Game of Thrones Season 4 Review “First of His Name”

I start with a bit of bad news. Unlike some in the kingdom, I long for days of peace in Westeros. Instead of chasing depravity and violence, I would like to take time to enjoy the actual good parts (if there are any) of Westerosi society. Last week, Game of Thrones teased us with something that proves good does still exist in Westeros. Sadly, the bastion of furry goodness has been cast off from the show like a common stray. That’s right, friends: Ser Pounce will not make another appearance this season. The First Cat of Westeros that rooster-blocked its way right into our hearts will be off fighting the uprising of House Mouse (led by this guy). Godspeed, Ser Pounce. May you return to us safely.

That Ser Pounce was able to carve out a piece of the zeitgeist this week shows how little has truly happened over the past few weeks on Game of Thrones. By now, we should all realize the ebbs and flows of any given season. At some point in the middle of the season, the show shuffles the chess board for its next big move. The dialogue remains crackling, important setup conversations are being had, and the show is still able to throw you some brutality. Ultimately, there’s not a whole lot of forward movement. Fortunately for us all, if we’re going to tread water, there’s no better place to stay afloat.

With things at the capital quiet until the trial of one Tyrion Lannister, the episode had an opportunity to spill out into the other parts of its story. Dany makes a brief appearance in a meeting of her small council. Though I have a tough time understanding why she would leave sunny Essos for the perpetual bleakness of Westeros, her decision to use Slaver’s Bay as a trial run for her style of Queenship is really interesting. Her possession of dragons notwithstanding, I was concerned for her well being whenever she faced off with the hyper-pragmatic Tywin Lannister. (It’s important to remember she’s still a young woman.) The move to remain in Essos to get her Queen legs underneath shows the maturity of someone who knows how to play the long game. She may make a worthy adversary yet.

Arya and the Hound continue to make for an interesting pairing. This week’s scenes had them at their most antagonistic we’ve seen in awhile. Apparently, the buddy comedy featuring a large man and a tiny girl roaming the countryside eating chickens and rabbit stew is still working out the kinks. It’s hard to say if the Hound’s particular attempt at educating young Arya is taking root. The Hound seems to have an understanding of how the world works and how to operate in it, but Arya remains too consumed by vengeance to understand. Their interplay remains interesting, but at some point they have to make it to the Eyrie.

That said, if the Hound knew what awaited him at the Eyrie, he’d turn around. It had been awhile since we visited the insane Lysa Arryn, and her insanity did not disappoint. Poor Sansa just can’t get a break. (Maybe Tommen could give her Ser Pounce to play with.). The big reveal of the episode comes in the form of some expository conversation between Littlefinger and Lysa. As it turns out, Littlefinger is the invisible hand driving this story of ours. Turns out that dude can arrange a murder. First Jon Arryn, now Joffrey Baratheon. The endgame of Lord Baelish is unclear at the moment, but he’s playing a long game too.

The episode punctuated itself with yet another extended setpiece; this time at Craster’s Keep. There’s plenty of brutal swordplay and an impressive feat of strength from a warg-induced Hodor, but it’s a simple win for the good guys. After a few weeks of feeling nothing but bad, it was nice for the show to give us a few things to make us feel good (like Podrick’s horseriding). It’s not much, but in a Ser Pounce-less Westeros, I’ll take what I can get.