Television Series DVD

Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season

Distributed By: HBO

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                With four Game of Thrones novels under my belt, I felt I was ready to tackle the fourth season of the television series without too many surprises.  Boy, was I wrong!  That being said, the visuals of the scenes in the fourth season that I had previously only imagined in my mind’s eye while reading the books, way surpassed my own very detail-oriented imagination.

                When we last left the world of Westeros and the lands beyond, the Red Wedding had taken place, removing the biggest threat of the war between the kings, Robb Stark (Richard Madden), his wife (Oona Chaplin), his mother (Michelle Fairley) and most of his army.  Arya (Maisie Williams), who was being taken to her family by The Hound (Rory McCann), would now have to find somewhere else to go.  Kings Landing is alight with happiness as the biggest perceived threat to Joffrey’s (Jack Gleeson) reign was removed.  They could now proceed with his wedding to Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer).  I suppose they forgot about Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her army of Unsullied and more who are making their way through the slave cities of Essos without much difficulties.  Meanwhile, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has returned from beyond the Wall, though many believe him a trader after fighting with Mance Rayder’s (Claran Hinds) Wildling army.

                Much at ease with their position in Kings Landing, the Lannisters move forward with the king’s wedding.  Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is devastated over the loss of her family and Joffrey makes great sport of this both before and during the wedding, much to her husband and his uncle, Tyrion Lannister’s (Peter Dinklage), chagrin.  His behavior at the wedding and his sport at other people’s expense makes it that much sweeter when Joffrey dies in his mother’s arms, the victim of poison.  Cersei (Lena Headey) immediately accuses her brother of the act and calls for his death.  His father, Tywin (Charles Dance) organizes a trial…or a farce of a trial, as all have amassed themselves against Tyrion, whether they have truthful evidence or not.

                His wife is also suspect, having disappeared shortly after Joffrey’s death.  Sansa is swept away by the former Minister of Coin, Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen).  He takes her to The Vale, where he is to marry her aunt, Lysa (Kate Dickie).  Though Lysa accepts her under her roof, she is troubled – Sansa is much younger than she and looks just like her mother, the woman Petyr was once in love with.  She is jealous beyond reason…or maybe with reason, as she witnesses Petyr kiss Sansa in the courtyard.  As we learn, Lysa is no stranger to murder.  One can say that her sister’s whole family was nearly wiped out because of her willingness to commit murder.

                In Essos, Daenerys has set her sights on Meereen, taking the city easily with the help of her Unsullied and the slaves within the city.  After learning what has happened to the slave cities she has left, Daenerys decides to stay in Meereen and try her hand at ruling.  As she sees it, if she cannot maintain the freedom of the people she has just set free, what good is she as a ruler…how good a ruler would she be in Westeros?  As Daenerys will soon learn, ruling a country is hard work filled with gut-wrenching decisions.  Who can she trust to help her?  Especially after she learns that one of her most trusted advisors has betrayed her.

As Arya and Sandor travel forward, discovering that The Vale is out of the question as a destination, they come across Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie).  Brienne has been charged by Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) to find and bring the Stark sisters to safety.  Unfortunately, her association with a Lannister makes Arya wary of joining her.  The Hound doesn’t trust Brienne and engages her in battle, but in the end, the wounded Hound is no match for a rested Brienne.  Though Brienne wins the match, she loses track of Arya, who sets off for Bravos to learn the ways of the assassin.

In the North, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and his companions, the Reeds and Hodor (Kristian Nairn), are still trying to find the three-eyed raven but find themselves kidnapped by the Night's Watch deserters in possession of Craster's Keep.  They escape, but not without the help of a Bran-controlled Hodor.  This new power comes in handy for Bran when they finally make it to the three-eyed raven.  Meanwhile, after a failed attempt to rescue Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) from his brutal captor Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon), Ramsay decides to use his new plaything to capture Moat Cailin, finally receiving the recognition he has long awaited from his father, Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton).

At the Wall, Jon Snow is having great difficulty convincing the leaders of the Night’s Watch that he was ordered to live amongst the Wildlings so he could learn all he could about Mance Raydor’s army.  Though his closest friends believe him, the leaders of the Night’s Watch are skeptical at Jon’s claims of giants and mammoths and more all united under one former Night Watchman’s reign.  But when the moment of attack comes, will the severely outnumbered men of the Night’s Watch be able to hold the Wall and Castle Black against the true strength of the King Beyond the Wall.

So, if you thought that the Red Wedding was a bloody affair and figured that the amount of deaths in the third season of Game of Thrones could never be outdone, you were in for quite a surprise when you watched the fourth season.  So was I.  Having read the books, I was unprepared for some of the twists and turns and severe veering away from the storyline the creators of the television series were going to take.  Yes, a great deal of the television series follows the basic principles of the novels, but there are some deaths that come earlier than expected and some veering off the novel’s storyline path for certain characters here and there.

That being said, I can honestly say that the changes in the storyline did nothing to dampen the fun I had watching Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season.  The acting in this series is terrific and the actors are so believable in their roles that you become invested in their character and feel real pain at their loss or real happiness, depending on who the character is.  The deaths this season are particularly nasty.  First, we have Joffrey’s poisoning, which was very well done.  Then there is the death of Tyrion’s champion, which is particularly grizzly.  And then there is the battle for the Wall.  Here, we lose some of the most hated and most beloved characters in the series.  There is so much going on in this battle…so much action and so much loss…that you will find yourself on the edge of your seat throughout.  CGI has certainly come along way and you will see that in the rendering of the mammoths and giants who attack the wall and the ways the Night’s Watch uses to repel them.  Simply amazing and utterly real-seeming.

            In this season, we see several of the characters mature, like Sansa, Arya and Bran, who are all reeling from their losses and learn to move past them to attain their goals.  Sansa uses what she has learned in King’s Landing to keep herself safe in Littlefinger’s schemes.  Arya has accepted being the Hound’s captive and determines to learn as much about the art of killing from him as she can.  Bran forges forward through great loss to find the three-eyed raven and learn of his destiny.  We seethe at the treatment of Tyrion and eventually see what that treatment turns him into.  Here is a man who was loathe to kill others and just wait until you see what the treachery of his family pushes him to do.  Jon’s character is just as valiant as ever, but now he is beginning to be seen as a leader of men.  Daenerys also matures.  Sure, she has known hardship in her path to Essos and the sacrifices of leading, but this season, she learns of treachery within her ranks.  She also learns how some of her decisions, though benefiting some, also harm others.  She must learn balance and this is not something that comes very easy to the would-be Queen.  And the revelation about the murder of Jon Arryn (John Standing)- oh boy, to think that the truth about this murder could have prevented the death of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) and the war that came afterwards!

There are quite a few revelations in this season as well.  We learn that Cersei’s hate for Tyrion began when he was a baby as her mother died during Tyrion’s birth.  We also learn that Cersei is very much aware of what a monster her son was – she confesses as much to Margaery when she decides to ask her to bond herself with Cersei’s surviving son Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman).  As Cersei says, she knows he was a monster and did hateful things, but there is a love a mother has for her first son that will never waiver, no matter what atrocities he commits.  Viewers are also treated to new knowledge about the Hound and his hatred for his brother.  Also, two people admit to the murder of Joffrey – Littlefinger and Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) – one to gain power and set Sansa free for his own nefarious purposes and the other to keep her granddaughter from being married to an abusive monster.

Just as interesting as the story told in this season of Game of Thrones are the extras found on this DVD set.  New Characters & Locations is a featurette that discusses all of the newcomers, their homelands, their cultures and more.  Bastards of Westeros is a featurette in which the showrunners and George R.R. Martin discuss the roles of the bastards of the Seven KingdomsBehind the Battle for the Wall is a documentary explaining one of the biggest battles in the Game of Thrones series, featuring three distinct stages, CGI effects, hundreds of extras and more through the eyes of the coordinators, frontrunners, actors and more.  The Fallen: A Roundtable is an interesting feature in which the writer, Bryan Cogman, sits down with several of the cast members who meet their demise during this season of the show.  In this feature, we learn the actors’ favorite scenes, how they were first introduced to their roles, how they discovered their character was to be written off the series and more.  Also included were Histories and Lore, a look at the mythology of Westeros told by several characters from the series; in-episode guides; audio commentaries; two deleted scenes (really, just two?!) and a Blooper Reel that I though was hilarious but wished was longer.

I binge watched Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season and was done in just a couple of days, such was the action and intrigue that I kept watching long after I should be in bed.  What a terrific storyline, performed by amazing actors in a land that seems real once the writers, set production people, costume creators and more work their magic.  I can’t wait to watch Season Five!


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