We look at the script for “The Children”—What changed from page to screen?

Did you know that you can read the scripts for select episodes of Game of Thrones on the Emmys website? You can. We’ve previously examined the scripts for season 6’s “Battle of the Bastards” and season 5’s “Mother’s Mercy” to see how they changed in the transition from page to screen. This week, we take a look at the script for the season 4 finale, “The Children,” written by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss.

We start with Jon Snow’s lonely walk across the battleground north of the Wall to meet Mance Rayder. In the script, Jon views more bodies than on screen. Also, the giant that was impaled by the Night’s Watch ballista is appropriately named Dongo the Doomed. Interestingly enough, the forest fire started by Mance Rayder in the previous episode is still burning in the script.

After being escorted through the wildling camp, Jon enters Mance’s tent, which in the script is guarded by a ring of wildling chieftains. The script describes them as each being more distinct than the last, calling their uniqueness “stunning.” On screen, the chieftains are more uniform.

Once in the tent, Jon and Mance toast Ygritte, and we get some of Benioff and Weiss’ NSFW humor.

They drink. Jon cannot hide the fact that fermented milk tastes like day-old cock cheese. Mance laughs at his wincing and coughing.

Kit Harington certainly acted the scene accordingly, although I wish I’d never read it. Jon and Mance’s conversation is largely the same, although Mance does add that he’ll stop the “raids” and “killing” if Jon lets the wildlings through the Wall.

Then comes Stannis. The script notes that Stannis’ forces are initially concealed by fog, that we hear them rather than see them, but on screen we see them as clear as day.

The battle is also a little different — in the script, Stannis leads a charge against Mance on screen, and many of the chieftains defending Mance are killed by Stannis’ honor guard before Mance signals for surrender. On the page, Jon is held at knife point by a chieftain, before being released as Stannis approaches. The lone wildling who charges Stannis only to be knocked on his ass by a calvary man is not in the script.

The rest of the scene remains the same, and we’re off to King’s Landing. Qyburn’s work on a dying Ser Gregor Clegane is identical to how it is on the page. Then there’s a confrontation between Cersei and Tywin, where she tells him about her incestuous relationship with Jaime. The moment Cersei threatens Tywin with revealing the truth is described as ” the most tense moment of her very tense life with her father.”

Next we’re off to Meereen, where Missandei is in Daenerys’ throne room and addressing an old man — the one who wants to be sold back into slavery — in Valyrian. You might think the script just says “Missandei speaks Valyrian,” but you would be wrong, but the actual Valyrian dialogue is on page. The biggest difference in this scene is that Grey Worm and Barristan help the old man up the stairs. The remaining scenes in Meereen — Dany being presented with the bones of a child, discussing what to do about it, and locking up her dragons — are the same.

Back to the Wall we go, for a mass funeral. Baratheon troops are noted to be in Castle Black, but not the courtyard itself. Yet on screen, the troops stand in the courtyard alongside the members of the Night’s Watch. Interestingly enough, Janos Slynt refuses to help bear the torch used to burn the dead Night’s Watchmen in the script — on screen, it’s barely noticeable. The script also notes Queen Selyse’s “grim fascination” with the ritual, and Shireen’s feet dangling over a railing as she watches.

Jon’s conversation with Tormund regarding Ygritte has a few differences. Most notably, there are more men chained in the room with Tormund. No Thenns, though, because as the script notes, “Thenns don’t get captured alive.”

One small difference: in the script, when Tormund asks Jon if he loved Ygritte, he nods. On screen he stays silent. Aw. And when Jon burns Ygritte’s body, the script notes that he stands over the pyre with his eyes closed as opposed to walking away as he does on screen.

Farther north, we join up with Bran Stark and company en route to the cave of the Three-Eyed Raven. On the page, there are two weirwood trees rather than the one we see onscreen, but otherwise this scene is largely the same. The snow is described as being deep enough to give even Summer trouble, but in the episode we see him trotting effortlessly along. Fake snow must be expensive. The script also notes that the wight’s sword is likely thousands of years old, much older than anything we are used to.

In the script, Hodor uses his bare hands to dispatch the wights, but on screen he has a random hammer picked up from who knows where. The wights are more numerous in the script, and 11 more were originally supposed to emerge from the snow after the first wave. When the Child of the Forrest arrives to save Bran and company from the undead, the script describes her as wielding “magical napalm.” With respect, we prefer the term “nature grenade.”

The child remarks that there are “always more” wights, and implores Bran and crew to flee to safety, though the script notes that everyone except Bran is irrelevant. After making it inside the cave, the child uses a nature grenade to light up the interior, and then it’s time to meet the man, or tree, or raven, himself. The script describes weirwood roots growing through the Three-Eyed Raven’s body, but on screen we only see him sitting among them. Oh, well. See ya in season 6, Bran.

To the Vale — It’s time for the showdown between the Hound and Brienne. The script has a couple of interesting additions here: first, it notes that the Hound’s horse, Stranger, is present, alongside Arya’s pony. They’re absent in the episode itself. Stranger is important to book readers, because his presence is one of the clues left by George R.R. Martin that the Hound is still alive in later books.

The script also notes that Arya’s swordplay is less theatrical than we have previously seen, implying she is taking after the Hound. On screen however, Arya appears to have just as many spin moves as always.

Then there’s this fun description after Arya asks the name of Brienne’s sword: “Brienne smiles. She likes this weirdo.” Later, the sentiment is reversed.

The script describes Brienne as “not very good at soothing troubled young girls,” which exacerbates Arya’s hostility. And then it’s off to the races, as the Hound and Brienne square off. Interestingly, it’s Brienne who draws first on screen, but the Hound in the script.

Their throwdown is slightly different from what’s onscreen — the script describes the Hound as almost earning a quick kill several times in the opening moments, and Podrick is described as “fairly sure he’s going to be unemployed soon.” However, even though the script describes the Hound as stronger than Brienne, he tires quickly because of the infected wound he sustained when Rorge bit him. Towards the end, Script Brienne simply kicks the Hound over the cliff, as opposed to the rage-induced rock beating we see on screen, and then pauses to look down upon her defeated opponent.

The Hound’s “demise” remains largely the same, although the script does remind us that the purse Arya grabs off the Hound is the same one he stole from Mortimer the Farmer early in the season. Then she heads off to that horse we don’t see on screen until the final scene.

Back to King’s Landing we go for a little Lannister family drama. After Jaime frees him from prison, Tyrion makes his way in to Tywin’s chambers, “past the Small Council table, where Tywin shamed him many times. Past the desk, where Tywin shamed him many times.”

Tyrion discovers Shae, and their fight ensues. It’s choreographed pretty specifically, and is probably a touch more vicious on paper. “She claws at him with her free hand, ferocious, all the love she once had for him now turned to hatred for the man who betrayed her.”

He strangles her. In the script, he pulls a sheet over her body, “shrouding her,” but that didn’t make it into the episode. Tyrion’s conversation with Tywin remains the same, although there is some neat insight into Tywin’s final thoughts after getting shot while on the toilet. “The pain is shocking, but even more so the realization for Tywin that this is where he will die, sitting on the privy, murdered by his own child.”

Tyrion escapes with Varys — the script lets us know that the box Tyrion hides in is the same one we saw Varys take the captured sorcerer out of in season 3. That’s multi-tasking. Script Tyrion listens to the hammer and nails crack while being secured inside.

In the script, we do not get the ringing of the bells that seems to force Varys aboard the ship. Instead, the script says that Varys “knows it’s time to leave,” even though he’d “grown rather fond of the dirty old town.”

Finally, Arya is back on board that missing pony. Arya secures passage on a ship, and it all ends with this final description:

In a single masterful crane shot that secures the camera operator’s legendary status, we follow Arya as she walks to the bow, gracefully sidestepping the busy sailors.

Oh, and the gilded lady on the ship’s prow is naked in the script. Because it’s Game of Thrones.

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