More political intrigue, violence and (less) bewbage than you can poke a barge pole at.

Featuring

Charles Dance, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as The Lannisters (The Lion, The Witch and The Stump)
with Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, the only good one, and Jack Gleeson as King Joffrey Baratheon (thank the Gods Joffrey’s f*cking dead)
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Stormborn, of the House Targaryen, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Gatherer of Titles
with Ian McElhinney as Ser Barristan Selmy, Iain Glenn as Ser Jorah Mormont, Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei and Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm
Isaac Hemstead-Wright as Brandon Stark, Kristian Nairn as HODOOOR!, Thomas Sangster and Ellie Kendrick as Jojen and Meera Reed in the Northern Expedition
Kit Harington as Jon “Kno-Nuthin'” Snow, Rose Leslie as Ygritte, Kristofer Hivju as Tormund Giantsbane, John Bradley as Samwell Tarly and Hannah Murray as Gilly
with Stephen Dillane as King Stannis Baratheon, Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth and Carice Van Houten as Melisandre

Game of Thrones is about the gathering, maintaining and loss of power (which may or may not be tangible) for yourself or your family, whether through whatever means, and has been for all of its episodes. Season four sees that theme continue, with all of our beloved and much hated characters experiencing earth shaking changes in their lives. Now, I’m happy to come out and say I’m firmly in the camp of justice and fairness, hence I fully support House Stark in wanting them to somehow inherit the Iron Throne. However, as of the end of season one, that’s about as likely as me winning Cosmopolitan Bachelor of the Year (because, I’m married), since all the surviving members of House Stark are scattered to the winds. Or D-E-D dead. However, that aside, I think many Starkians (is that even a word?) would fully support justice, and we have managed to get that somewhat in this season.

In King’s Landing

The most hated character to grace the continent of Westeros, Joffrey Baratheon Lannister, was finally killed off this season, to the presumed cheers of millions of fans. It even happens during his wedding to the lovely Margaery Tyrell, no less. The moral of the story, just as Olenna Tyrell ominously states, is that weddings are actually quite dangerous in Westeros. Just like the many videos of unsuspecting witnesses to the Red Wedding floating around on Youtube (like this one), there are many reciprocal versions for Joffrey’s demise. It’s small justice for the demise of Robb and Catelyn Stark, but it’s good to see that sometimes, people get what they deserve.

The political fallout for many characters is huge, especially for Tyrion, who is accused of committing the poisoning. Much of the season is spent dealing with the aftermath with the death of Joffrey and the fate of Tyrion.

However, the end of the Lannister family as a whole, is nigh, and the show pulls no punches in its portrayal of its imminent downfall. Jaime can’t fathom the possibility that his entire legacy as a King’s Guard, a job he got when he was only a teenager, is that he actually killed a king, however justified his course of action may have been. Though his father wants him to go back to their family seat of power, Jaime refuses to do so, and in the process gets temporarily disowned. His twincesty sister Cersei is supposed to marry again to sire more children, only that she refuses and lets loose the fact of who gets to do the dirty with her in reality.

That leaves Tyrion. Tyrion is the only real heir to Tywin that could be legitimately chosen, according to the laws of Westeros. He’s not in the King’s Guard, he’s not attached in anyway, apart from to Shae the prostitute. Tyrion is also the only person in the Lannister family who has the wits and the ability to succeed Tywin, but because he’s a dwarf, he’s shunned by his own father. Well, it doesn’t matter now, because Tywin is shot and killed with a crossbow by Tyrion, as revenge against all the torment and angst he’s suffered at the hands of his father.

In the north

In the north, the wildling army advances on the wall while Jon Snow tries in vain to convince the interim leader of the Night’s Watch that they really should prepare for the attack. Purely out of spite, the interim commander, Ser Alliser Thorne blocks all attempts to fortify The Wall and instead, sends Jon and some mates out on one final ranging against the mutineers that offed Lord Commander Mormont.

Surprisingly successful, Jon and the black brothers fight off the initial onslaught of the wildling army led by Mance Rayder. Holding against mammoths and giants, the first night’s battle goes to the Night’s Watch, but already depleted of manpower, and overall leadership, Jon’s only option is to go and try to kill Mance, fully knowing that this will mean his death as well. To Jon, who watched his first and only love Ygritte die in the battle, there’s little left to lose.

His failed assassination attempt is interrupted by the arrival of the most unlikely of saviours, Stannis Baratheon and a newly acquired army, secured with a loan from Braavos. Dressed to the nines in shiny armour, you wonder if he only realizes he might have bitten off more than he can chew when he actually gets to The Wall and understands the situation fully. He’s certainly not appropriately attired for the part…

Further north, Bran, the Reeds and HODOR! finally complete their arduous journey to the Three Eyed Crow, though with the casualty of Jojen, who gets stabbed repeatedly by a skeletal wight. Then again, he did have the premonition that he was going to die one way or another during or post this journey anyway. Again, this is one of those storylines that set up a major player who could well yield enormous power, but for what purpose, the viewers and the readers are left in the dark.

Elsewhere, Ramsay Snow is running around with his crazy mistress offing witnesses to Theon’s castration. His father, Roose Bolton is now the Warden of the North, and sees potential in his bastard son, but also is wary of the mindless violence and brutality he employs to get results. To the extent that Snow does get results, his reward is he is ultimately declared Bolton’s heir and legitimised as a Bolton. This will no doubt have consequences in the coming seasons as the Boltons, never the most respected family in the North make their own sweeping changes over the lands formerly held by the Starks.

In The Vale

Finally, in the only part of Westeros that lifted not a finger in the fight between the Starks and Lannisters, Sansa has been hidden away, to be used later as a pawn in any claim that Petyr Baelish might want to make. He even declares that his one and only love was the late Catelyn Stark, Sansa’s mother and that Sansa has surpassed her mother’s beauty. I think the creep factor with Baelish is getting up there with Rolf Harris.

Baelish, however seems to be the best political player in the realm. He doesn’t need an army or even anyone loyal to him. Though Tywin was pretty good at the game, his single minded stubborness regarding his youngest son blinded him and was his real downfall. Baelish has none of these weaknesses because he’s flexible and cares nought for command. He’s carefully crafted this image that he’s not after prestige, even though he is, and knows patience is the key to everything. He even gets away with offing his new wife Lysa Arryn, with some help from Sansa.

In fact, this ties in neatly with the written version of the story, where Sansa finally becomes a player, rather than lurch from one disaster to another. Perhaps she only needed to be pushed by one more traumatic event to actually try to take charge of her life, rather than be a passenger.

In the free cities of Essos

The plot of Daenerys gets a bit thin this season, but this is partially because her story gets thinner as the books go on and because there is so much that happens that it’s hard to fit it all in. You can criticise the fact that there are 31 POV characters present in the fifth book of A Song of Ice and Fire, but that’s all part of world building, and I’m just so glad that it happens in the first place.

Dany, with her dragons and nearly invincible army runs around the free cities of Essos conquering them, breaking up the way of life in the whole region. What Dany doesn’t seem to understand, but is now being made clearly obvious, is that people don’t like dramatic change. In fact, they fear it. Freedom sounds brilliant, right up until the point those who have been granted freedom have to actually exercise it without knowing how to. It seems that everyone likes to live within a set of boundary conditions that gives them a degree of freedom, yet gives them a set of rules that prevent them from overstepping the boundaries of good sense.

As it stands, it seems that there’s no real way that the Mother of Dragons can extricate herself from her plight with any real dignity. Her only real option is to make the best of the situation and hope she survives it.

The season overall

At the end of the day, a television series will always be different to the books. In a tome nearly one thousand pages long, you can explore the motivations and history of your characters, even if they’re not major point of view ones. However, an hour of television can’t hope to tell the same story and there are marked differences between paper and screen. However, the differences matter little overall, since the buildup is to one of two things. The first is the likely destruction of the White Walkers as a whole by the Night’s Watch, the North, minus the Boltons and the remaining Children of the Forest with guidance from Bran Stark. The second is the final push between the Targaryen claim to the throne and whoever else is left.

But the season is probably the best yet. We have an emotional rollercoaster ride for those who think that Tyrion is the best character, hands down in Game of Thrones, we have a massive battle on The Wall and in between, more importantly, there are great chracter moments. This year, most of them go to Tyrion, both are reflections he shares with his would be saviours, Oberyn Martell and his brother Jaime. These go to the heart of Game of Thrones, the interaction between characters who are sometimes suitably nasty, but at least you find out why they’re such nasty people.

Either way, this is a terrific season of television (yet again), and builds up excitement for the next. I just hope that George R. R. Martin can finish The Winds of Winter before the show catches up to him. Otherwise, none of us book people can remain smug and haughty about any character deaths!

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