A selection of wonderful moments from the fourth season of Game of Thrones.
4.1 Two Swords
Best moment: Arya and the Hound attack Polliver’s men
Why? It begins when Arya notices Polliver holding her sword Needle outside a tavern by the side of the road. It peaks with one of the Hound’s most famous declarations, that he’s “going to have to eat every fucking chicken in this room” if Polliver doesn’t shut up. And it predictably ends when violence breaks out. This fight is the best moment of the season 4 premiere. The Hound is outnumbered until Arya gets involved, killing one of Polliver’s men and finally confronting Polliver himself. She kills him with Needle after reclaiming it from him, repeating back at Polliver the words he spoke to Lommy as he killed him in season 2. In the middle of the melee, the most harrowing and visually uncomfortable moment occurs when the Hound smashes an enemy’s face onto a sharp blade, with the camera ensuring we don’t miss any detail of the gory encounter. It’s arguably the first moment that Arya exacts revenge in a way that feels like she’s achieving justice, rather than descending further into darkness and trauma. There’s still a long way to go on her rocky road to healing, but this might be the first step.
Honourable mention: The introduction of Prince Oberyn Martell to the show’s roster.
4.2 The Lion and the Rose
Best moment: The death of King Joffrey at his wedding to Margaery Tyrell.
Why? Joffrey was the most despicable king. A sadistic, violent child who seized power with both his hands and made life a misery for anybody within his reach. Jack Gleeson, who portrayed Joffrey for four years, has revealed in interviews that people in the street often let their feelings known to him. At the beginning of season 4, yet another reward seems to be coming his way, as he marries Margaery Tyrell and consolidates power in the south of Westeros. Tyrion and Sansa are publicly humiliated during the wedding feast, and Joffrey’s smug smile is at the centre of it all. But just when it seems he has won yet another battle with his uncle and his formerly betrothed, he starts to choke. Hoping to wash down what he thinks is an obstruction in his throat, he drinks yet more of Lady Olenna’s poisoned wine. He collapses at Cersei’s feet, splutters up all manner of horrifying substances, and dies in excruciating pain. After the brutality of the Red Wedding, this was finally some reprieve for fans who had been punished by the show since day one.
Honourable mention: Bran Stark connects to a weirwood tree and has a glimpse of the future.
4.3 Breaker of Chains
Best moment: The wildlings attack Olly’s village south of the Wall.
Why? In an episode fairly short on climactic events after the death of Joffrey the previous week, we’re introduced to Olly, a Northern boy who will go on to be significantly more important in later episodes. He’s talking with his father when the wildlings, headed by Tormund and Ygritte, invade his village and slaughter the common people. As a warning to the men at Castle Black, Olly is sent with the word that the wildling’s attack is imminent. For Olly, this begins his complicated and ultimately fatal relationship with Jon. As Jon mentors and cares for Olly, their respective feelings about the wildlings cause several clashes. Ignorant of her connection with Jon, Olly murders Ygritte during the battle of Castle Black; angry with Jon’s acceptance of the wildlings after his experiences in this episode, Olly is part of the mutiny against Jon in the season 5 finale; and Jon, after being resurrected, hangs Olly for his crimes against him. It’s a short but tragic arc within the larger conflict between those beyond the Wall and those who guard it.
Honourable mention: Daenerys completes her takeover of Meereen.
Best moment: The introduction of the Night King and the Lands of Always Winter
Why? The White Walkers of the first three seasons were always frightening to witness and threatening to behold, but it always remained a mystery as to how they would ever breach the Wall to lay waste to the world of men. They’d been seen in army formation before as they attacked the Fist of the First Men, but we were none the wiser as far as their plans to invade Westeros were concerned. But then we met the Night King. Despite its occasional faults in the later seasons, the Night King gave the White Walkers’ storyline a direction and focus that it had been lacking in the early seasons (and still lacks in George R. R. Martin’s books). Seeing the Land of Always Winter gave us a brief glimpse into their domain, seeing the Night King showed us that the White Walkers had a leader after all, and seeing him transforming one of Craster’s sons into a White Walker explained the deal they made with the former Night’s Watch brother. The Night King wouldn’t be seen again until season 5’s ‘Hardhome’, but the show’s iconic icy villain’s first appearance caught book readers off guard and brought the end of this story into view.
Honourable mention: Jaime sends Brienne to find Sansa and Arya Stark.
4.5 First of His Name
Best moment: Jon Snow kills Karl Tanner and ends the mutiny at Craster’s Keep.
Why? To tie up one of the more superfluous storylines lingering from the third season — as Karl Tanner leads a regime of cruelty and vulgarity at Craster’s following the murder of Jeor Mormont — Jon Snow heads north to avenge his former Lord Commander’s death. With little to do in the source material, this show-invented storyline is an audition for Jon to test his leadership skills. He takes a band of brothers beyond the Wall to the fated shack, and disposes of Karl in a blood battle to the death, driving his sword through the back of Karl’s head while he’s distracted by one of his prisoners. The Keep is then burned down, taking the horrible ghosts of its past with it.
Honourable mention: Tommen Baratheon is crowned as Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.
4.6 The Laws of Gods and Men
Best moment: Tyrion Lannister’s trial.
Why? This is everything that Tyrion’s storyline was building to. There may be more dramatic scenes to come before “the lowest Lannister” heads across the Narrow Sea to join Daenerys’ team, but they form an epilogue to a tale that’s been told since Tyrion’s birth and ends here in the King’s Landing throne room. Unappreciated by the common people, taunted by his contemporaries, bullied by his father, resented by his sister, betrayed by his lover, and now on trial for a crime he didn’t commit — the weight of Tyrion’s life finally causes him to crack here, and he lets loose. Peter Dinklage delivers his finest performance as the show’s most popular character as he lets loose on everyone around him with a monologue that encapsulates and unleashes every negative emotion in Tyrion’s head. He should have let Stannis kill the common people, he wishes he had killed Joffrey, he has constantly been on trial for being a dwarf. When ‘The Rains of Castamere’ strikes up after he demands a trial by combat, there is no better hair-rising moment in the entire show. The season’s defining moment.
Honourable mention: Davos’ support for Stannis in front of the Iron Bank
Best moment: Prince Obyern declares himself as Tyrion’s champion.
Why? Prince Oberyn begins his defining monologue by recalling the occasion he was invited to Casterly Rock to see Tyrion as a baby. Tyrion is billed as a monster who murdered his mother to come into the world, but when Obyern arrives he is greeted by a perfectly ordinary infant. His conversation with Tyrion then moves into his motives — the Mountain’s murder of Oberyn’s sister Elia — before he finally names himself as Tyrion’s champion for his trial by combat. This episode is defined by Tyrion’s inner circle beginning to abandon him as their association with him becomes too costly, and it seems as though he has no option but to accept the inevitable, but Oberyn swoops in here to save the day.
Honourable mention: Littlefinger pushes Lysa Arryn through the Moon Door.
4.8 The Mountain and the Viper
Best moment: Prince Oberyn faces off against the Mountain.
Why? The most gruesome death in Game of Thrones. The Mountain, with his last ounce of strength, grabs Prince Oberyn’s head with both hands and squeezes until Oberyn’s head literally explodes. It marks the end of Tyrion’s trial by combat and sees him sentenced to death (although we all know how that goes). Oberyn, not content with simply beating the Mountain as he initially does, is desperate for true vengeance. After a tense sequence that displays his excellent fighting skills, he elects to perform a victory dance around the Mountain’s near-lifeless body, asking his opponent to admit that Tywin Lannister gave the order to murder and rape his sister Elia Martell and her three children. No such admittance is provided, however (at least not in the way Oberyn wanted) as the Mountain instead trips our Dornish prince, punches his teeth out, and admits to his crimes as he crushes Oberyn’s skull. Yuck.
Honourable mention: Ser Jorah is banished from Meereen.
4.9 The Watchers on the Wall
Best moment: Ygritte is killed by Olly
Why? ‘The Watchers on the Wall’ was billed as the final confrontation between the Night’s Watch and the wildlings, as Mance Rayder attempted to make an assault on the Wall in order to get his people through it to escape the White Walkers. But on an emotional character level, it was the resolution to the reluctant conflict between Jon and Ygritte. Having travelled together, fallen in love, and been separated in season 3, their first meeting in ten episodes comes when Ygritte, having fought her way into Castle Black from the south, stares at Jon down the length of her iconic bow and arrow. Unable to attack each other, the pair simply exchange a long look filled with the uncomfortable feelings their journey has forced them through. That look is harshly interrupted by Olly’s arrow, which pierces Ygritte’s heart and kills her. Jon comforts her with promises that they’ll return to the cave in which they consummated their love for each other, but Ygritte repeats her catchphrase that Jon “knows nothing” — proving that even in her final moments, her wit and intelligence were her strongest attributes. The camera pulls out as Jon embraces her body, revealing the chaos of the battle still raging behind them.
Honourable mention: Alliser Throne’s rousing speech.
4.10 The Children
Best moment: Tyrion Lannister kills Tywin and flees Westeros with Varys.
Why? After being mistreated by his entire family his whole life, Tyrion is pushed to his limit during his trial for King Joffrey’s murder. During that trial he is falsely accused of regicide, betrayed by Shae, and forced to stand by while his future is dictated by people who don’t have his best interests at heart — at least until he seizes control of proceedings and demands a trial by combat, which he loses when Oberyn’s head is crushed by the Mountain. Desperate for any way out and facing certain death, Tyrion is freed from his cell by Jaime and escorted to Varys, whose job it is to help him escape. On the way, however, Tyrion stops by his father’s chambers and finds Shae on the bed. He’s forced to kill her in self-defence when she attempts to attack him. He then finds Tywin indisposed (to put it politely) and, after a climactic war of words, kills him with precisely two crossbow bolts, closing his story in King’s Landing for several seasons. ‘The Children’ is the final chapter of Game of Thrones’ first act, and this particular strand of the story ends with a louder bang than any other in the episode.
Honourable mention: The Hound and Brienne fight, with the Hound falling.