The Watchers On The Couch:Season 4, Part 1

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Game of Thrones     Season 4 (2014)

The Episodes

After the brilliant world-building and tone-setting Season 1, show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss seemed stuck in a holding pattern with Seasons 2 and 3. They struggled to recreate the same program that had seen a steady viewership rise through the original 10 episode run and exploded thereafter. Without closely intertwining stories similar to the straighter narrative told in Season 1, and without the performances of Sean Bean and Mark Addy, Seasons 2 and 3 were both victims of too many plotlines and no gravity; meaning there was not one anchor character or storyline cohesive enough to hold together the ensemble fantasy drama. Instead of a highbrow, politically intriguing slow-burn reaching a crescendo with the events of Baelor (1.9), the 20 episodes that aired in 2012 and 2013 trodded and stumbled in the dark as the storylines waited around for the climactic events of Blackwater (2.9) and The Rains of Castamere (3.9).

If you’ve yet to listen to #TPTWP’s Rewatch and Re-Review of Seasons 2 and 3, you can find them here (S.2) and here (S.3).

Covering the final third of A Storm of Swords (Bantam Spectra, 2000), the 4th Season carries a certain confidence that will turn into swagger with later seasons. This confidence is blasted on high with the cold-open of Two Swords (4.1) and carries straight on through the 10 episode run. No Season of Game of Thrones is adapted as closely as the first, but beginning with Season 4, the source material functions more as a trail marker and less as a road map.

Benioff and Weiss don’t have the time or the means to tell the same sprawling saga that Martin slowly spins and they use that to their advantage by cutting excess. At a place in GRRM’s saga that sees B characters become Point-of-View characters and minor plots become major, Benioff and Weiss double down on the characters they had developed since Season 1. New characters are introduced- most notably Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne- but they supplement the narrative instead of adding an entirely new dimension to it. The complicated and far-reaching storylines that sweep up more and more characters in its tide as in A Song of Ice and Fire are condensed and paired down to include those characters HBO had already established. This works perfectly for the pacing and the better pacing works better for the characters.

The removal of some major characters from the first three seasons clears space for those remaining and makes each individual episode feel less like a slightly too-full carousel going too fast, and more like one of the best of TV prestige dramas. The lack of a Baelor or Red Wedding event, as both, along with Blackwater, function the real backbone for Seasons 2 and 3. There is The Purple Wedding, The Trial by Combat, and The Battle at The Wall, all of which make great television but none of which are set pieces that 7 or 8 episodes of the entire 10 episode season need to be built around. Each episode builds to the next and viewers are taken on a very entertaining and engaging ride.

So, enjoy The Princes That Were Promised and their Re-review of Season 4. Keep an eye out for the Rewatch of Season 5 and Season 6. Stick with #TPTWP all through Season 7 as they will bring to you the most complete coverage anyone watching a 7 episode penultimate season can hope for.


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