Game of Thrones returns for its final season later this year and we kick off 2019 with the latest season four look back from Baz Greenland…
Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed TV series by David Benioff and DB Weiss and developed from the best-selling series of novels by George RR Martin, has become a cultural icon. The tentpole of HBO’s programming with a stellar cast and mix of medieval-style political drama and war with a healthy dash of fantasy, Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences worldwide. And this year, the show will come to a dramatic end in its final run of feature length episodes. In the lead up to season eight, I explore every episode leading up to the final battle for Westeros and the rest of the world; we pick up again in 2019 with season four’s Mockingbird…
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven…
Mockingbird is the calm before the storm, the point at which season four deftly moves everything into place ready for the three moments to come – the battle between the Red Viper and The Mountain, the battle at the Wall and the fall of Tywin Lannister. It is another skilful episode, delivering more rich character moments and an intriguing twist of two.
In King’s Landing, Tyrion receives three visitors as he laments his fate and rejoices at standing up to his father. Jamie is the only Lannister that loves him but Tyrion’s speech at his trial has made Jamie powerless to help him. There was something rather amusing as they suggested Jamie die fighting in battle with the Mountain, thus ending the Lannister line for good. Also showing just how far he had come, Jamie admitted that he couldn’t fight a stable boy, let along a killing machine like Gregor Clegane; all that arrogance of the early seasons has truly vanished now.
Bronn’s visit is somewhat bittersweet, the former sell sword who fought as Tyrion’s champion way back in season one no longer willing to commit himself. It’s a bittersweet final scene for these characters. There is still a friendship between them, but both recognised that power, a lordship and the chance of a castle has meant that is not enough to convince Bronn to fight The Mountain. The same could not be said for Oberyn Martell, who made for a surprise third visitor, using the chance to fight and kill the man who raped and murdered his sister. Oberyn makes for a strong presence in season four, much due to Pedro Pascal’s exuberant performance, and for all the pleasantries, this is his chance to exact revenge years in the making.
Cersei’s hatred for Tyrion is truly laid bare in this episode. The Mountain returns, this time played by the formidable looking Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, and he makes quite an impression as he slaughters for fun. Cersei appears to relish the bloodshed and the victory he will bring her in Tyrion’s trial by combat. While never made clear, it can be assumed that it doesn’t matter to her whether Tyrion is responsible for Joffrey’s death; it was more the catalyst by which she could righteously enact her hatred for the monster that killed her mother. Oberyn’s tale of how Cersei paraded the monster baby to him during a childhood visit to Casterly Rock, shows just how far back that hatred goes; something Tyrion perhaps only truly recognises now.
Talking of siblings, we also learn more of the horrific tale of how Gregor tortured his brother Sandor for fun, burning his flesh as a child purely for taking a toy. Rory McCann really delivers a more vulnerable side to the Hound as he recounts this tale to Arya, their bond growing closer despite the hostility she has for him. There was almost something of a teacher / student relationship in Mockingbird too, the Hound ‘teaching her’ how to strike at the heart after putting the dying man they discover out of his misery.
It was scenes like the one with Barry McGovern’s dying man, that really show how David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have used the opportunity to flesh out the story beyond the pages of Martin’s novels. It’s a largely throw away scene which involves Sandor teaching Arya how to aim for the heart, something she demonstrates skilfully when the man’s attacker Rourge makes a surprise return and is swiftly eliminated by the Stark girl. But the scene is also a period of morbid reflection, deepening the tie between Arya and the Hound and acting as a commentary on the senseless death and destruction that has consumed Westeros. It helps that McGovern is so good in the role that you feel for him when the Hound offers him a last drink of water finally puts him out of his misery.
Things are a little less grim for Arya’s sister Sansa as the scenes in the Eeyrie offer a small respite between the traumas of King’s Landing and the trauma to come in Winterfell. But that doesn’t mean that this setting offers any less intrigue and disturbing drama. Peter Baylish takes the creepy affectionte step towards Sansa that has long been brewing, kissing her in the snow after a turmultuous encounter with her cousin Peter. Of course, this is observed by her mad aunt Lysa, leading to a rather shocking episode climax.
Kats Dickie’s delightfully unhinged performance as Lysa sees her consumed by jealousy as she dangles her niece over the edge of the moon door. It’s a nail biting scene, Peter barely saving Sansa from the clutches of her engaged aunt. But even then, you can’t help but feel sorrow for Lysa as Peter cruelly tells his wife he only ever loved her sister Catleyn, before throwing her to her death. It’s that final twist of the knife that makes him such a good villain.
The episode also affords some nice character developments. Daenerys finally succumbs to Daario’s charms and sleeps with him, though her growing maturity means that she still listens to Jorah’s council as she sends her new lover Daario off to force peace with a rebellious Astapor and Yunkai. And there’s a lovely scene where Brienne and Podrick run into Arya’s old companion Hot Pie, learning that the younger Stark girl is live and setting up their encounter in the season four finale.
Season four is Game of Thrones at the top of it’s game, meaning a slower episode like Mockingbird still has plenty to offer. From Tyrion’s journey to the murder of Lysa, there is so much going on at this stage, this was – and continues to be – utterly absorbing television.
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