This is not merely a review. These whole rants reflect my thought of a whole season of the TV series. In this post, I talk about Game of Thrones on its fourth season and it might contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.
The fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones reaches the highest rating of all HBO series, surpassing The Sopranos. No wonder, having worked on this show for 4 years, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss now become the dragon’s stepfathers—supporting the real father, George R. R. Martin, who currently keeps writing the sixth book of A song of Ice and Fire series to keep up with GoT’s pace. Season 4, indeed, saves as many surprises as the preceding seasons did; diverting the second half of the third book ‘A Storm of Swords‘ and nudging a little part of the fourth book ‘A Feast for Crows‘ (mostly, in Brienne of Tarth’s arc) and, surprisingly, the fifth book ‘A Dance with Dragons‘ (in Bran Stark’s and Dany Targaryen’s arc). Devoted audiences, or even new audiences, will get satisfied and are guaranteed to be dazzled by the brilliant, intriguing, riveting, and frustrating blizzard in Westeros and beyond.
In aftermath of the Red Wedding (pictured in the 3rd season), the northern alliance crumbles; House Stark has fallen under the treason act of House Bolton and House Frey. The War of Five Kings has come to an end; leaving the royal alliance fueled by House Lannister and their new ally, House Tyrell, as the sole victors. In celebrating this victory, the Iron Throne plans on the royal wedding of King Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell.
Season 4 begins with reunions in King’s Landing prior to the royal wedding (later, we’ll know it as the Purple Wedding). The Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister has returned to the capital escorted by Brienne of Tarth; royal guest of Dorne, the delegated Prince Oberyn Martell also comes. Everyone is preparing for the greatest feast they ever had since The Sack of King’s Landing by Robert Baratheon. In the North, Jon Snow also returns to The Wall, showing his apocryphal allegiance to the Brotherhood of Night’s Watch; while in the Slaver’s Bay, Daenerys Targaryen is heading to a slave city Meereen with her grown-up dragons. In other places, Stannis Baratheon is preparing a blurred plan that might be hazardous; Arya Stark wanders around with Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane; Bran Stark along with his companions continues seeking the three-eyed raven; and Littlefinger finds no more interest in whore-mongering.
10 episodes in Season 4 won’t make audiences content. The same as the previous seasons, Season 4 serves multi-arc storylines—only the structure of which is rather different. In the previous seasons, there’s only one climax in every season involving the main storyline (remember the death of Ned Stark in the first season, The Battle of Blackwater Bay in the second season, and The Red Wedding in the third season); in the fourth season, what we see is simultaneous climaxes spread in almost every storyline during the whole season. The good thing is, we get focus in every storyline as each of them gets a longer and better narratives—transferring more pages from the book to the screen. Having been with this show for four seasons, HBO seemingly understands audiences’ problems related to the narrative and the pace—this season marks good revisions to the pacing without dragging and making things bleak.
Needless to say, Game of Thrones keeps surprising us with ‘ordinary’ political leap, death, and treachery. Every single episode keeps purists to A Song of Ice and Fire (ASoIaF) series surprised, frustrated, and puzzled—while craving for more episodes in the end; whilst, fans of ASoIaF get frustrated because this series keeps deviating and oversimplifying the books. Oversimplifying is an OK word to describe how loyal this season to the book. Disappearances of ‘minor’ but monumental charaters are common things—let’s forget Donal Noye who kills the giant beneath The Wall; let’s forget Strong Belwas who kills the Meereenese champion; and let’s forget Marrillion the Singer framed for the murder of Lysa Arryn. If we would regret, we would regret how Thenns and the ice-rivers clan become one entity, or how Jaime delegates Podrick Payne to escort Brienne, or how the Battle beneath The Wall is portrayed. However, let’s not get too disappointed with that; oversimplifying is good to some extent. I wish it’s intentionally done to revise the pacing of the book or to get rid of redundancy to build a more structured plot or to make brilliant twists over everyone who thinks of knowing the story—whichever it is, I appreciate how this season works. Now, Game of Thrones has brought justice to all—even for those who think knowing the stories.
One key thing of this season is, obviously, additional to the casts. Without Robb Stark, there is shifts in the power of casts. Kit Harrington is more confident on The Wall as Jon Snow gets more responsibility there (and a whole-episode arc). The same as Harrington, Emilia Clarke with her Dany Targaryen seems a little more comfortable ruling over Slaver’s Bay; who wouldn’t, having three dragons on her side? The Stark girls also get fiercer—Sophie Turner with her Sansa is now having mentor, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) and gets wilder (recall your mockingbird moment), while Maisie Williams as Arya is having more interactions with Rory McCann, who works better now with Sandor Clegane.
The spotlight of GoT’s traditional casts are, obviously, 1) Peter Dinklage—witty and convincing as usual, but now his character needs more sympathy than ever, and he performs it superbly to get it; and don’t forger 2) Nikolaj Coster-Waldau with his brand new Jaime Lannister—as he surprisingly convinces us that there is other side of the Kingslayer. Meanwhile, we have a new character that becomes the ‘wild card’ of the show; portrayed by Pedro Pascal, Oberyn Martell steals the whole show. Characters come and go (or die) in Game of Thrones, but none of them grips stronger than Pedro Pascal’s Oberyn (at least until the end of the fourth book).
Considering that A Storm of Swords is the final book that flows chronologically (the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, and the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, take up the story immediately after the event in the third book; the former focuses on events around King’s Landing—Iron Islands—Dorne, while the latter focuses on events in the North and beyond, across the narrow sea) and Season 4 has ended up with a superb finale, I think it’s worth to wait how the fifth season is gonna like—wondering whose arcs are covered, instead of wondering who’s gonna die. Since now, the dragons have stepfathers, we don’t need to worry that George R. R. Martin cannot keep up with the pace of the series. Just keep being intricate and frustrated is enough for us, ’cause all men must serve. Valar dohaeris.