TV Report Card | 'Game of Thrones' Season 4 Review

Overview: An adaptation of the second half of George R.R. Martin’s “A Storm of Swords”; the season found the Lannister’s pitted against each other more than ever, the surviving Stark girls coming into their own, Daenarys continuing her rule as a queen and the lone surviving Baratheon continuing his fight for the throne. All of this as the battle at The Wall came to a head.

Storyline Pros: Everything involving Tyrion was phenomenal. His trial diatribe against his accusers and detractors was sheer brilliance. He is a fascinating character and when he is not on-screen, the series doesn’t boast the same intrinsic glow that it does when he is on. It’s like watching color drain from a painting. His relationship with Tywin remains one of the most fascinating father/son dynamics that television has recently explored.

Arya and the Hound provided ample entertainment and surprising comedic relief. The great thing about Arya, as with Tyrion, is she just wants to get the job done. No griping just action. The machinations of the Tyrell’s were fun to watch unfold and the grandmother/granddaughter repartee between the pair was golden. Oberyn Martell and his sister supplied some saucy action and Daenarys, as always, brought her grace to the plight of others, learning a few things along the way. 

Storyline Cons: Bran and company’s search for the enchanted tree slowed the story down immensely as they endlessly slogged to their destination. The Wall had its moments though it too, ran stale. The exit/deaths of characters were once again a bitter pill to swallow, the worst being the inevitable end of Tywin; a central antagonist who has been essential to the series. If there was one character worth extending past his book ordered expiration date it was him. Taking second place is the possible exit of The Hound. The series wouldn’t be the same without his surly quips. 

Of the deaths, the one that should’ve been easily satisfactory was that of teen king, Joffrey. Unfortunately he didn’t get as good as he gave. The series’ vilest villain went down consumed in a quick death that didn’t equal half of the torment he’d dished out. However, without him there’s no one left to be the uber villain and the eagerness of tuning in each week to see if he finally gets his comeuppance is gone. It’s an interesting paradox, wanting him gone and dealing with the void left by it happening.

Next Season Wish: More Varys! The wisdom in his monologues and repartee with characters is essential to the series and was sorely missed this year. 

Production Caliber: The lighting needs to be improved. During the episode-long action sequence at The Wall, barely any of the action could really be seen.

Performance Quality: The cast as a whole continued to bring the characters to life with fun results. As Tyrion, Peter Dinklage (ever the most valuable player) continued his tour de force performance with one of the most powerful turns on television. There is no emotional stone unturned or nuance overexploited, Dinklage is one of the finest actors working and he proved why all over again this season.  

As Tyrion’s paternal nemesis, Charles Dance, turned in his final chapters as Tywin, the enigmatic evildoer. It was a performance prosperous in its regal air without ever seeming aloof. Dance’s charisma fantastically offered glimmers at redemption. Despite all of his bad deeds, even in those final moments, I still wanted to believe Tywin and that is the mark of an amazing actor.

Maisie Williams was once again; pitch perfect as the headstrong ruffian, Arya. Her buddy chemistry with co-star Rory McCann (The Hound) gave the series a boost of levity. McCann deserves singling out for his well-versed performance, which commanded an irresistible likability. Even amidst the character’s background of brutality. McCann sold The Hound’s tentative compassion for the orphaned Stark with an astoundingly believable warmth. Pedro Pascal (Oberyn) burned especially bright as the series doomed newcomer.

Overall Grade: A, the enchanting world of “Thrones” continued to engage in its fourth year. Stellar production quality, lively performances and an immersive soundtrack returned viewers to George R.R. Martin’s magical universe. Two episodes fell short of the season’s overall quality and the lighting continued to put a damper on the visual enjoyment of the series. In a 10 episode season, there should be no filler episodes. Just clear, concise storytelling and that is why it fell shy of an A+.