With the passing of Breaking Bad and Mad Men and Homeland’s nosedive, HBO’s Game of Thrones is as close as America has to consensus television. Adapted from George R.R. Martin’s popular A Song of Fire and Ice book series by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Game of Thrones has racked up Emmy’s and Golden Globes, as well as awards that matter, such as the Peabody and Hugo Awards.
To commemorate the end of Season 4, Jeff (of Slazenger1) and I break down the good, the better, and the occasionally bad of Game of Thrones’ fourth season, which premiered on April 6, 2014 and ended on June 15, 2014.
As per the usual, SPOILERS ABOUND. Also, people die. If that’s a spoiler to you, you have no business clicking on a Game of Thrones link. There are, however, NO BOOK SPOILERS beyond what Season 4 of the show covers.
Jeff: Now that we’ve checked out the good, the bad and the big, it’s time to hit up our usual round of superlatives. We’re using the same categories as last season, so don’t be mad if we end up repeating ourselves!
Jeff: Lena Headey had a superb episode in “First of His Name,” and Peter Dinklage may have had his best individual moment of the series (not to mention a few nice scenes with Pascal and Coster-Waldau). Even so, I’m going to be a broken record (and a cheater) and make it a tie between Maisie Williams as Arya and Rory McCann as Sandor “The Hound” Clegane. The latter has added even more shades to what was already one of the more complex characters in the book. The former continues to grow as an actress every season (after already killing it by Season 2). Put them together and it’s the show’s best pairing. Tear them apart and it’s the season’s best, well, see below.
Patches: I feel like I talked about all my Superlatives in the first three posts. True to my thoughts in Part 3, I have to give this one to Peter Dinklage. He’s been so good in every scene that it’s easy to take him for granted, but this might have been his best season yet. The climax of “The Laws of Gods and Men” was his best scene of the series and his Beetle soliloquy two episodes later was so good that it transcended its seemingly obvious Emmy-baiting. This season, from start to finish, was a tragic one for Tyrion and Dinklage didn’t disappoint.
Patches: Hmmmm… No Robb Stark anymore. Does that mean Kit Harington’s Jon Snow wins by default? “It’s time to play America’s favorite game show: Happy, Sad, or Constipated! The game where contestants guess Kit Harrington’s facial expression. Remember, folks, you win or you die!” All joking aside, Kit is absolutely nailing that character. I’m just not sure if it’s because he’s a great actor or he’s just Jon Snow.
Jeff: It’s just not fair, is it Kit? We’d love to be happy with your ground rule doubles, but your castmates are hitting home runs! Maybe the part isn’t interesting enough for the size of the role. Maybe Harington is being asked to do too much with too little. After all, he often has only one other series regular to interact with (John Bradley’s Sam). See, I’ve got your back, Kit.
Best Supporting Performance
Jeff: Pedro Pascal, because he’s the best non-regular cast member of this season. All of the main characters who appeared less frequently–Davos, Ramsay, Bronn, Ygritte, Theon–have had better seasons. At the risk of Pedroverkill, I’ll tip my crown to Jack Gleeson as Joffrey, and give him a lifetime achievement award for his work on the series. Happy retirement, Jack!
Patches: If Pedro Pascal’s head was going to get the manual Gallagher treatment, then at least he killed it before being killed. He took over every scene in a way we haven’t seen, well, since Charles Dance the previous season, but you get what I’m saying. Character depth, scene-chewing, this guy could do it all. There is no Pedroverkill because one can never get Pedronough.
Worst Supporting Performance
Patches: As you mentioned in Part 2, we got a Daario NEWharis and he was terrible. The actor was fine. I just didn’t buy him as a free-spirited, wheeling-dealing, brash, cocky, upstart who has the goods to back it up. New guy is fine, but he’s the guy who will give you a foot-rub and ask how your day was. You’re going from Ric Flair to Ryan Gosling and it doesn’t work. One of these men looks like a sleazy, uber-cocky warrior and the other looks like a cosplaying accountant. Which one do you think is which? I demand the return of BROharis immediately!
Jeff: If you’re gonna make me choose someone, I’ll go with Brenock O’Connor as Olly. I know, I’m awful, picking on a child actor. My problem (if you want to call it that) is not so much with the performance as with the character. Sure, we needed someone to warn the Watch about Tormund and the Thenns, but then he stuck around. Making him operate the elevator during the battle at Castle Black was fine (and earned him the nickname “Otis” from a friend of mine), but having him “find his courage” and kill Ygritte, then give a knowing nod to Jon (which made me laugh) was a just too much. I suppose the arrow had to be fired by someone we knew though.
Best New Addition
Jeff: Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell. He started the season as sort of a suave hedonist with a bone to pick, and ended it as a mushy-headed Inigo Montoya (as you mentioned), but in between he developed enough as a savvy politician and real human with feelings that I’m sad but so thrilled to see him go. Super bonus points for his story about seeing Tyrion as a baby.
Patches: Yeah, it really can’t be anyone else can it? …Or can it? SER POUNCE is the dark horse winner! All I’m saying is that Ser Pounce was the cutest thing in a scene with a good-hearted child snuggled into bed and Natalie Dormer. More Ser Pounce, please! Or, as Andy Greenwald called him, “Ser Pounce, the cock-blocking kitten.”
Jeff: Episode 8, “The Mountain and the Viper.” We’ve mentioned the trial by combat enough, but this episode also included Jorah’s banishment, Ramsay taking Moat Cailin and being legitimized by Roose, Sansa’s testimony about Lysa’s death and Arya laughing. Cap it off with a convo about beetle smashing and a squishy Martell and it’s the top.
Patches: You are correct, but I’ll make my case for Episode 2, “The Lion and the Rose.” The obvious centerpiece is the Purple Wedding, but don’t forget what happened before: Roose set his master plan into motion, Davos expressed his horror after the human sacrifice to R’hllor, Tyrion ended his relationship with Shae in a decision that would not backfire on him in any way, and Jaime swallowed his pride and began training with his weak hand. Take my strong hand!
Patches: Episode 3, “Breaker of Chains.” I said everything on the topic I had to say in Part 2.
Jeff: I could probably side with you on that, but I’ll go with the season premiere, “Two Swords.” Nothing wrong with it, as it includes Arya killing Polliver and Oberyn’s introduction, but considering episodes 2 and 6-10 each ended with a pretty great moment, there isn’t much left to choose.
Plot Thread That Left Us Wanting More
Jeff: More Sansa! (that’s not entirely insincere either). Or this weird one: “The education of Tommen Baratheon.” This is built on the strength of his scenes with Tywin and Margaery alone. He’s not a particularly dynamic character (yet), but the fact that he may one day be a decent king is intriguing. For Game of Thrones, this was probably a “plot thread that was just enough,” but given some (big) tweaks, I would give a Tommen-centric series a chance.
Patches: How about more Sir Davos? For obvious plot surprise reasons, he was pretty much non-existent the back half of the season. I can’t wait for Stannis to take off so we get more Davos. Which, of course, probably means he’s going to die immediately or something…
Plot Thread That Left Us Wanting Less
Patches: Is it possible to want something less when we barely got any of it in the first place? Bran and Company were basically nowhere to be seen all season, but what we did see was amongst the least interesting scenes of the season. Seriously, I’m legitimately more interested in Braavosi banking policy than more of the Mystical Magical Tour. The good news was that A) The writers made their few scenes more interesting than the books, and B) No Rickon.
Jeff: I wanted less Bran this season, and I got it. What if I said less Dany, or at least less of Dany cooling her heels in Meereeen? Like you, I’m all about sticking it to slavers–and Dany sure as hell does that–but we’ve come to the point in the show and in the books where Dany is just sort of hanging out. Yes, she’s learning lessons about How to Chain Your Dragon and who to trust in matters of life and love, but she’s been so disconnected that I’m ready for her to make an even bigger move. [Go east to] go west, young woman!
Best Moment or Scene
Jeff: The trial by combat is probably the winner for me, but I go back and forth between that and the knock-down-drag-out between Brienne and the Hound, and its aftermath. They’re really only fighting because of mistrust and misunderstanding, which is unfortunate, but also great. The aftermath conversation between Arya and the Hound is even more powerful. It’s a beautiful (and beautifully shot) farewell to a relationship that has arguably been the series’ best.
Patches: You’re really going to make me choose between the Purple Wedding, Tyrion’s testimony, and the Trial by Combat? Fine… Gun to my head, I’ll go with the Purple Wedding. It was peak-Joffrey plus everyone who mattered in Westeros realizing they were in for sixty years of peak-Joffrey. Then he died. So good!
Moment or Scene That Didn’t Work
Patches: Rape. Scene.
Jeff: Ditto. Also, we all loved Arya’s laugh upon finding out that Lysa was dead, right? But (major nitpickery alert), why couldn’t she and the Hound have sent word up the ladder about their presence. Is everyone really that paranoid and dismissive? Wouldn’t Littlefinger (and Sansa, had she heard) want to know if it’s really Arya? After all, they both know the Hound. It just didn’t quite jive for me.