The last season of Game Of Thrones had probably the weirdest balance of good to bad of any so far.
A lot of the season was devoted to set up, but it also had some of my favorite scenes in the show so far and it had a lot of moments that were just uncomfortable to watch and even, for the first time in the show since I started watching, it had some noticeably bad acting.
First I kind of want to look at the things the show did well this season:
The scene where the Viper fights the Mountain was amazing. I love the actor that played The Viper and the intensity he put into that performance during that fight scene was just fantastic. Him screaming, “YOU RAPED HER. YOU MURDERED HER. YOU KILLER HER CHILDREN.” was so intense that it sent shivers down my spine. And when Oberyn (The Viper) lost the battle, it was heart wrenching, which was only punctuated by how brutal the scene was. Tying into that battle, I need to mention that Peter Dinklage is an amazing actor… obviously. The speech he gives during his trial is one of the best moments in the show, and the non-vocal acting during The Viper versus Mountain battle scene where you can see him get really excited and slowly grow impatient with Oberyn who is fighting for his own purposes and NEEDS to get his confession before he can finish The Mountain off is just so good. Even aside from Tyrian, the Lannisters are popping off more than ever this season (with one notable exception that I will get to later). Cersei’s more conniving than ever, Tywin is just as imposing as ever, and the new King Tommen is absolutely adorable, although he seems kind of easily manipulated.
Speaking of people that were a joy to watch this season, I have to give some credit to Ramsey Snow. Ramsey is in many ways even more evil than Joffrey. He’s demented and almost cartoonishly evil. But that’s where the joy comes in watching him. Joffrey felt real; he felt like someone that could actually take rule over somewhere due to his upbringing. Joffrey was a whiney, but completely demented child that hated when things didn’t go exactly as he wanted them to, whereas Ramsey just feels like The Joker or someone similarly evil. He felt like someone so evil that they couldn’t really exist, yet the writing and acting is so good that you believe that he does exist in the context of the show. And everything Arya did in terms of furthering her character into this cold but somehow very fair and still noble person was excellent. She’s gaining all the best attributes from both her father and The Hound and I can’t wait to see what she does with that in the future. The adventures of Brianne and Podrick was a great little fun diversion and, oh yeah, they actually made Sansa more interesting, and also she’s making, or at least seems to be making, good decisions now. I’ve heard that in the books there’s more justification for her bad decisions and it explains some of the, not only bad but, really weird decisions she made in the show. However, I’m not reading the book so I can only go off the logic and things that are shown to me on screen.
Now, some things that I don’t like but I wouldn’t necessarily call “bad”:
I’m including this mostly because I feel like I SHOULD talk about Jon Snow and Daenerys being that they’re such major players in the show and in the Game of Thrones. However, I don’t really like what’s going on with their story arcs at the moment. I’m just going to say that I really liked when Jon Snow was running with the wildlings and Sam was just hanging out with Gilly North of the wall. I thought both Jon and Sam were a lot more interesting then. The reason that I wouldn’t call what’s happening with them now “bad” is that this is actually exactly what I would suspect stupid, honor bound Jon Snow would do. The Starks have weirdly too much honor for this universe. It’s been their greatest downfall thus far, and Jon Snow is no different. The other mention in the “meh” category was Daenerys who unlike Jon Snow I don’t think has made any dumb decisions. She’s made bad decisions, but they’ve all made sense to me. The thing that I didn’t like about Daenerys this season is just how boring her storyline was to me. Pretty much through the entire first and most of the second season every time they cut to Daenerys I groaned and sat back in my seat. But sometime at the end of season 2/beginning of season 3 I started really enjoying what she was doing. And throughout the course of that one season I went from “Oh good… it’s Daenerys again,” to “YES it’s Daenerys again!” Then, by the end of the fourth season, I was right back to where I started; groaning every time Daenerys was on screen. It just seemed like she didn’t have a lot to do, and her arc was pretty stagnant.
Now, for what I felt was bad this season:
Alright, lets start out what I considered bad about the season with talking about devoting a whole episode to the battle at the wall. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that the battle was pretty entertaining to watch; there was some cool stuff that happened in that battle, like the wall anchor that scraped off the people trying to climb the wall and the giant, but it didn’t need a full episode. If that battle had taken up maybe 80-85% of an episode with some of it devoted to other interesting things that were happening in the show, I’d probably be praising the battle for how cool it was, but that’s not what they did so they get a bit of a scolding instead. Also, I don’t really get what the point of the Thenns was, and everyone that I’ve talked to about the Thenns says about the same thing. Was the point of the Thenns to remove all moral ambiguity about who we should be cheering for? Were they just the show going, “I know that Mance Rayder seems awesome, and a lot of the people at the wall are assholes, but LOOK! THE WILDLINGS ARE WORKING WITH CANNIBALS! OOOOO EVIL!” If that was the intent, then good job at taking away all moral ambiguity from the situation, therefore making the battle much less interesting.
Okay, I know I mentioned that Daenerys’ arc was stagnant in my “meh” category, but if Daenerys’ arc was stagnant then Stannis’ was dead in the water (no pun intended). I don’t even know why they bothered cutting to Stannis at all until he showed up at the wall. It all felt like such a time kill and a red herring that they pretty much already spoiled at the end of the last season. I’ve never been a huge fan of Stannis, but at least I understood his point before, and I really liked Davos, but he did virtually nothing this season too so I failed to see any point or any benefit to being with Stannis as all. Then there’s Bran. Bran’s story is boring, Bran’s story has always been boring, we only tolerate it because we like Hodor; pretty much everyone agrees on that; there’s not much to say about Bran.
Finally, in terms of things that were bad in the show, I feel like I have to mention that there was only one person this season whose acting I felt was bad; and that is Kate Dickie who play’s Catelyn’s sister Lysa. There are some people that aren’t right for their roles, some that I don’t like, but there’s no one else who’s acting I would call bad in the show; but she had some acting moments that made me cringe. Now, I actually think that she plays crazy pretty well in an abstract sense of just spectacle. So, in the first few seasons, when that’s really all she had to do, she was totally fine. However, in this season she had to act to a certain degree both regal and romantic at times, and I don’t think she pulled off either of those at all. That, coupled by the fact that the scene she had where she explained that she was the one that had poisoned her husband, was done so poorly that it actually completely took me out the experience for the whole rest of the time she was on screen.
Now it’s time that I get to the ugly.
Fair warning, most of what I consider “the ugly” from this season was stuff that had to do with rape. So if that kind of stuff triggers you, you should stop reading now (or at least skip the next paragraph). Presumably it doesn’t, or at least the people reading this can get past it seeing as I’d assume if you’ve read this far you’ve watched the show which deals with a lot of rape related stuff, but I figure I’d might as well provide a warning just in case:
Okay, the first thing I want to mention in terms of what I found utterly terrible in the show was the scene at Craster’s Keep. From what I’ve heard, that scene didn’t happen in the books, which makes sense to me because it didn’t seem to further anything, and it was the most brutal rape scene that I think has ever happened in the show. The people from the Night’s Watch that were there were unnecessarily evil. I think they talked about literally raping the women until they died, in those exact words. The whole scene was just uncomfortable to watch, up to and including Bran and his crew showing up and the guys at Craster’s Keep threatening to rape Bran’s underage companion. It just felt unnecessarily brutal and disgusting. However, as disgusting and uncomfortable as that scene was, at least I know it was supposed to be disgusting and uncomfortable. I know that the creators of the show were trying to make me uncomfortable with that scene. I think a lot of you probably know where I’m going with this by now; I’m talking about the Jamie/Cersei rape scene that now makes it fucking impossible for me to like Jamie Lannister. The worst part about that scene is not that Jamie raped Cersei, I could see how his character could grow to do that. The worst part about the scene isn’t even that it came at a time when we’re supposed to be liking Jamie more and more. (Its right after Jamie saves Brianne, and right before Jamie saves Tyrian, two fan favorites, as well as two of my own personal favorite characters.) The worst part about the scene is the shows treatment of it. And I know this has been mentioned so many times before by so many different publications, but that’s because it’s just that weird. The show just never mentioned it again, and has really been acting like it never happened. Cersei and Jamie are just in love again, kind of a shaky love, but actually less shaky than it was before the scene happened. It seems like the creators either didn’t know that they had filmed a rape scene, or at least felt like there was more ambiguity about it, even though Cersei was saying “no” the whole time. And from what the show did, as well as what I’ve been seeing around the internet, we’re kind of just supposed to act like it never happened, much like the show is doing. And, that’s kind of difficult for me and a lot of other people that see rape as one of the most disgusting, and really unjustifiable things that you can do. Not only that, but it kind of negates the justification I put up for some of Jamie’s other actions. Like, it took me a long time to forgive him for pushing Bran out of the window, because I thought it was a really low, despicable act. I eventually kind of forgave him by, in my head, going, “okay, that was a low act, but I guess he did it because he loves Cersei.” Then he turned around and hurt her in that way, and it just makes it hard to take his character arc seriously. It would be nice for the show to realize their mistake, own up to it, and at least bring it up somehow in the next season but it doesn’t seem likely that that is going to happen, so I guess for my sanity, as well as the sanity of a lot of other people, we kind of just have to chalk it up to an error in the show and pretend it never happened.
Now, I know that this write up was astoundingly negative on the show. There was only really one paragraph about stuff I did like and like three or four on stuff that I didn’t care for to stuff that I hated, but I actually still consider Game of Thrones my second favorite currently running show on television (only second after Adventure Time) and I even still really liked this season. The stuff that I liked from this season, I REALLY liked. For example the Viper versus The Mountain fight and Tyrian’s trial were some of my favorite moments from the entire show thus far. I just think it’s important to acknowledge things that aren’t great in things that we like, and Game of Thrones, while being a very good show, has no shortage of such things.
Guest contributor: Forrest Fujio-Gates
Follow Forrest on twitter @Stiborge