By Andrew Williams
June 18, 2014
Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and the rest).
Now, this is a story all about how… The temporary end of the War of the Five Kings doesn’t mean a diminished body count in Westeros, as the fourth season of Game of Thrones continues to provide the kind of shocking moments and gruesome violence for which we’ve come to love it.
Happy days? Game of Thrones is a brilliantly cast, exquisitely made television show with the best production values in the business, and a massive, massive hit. The basics of television are no longer a concern. The challenge Thrones faces are twofold: on a macro level, how does it rein in its sprawling narrative and ever-expanding list of characters to remain a show where heart and soul take precedence over width and breadth, and on a micro level, how does it rehabilitate some of the story threads that are so much less successful than others?
The trouble with Game of Thrones is that for every Tyrion Lannister there’s a Roose Bolton. In wrestling parlance, Roose is the curtain-raiser you have to sit through so you can get to the main event. For a series with some of the most economically well-developed characters in television, there remains simply not enough time to develop everyone accordingly. The scenes involving characters we have less time for (Bolton, Stannis Baratheon, arguably Bran Stark and Jon Snow) drag down episodes in which they appear. The finale of this season, for example, suffers greatly from the fact that characters perish who we simply haven’t had time to get to know, and those moments lack import as a result.
When it works, though, it works like gangbusters. Due to its format, Game of Thrones is a show of moments, not episodes, and Season Four delivers more amazing moments than any season previous. It’s a parade of shockers, stunners and surprises, and it is enormous, sometimes scarring fun to watch.
The final frontier: The problems with Game of Thrones remain the same, but fortunately so does everything else – and everything else is phenomenally good. Thrones has become a rare thing in a ever more splintered age of television: must-see.
Top three episodes: 2) The Lion and the Rose. After a semi-quiet start, Game of Thrones roars into life with a bravura wedding sequence featuring a classic Thronesian shocker that sets up the season to come. A Westerosian wedding is a very bad place to be. 6) The Laws of Gods and Men. Thrones goes full Law and Order as a trial sequence culminates in an earth-shaking monologue that will surely result in an Emmy nomination for Tyrion himself, Peter Dinklage, if not a win. 8) The Mountain and the Viper. Even if I’m still haunted by this episode, I have to respect its artistry.
Worst episode: 3) Breaker of Chains. Not so much ‘worst episode’ as ‘worst scene’, as there’s a sex scene in Breaker of Chains that is badly mishandled; so much so that what is intended as consensual is far too easily interpreted as rape. It’s a rare misstep for a show normally so good at handling subtlety, but the resultant controversy and confusion could have been so easily avoided.
Season MVP: For the second time, Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister is the heart and soul of this season of Game of Thrones. In a show containing epic battle scenes, thrilling duels, heavy doses of nudity, sex and freaking dragons, Dinklage simply talking remains the biggest spectacle. No matter the challenge – moments of pure rage, a monologue of philosophical rejection, or a sly joke – Dinklage rises to it (if not above it), and Tyrion Lannister is already in the pantheon of all-time great television characters.
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Game of Thrones is available on Quickflix