Published on April 11th, 2014 | by Bean0
Game Of Thrones Catchup And Season 4 Opener
Well, I’ve not awaited the release of a new season of television with such unbearable anticipation since Buffy came back from the dead, for the second time. And that was, ye gads, 13 years ago. I have waited for cinematic events with similarly baited breath – alas, those of late (yes Prometheus and Gravity, I’m looking at you) have been sorely disappointing. What am I expecting from this new season of GoT, to be so hyper-psyched? I’m not sure really – since I’m not a reader of the books, I am blissfully unaware of the probably devastating futures for our characters. Before I look forward, let me ﬁrst reﬂect upon a couple of the turning points of Season 3.
There were many moments that brought our story to new levels (righteous dragon-ﬁre, obsidian knives, warg-powers to mention but-a-few), but I’ll narrow it down to two; the ﬁrst of which caught me by surprise. I’d long expected Jaime to get a proper kicking – his incarceration had been mostly without incident, and that’s not how George RR Martin rolls at all. Jaime’s facade of smug bastard had no signiﬁcant chinks until Noah Taylor lopped his sword-hand off. I had been talking to the television for several minutes, ﬁrst willing Jaime to stand up for Brienne, then imploring to quit whilst he was ahead, and shut his mouth. But his true weakness, his dependence upon his father and the family name, were to be his undoing, and I was left groaning and swearing for a while. The second turning point was foreshadowed more clearly. Though I actively try to be as innocent (read, gullible) as possible when being drawn into an enjoyable narrative, so that each twist and turn retains the maximum impact, I was not insensible to the impending doom awaiting Robb Stark last season. Wilful idiocy (Sorry, dude, but really? That last “plan” to get the man you betrayed to help your cause was fuelled by Cock-Logic TM. Coulda thought that one through a bit more…) led us away from his strategic successes as King of the North, through an ill-advised star-crossed love affair and stranded us in a moment of true train-wreck television.
The Red Wedding still managed to be utterly compelling, despite being obviously signposted by early pleasantries from Lord Frey, and the episode ‘The Rains of Castermere” went on to became a global viewing-phenomenon, causing fans of the book to sneakily ﬁlm their unwitting ﬂatmates / siblings / better halves reaction to the gruelling scene and then post the videos on Youtube! Michelle Fairley’s primal desperation in Catelyn Stark’s mortal suffering grounded what might have been unwatchably grim with a kind of epic sorrow.
And so, Season 4 sees two of our remaining Starks, polar-opposite sisters Sansa and Arya responding to the shock of their mother and brother’s gruesome demise in their inimitably individual ways; Sansa with an innocent obliviousness that I’m surprised hasn’t got her killed yet (wandering off on your own in a totally hostile environment? Please wake up Sansa. Seriously.); and Arya with another inexorable step towards her destiny as a calculated assassin. Arya’s natural thirst for justice and innate righteousness is given an badly needed layer of practicality by hanging with The Hound. They are my favourite duo bar none, and this chapter of her ‘training’ will, I think, prove formative.
The unhappy masses we’re told inhabit King’s Landing seem subdued for the moment, held in sway by the promise of their King’s upcoming nuptials to Margery Tyrell, who seems to me the smoothest operator in this game of thrones by far. Margery is able to do what few other characters can – balance duplicity and ambition with apparent benevolence; even if the latter is an act, it is a necessary one to play the game from her position, and it is deeply satisfying to have at lease one character not fucking up every move they make.
Which brings me to Tyrion and Shae. Granted, Tyrion is in a tricky situation, and Episode 1 ﬁnds him badly juggling his job, family duties, wife and lover. Peter Dinklage gives his usual casually terriﬁc performance, particularly in scenes where he explains the burdens of these conﬂicting alliances to a snarky Bronn and then an unsympathetic Shae, but this is a more sober, sensible Tyrion, who carries the cares of the world on his shoulder. His latest anxiety involves an old Lannister-enemy who’s come to town, presumably for a spot of attempted carnage, and so is quite understandably not in the mood when Shae tries to “relax” him. On his wife’s bed. I do feel for Shae too; her split loyalties play beautifully in scenes with Tyrion and Sansa, but she is unnecessarily reckless and I dearly hope her ferocity will be her saving grace not her death sentence (a wish also I extend to Margery’s wits and cunning). When will Tyrion/Shae tell Sansa of their prior/present involvement?! I think she’d be cool about it..
Another couple suffering an awkward lack of intimacy are Cersei and Jaime, whose bond seems to be irrevocably severed, not unlike the King-Slayer’s sword hand. (Oh dear, that was tacky!) I watched an interesting panel discussion a while back in which Lena Headey explained her take on the incestuous romance between the Lannister twins. It was Headey’s perspective that whilst Jaime held a true torch of longing for his sister, and only wanted to be with her, Cersei’s attachment was more complicated; she wanted to be Jaime. I say ‘wanted’, as the sense I get from their one stilted scene in Ep1 is that Cersei’s golden image of Jaime as powerful, infallible and unchallenged has shattered; broken Jaime has proven himself all too human, and her protestations that his capture was a betrayal, that he ‘left her’ are obviously unreasonable, and more like a way of not having to say “I can see your weakness now, and that’s not what I signed up for”. Their previous passion is left in a chilly quandary here; will this perhaps be the season where no-one gets laid?! God, I almost hope so.
Joffrey…Ugh. Not in Ep1 a lot, but he does manage to be a total prick to Uncle Jaime (aka Daddy). His cruelty is effortless at this point – the only thing he has a true talent for, and Jack Gleeson’s interprets the scene like an idle dilettante psychopath. Still the most smackable character in the show.
Pycelle and Tywin share an interesting scene on a lonely shore of King’s Landing; Pycelle is ﬁnally called out as not-so-very-doddering after all (previously hinted at with Julian Glover’s delightful post-coital aerobics in…Season 2?) and the two characters are about as honest with one another as I’ve seen anyone be in a long time! It’s a refreshing change of pace, and we’re also given Charles Dance gutting ﬁsh in a manly fashion, echoing his very ﬁrst scene, as deer-skinning patriarch. It only occurs to me now that Tywin’s hands-on approach mirrors Ned Stark’s ‘he who passes the sentence, swings the sword’ ethics, albeit with suitably more enthusiasm.
At the Wall, Jon Snow has healed up from his missus shooting him full of arrows in last season’s ﬁnale, and has ﬁnally got a bit of a mouth on ‘im! Whilst I was loathed to see the arrival of the banished douche-bag faux-knight Ser Whatsisname at the Night’s Watch, it was a pleasant surprise to see Snow man-up a bit and lay it on the line for the adults. In the Wildling camp, amongst angst and other distractions, we now have…cannibals! Yey!
Across the Narrow Seas, Daenerys and the Dragons (somebody’s crappy band name by now, surely) show deﬁnite development, in the form of impetuous and aggressive behaviour from the kiddies. As Emilia Clarke pointed out at last week’s premiere, they now act like teenagers, and are giving Mum a hard time. I look forward to seeing how Daenerys deals with this and other conﬂicts. While I understand that Khaleesi’s strength lies in her morality, compassion and sense of justice, I’d like to see increased evidence of discipline and authority elsewhere in her ranks (who is this re-cast, ﬂower-bearing tosser? Not interested). I don’t think a smack on the nose work on dragons though, which makes it doubly interesting!
And so, the anticipation mounts again, as I while away the week, waiting for the next episode..
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