Following the ‘Red Wedding’, we now have the ‘Purple Wedding’. This review is going to be a bit more heavy on spoilers (or rather, one particular spoiler) than the last three, due to the fact that a major death kicks off the plot-lines of the season.
RELEASED: April 6th 2014 – June 15th 2014
SHOWRUNNER: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
WRITTEN BY: David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman & George R. R. Martin
DIRECTED BY: D. B. Weiss, Alex Graves, Michelle MacLaren, Alik Sakharov & Neil Marshall
MUSIC BY: Ramin Djawadi
STARRING: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Charles Dance, Natalie Dormer, Jack Gleeson, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, John Bradley, Rose Leslie, Kristofer Hivju, Rory McCann, Gwendoline Christie, Jerome Flynn, Sibel Kekilli, Iain Glen, Liam Cunningham, Stephen Dillane, Carice van Houten, Alfie Allen, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Ivan Rheon, Conleth Hill, Aiden Gillen, Hannah Murray, Ciarán Hinds, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ellie Kendrick, Kristian Nairn, Michael McElhatton, Lino Facioli, Kate Dickie, Michiel Huisman, Dean-Charles Chapman, Finn Jones, Diana Rigg, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Daniel Portman & Pedro Pascal
This season is an interesting one, in that, so far, it’s probably had the largest collection of great episodes, but at the same time, a lot of the season doesn’t quite live up to the overall greatness of season three.
Following the ‘Red Wedding’ and the massacre of Robb and Catelyn Stark and Northern Army, the people of King’s Landing enjoy a brief respite as King Joffrey is married to Margaery Tyrell. However, the celebration is interrupted by the untimely death of Joffrey, and his uncle, Tyrion Lannister, is put on trial for his murder.
Meanwhile, in the North, Jon Snow and the men of the Night’s Watch prepare for their greatest challenge yet, as the combined armies of the Wildlings prepare to march on the Wall, while in Essos, Daenerys and her armies continue their liberation of the slave cities.
The reason I think that this series doesn’t quite reach the heights of season three is because it feels like, once again, a lot of the stories that play out this time around aren’t setting characters up for some big moment at the end of the season (like the Red Wedding), so much as they are just moving them around in preparation for next season, which is a bit disappointing.
There are exceptions to that, of course, as the story of the Men of the Nights Watch gets the same treatment as the penultimate episode of season two, wherein an entire hour is devoted to them and their battle against the wildlings. The result is an exciting and brutal battle episode, with adequate helpings of emotional drama to go alongside the mindless violence. Jon Snow really makes his presence known, as I feel like I’ve really come around to Kit Harrington’s portrayal of the character.
However, elsewhere, things aren’t quite so powerful. After what I believe was her best season, Daenerys’ plot suddenly slows down, as she becomes less concerned with getting to Westeros as she has been in previous seasons. Instead, she takes up occupancy in one of the cities she has conquered, and so the characters around her have less to do.
The story on mainland Westeros is very up and down. The trial of Tyrion Lannister is at the core of this storyline, and once it gets towards the end, it’s excellent. ‘The Mountain and the Viper’ and ‘The Children’, the two episodes that surround the Jon Snow-centric ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ at the season’s end, are really compelling storytelling and sets Tyrion up for new and wondrous things. However, before you get there, there are several episodes sorting out the trial, which, while interesting, are mostly just retreading a lot of themes and bits of dialogue that we’ve already seen in prior seasons.
Furthermore, it became clear this season that some characters, through no fault of the actors playing them, just aren’t that interesting. Central to Tyrion’s storyline is Shae, but while she was moderately interesting when she was introduced, she has since become tedious and irritating whenever she comes on screen, and I honestly believe she doesn’t really bring anything to the show.
Similar in this regard is the story of Bran Stark. His story is one of magic and prophecy, and through him, we finally see the introduction of another magical creature to the show: The Children of the Forest (which, as far as I can tell, are basically Elves, although George R. R. Martin insists that is not the case). However, his character is so boring that he takes you out of the show, and even when exciting things happen in his subplot, it’s hard for you to find a reason to care.
However, where they stumble, other characters like Brienne of Tarth, the Hound and the newly introduced Prince Oberyn continuously steal the show. It’s with characters like these that Game of Thrones really shines, as whenever they find themselves in new and dangerous situations, you honestly worry for them, even though, compared to the likes of the Lannisters, you haven’t known them that long. Through the work put into their characters, by the writers, directors, the crew and the actors, they become lifelong favourites that you never want to see leave.
I’m sad to see Joffrey (and others who I won’t name here) go, as he, in particular, was a marvellous actor and by all accounts a lovely man. He brought true villainy to the show, and hopefully, the series won’t feel lacking without him.
Unfortunately, this is Game of Thrones, and as Cersei explained in season one, ‘When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die’. And a lot of people die this season, I’ll tell you that much.
All-in-all, I give it: