Print Edition: May 21, 2014
From its inception, the second half of George R. Martin’s fantasy drama novel A Storm of Swords, the popular HBO series Game of Thrones: Season 4 features more plot and character progression than in the last season.
Season 3 seemed to linger on gruesome scenes like the torture of Theon Greyjoy, and the infamous Red Wedding, in which Walder Frey betrays House Stark. In Season 4 the pace of the storyline picks up with the death of King Joffrey Baratheon right in the beginning, which was, in my opinion, anticipated and expected. What better way to end a character who’s been the object of everyone’s hatred for so long? Of course, have him die publicly at his own wedding.
This acts as a catalyst for almost every plot point onward, since you don’t have to look hard to find motive in every character present in the wedding scene. With a single event Martin simultaneously destroys and builds alliances between characters, kills off a long-time annoyance, and thrusts King’s Landing into chaos while everyone comes to their own conclusions on who actually murdered the King. It’s brilliant.
Cersei Lannister has her brother Tyrion Lannister thrown in prison to await trial for the death of her son. House Tyrell pursues their motto of “growing strong” by setting up a midnight meeting with Tommen Lannister, the new king-to-be. And Peter Baelish spirits away the eldest Stark daughter and so-called “Key to the North” to the Eyrie.
Now into episode seven we learn that Cersei has appointed the infamous Gregor Clegane, or commonly known as “the Mountain,” to fight as her champion in the trial by combat. Clearly the odds are not in Tyrion’s favour, and he desperately searches for someone to fight for his side. It’s not much of a shock to learn Jamie is no longer a gold-star fighter, but when Tyrion’s former ally Bronn refuses to fight it starts to look as though the dwarf will be fighting the Mountain himself. I remember back in season 2 Tyrion killed a man with his own shield to protect Catlyn Stark, but I don’t think that was foreshadowing Tyrion’s victory over Gregor. If it was, it was horribly done.
But when Oberyn Martell visits Tyrion in the night it was obvious why he was there. We didn’t even need the heart-warming story of when Oberyn first met Tyrion to know Martin was setting us up for Oberyn to offer to be his champion. It’s all too perfect now: Oberyn gets a chance to avenge his sister with the death of Gregor, and Tyrion might go free after being falsely accused.
But we all know what Martin does with much-loved characters.
Or even much-hated characters for that matter.
Following another plotline, the Hound is bitten on the ear and lets it fester, aggressively refusing when Arya tries to cauterize his injury. We knew he was fearful of fire. It’s one of the reasons he violently abandoned King Joffrey at the Battle of the Black Water. This sparks a moment in which he shares some of his past with Arya, and the parallels between their characters become clearer: they both value their familial ties regardless of their past treatment, they both seem to enjoy killing despite the fact that they’re likeable characters with morals, however skewed, and they have both found themselves in a situation where they have no safe place to go. I’m counting the episodes it takes for Arya to realize she’s meant to join the Faceless Men of Braavos, where I hope she will reunite with both her sword teacher and Jaqen H’ghar.
The last bit of episode seven reveals the tender spot Peter Baelish has for Sansa Stark, which wasn’t much of a secret. Even the inevitable kiss was, well, inevitable. However, the death of Sansa’s Aunt Lysa of the Eyrie was a little shocking for me. When I remember the foreshadowing of Petyr’s gift of a mockingbird falling through the Skydoor I believed that would be Petyr’s downfall, but when Lysa married Petyr she would technically inherit his House symbol. That was tricky to foresee. I can only hope after following Sansa’s incredibly terrifying plotline, she’ll eventually become a character who can make some decisions for herself. So far, everyone’s been making them for her.