The hour battle was to my mind, quite unsatisfying. It was attempting the epic splendor of Blackwater, but that episode in itself resolved many plots as Joffrey, Sansa, Cersei, Tyrion, Pod, Stannis, Davos, and more all were tested in battle, with an uncertain outcome. In this episode, did anyone really think the Wildlings would destroy the Wall and everyone on it? Even the Watch seem rather confident. Also, there were very few main characters – no one liked Janos Slynt, so having him revealed as a coward does little. Ygritte and Gilly each get plot resolution, and Jon and Sam are tested in battle, as are many unimportant minor characters. But really, that’s it. There’s an hour of violence, and at the end, Jon says nothing was accomplished and another similar battle will happen the next night. So really, what was the point?
If the season is retelling all of book three there’s a LOT left for the final episode (no spoilers ahead): Jon Snow must deal with Mance and the Watch must defend the Wall again (as set up at episode’s end).
Other plots that need wrapping up include Arya and the Hound, Bran and his quest north (the episode is called The Children [of the Wood] after all), Tyrion and his family who must sentence him to death now.
Other characters like Margaery/Tommen, Bronn, Missandei/Grey Worm or Cersei/Jaime could conceivably have quick character scenes. Fans of the books will expect to see Stannis and company resolve his plot and Castle Black choose another commander (though perhaps this last will wait for season four). Lady Stoneheart is meant to arrive. And with all this going on, Daenerys surely needs to do something (though she sure hasn’t since taking Meereen). Quaithe was advertised as appearing in season four, so it’s likely she’ll come to Daenerys and point her in a direction for the next season.
Brienne and Pod are actually only supposed to start on their quest in book four, but thus far nothing at all has happened – a lackluster season arc for them. Theon and the Boltons feel like they had a decent season arc…they’re already in book five’s plot, but they actually disappear for books three and four, so this is understandable. Many fans were expecting a lot more from Asha/Yara Greyjoy and her dad –she ended the last season powerfully vowing to bring her brother home and a single scene with a single failed attempt is all she’s given us. (Of course, she has a book four arc, which may not start off till next season.) In fact Sansa Robin and Littlefinger, Lady Olenna, Ser Jorah’s banishment, and Oberyn’s quest for revenge feel like the only plots that have done their full arc and are finished for the season. They (and Oberyn’s family back in Dorne) are all perfectly placed for the next book.
HBO’s schedule says the finale is 66 minutes and maybe all this material is why. “It’s the best finale we’ve ever done, bar none,” Thronesshowrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss said in a statement. “The performances from our cast, the direction from Alex Graves, the VFX work, the new [music] cues from Ramin Djawadi—all of it came together in perhaps the finest hour we’ve produced. We’re immensely proud of ‘The Children.’ And a little intimidated by the episode, because now we have to get back to the business of season five and figure out a way to top it.”
Lots of us expect a wham in King’s Landing, but for veteran book fans who weren’t at all shocked by the Mountain and Viper’s book-accurate battle, it might be nice to offer a brief surprise. Meereen has stopped dead, Arya and the Hound is heavily set up and won’t surprise people much, and Bran and his friends aren’t being that interesting, but maybe there’s a twist coming. We can hope.
Free Giveaway now-Jun 30: The nonfiction fan guides to the bestselling series Women in Game of Thrones & Symbols in Game of Thrones https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/95141-women-in-game-of-thrones-power-conformity-and-resistance and
Also out now: How Game of Thrones Will End. This series of silly answers is on sale at http://www.amazon.com/How-Game-Thrones-Will-End-ebook/dp/B00KNKD3SI by award-winning parody author Valerie Estelle Frankel. Perfect for book or show fans. It offers many different possible endings to the show, based in War of the Roses, Lord of the Rings, and Martin’s many other influences.