One of the main aspects that made the third season of Game of Thrones one of the great seasons of television was that it finally showed that a TV program could take on the scale of any film put onscreen. It was, therefore, smart that Game of Thrones continued to improve upon its scale in its strong but inferior fourth season. While the scale of the series is still unlike anything we have seen on television before, Game of Thrones season four is a bit more clunky (in line with season two, which remains the worst of the seasons thus far). Yet strong acting and some noticeably great directing and writing can be found in spades.
The fourth season of Game of Thrones picks up in the aftermath of the Red Wedding as the Lannisters have gained almost unparalleled control in Westeros. Yet there are still those out there who can and want to cause the Lannisters pain. Meanwhile, Daenerys continues her quest to free all of the slaves of Slaver’s Bay in the East as Jon Snow prepares for the inevitable attack of the wildlings in the North. David Benioff & D.B. Weiss continue as showrunners while Alex Graves led the directing team.
The final chapters of A Storm of Swords (which are the basis for this season) leave Benioff, Weiss and company with a format that they have never dealt with before even if they are straying further and further from the path of the books (to mostly solid effect even if there is the occasional misstep with new material). Most seasons of the show have dealt with a slow burn to a major event (normally contained in the season’s ninth episode). The final chapters of A Storm of Swords have multiple major events, and that leaves the creative forces with the difficult task of balancing them all. They unfortunately don’t completely succeed as some events feel shortchanged (such as the technically impressive but emotionally empty Battle of Castle Black) even if others get their due (the Purple Wedding, the Viper vs. the Mountain and the finale of the Eyrie plotline to name a few).
Also adding to the clunky feeling of this season are some bizarre directing choices (not included in this are Neil Marshall, who cements himself as the go to battle director for this series, and Michelle MacLaren, who directs two episodes from this season that feel of a piece with each other). Alex Graves is a major offender when it comes to this as he directs some technically impressive and beautifully realized sequences yet has trouble with some character moments (notably anytime Cersei and Jaime share a scene together in any of his episodes).