We have finally cracked the top 10. Just think about that, this is one of the 10 very best seasons that television has had to offer since 1999. It also marks the first time we have a repeat show in the top 20 (the list has six shows that appear more than once). Coming in at #10 I have Game of Thrones Season 4. In what has been their best season to date from top to bottom (although this current Season 6 may have something to say about that, too early to tell), Season 4 mixed the very best of what Thrones has to offer into an unforgettable experience.
But before I go on, here is the list so far:
#10 Game of Thrones Season 4 – Score: 32
Recently I have re-watched the entire series in the past year with my roommates to catch them up on this amazing television show. And after each season they kinda give me their thoughts on the season as a whole. Without question Season 4 was their favorite by far. And it really has to do with the amount of memorable moments that happened in that season. Starting with the surprise death of the evil psychotic bastard Joffrey Baratheon in just the second episode! I remember watching this initially with all my friends and we all stood up cheering for him to die as he was choking to death as if we were rooting for Jordy Nelson to take one to the house (cold I know, but I guarantee you we were not in the minority).
Throw in the Tyrion Lannister murder accusations and his epic speech at the trial that pretty much screamed, “Give me the damn Emmy right now!”. And if that wasn’t enough that he was to be wrongfully accused of Joffrey’s death, he demands a trial by combat. But who would defend him? Jaime and his one arm? Bron? It was pretty interesting to see that yes, Bron’s loyalty and friendship was based on money (it is always a business decision in the Capital) but more than money, self-preservation is just as paramount to the him. Prince Oberyn Martell takes the duty of Tyrion’s champion.”The Viper” didn’t do it in some sense of justice for Tyrion or beleaguered friendship, but for revenge against the family (Lannisters) and the person (Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane) that were responsible for the rape and murder of his sister Elia Martell and her little children.
The match and the episode aptly titled “The Mountain vs The Viper” was a landmark moment that I don’t think any of us would soon forget. Prince Oberyn more than lived up to his nickname and nearly slayed the immovable Mountain, only for his over-confidence and showboating to get the best of him. Just like in the horror movies, the monster is never dead until you deliver the head shot. And it turned out to be the Viper that got it’s head crushed.
I’d say more but lets leave some of the meat and potatoes for our other categories.
Acting Performances: 8
When Emmy season rolls around, Game of Thrones is no stranger. In 2014 they were nominated for an astonishing 20 Emmys! Those that pertained to purely acting, they notched 4 Emmy nominations. Best Supporting Actor (Peter Dinklage, perennial nominee for his role as Tyrion Lannister), Best Supporting Actress (Lena Headey as Cersi Lannister), Outstanding Guest Actress (Diana Rigg as the smart and witty Lady Olena Tyrell) and Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series. Unfortunately they went 0-4 in those categories but that shouldn’t tarnish anything, Breaking Bad was on their victory lap in 2014 and that was to be expected.
But what I really wanted to touch on is the casting overall, yes Dinklage is at the height of his powers and Lena Headey is always amazing, but the sum of their parts is greater as the whole than any one actor/actress. Not even mentioned are the stellar performances of the Lannister patriarch Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), the breakout of Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell and the spunk of little Maisie Williams (Ayra Stark). Their are few dramas on this list that has the enormous bench of characters that GOT can pull from and still have no wasted screen time. The only other one that I could think of is The Wire (coming soon).
Acting Moment of the Season:
Lastly before I leave this category, I want to leave you with the “acting moment of the season”. Yeah I just came up with that 10 seconds ago but it’d be a nice touch to the top ten going forward. It should be no surprise…
Season Plot Arc: 8
S4 of Game of Thrones was probably the most balanced one they had throughout the series. Not any one storyline or plot arc dominated throughout the season. Joffrey and his death came out strong to start the season. Jon and the Wildlings paced the middle part. Tyrion’s accusations built up the level of drama steadily. And then we had huge finishes with the trial by combat match and then the penultimate episode, which if you are any fan of the show, you know is always the very best.
Baelor, Blackwater, Rains of Castemere and lastly The Watchers on the Wall. Those are the last four penultimate episodes and they are also on the short list for best Thrones episodes to date. In Season 4 we saw Jon Snow infiltrate the Wildling camp and become one of their own. He got to meet the Wildling “King Beyond The Wall”Mance Rayder. He gained a understanding of the plight of the Wildlings and why marching South wasn’t just territory expansion but survival at its core. The ever present threat of the White Walkers was drawing near and even Jon could see that now.
Jon ends up deserting the Wildlings and escaping back to Castle Black, just in time to warn them about the imminent attack that was coming. Alas, we come to episode 9 of Season 4, the battle for the Castle Black.
It what was an even more expansive project than Blackwater, The Watchers on the Wall felt like a one hour movie set with explosions, one-on-one combat, giants and equally larger animals (like a Lord of the Ring movie) charging the gates. For one hour we saw the drastically outnumbered men of the Night’s Watch hold their ground versus the thousands of Wildlings that Mance threw at them. And they held strong, barely, but they held it through the night. Question was, what would happen the next night? Jon knew they couldn’t withstand another attack, so he marched out to meet Mance Rayder, unarmed, with no plan or idea how this would play out.
As good as their penultimate episodes are, the finales never quite seem to live up to the billing. And this is not so much a dig at the finales but that the current string of episodes 9’s are just that damn good. In the Season 4 finale Thrones left us with a lot to digest. Jon makes peace with the Wildlings but only with the assurance of Stannis Baratheon and his army. The “one true king” ambushed the Wildling army and takes them hostage. Stannis plans to take the North back from Roose Bolton and he’ll need Castle Black as his base of operations before he does so. Jon marches the Wildlings through the gates of Castle Black, to the dismay of some prominent Watchmen.
Back in King’s Landing, Cersi threatens to go public with her “twinsest” with Jaime if Tywin forces her to marry Loras Tyrell. Meanwhile, Tyrion is scheduled to be put to death following the loss of his trial by combat. His brother Jaime finds a way to plead for a stay of execution. Tywin agrees to spare his son’s life if Jamie heads back to Casterly Rock and produces an heir to the Lannister family. Jaime agrees.
Daenerys learns that her dragon Drogon is responsible for the death of a little farm girl, she realizes that these beasts will never be tamed and decides to lock the other two up.
Brienne and Podrick catch up to Arya and the Hound. Brienne pleads for Arya to come into her protection, but the Hound will have none of it. In one of the better brute strength single combat fights you will see, Brienne defeats the Hound, mortally injuring him. After Brienne leaves, the Hound pleads with Arya to end him, she doesn’t and walks off to leave him to die a slow and painfull death.
One of the more overlooked storylines, Brandon Stark finally reaches the Weirwood Tree he, Hodor and the Reed twins were looking for. All the sudden they are attacked by Wights, they kill Jojen but the rest of the crew is saved by some weird looking children throwing fire ball blasts. The Children of the Forest lead Bran into the Weirwood Tree were he meets the Three-Eyed Raven. He states he has been waiting all his life for Bran, and while he will not walk again, he will fly.
Back in Kings Landing, Jaime organizes an eleventh hour escape for his brother Tyrion. With the help of Varys, he escapes through the tunnels of the Red Keep. Not before grabbing a crossbow and looking for his father in his chambers, he finds his former love, Shae, in his fathers bed. He strangles her to death and finds his father in the bathroom. After some words are exchanged, Tywin says “you are no son of mine” as Tyrion pumps three arrows into his father. He flees the capital with Varys in a wooden crate, their destination, Volantis in the East.
The show ends with Arya convincing a Bravosi man to give her passage to the city by giving him the two-faced coin and uttering the words given to her by Jaquen H’ghar.
Arya and Tyrion head East, the bells toll in the capital as Tywin is found dead. Daenerys dragons are chained up. The Wildings and the Night’s Watch have reached a tentative peace. Bran finally found the Three-Eyed Raven. And the White Walkers draw closer and closer.
A season this good gets two of them: