Game of Thrones Season 4 Review [SPOILERS]

WARNING: I cannot stress this enough, if you are not fully caught up with Game of Thrones’ fourth season, grab Old Nan and follow Samwell Tarly, because this post is dark and full of spoilers, your only hope is staying with Sam the Slayer.

SPOILER ALERT!!

WARNING II: Seriously, if you are not caught up and do not want to be spoiled, locate the magic ‘x’ button. Did I mention the word SPOILERS?

Instead of jumping to that long-awaited finale straight away, let’s first do a quick recap of the notable events that took place during this season. It kicked off with a mesmerizing scene of Tywin melting the Stark’s Valyrian sword, Ice, and having two new swords forged using the steel. A final nod to the Stark’s downfall, a scene with no dialogue but extra powerful even though it’s with a sad note. Jaime gets one of the two swords, as well as a new golden hand to replace his missing one. Meanwhile final preparations are done for the royal wedding of Joffrey Baratheon (Lannister) and Margaery Tyrell, and Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) with his paramour, Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) arrive as representatives from the Martell house. Oberyn, also known as the Red Viper, joins the ranks of fan favorites from the beginning, by spending his free time in the brothels of King’s Landing with both women and men, showing Lannisters that he does not fear them, and that he still wants revenge for the vicious murder and rape of Ellia Martell (whose children were killed by the Mountain, who raped and murdered her as well, presumably done under Tywin’s orders).

The wedding starts with a gifting ceremony for the couple, they get a fancy trophy-cup from Mace Tyrell, and a valuable book on the life of Kings of Westeros from Tyrion which unfortunately gets chopped to bits right after with the new Valyrian sword he gets from Tywin. Despite all the efforts and the gold spent on the wedding, no one really has a good time, especially when Joffrey’s entertainment steps on the stage — a play with dwarfs who reenact the war of the five kings, showing everything from Renly’s bedtime manners to Rob’s head being replaced with Grey Wind’s. As if that wasn’t enough, he proceeds to embarrass and belittle Tyrion in front of everyone. A final show of Joffrey’s cruelty, before he starts choking, turns purple and falls down. What comes to be known as the Purple Wedding, gives all watchers the satisfaction of finally removing Joffrey from the game, forever.

Unfortunately, Cersei blames Tyrion for the murder. In case you weren’t paying attention, the Queen of Thorns, Lady Olenna Tyrell, is the one that poisons his wine. Littlefinger has a necklace made which he orders Ser Dontos to give to Sansa, who wears it during the wedding, and Lady Olenna plucks one of the precious stones from it, which is in fact a crystallized poison. Ser Dontos obviously believes he is saving Sansa so he takes her to Littlefinger’s ship, at which point he gets shot with an arrow as a reward and Littlefinger sails away with Sansa to the Vale of Arryn (Lysa Arryn being Sansa’s aunt). Jaime sends Brienne and Podrick to find Sansa, and after an encounter with Hotpie in a tavern they head toward the Vale too.

With Joffrey gone, his younger brother, Tommen, is crowned as the new king — thankfully he’s not crazy like Joffrey. A committee of judges is formed for Tyrion’s trial for the murder of Joffrey, including Tywin, Mace Tyrell, and Oberyn Martell. Cersei wants Tyrion dead so for a moment there we see her being surprisingly kind to her father, the Red Viper, and Margaery Tyrell. All of it being a play, just to get them on her side. Peter Dinklage performs what is one of the best deliveries on-screen that I have seen during the trial, where he basically tells the whole audience how he has saved all their lives but they all see him as a monster so he demands trial by combat. A brave move, but for a moment it doesn’t seem very smart — Jaime told him if he just plays along and asks for mercy his life would be spared and he’ll be sent to the wall. Tyrion throws all that away, but faces a hard time finding a champion when Cersei chooses the Mountain as hers. Luckily for him, the Red Viper is there and the Mountain is one of the reasons why he’s in King’s Landing.

Despite the Moutain’s size, Oberyn shows us how agility and good moves can defeat any rock or mountain. Sadly, he gets carried away with his craving for vengeance, allowing the Mountain to pull him down, give him a hard punch, and then smash his head in with his bare hands. It was a truly gory scene, regardless of how good it was, if you’re not okay with a human’s head being blown up like a watermelon you may want to look away. But worry not, Tyrion is not yet dead, even though he is sentenced to die.

Across the Narrow Sea we have Daenerys with her long list of titles infiltrating Mereen, and deciding to stay there and rule to prove to everyone, including herself, that once she takes Westeros she will be a great Queen. She obviously didn’t foresee that the cities she liberated would immediately go back to slavery once she leaves. To spice things up in her story, she decides to bed (but not wed) Daario Naharis, learns Ser Jorah used to spy on her for the Iron Throne a while back so he’s exiled from Mereen, while Missandei and Grey Worm seem to be starting their own romance.

Yara Greyjoy tries to save Theon from the Dreadfort, but the torture Ramsey put him through has left him scarred, both physically and spiritually, he’s Reek now and won’t go back with her. What’s more twisted is Ramsey sends Reek to “pretend” that he is Theon and have the last Greyjoy men at Moat Cailin surrender to the Boltons. He delivers on his promise, and for the success Ramsey is rewarded with a legitimization by the King, he’s no longer a Snow but a proper Bolton. As Wardens of the North, the Boltons basically have the whole North as their own. There’s just one issue, Bran and Rickon Stark are still alive.

They send a man called Locke to infiltrate the Night’s Watch, get close to Jon and find the boys. He finds Bran during an attack on the surviving turn-cloak brothers of the Night’s Watch at Craster’s Keep, where Jon and Bran literally cross roads. Just as Locke was about to run away with Bran, Bran wargs into Hodor and saves the day by breaking Locke’s neck. Jojen persuades Bran that they need to keep going North and they cannot let Jon stop their journey — so that potential reunion goes in the water.

Another potential reunion that goes in the water is Arya’s with Sansa. The Hound takes Arya to the Vale to ransom her for gold, but at the entrance they’re told Lysa Arryn is dead, and we previously see how Littlefinger pushes her down to fly through the Moon Door after Lysa has a jealous tantrum over Littlefinger kissing Sansa. Confused yet? No worries, we’ve got just the last two episodes to cover. And the ninth episode was basically a full battle at the wall, with the Wildlings attacking Castle Black both from South and North. Here we do get a reunion with Jon and Ygritte, but she gets an arrow through the heart. Sad, but keep in mind that you’re cheering for the Night’s Watch in this battle. And thankfully they win, despite the giants and the attack from two sides. The bad news is, this was basically Mance testing their defenses, the real army has yet to take a move and Jon decides he will visit Mance, pretending he is there to discuss peace terms, and make an attempt on his life.

Up to this point, the season was all around fantastic and brilliant, most of the book-to-tv changes were okay too. But, the internet shows mixed feelings regarding the final episode, despite all the wrap-up it showed. We had a magnificent shot of Stannis’ army striking the Wildings during Mance and Jon’s conversation. Though there was very little of actual Wilding killings displayed, but the arrival scene definitely warranted an applause. This was followed by a touching dialogue between Tormund and Jon, a well as a creepy glare between Jon and Melisandre across a burning funeral pyre for the fallen brothers of the Night’s Watch.

Further North, Bran and the company finally reached the tree from Bran’s visions where the three-eyed raven resides. But, before entering the cave underneath the tree, skeletons started popping up from the ground and one of them took Jojen’s life. Those were supposed to be wights though, why they appeared like the skeletons from Sinbad or the Pirates of the Caribbean is beyond me, they looked truly corny. There to save the day was a single Child of the Forest, who looked like Arya with more clothes, did not look anything like the Children of the Forest from the books, nor had similar skills, as she started throwing fireballs (firebombs?) at the skeletons and even threw one at Jojen, likely to ensure he doesn’t come back as one. I know the book and the show are different mediums, and I appreciate both in their own ways, but this whole scene felt bad to me, like it is out of loop, as if they took it from another fantasy show and put it in Game of Thrones.

But at least Bran, Hodor and Meera made it to the cave beneath the tree, where any skeleton that entered literally shattered around — “the power that moves them has no power here”, the Child explained. A few turns left and right and she brought them to Bloodraven, who looked like Pycelle entangled with roots from the tree above. Again, not complaining that it wasn’t like in the books, but I feel this wasn’t as creepy and mysterious as it could have been. He tells them he has been watching them with a thousand eyes and one (he can see through any weirwood tree), and while Bran will never walk again, he will fly (think warging into birds, or maybe even dragons?).

Speaking of dragons, they aren’t well-behaved these days. Drogon burned a kid, and is nowhere to be found, so Dany decides for the safety of her people it’s best to chain the other two in a dark catacomb. On a lighter note, Brienne meets Arya! Her and the Hound have a badass fight, one of the best fighting scenes Game of Thrones has delivered, but sadly Arya manages to escape from Brienne and Pod. She finds the Hound, who tumbled down a hill at the end of the fight he lost, takes his gold and leaves him to die, refusing to kill him even though he begs her to. She finds a ship nearby that’s sailing to Braavos and uses the coin the faceless man, Jaqen H’ghar, gave to her to ensure a cabin on the ship.

There’s even more good news — Jaime frees Tyrion with the help of Varys, but before getting on his escape ship, he pays a visit to his father’s chambers. There he finds Shae in his bed, seemingly after a rough bed scene, and they quickly get into a fight, until he pulls her by the Hand of the King chain around her neck and stranglers her with it. If Tyrion ever had a breaking point, this was definitely it. He grabbed a crossbow and located his father in the privy, and after a short chat put an arrow in his bowels. And then put another one in his heart, before going back to Varys who gets him on a ship. After hearing the warning bells at the Red Keep, Varys gets on the ship as well.

The season started out rather light, with many hopeful and satisfying events, but it took dark turns after Joffrey’s death. Lysa’s death was somewhat hopeful, because she was downright insane, but there was the Viper’s death, Ygritte’s death, the loss of hope for Tyrion, the Stark children who kept parting ways, etc. The finale made up for all of it by giving hope everywhere around Westeros, though not so much Across the Narrow Sea, and not so much for Tywin, Shae, and the Hound. Heck, even the Mountain got his “hopeful” end, with Qyburn saying he can save him from the deadly poison, though noting the Mountain might not be the same after he completes his “saving him” procedure.

The view ratings themselves show that Game of Thrones had another amazingly strong season. I was worried that after the events from season 3 they would not be able to produce anything that good, but they keep going stronger and stronger, which should not be surprising if we look at the cast. I think this season was the best acting-wise, everyone delivered their best performances to date. My only complaint is about the final episode, which was hyped up as their “best episode to date” and is the only episode from this season sent for an Emmy consideration, but I did not find it that good. It was decent, had both good and bad scenes, but I do not believe it was their best episode this season, let alone for the whole series.

Granted, I am a book reader so maybe know what was coming and having established a vision of those events in my head, but seeing completely different scenes, could be the reason why I felt this finale was a letdown. But I did not miss events from the book, I simply found several scenes to be bad, one way or another, with too much room for improvement. Hopefully after I re-watch it a few times I’ll feel better about it. It was a fantastic season and I’m never okay with a single episode ruining the pleasure that was building up through all the other episodes. And here’s me wishing Pedro Pascal gets showered with awards for his guest role because I felt like he carried most of this season on his shoulders. An absolutely brilliant actor in a fantastic role.

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