something about their herky-jerky movements that freaked me out. The one that stabbed Jojen repeatedly made me wince! I loved it.
Sadie: Bran's story line in general is just a struggle for me. It feels so disjointed from the rest of show. As Ben Wyatt once said, Game of Thrones tells human stories in a fantasy world, but Bran's story is fantasy through-and-through and it just doesn't mesh as well with the rest.
Hanh: The wights worked for me in the Game of Thrones world because of the action, but I agree that once the Child of the Forest and the Three-Eyed-Raven of Carcosa made an appearance, I was kind of flummoxed.
Sadie: I'm also a bit disappointed in the Three-Eyed Raven! I wanted to see this crazy, bizarre man with a tree growing through him! Not nearly messed up enough for my tastes. Also, what was the point in killing Jojen? It didn't have much emotional impact because there was so much else happening in the episode.
Hanh: I think Jojen's death also had the misfortune that Ygritte's death had in that they just didn't give him enough screen time this year to care. I'm guessing Dan and Dave know Jojen's fate after Book 5 and maybe it was just easier to kill him off now. Sacrifice and all that for Bran to reach his goal. Blerg. But anyway, let's switch to his sister. Arya and Brienne's initial conversation and bonding was so good before the Hound rained on their tomboy parade. *shakes fists at Hound*
Sadie: There has been so much dramatic irony with Arya recently, it's killing me! She keeps getting so close to safety and friendly faces (Sansa, Brienne, etc.), only to have it taken cruelly away. Though, I did like how much autonomy Arya had over her fate in this scenario (even though it was influenced by The Hound's wrong assessment of Brienne).
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Hanh: Agreed. But man, can we talk about that Brienne-Hound fight?
Sadie: So much fun! I loved it, loved it, loved it. Though, it was a little unnerving to see Brienne get so raw, rageful and brutal (but I bet it was cathartic for her). And I loved the little book readers Easter Egg of her biting off his ear!
Hanh: Ha! Yes! I've always felt that despite the gore on the show, we've never seen just a straight up brawl like this before. Everything had always felt a bit more choreographed, whereas this felt sort of real. Kudos to both of them. Yes, seeing her go all Mike Tyson on him made my day. I also realized that Rory McCann must be tall? He matched up with Gwendoline Christie nicely. I always thought that just because Maisie Williams is short he looked tall in comparison. Oh yeah. IMDb has him listed as 6-foot-6. Duh, Hanh.
Sadie: If he's 6'6" I don't even want to know how tall the Mountain is.
Hanh: 6-foot-9... and a half!
Sadie: As much as I loved their buddy-cop routine, it was so exciting to see Arya finally get away from The Hound and set sail for Braavos. But it also has me a bit nervous for next season, since we've seen how Daenerys' story line was stagnated once she got stuck in one place.
Hanh: \\]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]m[ gfvb]- (Sorry! That was my cat.) Well, as we saw from this Brienne-Hound-Arya-Pod scene, the showrunners aren't above taking a few liberties with meet-ups that don't happen in the books. So Arya could very well encounter everyone who is across the Narrow Sea. Maybe not actual interactions, but close encounters. She should annoy the people at the Iron Bank of Braavos! Maybe run into Tyrion and Varys?
Sadie: I'm really curious to see how long Varys stays with Tyrion. Do you think he'll stay with him all the way through joining Griff and his gang?
Hanh: Hmm, no. I mean, Varys always has stuff to do, Maesters to kill. Maybe he'll stay with him up to that point. And let's not forget that Samwell will finally get his journey next year so that will be more people on that side of the sea. Sam, the thread connecting all the Starks!
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Sadie: Very true! But if I may go back to Tyrion for a minute, while I loved Varys going with him, I actually was almost Lady Stoneheart-levels of pissed with how that plot played out.
Hanh: Ooh, please share your ire.
Sadie: I know Tysha has not really played a prominent role in the series, but cutting Jaime's confession out completely changes Tyrion's state of mind and the motivations behind killing his father. As anyone who's read the books know, Tysha and her whereabouts have a huge influence on him and haunt him long after Tywin's death. "Wherever whores go" is the kind of line that sticks with you, and it was so important to my interpretation of Tyrion. Cutting all that stuff out completely changes how I read that scene and I just don't find Tyrion's murderous rage as believable.
Hanh: Completely agree. Although they mentioned Tysha in passing earlier in the series, I feel that the producers were trying to direct Tyrion's rage at Shae's dual betrayal — for the trial and sleeping with Tywin. And yet, that didn't ring true to me at all. (And Shae grabbing the knife to kill him? Why? Don't get me started!) These are one of the instances where I wonder if I would've bought it if I hadn't read the books.
Sadie: I would have "bought it" I think, but I doubt it'd have the same emotional impact. It's after episodes like this that I kind of hate being a book reader, because as fun as this finale was I'm overwhelmed by frustration at the deviations with Tyrion and the lack of Lady Stoneheart.
Hanh: Right, but there was another deviation I thought was very intriguing: Cersei confronting Tywin with her incest. I mean, this was just a whole episode of his kids sticking it to him (so to speak). And now she wants to finally acknowledge the incest publicly? Wasn't that Jaime's line? Interesting. Not sure why they're giving the twins reconciliation before she goes off the rails, but Lena Headey was good at it.
Sadie: Lena's always good, but that was yet another huge deviation of character and I don't know where it's going. Also, in the wake of the earlier rape, I'm especially frustrated by her "choosing" him. I want to love this finale, I really do. But I'm just so annoyed by these changes that I almost want to take a week or two breather and go back and watch it again.
Hanh: Ha! I liked it enough if that makes any sense. I think Brienne, the Hound and Arya made it for me. Ooh, speaking of Cersei though. I loved, loved how she was trying to not smell the stink of the putrefying Mountain. And we got to see pre-Robert Strong! Exciting, but again, THESE ARE NOT THE UNDEAD WE'RE LOOKING FOR! Yes, I'm still bitter over Lady Stoneheart. (Oh, and the "I choose you" scene reminded me of this.)
Sadie: Whatever Qyburn was doing to him looked disgusting — which I loved — but I feel they underplayed how much suffering and how dire The Mountain's situation was. I wanted to see him putrefying! I wonder if we'll see Dorne demand his head next season or if that aspect of his transformation will be skipped over.
Hanh: If it's mentioned, I feel it will be glossed over very quickly. We still haven't even touched on Dany and the dragons. First of all, I really like when Missandei was listing her names and "The Unburnt" was one of them. I want that to be me after I go to the beach. Hanh the Unburnt. But Daenerys really needs a small council. Her unilateral decisions are not well enough thought out! The one-year contract was a good idea, but did she not think to set terms?
Sadie: I find it odd how fast the show is moving with other character's story lines, yet they are really taking their sweet time getting to all the actual political drama Dany faces.
Hanh: It's positively glacial how fast Dany's political plots move. Geologic time! And not enough dragon stuff. I mean, I get that CGI is expensive, so I'm glad to have seen Viserion and Rhegal (yeah I had to look their names up. I can usually only remember Drogon) scored a scene at all. It kind of broke my heart though.
Sadie: Seeing Dany leave her dragons in the catacoombs was so much more emotional than when she said goodbye to Jorah. But it was also very symbolic of her own life right now. Dragons are awesome. Daenerys is awesome. Yet they're both trapped in a place they don't belong. At least the dragons fight back, though.
Hanh: They can't fly! I feel they're going to get all creepy and twisted like the Dollanganger kids in Flowers in the Attic. One last plot we really haven't touched on is up north with Jon. The only thing I really enjoyed were the toasts he and Mance gave to Ygritte, Grenn and Mags. Alas, poor Pyp gets no love.
Sadie: That whole thing fell flat to me. I'm a super-emotional person, but I couldn't connect with it. And once again, having Jon go off on his own to kill Mance changed his motivations and I didn't find it emotionally real.
Hanh: I've been having a problem connecting to Jon in general this season.
Sadie: And having Stannis arrive at the top of the episode wasn't nearly as dramatic as if his arrival capped off Episode 9 (which could have used some purpose besides blood spectacle). I also noticed his wife and daughter came with him to Castle Black, which should shake things up a bit more from the books as well. But I guess we'll just have to wait and see!
Hanh: Right, just really quickly before we wrap things up. It's clear the things we disliked were things that deviated from the books. How about the three changes we liked this season?
Sadie: Ooh! Well, one thing I really loved was seeing a relationship between Margaery and Tommen develop. Cersei's story line, especially moving forward, hinges so much on her fears of Margaery "getting her claws" into Tommen. It was nice to that this fear became a little more founded by Margaery and Tommen's growing bond.
Hanh: Good one! Plus, that scene gave us a grown-up Ser Pounce. =^.^= In a similar way, I liked that we had more time with Oberyn. Although it started off with him just being a sex fiend, he had many more moments and great speeches later that made it such a tragic loss when he died in the duel. Also, having met him makes me really eager for Dorne next season. Great job, Pedro Pascal!
Sadie: I loved Pedro so much as Oberyn, I will totally give Netflix's Narcos a chance just to see him again. Another change I loved was how they tweaked Sansa's story to give her even more power. She really got to show off her cunning when she had Littlefinger's life in her hands. Plus, her dress at the end gave me life!
Hanh: Yeah, the show definitely gives the characters more power. I think that's why I liked the Arya and Hound extra scenes. For me, it built up how much she learned about that killer instinct from him and therefore why it's such justice when she treats him with cruelty at the end. "You, alright? I learned it by watching you!" Finally, I loved Pod. I know they've changed his character from the outset, but this season his interaction with Brienne just made me love him more ... which is why I'm afraid for his fate having read the books.
Sadie: He's alive in the books! We just don't know where or with whom. So hopefully he's doing well. Maybe off eating treats with Hot Pie at the inn.
Hanh: Oh that's right. GRRM said he's still alive. Argh! The Winds of Winter can't come soon enough.
Sadie: Agreed! I'm very antsy, especially since we'll now be Thrones-less until the next year.
Hanh: Half of me wanted this season to be longer, but half of me got exhausted. So much happened! Let's get our readers' input now.
Were you bothered by the omission of Lady Stoneheart? Did Tyrion's rage feel earned to you? What did you think of the wight battle? Was the Brienne-Hound fight the best or what?
Want to watch the finale again? Catch it here.