Game of Thrones Season 4 Ep 5 (TV Show Review)

Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones Season 4 was very much a downer for me. And also quite possibly one of the few episodes of the show that I really don’t like, for a variety of reasons. It contains some of the worst of the show so far, and it continues on blithely as it ignores its own faults. And that is a dangerous road to take, if the showrunners can’t spot or acknowledge the mistakes they are making. A large part of that has had to with the show’s glorification of violence against women, although often the show also struggles under the weight of its army of characters, and keeping all the various plotlines straight is a tough job at the best of times.

This week’s episodes moves the story somewhat forward but given the fact that we are now half done with the new season, the show lacks excitement and zest. What happens in this episode is still the movement and arrangement of the various chess pieces in play. The Lannisters, the Tyrells, they are all consolidating their hold on power, even as the Mother of Dragons is set to sail for King’s Landing (not quite!) and the adventures of the surviving Stark children still continue in the North, blithely so. This was all just too much filler this week.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Poster 0002

“First of His Name” starts with Tommen Baratheon (really should be Tommen Lannister!) being crowned as the King of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. With the death of Joffrey, the Lannister’s hold on the throne and on King’s Landing is tenuous at best, but the family is not down and out of the count as long as Cersei and Tywin are there to ensure that the family has ample support to maintain that hold. Which sets off one of the most bizarre and surprising conversations I’ve seen in this show. In the past, Cersei has always been shown as someone who is… jealous and haughty, dismissive and uncaring of those around her. And recently, all her worst traits have been to the offer, especially in the wake of Joffrey’s death. So it was with great surprise that I saw Cersei walk up to Margaery during Tommen’s coronation and make a somewhat committal effort at alliance. All of Season 3 and even thus far in the new season, Cersei has been very much against Margaery and her influence on Joffrey, but in the wake of the latter’s death, it seems that something has changed indeed. And as she puts to Margaery, Tommen is going to need good, strong advisors to keep him on the Iron Throne.

Now that was something I liked. It marked a redemptive turn in Cersei’s character and it all continued on later when she met with her father and talked with him how to secure her family’s hold on the Iron Throne. To see a calm and considerate Cersei was refreshing and novel. Her diplomacy in this episode is something that I wish we’d seen much earlier. It comes rather late in the story, but it is still welcome because it shows how great a character she can be.

And there are the scenes between Arya and the Hound. These scenes do much to lighten up the overall grim feeling of the episode, largely because of how good the dialogue between the two of them is, and how good both Maisie Williams and Rory McCann are in these roles. What was best about this episode in particular was Arya practicing her sword-play as taught to her by Syrio Forel, a celebrated swordsman from Braavos who was her teacher at King’s Landing before he was killed when Cersei moved against Arya’s father. As I said on Twitter, I have zero idea whether Maisie’s sword-work was good or not, and really isn’t something that I think is relevant to the criticism at hand, but I loved watching her. The way she twists and moves through the moves, and switches sword-hands is quite… exquisite. Now, I’m really hoping that there is a time in this season when she gets to use her skills on someone.

A good part of the episode however is taken up by the events beyond the Wall, at Craster’s Keep where Bran and his band of merry runaways are held captives and where his brother Jon Snow is set to arrive to take care of the Night’s Watch mutineers under Karl. While the scenes with Bran & Co. were tiring and boring, the scenes with Jon were anything but. With the former, it is all about setting up the pieces for the future stories, but with the latter, it is all about the moment. Jon going up against Karl and the resultant fight between them has to be one of the high-points of the season, if for no other reason than the fact that we have an example of an expert knife-wielder going up against someone bearing a longsword (?). To this complete sword-novice, the action was quick, fluid, and definitely worth watching a second time. The way that this entire extended sequence ends, there are both positives and negatives, but I’ll side once again with Jon’s half of the story here, rather than Bran’s. Still, seeing Hodor… unchained was a visceral experience, reminding viewers of just what Hodor could be like.

Of course, we can’t ignore the other three points of view either, the first of which deals with Daenerys and her army in Mereen. With Daario Naharis having taken the Mereenese navy, there is a discussion about the Mother of Dragons taking all her forces with her and sailing to King’s Landing to establish her presence and her claim to the Iron Throne. But, as Ser Jorah mentions, there are quite a few kinks in that particular plan, not the least of which is that there are troubles closer to the army that need to be taken care of, and that they still need to build up their strength. For some reason, I really liked Ser Jorah and Daenerys in this scene. Of course, a lot of it has to do with the performances by Iain Glen and Emilia Clarke, but at the same time, I liked the turn of characters in this episode, as well as the fact Ser Jorah’s standing in Daenery’s council was once again reinforced. He is her preeminent advisor and that is that.

The next scene to consider is the vision of Brienne and Podrick traveling along the Kingsroad as they head North to look for Sansa and keep her safe, following the oath that Brienne made to Jaime in the previous episode. That particular subplot isn’t really brought up in this episode, but what we do see is Brienne and Podrick growing more comfortable together in their roles as an (almost-)Knight and a squire. Not much in the way of humour here, but some good dialogue paired with good performance, and I’ll take that.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Stills 0005

Finally, there is the return of Petyr Baelish to the Vale and its mistress Lady Arryn, with Sansa in tow. With her intended husband’s return, Lady Arryn wastes no time in getting hitched, which was quite a surprise. More surprises followed when the identity of Jon Arryn’s murderer was revealed. It was rather anti-climactic and over far too quickly. For a mystery that has been around since the very first episode of the show, the reveal lacked impact because it came in so late in the overall story. And I can’t say that I care much for it, except that it really stirs up the plot, and that wasn’t something that we needed much of.

When all is said and done, the new episode was still boring for me, despite all the good bits. I just didn’t care about the overall story all that much, and it was as if the story had hardly moved forward any either. Too many characters getting the spotlight and too many characters getting left out. I mean, what is going on with Roose Bolton’s bastard son Ramsay Snow and Theon Greyjoy? Where is Theon’s sister and what is she doing to free him? What is happening with Varys in King’s Landing? What is Oberyn Martell really up to in the capital? What is Mance Ryder doing in the North? What are the Wildlings under Ygritte and Tormund Giantsbane up to? So many questions, and so few answers.

Perhaps next week’s episode can shine some much needed illumination, and that would be a welcome sight indeed.

More Game of Thrones Season 4: Ep 1, Ep 2, Ep 3, Ep 4.


Posted on May 5, 2014, in Game of Thrones, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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