Most of season 4 was an improvement over season 3. The gratuitous (IMO) NSFW content was toned down, at least by Game Of Thrones standards- the operative word being “gratuitous’. There was more than enough horror and debauchery, but most of it felt worthwhile, even redeeming some of the earlier, seemingly throwaway content. (One lesson I’m learning about Game Of Thrones- there is very little throwaway content.) While my general feeling about on-screen romance ranges from apathy to antipathy, sitting through some of the “sweeter” scenes between Tyrion and Yoko Silverman (aka “Shae”) was worthwhile, given the horrifying, painful ending. Part of the genius of Game Of Thrones, much like 20th century Simpsons and 21st century Archer, is that the landing punch (or, in the case of the cartoons, punchline) is often not the final one delivered. First, we have Tyrion sending Shae overseas, convincing her that he never loved her. This was hard to watch. Then, Shae lies about Tyrion, to make sure he’s found guilty- also mixing in some painful truth, just to throw it in Tyrion’s face. Surely THAT’S the knockout punch, right? Nnnnope- Shae becomes Tywin Lannister’s whore, humiliating and breaking Tyrion’s heart into a thousand pieces! OUCH!!! That’s it, right? Nnnnnnnnnope- Tyrion ends up KILLING Shae!!! =O Merlin’s Beard! (Sorry…wrong British adventure series.)
Killing the woman he loves surely had to be difficult, hence, killing the father he hated was probably a piece of cake. Too bad Tywin couldn’t live an extra 10 minutes- he’d have seen the son he despised shipped off- literally shipped off- like cargo. Literally cargo!
But I’m getting way ahead of myself. I just finished watching the episode, so that particular scene is fresh in my mind. Honestly, though, it was one of the only really worthwhile sequences in the final two episodes of an otherwise stellar season. As for the escape itself…well, that was pretty lame. I mean, there’s this whole season where Joffrey is poisoned to death (!), Tyrion is accused (!), Tyrion demands trial by combat (!), Tyrion is found guilty (!), and he gets out of it by…being set free by his brother? The writers must’ve decided that one at 2:30 AM, when they were tired- much like I am as I’m typing this. But, as always with Game Of Thrones, the open ended questions and cliff hangers override any weakness in previous story threads- there’s just too much going on to look back…except when blogging a review, of course!
And speaking of disappointments, it was a slight letdown that Jamie didn’t get to fight for Tyrion, which would’ve been the ultimate catch 22- Jamie wins, Tyrion is set free. Jamie loses (as in dies), Tyrion is killed, and the Lannister name- at least Tywin’s branch of it- dies. But Oberyn, the stereotypical Spaniard guy- I’ll call him Antonio “Ben Garant” Bandares, for my own amusement- was a pretty good replacement. It was a nice twist that he wanted to see The Mountain confess his crimes at death, which is exactly what happened…unfortunately, tbough, the death turned out to be Oberyn’s. (Who didn’t see THAT coming a mile away, after he got cocky?)
Then, there are the Stark girls…excuse me, women…who are gravitating towards the center of the story, especially with the Starks and Lannisters in ruins. As someone with a…let’s say “old fashioned” sensibility about gender roles, even if I’m fairly progressive in practice (but this isn’t about me, of course)…it’s nice to a story where women rise to power in an appreciative way that transcends the Brie Larson fan club. A large part of this is because we have actually seen the girls grow up in real time- the casting directors did a great job choosing Arya and Sansa. The image of Aria taking control in the season premiere, as she got her revenge on her former captor, was one of the highlights of the series, and FAR better than anything we’ve seen with Danaryus, who, as I’ve said before, rose to power when she learned to…well, enjoy it. And, even independent of that troubling aspect of Danaryus’s rise to power, everything with her just feels so unearned. Watching Arya and Sansa go from one dangerous situation to another, and become better (or at least stronger) for it, just makes them that much more empathetic.
Speaking of Sansa, I have to admit her character has unexpectedly grown on me, as she’s grown up. Her “proper” act, behaving and sounding more like royalty than the rest of her family, made her seem entitled and whiny at first, but all that made her that much more interesting when she became clever and manipulative. Similarly, Arya’s restlessness and defiance evolving into vengeance seeking has been fun and rewarding to watch. However, leaving “The Hound” to suffer in the middle of the mountains seemed unnecessarily cruel, after the two of them seemed to form a real friendship. But cruel irony always lies at the heart of Game Of Thrones- The Hound reminded Arya of the cruel things he did and thought, in the hopes that she would end his life. Arya, evolving into the cold cun…umm, cunning woman that was, ironically, shaped partially by the hound, ironically showed her wrath by not killing The Hound, which is exactly what he didn’t want. Similarly, Littlefinger may have taught Sansa TOO much about deceptive behavior, as she seems to be using it on him. I guess we’ll find out. (As a sidenote, wasn’t Arya’s aunt getting ejected to her death the most predictable thing ever? Also, I believe they should do a DNA test on her, as she seems more likely to be the sister of Stannis’s wife, than Mrs. Stark.)
Then there’s The Wall. I’m getting tired, so I’ll just say that a whole episode dedicated to the battle felt unnecessary, though I’m sure many people enjoyed it. That’s fine. For me, it slowed down all the different parts of the Game of Thrones universe. But okay, it’s an adventure show, and people like action, and so on and so forth, so it’s fine. There were two irritating things, though, both involving (you guessed it) romance. For the Tarly story (I thought he was Tully for a while- he looks like a Tully. Then, I thought he was Gilly. He looks like a Gilly…) it is very apparent that Game of Thrones is primarily written by men. For all the naked women and violence and war and everything else, nothing says “male writers” like having a fat, buffoonish coward, suddenly finding bravery and protecting a woman to sweep her off her feet- never mind that he initially shipped her and her baby off to some shady tavern, to be abused and almost killed by Wildings! (With all the gender role reversals, good luck finding one for THAT stereotype!) Tarly seems like he comes from a different universe altogether, anyway. How has this guy survived ’til this point? The second thing is Jon Snow’s girlfriend. They had this whole buildup, then she just stares at him, points her arrow, only to get shot himself and die in his arms? The writers must have come up with THAT at 2:30 AM, as well.
Getting back to the main point, Snow going off to meet with the Wildings, while Stannis Baratheon and Sean Connery-ish guy “conquer” the area…well, let’s see where they go with that next season. Stannis doesn’t strike me as a sustainable kind, any more than Joffrey. He’s also a lot less interesting, outside of the powers given to him by “The Lord Of Light”.
The disintegration of the Starks and Lannisters as a central theme to the Game of Thrones universe is a clear indication that the show will be moving in a new direction- a direction hinted at in the very first scene of the very first episode. Ghouls and living dead and all of that…I don’t know how that gets inserted, but we’ll find out.
I’m really sleepy, so I’ll wrap this up…the Khaleesi storyline was a vast improvement over previous seasons, with National Geographic guy’s double agent identity giving him a better back story than “guy who explains stuff”. And you KNOW that those dragons won’t be locked up for long.
The Theon Grayjoy story didn’t seem interesting, which is probably why the writers took half a season to address it. We’ll see what Sadist Sean Astin has for the future.
I personally find The Queen Who Keeps Getting Married and The Lady In Red to be more desirable than Danaryus. But that’s just my personal preference.
Young Keanu and The Three Eyed Raven- what the hell is all THAT about??
Onto season 5……………………………..