Recurring Cast: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Iain Glen, Kit Harrington, Pedro Pascal, Aidan Gillian, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Gwendoline Christie, Rory McCann, Liam Cunningham, Stephen Dillane, Carice Van Houten, Conleith Hill, Natalie Dormer, Jack Gleeson, Rose Leslie and Charles Dance
Season Four begins with the Lannisters enjoying what seems like a victory. The Starks are wiped out, the North now in the hands of Roose Bolton, who is more than happy to let Joffrey sit on the throne. Stannis’s army is a shadow of its former self and the rightful heir is left, trying to summon the funds to launch another assault on King’s Landing. However, it isn’t as clear cut a win as they think. The Tyrells are making it very clear that without their finances, the Lannisters wouldn’t be on the throne. A Dornish Prince rides to King’s Landing seeking justice for the rape and murder of his sister, Elia. On top of that, someone among them is moments away from concluding their devious plan on throwing a serious spanner into the works. And, of course, there is still the matter of the Night’s Watch, hilariously outnumbered, trying to hold back the wildings from crossing the wall and plundering village after village. Or maybe the Wildings are running from something themselves; an even worse evil.
I am not sure where to even begin. This season wastes no time getting started. Episode One lines up all of the pawns and kicks off this season’s story arcs, but as soon as Episode Two rolls around, the game is changed completely, making this a hard review to write without heading into spoiler territory (which I won’t). However, maybe this brings up the main point that makes Season Four the best ten episodes of this show so far. Every episode introduces a major twist or development. Every episode is worth sitting down to watch, while the other seasons had a few episodes which were there to build up to the main event later on in the season. However, this time around I am stuck for what to write about. Episode Nine gives us the biggest battle yet, the producers nearly breaking the bank to bring us the bloody fight scenes we have been craving for, since this show started. Episode Eight hilariously breaks our heart all over again in a stunning trial by combat. But that is taking away from some of the smaller, yet just as glorious moments. Peter Dinklage delivering a terrific monologue as he unleashes his anger on the people of King’s Landing. Emilia Clarke having her heart broken, as the stress of her reign begins to crush her. The skin-crawling tension of whenever Ramsey Bolton feels like torturing Theon Greyjoy. There is so much to love and endless examples of why Game of Thrones is must-watch television.
Character screen time is handled excellently as well. There is a massive amount of plot lines to follow and sometimes it is hard remembering where everyone is. Of course, there are always certain characters who you won’t enjoy spending time with, but that is a side-effect of having this many story arcs in the pot. Daenarys’ story is put on strict hold, while she waits for the other kingdoms to resolve their issues in time for her own invasion on King’s Landing. Bran is the most useless character in the show, and spending time with him is like a trip to the dentist. However, the producers neatly side-step near misses. After all, these lapses in the story are George R. R. Martin’s fault (admittedly, sometimes it is a necessary evil). Daenarys and Bran are kept to a bare minimum, so we don’t have to suffer them too long. Arya and Brienne’s storyline is little more than walking, but here the show injects some comic relief, so what could have been the dull scenes of the show turn into a refreshing break from the doom and gloom of political back-stabbing. The characters we do like excel however. Sometimes, it is nice to break away from the plot development and just have Oberyn and Varys share a quiet scene, where the actors get to strut their stuff. The Night’s Watch handle the action side of things with two amazingly choreography battles. Littlefinger returns with a vengeance, cementing himself as one of the better characters of the show.
However, the show knows that even though there is a massive amount of characters to pick a favourite from, we all want to see what those dastardly Lannisters are up to. It becomes the norm that the first half of an episode progresses the other characters, but then we are treated to a full second half with just the Lannisters. There is nothing wrong with this, because they are easily the most fun. Lena Headey’s understated, yet great performance of Cersei Lannister is horrifically great, as her malice really does know no bounds. Jack Gleeson is allowed to go full Joffrey, especially when taunting Tyrion at his wedding. While the story moves too quickly to really squeeze enough from the idea, there is something fun about the Lannisters and Tyrells butting heads. Yes, the moment the action turns to King’s Landing, we know we are in for the highlight of the episode, shocking developments happening several times in a single episode.
The biggest problem with having major events happen so thick and fast is that shows tend to do a Breaking Bad and have the finale seems a little routine, rather than a great close. Game of Thrones has always had a weak final episode, overshadowed by the Battle of Blackwater Bay, the Red Wedding and their main character being beheaded in Episode Nine. Here, this is not a problem. Game of Thrones raises the bar higher and gives us a terrific ending. If a main character death is ruined for you, there are several more that weren’t. Arcs are tied up and once again, everything we thought we knew about Game of Thrones changes. In fact, some of the arcs are tied up in such a way, it seems that Season Five will be a different kind of season than before. Hopefully, the change is done neatly and we don’t miss the characters before their dramatic transformations. If not, Season Four might just win the title of Best Game of Thrones Season of the lot.
Final Verdict: There is never a dull episode and Game of Thrones is never afraid to stray into risky territory. Refreshing, bloody and brilliant.
Seeing as Game of Thrones is over now, this shall bring an end to the artwork collated by my little brother. But, because you have all been complimentary over these masterpieces, he has agreed to give you one more. Who? Well, here’s a clue. Zoe thinks he is a malevolent fucking cunt!