Greatest TV Seasons: Game of Thrones Season Four (2014)

Greatest TV Seasons: Game of Thrones Season Four (2014)

What is the greatest season of your favourite TV series? And what makes it stand out from those seasons around it? Every fan will have their own opinion of what is great and what isn't and here at The Digital Fix, our team of writers are going to complete the possibly impossible task of selecting what season of their favourite shows makes the cut above all others.

Next up, is the almighty fantasy series Game of Thrones, which ended its run with a dramatic final six episodes this year to a mixed reception (for our part, we loved most of what season eight gave us). But what is the greatest season of this TV behemoth? Spoilers as we delve into the series below.

Given its serialized nature, it might depend on what episodes made the most impact. Did Tyrion's first role as Hand of the King and the Battle of Blackwater make season two the finest season? Or was Daenery's rise to power and the infamous Red Wedding the reason season three is the cream of the crop? Or controversially - the did the epic final battle against the Night King at Winterfell or Danerys's finally snapping at King's Landing make season eight the triumph over all other seasons?

For all its ups and (minimal) downs, every single season of Game of Thrones gave audiences some of the show's finest moments and very best episodes. But in terms of pure momentum and consistency, it has to be season four. The first takes it time to get to the dramatic events of Baelor, season two is rather too grim and directionless at times before the Battle of Blackwater. Season three is perhaps the obvious second place, given what takes place, while season five meanders too much before coming back strong with episodes like the almighty Hardhome. Six is another standout, with the rise of Queen Cersei and the fall of Ramsey two momentous highlights, while season seven feels too fast paced, even with massive episodes like The Spoils of War and Beyond the Wall in the mix. As for season eight, there are two amazing huge episodes, but it needed more time to breathe and let the build up to Daenery's madness come a light more naturally. There's a clear argument that both seasons seven and eight would have worked better at ten episodes each, like the six that preceeded it.

Season four however, is perfectly paced, delivering consistently huge moments across its ten-episode run and finding that balance between multiple narrative threads and character developments. The early departure of Joffrey makes for a satisfying second episode that serves as a huge catalyst for a number of character changes. Tyrion's fall from power builds to that wonderful speech at his trial and the tragic deaths of both Shae and his father in one of the best season finales in the show's run. Sansa finally gets some development as she makes her escape under Littlefinger's tutledge, even if some if that potential is undone next season. Given where she ends up, a big part of that progression from young, frightened girl to Queen of the North really starts this season.

Season four is where Oberyn Martell makes his debut - Pedro Pascal's Red Viper is far superior to any of the Dornish characters that followed and makes a big impact, right up to that final brutal showdown with the Mountain that flips audience's expectations completely on its head. Daenerys cements her hold as Queen of Slaver's Bay, a journey begun in earnest in season three. Jon's path to Lord Commander really starts here too with the massive battle with the Wildlings and a tragic conclusion to his doomed love affair with Ygritte. Arya and the Hound prove to be another wonderful double act and best of all is Charles Dance, who commands the screen as Tywin Lannister in his final season on the show.

Season four is the year when the bad guys finally start to loose, something that was needed after the shocking events of The Rains of Castamere. It's a year of sweeping change, starting with the death of the psychotic King Joffrey, bringing to a close a number of long-running story threads. It's not surprising that season five struggles in its first half, dealing with the fallout of season four. This year might not have have had many episodes that topped the greatest episodes list. There might - possibly - not be many episodes that hit the top ten. But every one is pure gold in terms of characterisation and plot progression; a breathless ten-episode affair from beginning to end.

Game of Thrones is more defined by moments than episodes, but here are the top five episodes from that run that attempt to deliver on every level.

Season Four's Five Greatest Episodes

4.02 The Lion and the Rose

George RR Martin's final written contribution to the show is also his finest, as Joffrey and Margaery's wedding ends in tragedy and for the first time, the bad guys really loose. The purple wedding sees the demise of Game of Thrones's resident psychopath Joffrey Baratheon. Ramsey Snow of course, was ready to take up that mantle; interestingly though, this is his first episode with father Roose Bolton and the first time we see a vulnerable crack in the façade of the show's next big villain.

The wedding itself is a deeply uncomfortable sequence though, with Tyrion's humiliation at the hands of his nephew pushing the Lannister dwarf to breaking point. Joffrey is truly despicable in his final scenes, making the moment he starts to choke and dies in his mother's arms, his face swollen, all the more satisfying. There were many suspects, but for the audience, this was a truly satisfying moment and a small pay off for the Red Wedding at the end of the last season. The fact that Joffrey's death takes in episode two of the series makes it all the more surprising and shows that in the fourth run, you don't have to wait until episode nine for something truly momentous to happen.

Check out review of the episode from last year's Game of Thrones Revisited here

4.06 The Laws of Gods and Men

The death of Joffrey results in momentous change in season, none more so than Tyrion Lannister, who finds him accused of the king's murder by his sister Cersei and held on trial by his own father Tywin. The trial that takes place in this episode is the focal point at which the season navigates, with Peter Dinklage at his absolute finest as he rallies against his father and all the people who have betrayed him in the episode's shocking climax.

The trial itself is packed with drama, from the depiction of Joffrey as a saint to Shae's betrayal. Her appearance is what cuts the deepest, forcing Tyrion to demand trial by combat and setting the stage for the battle between the Mountain and the Viper to come. It's also the moment that truly starts Tywin's downfall as his lies are exposed by his own son. And he absolutely deserves it.

Check out review of the episode from last year's Game of Thrones Revisited here

4.08 The Mountain and the Viper

After the finale, this is the big episode of the season, packed with big character moments and revelations even before that showdown and the gruesome demise of the Red Viper. The Mountain of the Viper is the episode that sees Theon truly succumb to Ramsey and become Reek, while Sansa emerges as a true successor to Littlefinger following the murder of her aunt last episode. It also boasts a brilliant scene between Arya and the Hound as they arrive at the Vale, learn of aunt's death and react in laughter, the younger Stark broken by the events she has experienced. Jorah's past is also exposed, forcing his exile from Mereen by his beloved queen in another powerful scene.

But The Mountain and the Viper is most memorable for the showdown between Gregor Clegane and Oberyn Martell. It's a tense sequence; Tyrion's fate lies in the Viper's hands, who in turn takes the opportunity to exact his revenge on the death of his sister. The fight plays exactly how you expect, right up to the moment Oberyn's arrogance is undone and a poisoned Gregor drags his down and crushes his skull by ramming his fingers through his opponents eyes. One of the show's best new characters is literally destroyed and the sight of Ellaria screaming ends the episode on a truly jaw-dropping moment.

Check out review of the episode from last year's Game of Thrones Revisited here

4.09 The Watchers on the Wall

Featuring the biggest battle at this point in the series since season two's Blackwater, the Wildling attack on the Wall and the defence of Castle Black is the big set piece of season four. Director Neil Marshall executes a thrilling, emotional episode two years in the making that truly cements Jon Snow as a hero in the face of overwhelming odds.

From the intense fighting on the Wall to the flawless tracking shot through Castle Black, this is nothing short of thrilling. The tragic deaths of good guys Pypar and Grenn to the death of Ygritte in Jon's arms, all deliver some truly harrowing moments. The only thing that would have made it better is the final routing of Mance Rayder's army, but they little treat is saves for the opening act of the finale...

Check out review of the episode from last year's Game of Thrones Revisited here

4.10 The Children

The Children is possibly the best season finale in the show's run, that offers plenty of a action, drama and emotional twists and turns to bring not just this season but much of the show's entire run so far to a shocking and satisfying conclusion. The arrival of Stannis Baratheon's forces kicks off the final in style, but the surprises don't end there, with the frantic battle with the undead as Bran and company desperately try to reach the Three Eyed Raven offering plenty of horror in a tense action sequence. The showdown between Brienne and the Hound is equally as thrilling, with Arya abandoning the dying Sandor for a life beyond Westeros.

While Daenerys starts to see her reign start to crumble in Mereen, it is the end of Tywin Lannister's reign that offers the boldest turn of events. Freed by his brother Jamie, Tyrion's discovery of Shae in his father's bed is truly heart breaking. Tyrion' s murder of his former lover and then his father completely upends everything happening in King's Landing, allowing Cersei to eventually take over. The best episode of season four, The Children is a game changer in many ways.

Check out review of the episode from last year's Game of Thrones Revisited here

Season Four's Greatest Moments

Joffrey dies choking in his mother's arms, in one of the most brutal and satisfying deaths in the show's history (The Lion and the Rose)

"You're the worst shit in the Seven Kingdoms!"

Arya cuts the Hound down to size after he steals from a local farmer. (Breaker of Chains)

Daenerys's forces arrive at Mereen and triumphantly catapult broken slave chains over the wall of the city... (Breaker of Chains)

...before mercilessly crucifying the slavers of Mereen against the counsel of her closest allies. Was it any surprise when she finally snapped in the final season? (Oathkeeper)

Shae breaks Tyrion's heart she betrays him at his trial (The Laws of Gods and Men)

Tyrion's speech as he rallies against his father and all his enemies. A magnificent performance from Peter Dinklage (The Laws of Gods and Men)

Sandor Clegane teaches Arya how to go straight for the heart as he puts the dying man out of his misery. A compelling performance from Rory McGann (Mockingbird)

Littlefinger throws a deranged Lyra through the Moon Door to save Sansa's life (Mockingbird)

Arya leans of her aunt's fate and breaks down in laughter as she arrives at the Vale (The Mountain and the Viper)

Sansa greets Littlefinger a new woman, dressed all in black, as she casts off the frightened girl she once was (The Mountain and the Viper)

The epic showdown between the Red Viper and the Mountain, resulting in one of the show's most unexpected and gruesome deaths to date (The Mountain and the Viper)

The epic one shot sequence during the battle of Castle Black (The Watchers on the Wall)

The arrival of Stannis Baratheon's forces beyond the Wall, routing the last of Mance Rayder's Wildling forces (The Children)

The brutal battle between Brienne of Tarth and The Hound and Arya's abandonment of her companion (The Chidlren)

The nail-biting race to the tree as the undead break through the ice and attack Bran's company (The Children)

Tyrion's confrontations with Shae and his father and Tywin's demise on the toilet (The Children)

What is your favourite season of Game of Thrones? Is season four the cream of the crop? And what episodes and moments meet your list? Let us know in the comments below and check out our list of the ten greatest moments from the series overall here.

Game of Thrones (2011–)
Dir: N/A | Cast: Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage | Writers: D.B. Weiss, David Benioff


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