Every ‘Game of Thrones’ episode, recapped, rated, and ranked: Season Four

After a very good Season 3, we check in with Season 4. Is anyone left to rally the Starks? Will Joffrey continue to be horrible? Will Tyrion get to slap Joffrey again? The answers are below, and remember: massive SPOILERS abound!

Season 4, Episode 1 (31), “Two Swords” (first aired 6 April 2014). Thematically, “Two Swords” holds together well, with the opening wordless scene (before the credits!) of Tywin melting Ned Stark’s big ol’ executioner’s sword into two smaller swords, symbolizing the end of the Starks (counting his chickens a bit, but we’ll forgive him because communication in this world is so spotty), and then giving the bigger one to Jaime, newly shaved and ready for a fancy golden hand. Jaime rejects Tywin’s order to return to Casterly Rock and rule there, not because he doesn’t want to break his vow (he’s far too cynical for that), but because he wants to stay near Cersei. So of course Cersei doesn’t want to have anything to do with him, blaming him for … well, it’s not clear, but she’s pissed. Nicolaj Coster-Waldau is a sneaky-good actor, because he’s so pretty that you might not think he can act, but his disbelief, anger, and pain at Cersei’s rejection is nicely done. He also gets insulted by Joffrey, who just can’t help himself, it seems, when it comes to insulting anyone who might be an ally. Plus, he has a brief conversation with Brienne, and it’s nice to see that they’re still buds. The “Two Swords” of the title, however, doesn’t refer only to the two weapons Tywin had forged, it refers to the one Stark sword being broken down and another Stark sword “rejoining” its owner, as Arya finds the sword she received back in Season 1. At the end of the episode, we check in on her and the Hound, wandering toward the Eyrie, where Clegane plans to sell Arya to her aunt, the crazy Lysa who’s still breastfeeding her far-too-old son. They come upon an inn that the Hound wants to avoid, but Arya spots the dude who took her sword back when the King’s Guard dragged her away from the Night’s Watch caravan, so she runs headlong into danger (Arya has acquired a death wish, it seems, thanks to seeing so many members of her family butchered). She and the Hound go in, and of course it all turns to bloodshed (the dude who took her sword provokes the Hound, which seems really stupid), and Arya gets her sword back and kills the dude the same way he killed one of the boys heading north with them. Maisie Williams really does a nice job with Arya’s utter ruthlessness, as she falls deeper and deeper into darkness. In the capital, Sansa, who showed signs of becoming an interesting character, is stuck in the dumps, as she’s all sad that her family is dead. Suck it up, Sansa! Tyrion tries to cheer her up, but he also has to deal with a new character, Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), a prince of Dorne (not the one in charge, but close enough) who’s in town for Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding and has a super mad-on for the Lannisters, because his sister was married to the son of the Mad King, but when that went to shit, the Lannisters killed her and her children. So he should be fun! Way out East, Daenerys has plans to capture another slave city, but the big news is that Original Recipe Daario has been replaced by New Coke Daario (Michiel Huisman), who was on the show Treme, playing a Dutch musician who was kind of a douchebag (although he turned out all right in the end), so my wife and I always refer to him as “Douchebag.” When he showed up as New Coke Daario, we looked at each other and said, “Hey, it’s the douchebag!” We have an awesome marriage, you guys. Anyway, this is a decent enough episode (oh, there’s some stuff at the Wall, too, but nothing too special) for a season premiere, as it sets up the new status quo nicely and introduces Oberyn, whom we can tell immediately is going to be a fun dude to hang out with. And weirdly enough, the Hound tells us what kind of people certain sports team fans are (see below). Wow, he’s prescient!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

Season 4, Episode 2 (32), “The Lion and the Rose” (first aired 13 April 2014). Season 4 is the second half of Martin’s third book, so the usual slow build doesn’t necessarily apply, since we’re jumping in, technically, in the middle of a book, which means we can get action-packed episodes like this one early in the season. This one doesn’t quite have the emotional impact of the “Red Wedding” episode or the one where Ned Stark gets executed, but it’s still a wonderfully tense episode even if you don’t know what’s coming. We check in with some characters early on. Bran is spending too much time inside his dire wolf, but then he gets to the weird tree like the one at Winterfell, touches it, and sees snippets from the past and (presumably) the future before understanding where it is they need to go. So that’s nice. We also get to see Stannis turning into more of a religious fanatic, as he burns his brother-in-law because the dude didn’t accept his new faith. Melisandre visits Stannis’s daughter, Shireen (Kerry Ingram), who even for one so young isn’t buying Melisandre’s bullshit, so we’ll see how that goes. Roose Bolton rejoins his son, Ramsay, and doesn’t like how he’s broken Theon until Ramsey shows just how badly Theon is broken, which he believes could be useful. Oh, and Ramsay has a girlfriend who’s just as evil as he is, so I’m sure they’ll be very happy together being evil (she was one of the two girls who began to seduce Theon right before Ramsay castrated him, but it wasn’t clear that she was so close to Ramsay or just a random wench). It’s all about King’s Landing, though, as Joffrey and Margaery get married. First, Tyrion finds out that Cersei and Tywin know about Shae, so he gets Bronn to put her on a ship out of town. The wedding goes well, but beforehand, people are giving gifts to the king, and Tyrion gives Joffrey a big book about wise kingship, which the little shit proceeds to carve up with his new sword of Valyrian steel, the second one Tywin had forged from Ned Stark’s big sword. Then, the reception begins, and Joffrey does everything possible to ensure that the maximum number of people hate him. He leers at Sansa, because of course he does, and then doesn’t like any of the entertainment until his own idea comes out – a recreation of the recent war with dwarfs standing in for the kings, and they insult everyone except Joffrey, of course. Renly is shown as a deviant, Ned Stark loses his head and the Joffrey stand-in proceeds to mimic fucking the head, and it’s all in very poor taste and pisses off Brienne and Sansa and Loras and Margaery. Then Joffrey tells Tyrion he should join in, and Tyrion manages to insult the king while still sounding as if he’s praising him. Joffrey pours his wine on Tyrion’s head and demands more, but when Tyrion reaches for the cup, Joffrey drops it and kicks it under the table, which means Tyrion has to crawl around to get it (Sansa picks it up and hands it to him). Finally, just when Joffrey is ready to insult him some more, he starts choking. Before anyone can know what’s going on, he’s dead on the ground, cradled in Cersei’s lap as Jaime looks on helplessly. Cersei immediately points out Tyrion as the killer, and he’s taken away as the episode ends. Strange things are afoot, though. When would Tyrion have had time to poison the wine? Why would he do it when everyone knows he hates Joffrey? Wouldn’t he wait for a few months until things had calmed down and then done it in a smarter way? Cersei might hate Tyrion, but she knows he’s smart. And why would the jester, whose life Sansa saved when Joffrey wanted him killed a few seasons ago, appear so quickly at Sansa’s side and tell her that if she wants to live, she should come with him now? How did he know what was going to happen? Lots of questions, but they’re for later. The wedding is shocking, because as with Ned and then Robb as heroes, Joffrey was such a good villain that it’s impressive he was killed off with no resolution to the many plot threads the show has going. And the acting is terrific throughout the reception. Oberyn, Cersei, and Tywin jabbing at each other earlier is superb, Margaery trying to control Joffrey and only partially succeeding is great, and Joffrey trying to humiliate Tyrion and only shaming himself is chilling. But Lena Headey and Jack Gleeson are amazing in Joffrey’s moment of death, as Gleeson shows, one last time, that Joffrey is just a terrified, spoiled child trying to be what he thinks a king should be, and Headey really gets into the pain of a mother losing her child. The reception elevates the episode, which was solid to begin with, and sets the stage for more chaos, just when we thought things were going to stay peaceful. Now New Coke Tommen (the recasting has occurred!) is next in line, and yeah, I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

Season 4, Episode 3 (33), “Breaker of Chains” (first aired 20 April 2014). As the follow-up to a powerful episode, “Breaker of Chains” was always going to be a bit weaker, as the aftermath of Joffrey’s death has to be dealt with and nothing too big can happen, even with characters who have no close connection to the king. So Daenerys still doesn’t do much except show up at another city, Meereen, and tell them how she’s freeing all the slaves. The masters do send a champion out to fight, but New Coke Daario cuts him down quickly enough (the champion is shouting the insults from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, translated into Valyrian, which is fun). So even though Daenerys isn’t that connected to the main story, her plot can’t advance too much. Meanwhile, the episode kicks off right where the previous one ended, and we follow Sansa and the jester whose life she saved as he leads her out of the city, onto a rowboat, into the fog, and up to a larger vessel, on which is Petyr Baelish, back from the Eyrie to rescue Sansa … and kill the jester, because he’s a drunk who would have talked soon enough. It’s just a nice little moment in the show – Sansa saved the man’s life, and she thinks he’ll get a nice reward and go back to King’s Landing and maybe live out his days, happy, but that thought dies quickly, because Littlefinger is too wise in the ways of the world to allow it. Back in the capital, Tywin swoops in on Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman, who was actually on the show as one of the Lannister cousins who was killed by Rickard Karstark back in Season 3, but who was recast as Tommen when the showrunners decided to age him up a bit – the original Tommen was a bit too young, I guess) while he and Cersei are standing over Joffrey’s body, as the Lannister head isn’t about to let his daughter mold the new king – look what a superb job she did with the old one! – and makes pointed remarks about Joffrey that are, of course, meant for Cersei. Then Jaime rapes his sister next to Joffrey’s bier. It’s an uncomfortable scene, to be sure, and not like it is in the book, where it’s consensual. I do love how people got angry about it, though – oh no, the woman who basically ordered the same brother to push a small child out of a window and has done several other horrible things gets something horrible done to her by the man who actually pushed the boy out of the window and killed his own cousin to escape captivity! Martin and the showrunners have done a very good job giving everyone three dimensions on this show, but Cersei and Jaime, despite the fact that she loves her children deeply and he and Brienne are buds, are not nice people, so the rape is horrible, but it’s also in character. Meanwhile, Sam ditches Gilly in a town near Castle Black because he’s an idiot, the Wildlings wipe out a village and send a lone survivor, a boy, to Castle Black to announce their presence, and Arya and the Hound get taken in by a decent farmer, which is a big mistake when you’re dealing with the Hound. He doesn’t kill the farmer, but he does steal all the money he has, which pisses Arya off. The Hound is much like Littlefinger – pragmatic to a fault. He points out, probably rightly, that the farmer will be dead in a few months and his money will be useless to him. So why not take it? This argument does not convince Arya.

Anyway, it’s a decent episode, and Charles Dance dominates the few scenes he’s in, of course, and it’s nice to see Lord Baelish again, and Jaime is back to being a villain (for the moment; next episode he’ll be decent again!), and we’re moving on!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

Season 4, Episode 4 (34), “Oathkeeper” (first aired 27 April). The stars of this episode are, of course, a baby and a cat. The baby shows up at the end, when we check in with the Night’s Watch mutineers at Craster’s Keep, who are living it up raping all the women. They’re led by Burn Gorman, who’s good in everything he shows up in but is hamstrung by the fact that he’s a bit weird-looking, so he’s never the lead, just the ancillary dude who’s usually more interesting than the lead (he’s certainly more interesting than Jon Snow). One of the women brings him Craster’s last son, and he gets one of his flunkies to take it out into the forest like the others, and we see what happens to those babies – the Night King pokes them with his long, creepy fingernail, and the baby turns into a White Walker. Chilling!!!! (Both literally and figuratively!) Meanwhile, Ser Pounce, Tommen’s cat, makes its only appearance on the show, making sure his master remains pure when super-hot Natalie Dormer shows up in Tommen’s bedchamber to figuratively seduce him (Margaery still wants to be queen, so she’s putting the moves on Tommen, and she wants to make sure she’s controlling him and not Cersei). Ser Pounce gets in between the two, and Margaery must wait to sink her super-hot claws into our innocent boy!!!!!

Otherwise, this is a solid if unspectacular episode. It begins well, with Daenerys entering Meereen (after the slaves kill some masters and open the gate) and nailing many of the masters to crosses, as they did to their slaves in a previous episode in order to point the way to the city. Jaime is convinced to see Tyrion by Bronn, and they have a nice conversation in which it becomes clear that Jaime is torn between his loyalty to his brother and his conviction that he’s innocent and his love/lust for his sister, as Cersei won’t even think about giving Tyrion a fair trial. Both Coster-Waldau and Dinklage do a nice job in the cell, because they say so much without speaking it aloud. At Castle Black, Jon is given permission to go to Craster’s Keep, which he says is necessary because the mutineers will tell Mance Rayder how few men are in the Watch, so Jon wants to kill them all, but he’s allowed because the acting commander is fearful of his charisma and his beautiful hair and doesn’t want a rival when it comes time to choose a new commander. Oh, and hey, there’s Locke, the dude who chopped off Jaime’s hand, at Castle Black! He’s up to no good, of course, looking around for Bran for Roose Bolton, but there he is! Bran and his little group stumble onto Craster’s Keep, which they know is no good, but before they can leave, they’re captured. Well, that sucks. Brienne doesn’t know what to do with herself, so Jaime asks her to find Sansa and protect her, as Catelyn Stark would have wanted. He gives her his fancy sword of Valyrian steel, a new suit of armor, and Podrick, who’s in danger if he stays in the city. They have a nice moment. Of course, the most important moment in the episode comes when Motherfucking Emma Peel tells Margaery that she killed Joffrey. We already knew that Littlefinger was involved, and when he was talking to Sansa, we probably could have figured it out, but it’s better when Motherfucking Emma Peel reveals it, because Margaery’s reaction is excellent – she’s both horrified and impressed. You go, Countess Tracy!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Season 4, Episode 5 (35), “First of His Name” (first aired 4 May 2014). Well, after a few slower episodes, we get ramped back up, which is nice. It doesn’t hurt that we’re back at the Eyrie, with weird Lysa Arryn and her extremely annoying son, as Kate Dickie and Lino Facioli are quite good in those roles. Littlefinger brings Sansa to her aunt, and all seems well, until Lysa is alone with Baelish, when she reveals that she killed her husband, John, back before the show started, and wrote to her sister about how it was the Lannisters, which sent Ned Stark south as Robert’s Hand and began this entire mess. It’s a great reveal because we didn’t even know it was a reveal – we knew we’d find out who killed Joffrey sooner or later, but the fact that Baelish and Lysa were plotting everything back then is jaw-dropping. I mean, of course the Lannisters killed John Arryn, because he found out about Cersei and Jaime! It all makes sense! But it’s Littlefinger, who wants to rule the world, who’s been pulling the strings throughout. Well done, show. Later, Lysa shares a scene with Sansa, and she really goes batty, as she’s super-jealous of Sansa and accuses her of having sex with Littlefinger before she suddenly relents and comforts her niece. Poor Sansa – everyone fucks with her, tormenting her and then comforting her and then tormenting her again. I wonder what she’s going to do when she’s actually in a position of power? In King’s Landing, Margaery and Cersei decide that Margaery marrying Tommen is a good thing, and later, Cersei finds out why Tywin is so concerned with the Tyrells – the crown is in major debt to the Iron Bank of Braavos, which is not an institution with which you fuck. Cersei also meets with Oberyn to influence him in the trial of Tyrion (he’s a judge), and she speaks a bit about her daughter, off in Dorne. Cersei knows that women are powerless in this world, and when she mentions that young girls get hurt everywhere, we can’t help but think of her rape a few episodes ago. Over in Slaver’s Bay, Daenerys hears that Westeros is vulnerable, but she also hears that Astapor and Yunkai have reverted to slave-owning cities, and she decides to stay in the East and set things right. Good for her! The big set piece of the episode is at Craster’s Keep, where Karl, the leader of the mutineers, is about to rape Meera when Jon and his band attack. Locke, who had scouted the place out, knows where Bran is, so he goes there and tries to abscond with him, but Bran goes into Hodor’s mind and gets him to break free, chase Locke down, and break his neck. It was necessary, but we can tell that Hodor ain’t too happy about being used to kill a man. The battle goes well for Jon Snow’s boys, and he ends up fighting Karl in the main hall, where he’s assisted by one of the women, who stabs Karl in the back when it appears he has the upper hand. It doesn’t kill him, but when he turns to deal with her, Jon stabs him through the head. Then they burn the entire place down. Jojen convinces Bran to leave without reuniting with Jon, because he knows Jon will try to stop him on his quest. So once again a reunion of Stark kids is close but cruelly snatched away! It’s a good episode, and it sets things up well for the rest of the season.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Season 4, Episode 6 (36), “The Laws of Gods and Men” (first aired 11 May 2014). Game of Thrones always seems to have superior episodes when it stays in one place for a while, allowing things to build to a good conclusion. That’s certainly the case here, as we get the trial of Tyrion, but before that, we get some good scenes as well. We finally see Braavos, which is like Venice in that it’s built in a lagoon, and it has a nice Colossus of Rhodes thing going on at the entrance to the harbor – the cities in this series are always interesting to see, even if we don’t see much of the layouts of them because everyone is usually in a room somewhere. Stannis and Davos have come to the Iron Bank – the loan sharks of the world – for money, and Tycho Nestoris (played by Mark Gatiss, a.k.a Mycroft Holmes) seems disinclined to give it to him until Davos gives an impassioned speech about how Stannis cut his (Davos’s, that is) fingers off. It makes sense in context! So Stannis gets some gold, and Davos finds his pirate dude buddy and tells him he’s working for Stannis again. We check in on Theon and Ramsay, as Yara took a really long time to sail completely around Westeros to get her brother back, only to find that he doesn’t want to go. Theon has been so completely broken that he wants to stay, so Yara leaves him. I bet she’s really glad she sailed completely around Westeros for that! Daenerys is trying to rule, but we can see that it’s already tedious for her. She’s happy to pay a dude more than his goats are worth after one of her dragons barbecues the entire flock so it can eat breakfast, but she’s less amenable to the dude who wants to give his father – who’s currently crucified along the road because he was a master of the city – a decent burial. The dude finally convinces her, but we can tell she’d rather be out conquering than doing this shit. Then we get to the trial, and it’s a doozy. All of Tyrion’s vicious insults of Joffrey come back to haunt him, of course, although everyone thinks the same thing about their dead king but no one had the stones to say it, so Tyrion is the only one on trial. He knows Varys is going to testify against him, and Varys tells the truth, but all Tyrion can ask him is if he remembers the Battle of Blackwater, because Varys told him then that he had saved the city. Of course Varys remembers, but none of the judges asked him about it. Cersei just blatantly lies, saying that Joffrey led the troops from the battlements during the fight, but no one challenges her. Jaime finally makes a desperate plea to his father – let Tyrion live and join the Night’s Watch, and he – Jaime – will give up his standing in the King’s Guard and become the heir Tywin wants. That’s all Tywin really wanted anyway – he doesn’t want to kill Tyrion because he hated Joffrey as much as the next guy – so he accepts the deal. Tyrion seems like he’s going to go along with it – although he points out that Ned Stark was offered the same deal, and that didn’t go too well for him – but then Shae appears to testify, and she lies her ass off. I mean, some of what she says is the truth, but it’s mostly a lie. Oh, Shae – you should have left when you had the chance. Tyrion can’t control himself anymore, and he launches into a speech about the hypocrisy of the citizens and how he’s not on trial for killing Joffrey but for being a disappointment to his father, and how he wishes he had killed the king. He’s hanging himself, of course, but he has one more card to play: trial by combat. He’s done it before, of course, and he knows that the traditions of Westeros means it has to be accepted. It’s a dramatic ending to a terrifically acted episode. But how will Tyrion get out of it?!?!?!?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Season 4, Episode 7 (37), “Mockingbird” (first aired 18 May 2014). After burning through a lot of plot, GoT was bound to have an episode that was a bit slow, as we gear up for the final few in the season, and this is it. We’ve reached the point where the actors are so comfortable in their roles that it’s not going to be a particularly bad episode, but it’s not a great one, either, because so much of it is moving pieces around until the very end, when the titular character makes a move. Tyrion is trying to find a champion, and he talks to Jaime about it, but Jaime declines because he can’t fight well with his left hand. He asks Bronn, but Bronn has been paid off by Cersei (off-screen, because Jerome Flynn and Lena Headey had such a bad break-up from their real-life relationship that they had clauses in their contracts that they never share a scene on the show, which cracks me up), and he’s unwilling to risk his life against the Mountain. Bronn is very pragmatic and not cruel about it, but he does point out that Tyrion has never risked his life for him, and he happens to like his life more than Tyrion’s. The nice thing about the scene is that Tyrion has nothing but respect for Bronn’s selfish attitude. Finally, toward the end of the episode, Oberyn Martell says he’ll fight for Tyrion, because he’s wanted to fight the Mountain for years. Pedro Pascal gives another nice speech in an episode full of them when he tells Tyrion about seeing him when he was a baby, and how Tyrion was not the monster everyone said he was, but Cersei certainly was. Oberyn has hated the Lannisters for years, and this is his chance to begin paying them back. Out in the East, nothing much happens except Daenerys gets busy with Douchebag Daario and then dispatches him to Yunkai so that he can retake the city for her. So that’s nice for him – he gets to bang the woman he wants to bang and then go crack some skulls. A good day for Daario! Brienne and Podrick meet Hot Pie because there’s only the one inn in all of Westeros, and he tells them that Arya is still alive and Podrick figures she’s probably heading to the Eyrie to see her aunt, and Sansa might be there already. Arya, meanwhile, is still hanging out with the Hound, who gets bitten by a roving bandit (who’s hanging out with one of the dudes who was being taken north with Arya back in Season 2, because Westeros is the size of Kaycee, Wyoming, apparently), and Rory McCann gets to give a good speech about his horrible brother and why he’s afraid of fire. McCann doesn’t get much credit because he’s so big and playing a character who’s just a taciturn and grumpy warrior, but his size makes him invulnerable to a degree, so he always speaks his mind, and this speech is a good one. At the Eyrie, Sansa is hanging out, slapping her cousin because he’s a snot (although Sansa was kind of petulant about her snow castle getting damaged – it’s not like Robin meant to knock some of it down), getting kissed by Petyr Baelish, and almost getting thrown through the hole in the floor by her aunt, who saw Littlefinger kissing her. Baelish stops her and talks her down, but he seems to realize that she can’t keep her mouth shut – she pretty much admitted that they plotted to kill her husband in front of Sansa, who may not have heard it. So Littlefinger, in the episode’s last scene, pushes his wife through the Moon Door, sending her plummeting hundreds of feet to her death on the rocks below. Damn, that’s a good way to end an episode! Especially one that needed some oomph!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Season 4, Episode 8 (38), “The Mountain and the Viper” (first aired 1 June 2014). Like a lot of GoT episodes, this one is elevated by its ending, which is terrific. That’s not to say the rest of it is bad, just that the ending is really good. Before that, we get Ramsay Snow getting Theon into Moat Cailin and convincing the Ironborn to surrender, which goes well for Ramsay but not so good for the Ironborn. I mean, the Bolton sigil is a flayed man – why does anyone think that if they surrender they won’t be flayed? This leads to a touching moment when Roose Bolton officially recognizes Ramsay as his son and heir – Ramsay is overwhelmed with gratitude, and you really feel for the evil little psychopath! The Wildlings raid Mole’s Town and kill everyone, but Ygritte spares Gilly and her son, which was nice of her. Sam sent Gilly to town a few episodes ago, and it felt stupid then and it feels even more stupid now. Sam is all depressed at Castle Black, but the Wildling army is coming, so he might be dead soon anyway. In the East, Daenerys finds out that Jorah was spying on her for a time, and she kicks him out of her service. It’s a weird plot point – Barristan gets Jorah’s royal pardon somehow, but how? Jorah got one back in Season 1, but presumably he destroyed it when he decided to commit himself fully to Daenerys. So why send a new one? And how did the new one – which is from Robert Baratheon, and therefore not a fresh one – survive? Do they have copiers in King’s Landing? One would assume only one copy existed, but even if another one did, did someone – presumably Tywin – dig it out? How did he even know about the pardon, as he wasn’t the Hand when it was issued? Anyway, it’s all to separate Jorah and Daenerys, and it does that. It’s a good scene between Emilia Clarke and Iain Glen, too, as Jorah is still in love with Daenerys and can’t explain his betrayal, while she knows he loves her and she loves him a little bit (more as a father, sure, which isn’t what he wants, but it’s as far as it goes with her) and it’s killing her to exile him. We also check in with Arya and the Hound, who make it to the Eyrie just in time to find out that Arya’s aunt is dead, which cracks her up (she’s never met Lysa, so who cares – it’s more that the Hound’s entire journey is wasted). Inside the Eyrie, Petyr Baelish is being questioned about Lysa’s death, and when the council asks Sansa about it, she puts on a master class of lying, sprinkling in enough truth to make it work. She’s more comfortable with Littlefinger than the strangers at the Eyrie, so she saves his bacon. Sophie Turner is amazing in this episode, turning into the sad little girl to convince the council of Littlefinger’s innocence, discussing her choice with him later with eerie casualness, and dressing to impress later to dazzle both Robin and a love-struck Baelish. Turner didn’t have much to work with in the first season of the show, but since then, she’s gotten better each season. The climax of the episode, of course, is Oberyn’s battle against the Mountain 3.0 (yes, it’s the third actor to play the character in four seasons of the show). What’s great about the show is we have no idea how it’s going to go. We think Oberyn will win because Tyrion can’t die this early in the show – he’s really one of maybe four sympathetic main characters left, and the only one not on the periphery of the action – but you never know. Oberyn wants revenge on the Lannisters, and we know he won’t get it this early, but perhaps he’ll be able to win and begin plotting against Tywin. Then again, the Mountain is huge, and Oberyn is another sympathetic character, and we know what happens to sympathetic characters on this show. So the fight starts, and it’s as Bronn told Tyrion it would go in the previous episode – Oberyn dances around and doesn’t let the Mountain grab him, and he gets a bunch of non-lethal shots in. Oberyn wants him to admit that he killed Oberyn’s sister after raping her, and that he was acting under orders from Tywin, so he doesn’t kill him quickly. The Mountain tires, and Oberyn gets a good shot in – a spear right through the chest. That doesn’t kill the Mountain, but it puts him down for the count. Oberyn then does the thing that always undoes everyone – he gets overconfident. He still wants the Mountain to admit his crimes, but instead of keeping his focus on his foe, he allows a glance at his lover, and the Mountain grabs him and knocks him to the ground. Before Oberyn can get up, the Mountain grabs his throat, flips over him so that Oberyn is on the ground underneath him, and admits his crimes as he crushes Oberyn’s skull to pulp. It’s a violent (and impossible, based on how strong the skull is, but whatever) death, made all the more surprising by how quick it is and that Oberyn’s story felt more important. Tywin, of course, takes no time to pronounce death on Tyrion. Oh dear. Such a pickle!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Season 4, Episode 9 (39), “The Watchers on the Wall” (first aired 8 June 2014). The showrunners of GoT do a nice job of structuring the seasons, as they always leave the audience wanting more. After the traumatic ending to “The Mountain and the Viper,” they shift to the Wall, where Castle Black is about to go through some problems. Like “Blackwater,” this episode takes place in one location for a proscribed period of time – one night, basically – as the Wildlings finally attack the castle and bad things happen to a bunch of characters. First, Gilly returns to the castle after escaping the massacre at Mole’s Town, and Sam finally reveals his true feelings toward her, which is nice. He sticks her in the deepest, darkest room of the castle, hoping that will keep her safe. Meanwhile, Ygritte can’t stop going on about how badly she’s going to kill Jon Snow, which isn’t fooling anyone. Finally, the battle begins, with Mance Rayder’s army yelling and shouting at the bottom of the Wall but the group that Ygritte’s in attacking the castle from its relatively lightly defended southern side. It’s an impressive battle – the camera zips all over the set, making sure we know that it’s not just a small place shot at different angles, but a rather large area, and the fighting is impressive. Jon has to take charge at the top of the Wall when Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale), the acting commander, has to go down to the ground to organize the defense, but eventually he has to go down, too. The defense of the Wall is impressive, with archers hanging precariously over the edge, large anchors scraping climbers off, and explosive barrels being dropped on giants and mammoths that are trying to force the gate. Jon tells a small cohort to hold the gate (a gate he wanted sealed, but Alliser ignored him), and they do, at a great cost. Alliser, meanwhile, gets wounded on the ground, so Jon has to go down, and there’s some cool fighting between him and the head cannibal dude. Finally, Jon ends up face-to-face with Ygritte, who has him dead to rights. She hesitates, and the kid who was sent to the castle by the Wildlings to deliver the message about their path of destruction – his name is Olly (Brenock O’Connor) – puts an arrow into her. Dang, son! Jon is sad, Ygritte dies telling him he knows nothing (at which point I might have dropped her and walked away), and Olly gets a small measure of revenge for his parents. When Arya was taking archery lessons from the Brotherhood, her teacher told her not to hesitate because it will strain your muscles. You should also not hesitate because some punk kid might shoot you in the back! So the Night’s Watch wins the battle, but Jon knows Mance will just try again, so he heads north to find Mance and parley with him. It’s a fine episode, with lots of action, and it’s impressive how they manage to keep everything moving even with time for some nice character beats and noble deaths. It’s not quite as good as “Blackwater,” mainly because it doesn’t feel as decisive (as Jon notes), but it’s still a cool episode.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Season 4, Episode 10 (40), “The Children” (first aired 15 June 2014). Jon Snow meets Mance Rayder, who isn’t all that happy with him, but before anything can really happen, a bunch of knights show up and start killing Mance’s soldiers. What the heck is happening? Why, it’s Stannis Baratheon, the only person to take the threat from the White Walkers and/or the Wildlings seriously! He and Davos ride in, seize Mance, and speak briefly to Jon Snow. Stannis has some respect for Jon as Ned Stark’s son, so he seems to agree to treat Mance with respect, which Jon asks him to. Out in the East, Daenerys has to chain up her dragons because one of them barbecued a girl, and it’s an emotional moment that Emilia Clarke plays quite well, considering she’s sad about CGI creatures. In the far north, Bran and his dudes reach the weird tree where the three-eyed raven is, but they’re attacked by White Walkers and Jojen is killed before they can make it to safety. Poor Ferb! The two biggest developments are in King’s Landing and on the road, where relationships are shattered. Tywin still wants Cersei to marry Loras, but she finally tells him the truth about her affair with her brother, which causes Tywin some consternation. Later, Jaime releases Tyrion and tells him Varys will get him on a ship, but Tyrion just can’t leave with things undone, so he sneaks into his father’s bedchamber. There he finds Shae sleeping in Tywin’s bed, and when she wakes up, she realizes she might have made a mistake. Tyrion strangles her (man, Shae, you should have listened to him!) and then takes a crossbow and finds his father sitting on the privy. Tywin thinks he can talk him down, but he calls Shae a whore one time too many (Tyrion warned him once not to call her that again, but he did), so Tyrion shoots him. When Tywin won’t shut up, Tyrion shoots him again, fatally. Then he leaves the city. Varys thinks about it and decides, yeah, probably best for me to leave, too, because who knows how Cersei and Jaime will react to the murder of their father. So there’s that. Meanwhile, Brienne and Podrick happen upon Arya and the Hound, but Brienne thinks the Hound is keeping Arya against her will, while the Hound points out, rightly, that Brienne is buds with a Lannister, so Arya doesn’t trust her even though Brienne isn’t beholden to the Lannisters. Brienne and the Hound have an epic sword fight, which ends when the Hound falls off/is pushed off a hill, wounding him rather severely. Brienne and Podrick can’t find Arya, so they move on. Arya decides not to kill the Hound even though he’s badly wounded and begs her to kill him, because she probably thinks his slow death is better than a quick one. Or maybe she thinks he’ll survive and she has realized he’s not as awful as he appears to be. Whatever. She heads to a port, gives Jaqen’s iron coin to a man from Braavos, which gets her passage away from Westeros and to that city. It’s a good season finale, rending some of the fundamental relationships on the show and throwing more characters to the wind. Let’s get ready for Season 5!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Breaking it down!

Ranking of Season 4 episodes:

1. “The Lion and the Rose” – Ding, dong, Joffrey’s dead!
2. “The Laws of Gods and Men” – Tyrion goes on trial!
3. “The Mountain and the Viper” – Oberyn fights Gregor Clegane!
4. “The Watchers on the Wall” – The Night’s Watch fights the Wildlings!
5. “The Children” – Brienne fights Sandor Clegane!
6. “First of His Name” – Lysa reveals that she and Littlefinger are behind it all!
7. “Mockingbird” – Lysa takes flight!
8. “Two Swords” – Oberyn Martell shows up in King’s Landing!
9. “Breaker of Chains” – Daenerys arrives in Meereen!
10. “Oathkeeper” – SER POUNCE!!!!!

Average Rating: 7.3/10 stars
Median Rating: 7.25/10 stars

Here’s an updated list of all the episodes, ranked:

1. “Blackwater” (S2E9)
2. “The Rains of Castamere” (S3E9)
3. “The Lion and the Rose” (S4E2)
4. “And Now His Watch Is Ended” (S3E4)
5. “Baelor” (S1E9)
6. “Kissed by Fire” (S3E5)
7. “The Laws of Gods and Men” (S4E6)
8. “The Mountain and the Viper” (S4E8)
9. “Fire and Blood” (S1E10)
10. “The Wolf and the Lion” (S1E5)
11. “A Golden Crown” (S1E6)
12. “Walk of Punishment” (S3E3)
13. “The Watchers on the Wall” (S4E9)
14. “The Children” (S4E10)
15. “Dark Wings, Dark Words” (S3E2)
16. “A Man Without Honor” (S2E7)
17. “The Old Gods and the New” (S2E6)
18. “Lord Snow” (S1E3)
19. “You Win or You Die” (S1E7)
20. “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” (S3E7)
21. “First of His Name” (S4E5)
22. “The Climb” (S3E6)
23. “Mockingbird” (S4E7)
24. “Second Sons” (S3E8)
25. “Valar Morghulis” (S2E10)
26. “What Is Dead May Never Die” (S2E3)
27. “The Kingsroad” (S1E2)
28. “Garden of Bones” (S2E4)
29. “The Ghost of Harrenhal” (S2E5)
30. “The Pointy End” (S1E8)
31. “Two Swords” (S4E1)
32. “Valar Dohaeris” (S3E1)
33. “Breaker of Chains” (S4E3)
34. “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things” (S1E4)
35. “The Prince of Winterfell” (S2E8)
36. “Oathkeeper” (S4E4)
37. “Winter Is Coming” (S1E1)
38. “The Night Lands” (S2E2)
39. “Mhysa” (S3E10)
40. “The North Remembers” (S2E1)

Average Rating for Season 1: 7.1/10 stars
Average Rating for Season 2: 6.9/10 stars
Average Rating for Season 3. 7.35/10 stars
Average Rating for Season 4: 7.3/10 stars

Median Rating for Season 1: 7.25/10 stars
Median Rating for Season 2: 7/10 stars
Median Rating for Season 3: 7.25/10 stars
Median Rating for Season 4: 7.25/10 stars

That seems about right – Season 3 and 4 were both quite good, so it’s not surprising to me that they’re so close in my average and median rankings. We’ll see what fun is in store in Season 5!

2 Comments

  1. Jeff Nettleton

    One of my pet peeves about the series is the rather badly handled military strategy in most of the battles, as well as the average fight scene. They always go for showy stuff over logical and a lot of flashy stuff, instead of efficient killing (though it varies a bit). However, the fight between Oberyn and the Mountain is one of the better ones, as he is using speed and agility, plus the reach of his spear to hit the mountain in vulnerable areas, like the tendons. He should be going for his hamstring (a desired target in medieval combat and his achilles, to eliminate mobility, then the arms, to limit his striking ability. But, he gets overconfident and showy and gets too close and gets rolled and crushed. That was a damn good fight.

    Bronn gets some decent work, from time to time, and Barristan Selmy has a couple, where he gets to demonstrate pure skill over youth and brute force.

    The post-Moon Door scene allows us to see the always awesome Rupert Vansittart (Four Weddings and a Funeral), who is always great in anything (love him in an episode of Black Books, where he wants to buy a set of Dickens because they are leather bound and would match his decor). I have issues with the gratuitous gore and nudity (and “sexposition”) in the show; but, cannot fault them for the number of really great actors they brought into the show.

    Love when Brienne is presented with Podrick (with a shit-eating grin) and ten she dumps all over him. The Pod/Brienne relationship was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding, by the end.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Jeff: I think the battles are fine – a lot of medieval warfare was like it’s depicted on the show, and I think we’re subtly supposed to understand that Jon Snow, for instance, isn’t a very good military commander. But it could just be mistakes by the showrunners, of course!

      Vansittart survives the entire show, because he’s at the council at the end, right? I think he’s one of the ones who mocks Sam about democracy. Good to see him just doing his thing for the show’s run!

      Yeah, Brienne and Podrick is just another great duo the show came up with.

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