‘Game of Thrones’ Season 4 Isn’t as Good as You Remember

As Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) once said, “When you play the Game of Thrones, you win, or you die.” Unfortunately, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss chose the second option when finishing their groundbreaking HBO series. The saying ‘Game of Thrones died with Tywin Lannister’ has echoed across the internet since the disappointing series finale in 2019, but there is little truth in the statement. Generally, Seasons 5 and 6 are somewhat of a mixed bag, with a steep drop-off in quality during Season 7, followed by the disastrous Season 8.
Brienne Coincidentally Runs Into Everyone

Brienne’s storyline was one of the most alarming red flags that the story was going off-course in Season 4. In George R.R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows, the honorable knight finally had her own point-of-view chapters that followed her journey across the Riverlands in search of Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). During her journey, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) observes the destructive aftermath of the war that had ravaged the Riverlands, especially in smaller rural communities. The A Song of Ice and Fire series spent its first trilogy building up to an epic, all-out war across the Seven Kingdoms, known as the War of the Five Kings. But Brienne’s perspective starkly contrasts with this climactic war by showing the irrevocable damage caused to innocent civilians who wanted no part in the political conflicts of Westeros.
Brienne’s journey is slow-paced and rather hopeless, given that the reader knows Sansa and Arya are far beyond her reach. Nevertheless, Game of Thrones simplified her story significantly. After several episodes of wandering through the wilderness, Brienne and Podrick (Daniel Portman) stumble upon Arya Stark almost by sheer coincidence. There is no post-war commentary underlying her story and therefore no impact on her character. Brienne always had a very black-and-white view of the world that gets challenged when she travels with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Her journey through the Riverlands further reinforces the idea that knights cannot always do the honorable thing if they wish to survive.
While Brienne desires justice for Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and Renly (Genthin Anthony), she learns that war is not worth the mass-scale death that comes with it, no matter how righteous the cause is. The Riverlands is more akin Vietnam by this point in the story, where the Lannister forces struggle to make the lingering Northern loyalists surrender and the Brotherhood without Banners employs guerrilla warfare tactics to fight off Lannister and Frey soldiers with the aid of local Riverlanders. This landscape is viewed from Brienne’s perspective, but Season 4 only gives us a few scenes of Brienne and Podrick camping, and a series of all-too coincidental run-ins with familiar characters like Hotpie (Ben Hawkey) and Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann).
Brienne’s fight with the Hound is the final nail in the coffin for her storyline. Brienne defeats a warrior well above her skill level in an unrealistic confrontation. Even Jaime, arguably the best warrior in Westeros, is hesitant to fight the Hound, and while Brienne is a formidable warrior, she is by no means a match for Sandor Clegane, even when he’s injured. This concept of coincidentally running into important characters would become a running trend in the series. Martin has compared the size of Westeros to South America, but integral characters constantly stumble across each other. Whether it was the Hound and the Brotherhood, Jorah (iain Glen) and Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), or Brienne and Sansa, characters consistently wound up in the same room as other major characters. This is a classic example of lazy writing, and it all started in Season 4, the supposed ‘peak’ of Game of Thrones.

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