So the fourth season of Game of Thrones has come to a close, and my gosh, was it an amazing season. As expected of HBO’s award-winning series, there was gore, there was sex, and there were weddings. This season was the harvest of events from the past 3 seasons.
Following in the footsteps of the War of the Five Kings, the Lannisters find themselves reaping all of their rewards from the war, however, not without consequences. There is still resistance in Westeros, and there are people who will not forget the past, and soon the Lannisters find themselves facing new foes. Daenerys continues her march to abolish slavery, but much like every other story-line in Game of Thrones, she is met with conflicts that she can’t cope with. The wildlings continue their march to the wall, and Jon Snow braces to meet them. And at last Bran finishes his journey, and gives us a bigger glimpse at the magic of Game of Thrones.
The actors really hit their stride this season, with the exception of a few slip ups. Peter Dinklage, in particular, impressed as the dwarf Tyrion Lannister. The trial arc was simply astounding, his interactions with other characters came together beautifully. Tyrion, however, was not the only character to grab our attention. Alfie Allen’s portrayal of Theon(Reek) was heart tearing. Seeing this once proud prince fall into a broken slave was just sad, yet perfectly executed. Especially that scene where he learned that Robb Stark had died. Just fabulous. Same can be said of Lena Heady’s portrayal of a heart broken mother, and Charles Dance’s portrayal of the proud Tywin Lannister. Strong performances were found throughout this season. Special attention should be given to Pedro Pascal, who made Oberyn even more likeable than he was in the books. He quickly became a fan favorite, and personally, I found that his death was more crushing than even Ned Stark’s ultimate fate. And let us not forget Kit Harrington, who considerably picked up his act this season and seemed more true to the Jon Snow of the books. Aidan Gillen’s portrayal of Littlefinger also improved considerably, he no longer changes accents from episode to episode.
Unfortunately, not all of the performances were as strong. Leading the pack in bad performances was Sibel Kikelli’s Shae. Her performance was weak, and her childish portrayl even hurt the otherwise excellent trial. Emilia Clarke also did not act her best, her facial expressions when giving speeches, such as “I will answer injustice with justice” and in the scene when she found out Jorah had betrayed her, were a bit funny. Her articulation was silly to the point of being GIF-worthy. Overall, performances were strong this season, with only a couple of exceptions.
The writing was strong overall. The wildling and wall scenes were extremely well written. The events at King’s Landing were also strong, with no slip ups whatsoever. However, the script became a convoluted mess at times. Arya’s storyline is the main offender here. It felt like the writers forgot to add in certain events to the series and instead just shoehorned them in with different characters. I understand that the show and book are two different mediums, but it would be preferable that the show sticks as closely as possible to the books. This, of course, can mean something else entirely, perhaps the show is going to take a different direction from the books. If they are, it isn’t working out too well at the moment. Arya’s storyline was only reminiscent to that of the books in her final destination: Braavos.
Another convoluted storyline was that of Littlefinger and Sansa. It felt like, perhaps, Littlefinger may not be the genius we were led to believe. After Lysa’s death, Littlefinger had no back up plan when facing the Lords Declarant; which made appear rather unprepared. This is not in character for Littlefinger. Even worse, the show skipped whole sections of Sansa’s storyline from the books, again giving more hints that the show is setting itself up to be radically different.
The two best storylines, without a doubt, were in King’s Landing and on the Wall. Both were exceptionally well crafted, sending chills down my spine. The King’s Landing arc, especially, was one of the best storylines that the show has yet offered, thanks largely to the spectacular trial. Daenerys’ storyline and Stannis’ storyline were rather average, though they held some strong moments, such as the imprisonment of the dragons and the Battle of Castle Black. The northern storylines were stronger all around, Theon’s arc being especially great. The fall of Moat Cailin really showed us more of Ramsay’s twisted mind, and seeing Theon, finally broken, was gut-wrenching. The other northern storyline, Bran’s, cut some amazing characters from the books, which was rather disappointing. Bran’s storyline was most definitely on the average side of things, with amazing moments being cut down by missing characters. The weakest of all storylines though was that of the Ironborn. The Ironborn are supposed to be these strong proud people, but the show made them appear weak. The Ironborn are not weak. They are cold blooded raiders and pillagers.
Overall, we had some pretty strong stories that made up for some of the weaker scenes this season. King’s Landing was definitely the highlight of this season’s story.
This season was the strongest yet when it comes to production. The set pieces and the amazing music by Ramin Djawadi really drove the epic feel. The Wall, Meereen, Braavos, the Eyrie, all of these places were simply amazing. Perhaps the best battle in the series so far, the Battle for the Wall, used beautiful camera work and presented such amazing visuals. The fire of the North, the scythe, the giants fighting, all of it, every single part was amazing.
Braavos was also a very impressive set. Seeing the giant Titan of Braavos looming in the horizon was breath taking. They established and solidified that this world had many wonders to be seen. This felt even more like an epic fantasy world. No set suffered at all. The Purple Wedding at King’s Landing felt just like the huge celebration that it was in the books. It felt like it was supposed to feel, a giant celebration binding two of the strongest houses of Westeros together.
Meereen was also very beautiful, with the catacomb scene in particular astounding me. I absolutely loved how “fantasy” it felt, it was like something you would read from an old prophecy. The set of the Eyrie also impressed. The snow castle scene was beautiful, perfect. On the other hand, the CGI during Lysa’s fall was pretty awful. The CGI in Bran’s story, however, was great. Seeing the Children of the Forest and the Three-Eyed Raven come to life was really cool, and surreal. The only misstep being Jojen’s death, which did not feel serious at all. Also, the effects and choreography involved in the fight between the Mountain and Oberyn was amazing, gut wrenching, and tense.
This season was one of the best Game of Thrones has had yet. The performances, the writing, and the scenery were all just so amazing, working together in harmony to create a great season. There were a few hiccups, particularly in the Slavers’ Bay storyline and Arya’s arc, and the entirety of the Ironborn storyline was disappointing and lackluster, but other than that this season was flawless. It brought more shocking deaths, it brought the beautifully acted trial scene, and it brought some of the best set pieces this show has ever had.
Another Take by Tyson Gifford
As a fan of the series who has not read the books, I have a similar but slightly deviated view of Season 4 of Game of Thrones. In short, I loved it. That being said, it had its issues, most notably for me was the poor use of the Ironborn of Pyke, and the easily thwarted rescue attempt on Theon Greyjoy. I also felt that Daenerys’ story was rather dull and without the highs of the last 3 seasons.
This season played with my heart. Tyrion’s trial had me on the edge of my seat, the tension palpable as everyone betrayed him in various degrees. The Prince Oberyn Martell came in, and had an emotional moment recounting his first time meeting Tyrion and the cruel treatment Tyrion was met out by his vindictive sister. Ah Oberyn, speaking of having my heart played with. I became attached within minutes, and my attachment only grew, reaching a peak in that vicious combat with the Mountain, that victorious thrust to the Mountain’s chest, the feeling of jubilation, and then a cold chill. I went to bed early that night in need of some alone time.
My opinion splits from our reviewer’s when it comes to my favorite story of the season, Arya’s story. Arya has been flirting with the top of my list of favorite characters since season 2, a position she has now completely cemented. I adored her story with the Hound and it’s various twists and turns concluding with the most coldblooded stare we have ever seen on this show. That moment, with the Hound begging for a merciful death, saying every cruel thing he could to ensure it, and being greeted by an unimpressed cold stare. It said so much. I could write an entire article on that stare alone and the many feelings, philosophies, and points just bellow the surface level. Then Arya left, in her most coldblooded state, to a beautiful wind swept horse ride, and on to the deck of a ship sailing far away from the land that gave her nothing but grief, all set to a beautiful and somehow innocent choir rendition of the shows theme. I was smiling ear to ear, I was so happy, but it was a complicated sort of a happy, the happiness found when somebody finally sheds their excess baggage and takes their first steps towards their true path.
And then the sadness came. Nine more months. Nine months without Arya, without Tyrion, without Bran, Daenerys, Jon, and Hodor, Hodor, Hodor. We know now that next season will take us to Dorne, and so Dorne will be in my dreams for 9 months.