Game of Thrones Season 4 Review Part 1

Game Of Thrones Season 4 Episode 10 The Children 1

“All men must die.”

Hello TV Equals readers! I didn’t write weekly recaps about Game of Thrones, but begged the wonderful Sandrine to let me do a season ender review. It’s literally taken me over a week to digest everything and somehow put it into words. I could easily do 5,000 on just Arya and the Hound. The Queen and Prince Philip visited the set Tuesday though so today felt like the day to finally finish my thoughts.

My first foray into the series A Song of Ice and Fire was… wait for it, Season 1 of Game of Thrones! The trailers shown during Boardwalk Empire grabbed my interest, I started the show, and got hooked. Afterwards, I blew through the first three books of the series (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords) and then a few months later tackled A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. The series (both book and tv) became my new Harry Potter. I haven’t done a reread of ASOIAF yet, but that will happen soon enough. Reading the books has made me more critical of the television show in some ways (dammit Coldhands and Strong Belwas, where are you!), but my admiration and awe of it has not changed. David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and HBO have created a stunning adaptation that helps support why television (and especially cable) is ahead of the game at the moment.

We’re now at the point in George R R Martin’s story where the original book ended. Yes, book. Because that book turned into three books. And three books turned into seven. Some stories have sped ahead and one is lagging, but for posterity’s sake, let’s say we’ve reached the point in the show where A Storm of Swords ends. Many readers have complained the story suffers in A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons (I’m personally not one of them- it’s more editing and structural issues than plot), so D&D have their hands full in how the show will proceed from this point on. With all that said, let me dig into my thoughts about Season 4!

This is Part 1 of the review. I decided to split it by the characters in Kings Landing and Dany vs those in other parts of Westeros.

*Spoiler note- There are no spoilers from material in the books that hasn’t been referenced on the show yet, but I do make note of differences between the two in what has transpired onscreen.

Daenerys: The final shot of Dany chaining Rhaegal and Viserion got to me. Great work in that scene by Emilia Clarke in truly realizing her liberators can now mean death to anyone. Again, there are those who complain about the Dany material in A Dance with Dragons, but I quite liked it. GRRM does what so few authors do in showing the minutia of ruling. It’s hard, monotonous, and on some occasions, even dull. We all want Dany to get to Westeros, but we also want her to succeed in her quest. If she can’t control Slavers Bay there is no way she can a whole continent. One thing I hope for next season: more time with Ser Barristan. The admirable knight has gotten only a short amount of time on the show, but with Jorah out of the picture Dany will need a new mentor. Barristan was an acquaintance of her father and brother, and his stories of both in the books are very enlightening and provide a great insight into the past. We haven’t heard Dany mention Rhaegar much since Season 1, and I’d like him to become a topic of discussion again, especially because he was connected to so many characters (Ned, Robert, Lyanna, etc). Finally, don’t worry Jorah, I still love you! Iain Glen could read the phone book and continue to be amazing. His Jorah Mormont is not quite the brute that book Jorah is, and I find it all for the better. I do wish his banishment had been handled a bit differently (the exposition of it felt clumsy), but Glen always turns out phenomenal work. Let’s just say Jorah’s story is not over, and I can’t wait for him in Season 5.

Tyrion: Peter Dinklage was in chains the majority of this season, but it didn’t make his work any less impactful. You could say the opposite actually. Tyrion couldn’t use gold to buy his way out of his situation since it was his own family he was up against. He had to rely purely on his intellect and wits. In the end, it swayed Oberyn Martell, and even though that trial by combat went to hell in a handbag, Tyrion still revealed he was able to do what he does best: use his mind. He’ll especially need it next season being off on his own in Essos (because I’m not sure Varys will be with him the whole time) having no family name to fall back on (you know Cersei will put a bounty on his head). To add to that, he’ll also have the weight of killing his father and Shae. If I had one quibble with Tyrion’s arc this season, it was Shae’s resolution. I wish she would have gotten a chance to try and explain herself to Tyrion (as she does in the book). It still wouldn’t have made any difference in Tyrion’s mind, but it would have rounded out Shae a bit more. She basically died being a woman scorned– which makes sense, however it didn’t fit with the character Benioff, Weiss, and Sibel Kekilli created. I believe tv Shae truly loved Tyrion (vs book Shae who definitely didn’t) and would have liked to get some reasoning behind what she did. In that way she would have been her own character too versus one that served to only impact Tyrion.

Jaime and Cersei: I enjoyed Jaime and Cersei by themselves this season but not together. Let’s just say THAT ONE SCENE did not make any sense to me. I believe everyone involved who said it was supposed to be consensual, but it didn’t play as that which constitutes a big problem. Intentions are important, but the final product is more so. Instead of what came across onscreen, one of two things should have happened: it was shot as consensual and came off as such, or it was intended as a rape all along. I would have been disappointed had it been the latter due to what it does to Jaime’s character, but at least the intent would have been clear. Instead we got a confusing scene with an unclear intent that still damages Jaime’s emotional redemption (because many viewed the event as rape) and takes away some of Cersei’s agency. In the book, even though it’s from Jaime’s point of view, Cersei’s dialogue indicates that she wants it as much as him. Think of the last moment between the two of them in “The Children.” The way Cersei behaved then is how it should have come across in the sept. She’s giving Jaime what he wants knowing that she’ll keep him in the palm of her hand. She can gage that something has changed since his return to King’s Landing, that he’s a different man. For her to hold her own against Tywin, Tyrion, etc, she needs her brother on her side. It’s all about manipulation. The exchange in “The Children” was a start back in the right direction, but I’m going to need more to forget what happened back in Episode 3. Next season should give Lena Headey brilliant material to work with though, and Cersei’s arc from A Feast for Crows is the number one thing I’m looking forward to. From what I’ve read, Jaime’s material will diverge from the book storyline quite a bit, but having Nikolaj Coster-Waldau at the helm will keep it exciting. His work last season is some of the best the show has had.

Tywin: Dammit, I’m going to miss Charles Dance. I consider myself an obsessive tv/film fan, and yet I couldn’t name a project he’d been in before GoT. After his performance as Tywin I doubt he’ll have a break now. Every line, moment, scene, look from him resonated, from his opening moment skinning the deer to his conversations with Arya in Harrenhal to his small council scenes. Dance is already a commanding figure in look and voice but then you add in Tywin’s arrogance, intellect, and anger to make a character that will not be forgotten.

Joffrey: Ding dong the brat is gone! If the show had a true villain on a human-level it was Joffrey. In fact, he did more terrible things on the show than in the novels. Not all of them worked though. His murder of Ros revealed yet again another female character that was solely used to advance a male character. And his killing of Robert’s bastards in Season 2 took away one of the nastier elements of Cersei. Thankfully Gleeson sold these moments. Because Joffrey was aged up in the show, it made sense that he would commit such horrible acts. But in the end he was still a frightened boy. Joffrey grew up with everything he could ever want yet without anyone really loving him. Robert sure as heck never did. Jaime was indifferent. Tywin saw him as a faulty family legacy. One could argue that Cersei loved him, and maybe she did at first, but I think that eventually faded away. As much as she chided Tywin in the season finale about not truly caring about his family, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Had Cersei truly cared for Joffrey’s well-being versus his status and what it brought her by being his mother, I think he could have been a different person. All this gave Jack Gleeson mounds of material to work with though, and no one would have done it better. If you decide to quit acting sir, at least you went out with a bang.

Margaery and the Tyrells: Natalie Dormer had more to do at the beginning of the season giving Margaery additional shades of Anne Boleyn. She plays her calculations perfectly, and it will be fun to see her next year without the net that his her grandma. Sadly that will probably mean no more Diana Rigg, but Margaery’s AFFC storyline intersects with Cersei’s quite a bit so we’ll get more of Natalie sparring with Lena Headey/Cersei over Tommen. Dormer had a great rapport with Jack Gleeson and her one scene with Dean-Charles Chapman as Tommen proved she’ll be able to continue it on with the younger king. Sweet Tommen will be easier to manipulate but also cause Cersei to be even more protective. And since Papa Tywin snuffed it, Loras definitely won’t have to marry Cersei now. With that engagement out of the way, I’m curious if Loras’ character will go the route that his book counterpart does.

Oberyn: Besides Sean Bean, Pedro Pascal gave the most memorable performance for a character with only one season. He had a hell of a lot less to work with than Bean too. Oberyn was a character that I knew if done right would excel onscreen. And Pascal ended up making an already charismatic, vengeful man even more interesting. It’s no surprise he’ll be heading his own Netflix series Narcos now. Every scene of his was better than the prior. For most it probably culminated in the horrific fight between him and the Mountain, but it happened earlier for me in his exchange with Tyrion in the prison. His monologue about meeting the dwarf as a baby was shot on Pascal’s first day on set. HIS FIRST DAY. Everything about Oberyn is detailed in that monologue, and Pascal nailed it. It was a master class to watch him and Dinklage and also highlighted what Game of Thrones does best: people just talking.

Next: Part 2!