As TK notes in his The Children review, Game of Thrones’ fourth season has been tumultuous — full of ups and downs and its great moments offset by missteps. It’s pretty nifty though, that something like the death of that little asshole Joffrey barely registers among the season’s standout moments. The series covered a lot of book ground, which may turn out both boon and bane. For the book readers (no spoilers), a few cards were shuffled to different places in the deck — again, to good and not so good ends — but one of this year’s most spectacularly terrible moments was right in line with George R. R. Martin’s words, and still it crushed. Here, in my particular order, are the highs and lows…the moments we’ll always remember and a few we’d like to forget. *Spoilers ahead!
5. Daenerys Banishes Jorah, The Mountain and the Viper
I remember being crushed by this moment when reading, and Iain Glen sold his loss and reaction to exile with his acting arsenal’s every facial nuance. It was a twofold terrible blow, both in his banishment and Dany’s über stoic manner.
4. The Replacement of Not-So-Great Daario Naharis with an Even-Worse, Utterly Boring NuDaario, Two Swords
Blue-hair or no, series Daario has never held a candle to book Daario, but at least Ed Skrein had a twinkle in his eye. With no insult toward Michiel Huisman intended, he’s just not right for the part; there’s no chemistry between his Daario and Daenerys.
3. Rape on Top of Rape, Oathkeeper
So, someone decided that immediately following the episode when Jaime rapes Cersei, there should be another another episode featuring even more rape over at Craster’s Keep? It’s almost like the writers think we don’t know bad guys are really bad unless we see them raping women.
2. Oberyn’s Head-Smashing Defeat and Death, The Mountain and the Viper
We screamed, we winced, we covered our eyes and shied away. Whether or not you knew it was coming, Oberyn’s manner of death was a (*ahem*) terribly crushing blow.
1. Jaime’s Completely Unnecessary Rape of Cersei, Breaker of Chains
Incest isn’t enough? Brother and sister having sex over the body of their dead son isn’t enough? Add confusion between an episode director and the writers/showrunners’ intent, and we ended up with a hot mess that made no sense for either story or character, as evidenced by us all trying to pretend it never happened.
5. A Stark Sisters Tie:
Sansa’s Visible Transformation As She Descended the Castle Stairs, The Mountain and the Viper
Though plenty of us have seen Sansa’s evolution and growth all along, to see her intelligence on full display as she played her various parts…to revel in the moment she embraced her Maleficent-ian side, was nothing short of spectacular.
Arya Watching the Hound Die, The Children
Likewise, Arya has risen to her every challenge; never accepted her role or circumstance, learned from every hard lesson handed her, and chosen her own way. She’s held her own against every opponent and at his end, gave the Hound the bitter taste of his own medicine.
4. Tyrion’s “I Wish I Was the Monster You Think” Speech, The Laws of Gods and Men
There are no words I could write that could speak to Peter Dinklage’s Emmy-worthy speech. Just watch it, again.
3. Tyrion’s Timely Tywin Targeting and Termination, The Children
Termination while toileting, you can’t be more humiliated than that — well, unless you are Tyrion. Despised by nearly everyone his entire life but most painfully, and by no one with more disregard than his own father. Tywin may have had the last word, but it was the one that sealed his just fate.
2. Arya and Brienne’s Sword Talk, and the Subsequent Brienne vs. the Hound Fight, The Children
With an unexpected and delightful kindred spirit exchange, Brienne of Tarth and Arya of Winterfell opened one of the season’s best scenes sweetly…and moments later, it devolved into one of its most thrilling, exhilarating, vicious fights. We will watch it again and again. Brilliant performances all around.
1. Oberyn Telling of First Meeting Baby Tyrion, and His “I Will Be Your Champion” Speech, Mockingbird
Watching the faces of both Pedro Pascal and Peter Dinklage during this pivotal scene is practically indescribable. How can words capture Oberyn’s incredulity at seeing “just a baby,” cruelly tortured by his own sister; at Tyrion’s pain, hearing the story that only confirms his family’s lifelong disdain. Nothing can fully express the triumph Tyrion must have felt in his heart that moment when the Red Viper agreed to fight for justice — to be Tyrion’s champion.
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