Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) receives a citizen who wants to be sold back into slavery because he feels his life as a high-ranking slave was better than as a freedman. Daenerys reluctantly grants his request, allowing him to form a contract with his former master that can last no longer than a year. The next citizen in line brings her the charred remains of his daughter, who was killed by Drogon, one of her dragons. While Drogon has not returned, she tearfully chains her two other dragons, Rhaegal and Viserion, away in the catacombs as a precaution.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) meets with the King-beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds), ostensibly to discuss an end to their conflict, although Jon actually plans to assassinate him. Though Mance eventually sees through Jon's ruse and nearly kills him, their negotiations are cut short when they hear a horn blast, and a massive cavalry charge led by King Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) overruns the wildling encampment. Mance surrenders to Stannis, and though Stannis thinks to kill him, Jon suggests taking him captive instead, as Mance once showed him similar mercy. After holding a funeral for the deceased brothers, Jon burns Ygritte's (Rose Leslie) remains north of the Wall, following Tormund Giantsbane's (Kristofer Hivju) request.
Further north, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and his companions reach their destination: the large Heart Tree seen in Jojen Reed's (Thomas Brodie Sangster) vision. Upon approaching the tree, they are set upon by a group of undead. Though Jojen is killed in the attack, Bran, Hodor (Kristian Nairn), and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) are saved by a Child of the Forest (Octavia Selena Alexandru). The child takes the group into the cave under the Heart Tree to meet an old man sitting amongst tree roots (Struan Rodger), who tells Bran that while he will never be able to walk again, he will be able to fly.
Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) lies dying from Prince Oberyn Martell's poisoned spear. Qyburn (Anton Lesser) believes that he can save Clegane, while Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) disagrees. Despite Pycelle's protests, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) ousts him from his laboratory and gives Clegane's care over to Qyburn who cautions Cersei that, while he may be able to save Clegane, the procedure may "change" him. He assures her, however, that his procedure will not weaken Gregor.
Afterwards, Cersei tells her father, Tywin (Charles Dance), that if forced to marry Loras Tyrell, she will admit her incestuous relationship with Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and that her children are the issue of such. She leaves an outraged Tywin to meet Jaime in the Kingsguard's quarters, where she professes her love for him, and the two rekindle their relationship.
In the dungeons, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) awaits his execution, but Jaime appears and helps him escape. They say their farewells in an underground tunnel, but Tyrion instead uses a small hidden passage to sneak into the Tower of the Hand. He finds Shae (Sibel Kekilli) in his father Tywin's bed. Shae, who had falsely testified against Tyrion at his trial, initially thinks this is Tywin and addresses him as 'my lion', as she had previously done for Tyrion. She then attacks him with a knife, but Tyrion manages to strangle her to death.
Tyrion then readies a crossbow and confronts Tywin on the privy and confesses that he had loved Shae. Tywin does not believe that Tyrion would actually shoot him. He tries to negotiate, but twice dismisses Shae as a whore, despite Tyrion's warning the first time. After the second time, Tyrion kills him with Joffrey's crossbow.
Tyrion then escapes on a ship bound for Essos with help from Varys (Conleth Hill). After hearing the bells in the castle raising the alarm, Varys decides to board the ship as well.
Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and her squire, Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman), lose their horses as they make their way toward the Eyrie. They happen across Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and the Hound, Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann). After Podrick recognises the Hound, Brienne deduces Arya's identity and tells her of her oath to her mother, Catelyn Stark. The Hound is unconvinced of her loyalties, pointing out her Lannister sword, and the matter quickly comes to blows. After a brutal brawl, Brienne knocks the Hound off a cliff, and unsuccessfully searches for Arya. After they leave, Arya emerges from hiding and finds the Hound grievously injured. Though he begs her for death, she instead takes his money and leaves him, presumed to die. Traveling by horse to a harbor, she buys passage on a ship bound for Braavos with the coin Jaqen H'ghar gave her.
The episode was written by series co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, This episode contains content from two of George Martin's novels, A Storm of Swords, chapters Jon X, part of Jon XI, Jaime IX, Tyrion XI, and Arya XIII, and A Dance with Dragons, chapters Daenerys I, Daenerys II, and Bran II.
"The Children" was directed by Alex Graves. The Thingvellir National Park in Iceland was used as the location for the fight between Brienne and The Hound.
"The Children" was watched by 7.09 million Americans during its premiere hour, a 32% increase from the previous season finale. In the United Kingdom, the episode was viewed by 1.850 million viewers, making it the highest-rated broadcast that week. It also received 0.085 million timeshift viewers.
The episode received universal acclaim. All 35 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes were positive, with an average score of 9.5 out of 10. The site's consensus reading, "Capping off the best season of Game of Thrones to date, "The Children" provides enough satisfying plot developments for a finale, while its twists and turns leave you wanting more."
IGN writer Matt Fowler called it a "strong seasonal send-off with tons of violent twists, and turns." Sean T. Collins of Rolling Stone wrote, "Sometimes Game of Thrones is a widescreen epic fantasy, other times it's a small-scale study of violent lives. At its best – and "The Children" is certainly this show at its wide and wild best – Game of Thrones is all of these things, simultaneously." TVLine named Rory McCann and Gwendoline Christie the "Performers of the Week" for their physical acting in their fight sequence, and wrote that it "was one of the finest examples of the form in recent TV history – absolutely too epic to ignore."
After the episode premiered, some fans of the novel series voiced their displeasure over the omission of Lady Stoneheart, a character from the end of A Storm of Swords. This was in part fueled by a photo posted to Instagram two months earlier by actress Lena Headey that many fans assumed was a confirmation of the character's inclusion in the finale. A day later, director Alex Graves stated that the character was never planned to appear in the fourth season, and that he did not know whether she would appear in the fifth.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, actress Michelle Fairley stated that the character may not ever be included in the TV series, though she did not give a definite confirmation either way.
The episode set a BitTorrent record with about 1.5 million downloads within 12 hours and set a record for 250,000 users sharing the file at the same time.
The episode won two Creative Arts Emmy Awards, for Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special and Outstanding Special and Visual Effects. David Benioff and D. B. Weiss were nominated for the 2014 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for this episode. For this episode, Alex Graves was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series.