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‘Game of Thrones’ Heavy Metal Review – ‘The Children’

HBO

Game of Thrones‘ surprised noobs and hardcore fans with some excellent action this week, but how metal was the season finale — and the season itself? Read on for this year’s final Heavy Metal Review, plus end-of-season stats and a playlist inspired by ‘The Children.’

Falling on Father’s Day, the Maesters at HBO couldn’t have timed the ‘Game of Thrones’ season finale any better if they were three-eyed ravens. Massive spoilers follow — duh …

Even if you’re not a TV critic, you can’t help but notice a certain pattern in HBO prestige dramas: The next-to-last episode is a high-drama explosion with a higher body count. Then the last episode is like the final five minutes of a major motion picture — all falling action, like so many pieces of ash floating back to the ground. Maybe the season-ender has a few scenes that set up next season. But no real action. Even this longtime HBO viewer, who has read all the ‘Game of Thrones’ books, expected a quiet episode with no real action, and definitely a low body count.

Our body count line was set at 4.5, with yours truly taking the under, expecting two dead major player characters and two dead non-player characters. Lucky for us, we couldn’t find a reputable bookie to take that bet. The final ‘Game of Thrones’ season four episode bucked HBO’s normal strategy. Instead, it delivered the most well-rounded episode of a year that began with a bang, lulled more than a little, but ended stronger than a Clegane.

The Children’ Stats and Count of Assorted Metal Signifiers and Situations (all numbers within a 15 percent margin of error)

Onscreen Body Count: 17
Onscreen Body Count If You Count Freshly Re-Killed Undead: 28
Boobs: 0 (two weeks in a row — unprecedented?)
Bloodthirsty Black Dragon: 1 (offscreen)
Dragons in Chains: 2
Burnt Human Remains: 1
Impalement: 2
Melees: 3
Massive Funeral Pyre: 1
Personal Funeral Pyre: 2
Decapitation: 1 (skeleton, which isn’t as colorful and gory, but counts)
Catacombs: 2
Dismemberment: 1
Totally Taboo Boning: 1

In the battle-scarred North … a lone crow trudges into a corpse-dotted white wilderness, on a mission of peace — or murder. Raised in a castle, Jon Snow is a bastard son of royal blood, and here he shows the decent values that could make him a true leader: He places no single life above any other. He may not be a lord, but he knows how to carry himself like one. Snow is the only guy in this series you’d want to work for.

Then parlay, and a sudden attack. A deposed king rides back into the picture, leading the best cavalry money can buy. Even in faux-medieval times, your credit rating counts.

In King’s Landing … Putrefying flesh, a painful poison and possible necromancy. The Mountain marinates, his victory once undeniable, but now in question. Band Name Alert: Manticore Venom.

In Meereen … A freed slave seeks new chains to protect himself from a cold world. Khaleesi of the Many Titles holds power and struggles to control it, as bodies pile up, blood wells in puddles and beloved fellows are placed in chains.

Back in the North … A blind maester mourns the dead, and fresh corpses are burnt en masse, lest they rise again and kill the living. A witch in red looks at Jon Snow with bad intent, making magical plans for his bastard blood — or possibly recognizing him from a vision. Melisandre knows things about Jon Snow that even he doesn’t, nor do casual readers of the books.

Inside, a chained, wounded warrior amusingly muses on the sure signs of true love: “All she ever talked about was killing you. That’s how I knew [she loved you].” Snow puts his true love to rest, the late, great Ygritte who was pale in life and now is paler in death. A weary leader weeps, at last — for Jon Snow has so much to weep about, and he is only human.

Farther North … Questing for a three-eyed raven, Brann Stark and his tween swamp ranger pals continue crawling slowly into the Northern North. And suddenly this boring band earn their story line’s screen time, thrust into the show’s best Dungeons and Dragons melee to date: Long-buried undead rise, still wielding axe, hammer and dagger. Fireballs fly, damage dice are rolled, and the party reach safety, but not without paying a price.

In case it doesn’t go without saying, a sudden assault by a dozen or so skeletons is metal as s—. As is the superficially innocuous image of the Golden Tree of Life or Whatever. A golden bough is a key image that was held over from the classical pre-Christian world and carried into Western medieval legends. And the historically rooted swords-and-sorcerers thing is at the very heart of metal. So, yeah, a golden wizard tree with roots growing through some mysterious old dude may look suspect, but its pretty metal.

Future Album Art Alert: Underground Gandalf will look great on the cover of one of the best metal albums of 2015.

Back at the Eyrie … Right when you thought the fighting was truly done for the season, two lady warriors meet well but suddenly find their parties at odds, some 10 miles out of the Eyrie. If the show lasts 12 seasons and somehow reunites characters who will (very probably) never see each other again, Arya, Brienne and the Hound could never have enough scenes together. But that’s not gonna happen, ’cuz if you’re reading this, you already witnessed the show sneak the single best fight of the season into its closing minutes. And you know how it ends. (But are you sure?)

Two lifetimes of mounting fury, painful training, and hard-won knowledge of dirty fighting collide head-on. A couple of the kingdom’s more formidable fighters cross swords, slug it out and go to the ground. And guess who wins, despite trying to show some mercy — which always leads to sudden death in Westeros? The girl. Brienne bites the Hound’s damned ear off. This was HBO’s best brawl since ‘Deadwood.’ Alex Graves directed this episode, returning after the thunderous ‘The Mountain and the Viper.’ And if he wants to direct all of season five, that’s fine with us.

Band Name Alert II: Butcher’s Wine

But Sandor  “The Hound” Clegane will not go quietly into the fading sunlight. For the first –and not last — time in this episode, a character fails to talk himself out of his fate. And young Arya Stark — a killer in training — lets her deformed champion suffer still, a life of pain passing in front of his eyes, without a single happy moment in the mix. Slow death, Slayer taught us, is metal. And Arya is Braavos bound, on her way to a future of certain murder and hopeful revenge.

And if the Cleganes and Bronn are truly gone from the show, then Lady Brienne of Tarth gets our vote for Most Metal Character in the Game. Granted, pretty much everybody else is dead at this point. But still, she fought her way to the top, and she deserves it.

And Back at King’s Landing … The season draws to an end. After decades of verbal sparring, two star-crossed brothers finally squash it and bro down like never before. And Tyrion the Imp is on his way to freedom … almost.

Like a classic action hero, Tyrion cannot simply walk away. And this final segment is ‘Game of Thrones’ in a nutshell: Good characters you like do bad things you don’t like, and they meet an end most unfair.

It took decades, but Tywin Lannister finally talks too much s— and gets shot. Tyrion puts two in pop’s chest. And confirms the kill. Tyrion never wanted to be a hero or a bad guy or a killer. But he refused to die, so what choice did he have?

Band Name Alert III: Dwarf With a Crossbow

Tywin Lannister will speak no more. The dead cannot hear us. And now our watch is ended. See you next season.

‘The Children’ Overall Rating: Totally metal.

‘Game of Thrones’ End-of-Season IV Stats:

Onscreen Body Count: 163
All-Night Thrashfest: 1
Amicable Betrayals: 1
Betrayals: 3 (traditional, really key ones)
Beheadings: 5
Blackened, Burnt, Goat Skull With Long, Curved Horns: 1
Bloodthirsty Black Dragon: 1 (offscreen)
Bloodthirsty Dogs Eating Warm Human Flesh: 2
Boobs: 21
Butts: 3 (or possibly more; some of the naked stuff wasn’t fun to watch or informative. Is sexposition dead? Discuss in the comments section.)
Other Choice Bits: 1
Broken Chains: Hundreds, mostly offscreen
Burnt Human Remains: 1
Catacombs: 2
Crucified Corpses (Onscreen): Approximately 12
Crucified Corpses (Offscreen): We can safely assume 151
Crushed Skulls: 1
Dad Busting His Kid’s Chops Until He Can’t Take It Anymore, Which Is Probably the Ultimate Inspiration for Approximately 36.6 percent of All Metal: 1
Deaths by Arrow, Flaming or Otherwise: Like 15, possibly 30, maybe 50
Dismembered Crucified Corpse: 1
Dragons in Chains: 2
Dude Drinking Wine From the Bashed-in Skull of His Enemy: 1
Dude Getting Pimpslapped With His Own Gilded-Steel Hand: 1
Dungeon: 1
Epic Acts of Macho Bulls—: 7 (possibly more)
Eunuchs: 2
Fireballs (Mystical): 4
Fire-Roasted Goat (by a Dragon, No Less): 1
Funeral Pyre: 3
Giants: 3
Giant Mammoths: 1
Gouged-Out Eyes: 3
Grand Acts of Vengeance: between 4 and 166 (subject to debate on points including how you rate the crucifixions)

Immobilizing Impalents: 7
Hodor: 1
Hodor: 8
Hodor: 6
Shortened Fingers: 4
Pissing Contest (Literal): 1
Poseurs: 6
Prick Kings Named Joffrey Who Are Dead: 1
Rabbit on Fire: 1
Rain of Arrows: 6
Ravens, Trippy Three-Eyed Variety: 1
Ravens, Flock: 1
Ravens, Crows, and Assorted Black Birds: With all these battlefields, a lot
Regal C— Block: 2 (if you count Joffrey’s wedding-day murder)
Regicide: 1
Snot Rocket: 1
Slow-Roasted Dismembered Limb: 1
Spinal Tap-Style Historical Reenactments Featuring Dwarves: 1
Taboo Action on Consecrated Ground: 1
Torture: 1 (Maybe we missed a couple.)
Totally Taboo Boning: 1
Verbal Beatdowns: 2
Violations of Basic Human Taboos: 3
Vulgar Displays of Power: 15
Witchery: 2 (There’s not a lot of magic in this fantasy world, but when it happens, boom!)
Season IV Overall Rating: Very Metal, and More Metal With Every Passing Week. ‘Game of Thrones’ remains the most metal show on TV. But next season’s ‘Walking Dead’ does look monstrous—so until then…

Songs of the Week: Check out these 13 killer tunes to help you ease into that 10-month wait for more ‘Game of Thrones.’ We present ‘The Children: The Mixtape’:

Lich King, ‘A Storm of Swords’

Kreator, ‘Ripping Corpse’

One Man Army and the Undead Quartet, ‘Killing Machine’

Nick Kreuger covers Andrew Gold’s ‘Spooky Scary Skeletons’

Sadus, ‘Undead’

Tool, ‘Third Eye’

Satyricon, ‘Mother North’

Nekro Morphosis, ‘Undead Funeral Pyre’

Cyclopean, ‘The Hound’

Hatebreed, ‘Escape’

Occult, ‘The Nazarene Whore’

Heathen, ‘Set Me Free’

Body Count, ‘Talk S—, Get Shot’

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