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This article was published 8/5/2019 (529 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As HBO’s Game of Thrones moves inexorably towards its finale, the show is struggling a bit to keep all its ducks in a row. After an epic battle episode, No. 4 marked a return to lies and alliances, with backroom scheming, bedroom dealing and meaningful glances aplenty. (Note: there will be spoilers to follow.)
Queen Daenerys compels the forces at Winterfell to march south to face off against Queen Cersei’s army, despite advice from Sansa Stark that they need time to regroup and heal. Daenervs also instructs Jon Snow that he is not to tell his sisters his true identity as Aegon Targaryen, true heir to the Iron Throne — an instruction he ignores.
Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth finally fulfil the hookup that’s been hinted at for many seasons, only to have the Kingslayer bolt back to the south.
An unexpected attack at sea hobbles the northern army, while Cersei amasses her citizens inside the Red Keep — but only as a human buffer the northern forces will have to slaughter their way through.
A panel of Game of Thrones fans dissects Episode 4’s sentimental moments and its violent deaths.
This was an odd episode for me, filled with highs and lows, including some shocking turns, some pretty significant disappointments, and some long-awaited moments that were executed very poorly.
Odd is a good word to describe it, though I did still enjoy it. It felt like a lot happened, if not a bit haphazardly.
Of course, the Twitterverse is buzzing with screenshots of what appears to be a Starbucks cup in front of Daenerys during the funeral feast, but that weird continuity misstep aside, that scene was very powerful, as Dany has to tolerate listening to a bunch of men laud Jon Snow for his battle acumen and his dragon-riding skills, while the Dragon Queen herself is right in front of them.
Yeah, this was a tough episode for Daenerys: shunned by the survivors of the Battle of Winterfell, her best pal Missandei’s head was removed from her body, she’s down a dragon and was roundly taunted by Cersei.
Unfortunately, after that bit of awareness of the sexism female rulers face, the writers fell back on the casual misogyny that was a hallmark of earlier seasons. Sansa telling the Hound that she would still be a "little bird" if she hadn’t suffered rape and torture at the hands of horrible men gave me the heebie-jeebies.
And as a longtime Jaime-Brienne shipper, I was happy to see them finally get together, but I wish the romance weren’t undercut by Jaime encouraging her to get drunk, and Tyrion’s mean-spirited questions about her virginity. And then, while it felt perfectly right for Jaime to head back to King’s Landing — he can’t stay away from Cersei, but maybe he can try to prove himself worthy of Brienne — the stalwart knight’s tears were entirely out of character.
I totally agree! I am a huge Brienne fan, but when she totally broke down, it made me very confused and also a little offended. I have no issue at all with her showing a softer, more stereotypically feminine part of her emotional spectrum, but that scene really disappointed me. And Sansa and Dany... it felt like that girl power, women-kicking-ass attitude from the last episode just disappeared.
I agree — while last week’s episode was driven by women being the change-makers and slayers of all things evil, this episode felt pretty regressive. I mean there was Arya’s rejection of the marriage proposal by — what’s he called now? — but that was about it.
As for Jaime, I feel like he’s heading back to King’s Landing to face off against his sister rather than try to save her. Maybe his being a total jerk to Brienne before leaving was his way of making parting easier for both of them? That’s probably overly optimistic/sympathetic. Who knows? If that’s the case, I feel like an epic Euron/Jaime fight is shaping up — complete with Jaime admitting he’s the child’s father.
Oooh, that’s a good point. The whole Jaime/Euron/Cersei triangle has totally been off my radar, but that could be an excellent clash later on.
Meanwhile, I feel like Dany is spiralling out of control behind her steely exterior. She is making very bad tactical decisions that seem to be driven by spite (her dislike of Sansa) or hunger for power (her insistence that Jon not reveal his true identity) or maybe a true belief in royal destiny, which seems a little mad.
Jon Snow’s admission of who he is to his "siblings" was an interesting scene — this big buildup and then he tosses it over to Bran to pass along the news. I’m not sure whether I liked that they didn’t show that scene playing out or not. And then for Sansa to swear to say nothing and then turn around and tell Tyrion was a pretty calculated move — I guess so that some of Daenerys’ people defect to Team Snow? I mean, if you’re going to tell Tyrion a secret, you might as well just write it on a big banner, attach it to a dragon’s tail and have it fly all over Westeros with that info.
Very true! I also thought it was odd not to show the sisters’ reactions to the news. And then there were totally unexpected scenes; the one where Euron Greyjoy takes down Rhaegal the dragon was truly surprising, as was the wholesale destruction of the fleet that followed, but it was so out-of-blue, it seemed totally unlikely. Wouldn’t Dany have seen the fleet from the air? Also, having that mast fall on Tyrion and then going to blackout, only to see him washed up on land in the next scene was a lazy bit of writing. (I find it hard to believe all those guys wearing water-logged leather and metal even managed to make it to shore.)
The dragons were always presented as these sort of unstoppable forces, with only the Night King being able to take one down because he had magical powers. It felt odd that a giant spear gun was really all that was needed to kill it. That said, I kind of appreciated that element of surprise; I really did not see that coming at all.
I’m of two minds about Missandei’s murder, which was somehow both predictable and shocking at the same time. In part, it was necessary to remind us of Cersei’s ruthlessness, but I don’t like the way it reduced the show’s only major female character of colour to a prop to inspire revenge and make the battle personal.
Is it bad I was kind of hoping Cersei would command her archers to shoot Tyrion rather than have Missandei murdered? I mean, I love him as a character, but I think that would have been an awesome story twist.
Only Daenerys seems to have had a worse episode than Grey Worm. The look of anguish on his face when Missandei was beheaded was gut-wrenching. I feel like he and that creepy big blue guy who is Cersei’s henchman are also headed for an epic dust-up.
Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.
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Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.
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