Every couple of weeks here on my First Time Writing blog I look back over a past season of Game of Thrones after re-watching it and give it an informal review/ share some spoilery thoughts now that we have the benefit of hindsight. This time I’m looking back over the fourth season of the acclaimed fantasy drama. Looking back season 4 is the best season yet of Game of Thrones; it works so well because not only does it tell great and succinct season long storylines but it also wraps up many from season 3, mainly due to this season being based on the second half of A Storm of Swords. The pacing is perfect with filler being very limited to make way for nothing but set up and well orchestrated conclusion. Season 4 marks the end of an era for the show; it is half way through the overarching narrative and we lose both major antagonists of the show but, as always, there are many characters waiting in the wings to fill their boots. This is part 1 of my season 4 recap focusing on the goings on in King’s Landing and across the Narrow Sea.
Game of Thrones loves a good wedding and right off the bat season 4 gives us one to remember. Dubbed ‘The Purple Wedding’ we finally get to mourn/celebrate the death of King Joffrey. Whereas the Red Wedding happened suddenly, the Purple takes it’s time and builds the tension when the viewer realises something is going down. The Red Wedding was very much concerned with shocking the viewer while the Purple is all about embellishing the event so many have been waiting for and after re-watching the show from the beginning and sitting through all of Joffrey’s scenes again his death is just as strong and joyous as it was the first time.
Joffrey’s death gives Cersei a chance to step forward like never before and season 4 is easily her best season so far with her becoming more spiteful than ever before, which is something I didn’t think possible. This is also the first season in which we get to see her interact with Jaime after the reveal of the truth about their children, the relationship is even more complex and strained than we could have guessed and makes for one of the best storylines of the season with a fitting arc in of itself. Cersei also becomes more involved in the political machinations than ever before because, unlike Joffrey, Tommen seeks counsel from others giving her more of a role other seeming doing very little like previous seasons. This evolution of character also takes place on the emotional front and on the re-watch we can tell this was definitely needed for when she takes centre stage even more so next season.
This is also Tywin’s last season on the show giving us a power vacuum for next season. This season however he had his manipulative fingers in more pies than ever including Tommen as he quickly begins prepping him for the crown, so fast that Tywin almost becomes a suspect in Joffrey’s murder. Tywin has little character development throughout the series mainly because his character was perfect for his role since day 1 with a masterful and often overlooked performance by Charles Dance and throughout my re-watch remained one of my favourite characters; I love the Machiavellian nature of Westerosi politics. Tommen becomes a major character very quickly which looking back I guess was a deliberate action, if he started taking up screen time before people would probably start figuring out that Joffrey wasn’t sticking around for much longer. Having said that I would have loved a scene with Joffrey because throughout the entire show we didn’t get to see the brothers interact once. It’s a shame Tommen has scenes only with the same characters again and again whereas Joffrey had scenes with pretty much everyone in the first season; I’m particularly annoyed he didn’t get another scene with Tyrion because, on the re-watch, I noticed that they had a pretty good relationship with him frequently finding Tyrion quite funny in all their previous scenes which annoyed Cersei.
During my re-watch of the previous seasons I picked up more on the blatant threats Tyrion made to Joffrey, even death threats, and so it makes even more sense on second viewing why so many people would presume he killed Joffrey. Tyrion’s trial is one of the season’s best plots with it bringing together everyone from the King’s Landing setting and ending Tyrion’s political storyline which began when he arrived in the capital in season 2. His trial is so good I could have even seen it taking place over multiple episodes but season 4 is fast and is never bogged down on one thing for too long, and maybe it just seemed to go by too quickly because I couldn’t stop humming the theme tune to The People’s Court during it. Also during this second viewing I realised I really don’t like Shae; maybe it’s because I know of her eventual betrayal but at this point she becomes needy to the point just to create some conflict. Once Tyrion married Sansa she became incredibly jealous despite the fact it was obviously a forced marriage and none of it, including her character, felt necessary this season.
After Jaime’s character transformation last season he doesn’t quite fit in with the other Lannisters and surprisingly is now almost one of the good guys, or near enough to a good guy in a show which doesn’t have good guys and bad guys. Now that the Starks are nearly all gone the audience’s allegiances have to change and Jaime poses as a possible in for house Lannister. Bronn starts to train Jaime this season which is an interesting way of keeping him in the story, sets up their partnership moving forward and gives Jaime someone to befriend after most of his family disown him in the season premiere.
Oberyn Martell was a type of character we hadn’t seen on the show before; he is charisma personified and his introduction also introduces a new house and region of the Seven Kingdoms that had barely been mentioned before, the show needs as many new characters as it can get at the rate that they get killed off. He’s just the guy you want to shake up King’s Landing politics which are in danger of becoming stale. A conversation he has with Cersei in episode 5, in which Myrcella is mentioned, sets up the Dorne storyline in season 5; at core value set up for next season’s Dorne storyline is purely why Oberyn is introduced but with the right actor the character soon transcended into a fan favourite.
Across the Narrow Sea Daenerys’s dragons have grown immensely despite a gap of two weeks between seasons although it’s not that noticable since we barely get to see them anymore. Season 4 does a great job of developing Dany’s entourage helping her storyline be more than just inconsequential ‘Dany and her dragons’ intervals. The show strikes a great balance between political drama and epic fantasy and Dany’s story is the antithesis of this with the wide sweeping shots of Mereen then followed by a King Solomon style court as Dany rules over her army of freed slaves. I noticed just how good the music was on the re-watch with Dany’s recurring theme being one highlight and the mysterious Stannis/Melisandre theme being another, they hold your attention without distracting from the show. The reveal and repercussions of Jorah’s betrayal worked much better for me on the re-watch because I picked up the mentions of it from the three previous seasons more rather than it just being a season 1 plot making a sudden and weird reappearance.
What’s your favourite Season 4 moment? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about Game of Thrones on Twitter @kylebrrtt. Like, Subscribe and why not have a look at all the awesome stuff on the site like the many podcasts and blogs. I’ll be back next week for part 2 of my season 4 revisited blog so come back then for some more First Time Writing.