[Contains convenient crusty distractions and SPOILERS!!!]
The fourth season of Game of Thrones drew to a close this week… and, much like the average life-span in Westeros, it was bloody, brutal, and all too brief! Ten episodes a year really isn’t enough, is it? Tch! Despite a number of untimely (and gruesome) deaths, most of my fave characters managed to survive to see another season, so hurrah for that!
‘Arya Stark’ (Maisie Williams) got off to a good start, recovering her stolen sword “Needle”, and acquiring a pretty pony into the bargain! She also shared lots of ace odd-couple scenes with “The Hound”, so I was a little sad to see them part ways on such bad terms in the finale… I know she’s probably better off without him, but their scenes together were so much fun, and Rory McCann gave such a great performance in the role, that I’ll really miss that miserable, murdering bastard. Speaking of which, some of the commenters on a forum I frequent were suggesting that Arya was headed down a dark and ruinous road when she started getting stab-happy in the early episodes… but considering how quickly her family members are falling around her (literally, in Lysa’s case), I’d say she’s probably better off developing a violent and cynical streak than taking a “passive resistance” stance! I mean, if she’s not killing babies in their cribs or chopping dudes’ dicks off for sport, she still counts as a “Goodie” on this show! [Note: There’s an interview with Williams on the HBO website right now, where she gives an insight into her character’s thoughts and feelings during the final episode… as well as revealing that she’d name her own sword “Oops”! Bless].
Considering how scattered and disparate some of the storylines are, it’s always exciting when they intersect… and seeing Arya and ‘Brienne of Tarth’ (Gwendoline Christie) finally meet up was a very exciting and joyful moment for me… until the tomboy talk came to an abrupt halt, eyes started narrowing, and I realised that she and The Hound were on a collision course. Eeep! That’s one of the real strengths of this show, though… there are such well-developed (and well-loved) characters on every side of the conflict, that it’s often impossible to predict which way the axe is going to fall . Obviously I’m glad that Brienne didn’t get killed or cut up too badly, but I wish the two of them could have found a way to work together… or played a nice, safe game of paper-scissors-stones instead. Incidentally, does Brienne’s win count as an unambiguous example of a “Goodie” triumphing over a “Baddie” on this show? Is that allowed in the GoT universe? It seems pretty unprecedented… although, ultimately, the fight was pointless, since Arya just ran off to become a super-assassin anyway, rather than accompany Brienne to “safety” (wherever that is!). Didn’t even get a chance to show her the wolf-bread she was carrying! Shame. Also, how weird was it seeing Brienne wearing a skirt in the earlier episodes? So wrong! Thank goodness she got back into armour, and back out on the road again! Lord knows where she’s going to go after The Eyrie proves to be another disappointing dead-end…
‘Daenerys Targaryen’ (Emilia Clarke) had a far less action-packed season, as she settled into her role as ruler of the liberated slave cities, and indefinitely deferred her claim on The Iron Throne, in favour of finishing what she started… which speaks to her integrity and compassion, and (rather ironically) also makes her the most desirable candidate for the job! Unfortunately, she also learned that dragons are rather hard to domesticate, and should almost certainly be fitted with warning bells. Seeing the self-proclaimed “breaker of chains” shackling her “children” away in a dingy dungeon really shouldn’t have been so moving, because they’re only CGI simulacra and we’ve seen precious little of them this season… but it still made my eyes a little damp, dammit. Meanwhile, ‘Margaery Tyrell’s (Natalie Dormer) own ascent to Queendom was stymied when her sadistic little shit of a husband keeled over in the middle of their grand wedding feast. Pesky! Thankfully she was able to put aside her grief and set about “befriending” her new brother-in-law/boy-king-to-be… and with ‘Cersei’s (Lena Headey) approval and encouragement, no less! Sadly, I’m not sure how much longer the Lannisters will be able to maintain their greedy grip on the crown now that the family’s patriarch/chief-string-puller has pooped his last, so Margaery may well be in for another round of speed-dating next year… sigh…
This season also saw the brief return of ‘Yara Greyjoy’ (Gemma Whelan), leading a brave-but-ill-advised raid on the aptly named Dreadfort, to rescue her down-trodden and disfigured brother. She didn’t actually succeed, of course, but at least she escaped with her skin still attached! And we were introduced to ‘Ellaria Sand’ (Indira Varma), captivating consort of the fantastically flamboyant ‘Oberyn Martell’ (Pedro Pascal), who quickly became one of my fave characters on the show, before meeting his grisly end at the hands of “The Mountain”. I know I should have seen his defeat coming, because he was far too noble and heroic to survive in King’s Landing for long… but his actual death was one of those “can’t un-see it” moments that will probably be burned into my brain forever now. One second he’s all full of life and spirit, dancing and flourishing around the arena… the next he’s nothing more than a burst bag of blood and bones on the floor. Shudder.
Er… roll on season five, eh?
P.S. I also have to give a shout-out to ‘Stannis Baratheon’ (Stephen Dillane) who was keeping it pretty low-key for most of the season, only to storm in and smack down the Wildlings in the finale. He may be a stone-faced killjoy, but you’ve gotta love that guy’s swagger! And it was nice to see him and ‘Jon Snow’ (Kit Harington) bonding over mutual associates, although I’m not sure they should keep going back to the “What Would Ned Stark Do?” well as a basis for their strategies moving forward, because we all know the answer to that question is “Get his head chopped off, and disappoint everyone”.