The wait is almost over -- who's ready to play?
This Sunday, April 6th, Game of Thrones' fourth season is set to get real. Really real. Real to death. And when HBO plays the Game of Thrones everyone wins, except maybe the cast. NO SPOILERS or anything but -- in the spirit of keeping it real -- everyone knows by now that no one in this high fantasy saga is "safe" by any meaning of the word. In a recent interview Scottish actor Rory McCann, who portrays Sandor "The Hound" Clegane in the series, claims to cautiously read through the ninth episode script for each season while quaffing a glass of whisky, prepped for death and distress not unlike that major drama bomb that dropped back in S1E9. Of course it doesn't help that the show's writers sometimes insert fake death scenes into scripts just to freak out their already nervous troupe, prompting stars to worry in advance about life and work after landing a hit series. British actor Kit Harington, John Snow on the show, explains, "We all flip through the scripts when we get them to see if we live or die, but the writers are very cruel; they sometimes write fake scenes to kill someone off and then that actor will be kind of out of a job and scared." Even hunky Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa, undeterred by the premature demise of his beloved character, Khal Drogo, in season one, has attempted to write his own way back on to the show, saying, “It’s a fantasy world, sweetheart. You never know!” Yeah, no.
To give non-readers an idea of just how much death the series deals in, on the left is an image of the five (of the planned seven) published books, collectively known as A Song of Ice and Fire, with each death marked by a brightly colored post-it, like a bizarre murder rainbow. It's difficult to assess who is more relentless, author George R.R. Martin or whoever went through the trouble of tallying every death in the books. At the moment, the HBO series is only halfway through that green book in the middle, A Storm of Swords, which means that the seasonal thinning of the cast will be no less brutal than anything we have previously seen. On a more positive note, the scope of the show stands to expand further this season, revealing new faces and places on the map we've only ever heard mentioned before while also returning to some of the previously established family seats n' things that have been out of play for a while.
As an avid reader of the books, I have my own set of expectations and revelations that I am particularly stoked about regarding this upcoming season. If you'd like to read all about it, see all my nerd-notes below this excellent promotional trailer for the show what features the curiously satisfying use of Chelsea Wolfe's intensely dark track "Feral Love" from the album Pain is Beauty.
Now, let's play!
The amount of nothing John Snow knows is about to get plowed. Last time we saw him he was very likely dying from multiple arrow wounds inflicted by his apparently EX-girlfriend, Ygritte (played by Rose Leslie, purportedly Kit Harington's former real life ladylove -- talk about drama). I predict Snow's gonna lose it when he gets the Stark family newsletter, that is, if he doesn't die. Either way, he's still a bastard. Time to see if that death scene they scripted was really a joke, eh Harrington?
Sam "the Slayer" Tarly, (played by John Bradley) is not only John Snow's one true bro, he's also the only person who can save him from dying of battle wounds sustained by taking several arrows from a love forsaken. Though he's still a virgin, Sam has curiously found himself with woman and child as a result of being an upstanding Night's Watchman and all around nice guy. He may be an awkward and bookish non-sender of ravens, but I'd really like to see him get some of the respect he deserves given that he alone discovered the only method of killing Others, and frankly it'd be nice to see him touch a little of dat ass as well.
I expect Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) will continue to effectively, if a tad less tediously, play the game as the Toby (from The Office) of Westeros by drably embracing Lord of Light-style pomp and righteousness, especially when said devotion means consulting the executive redhead, er, "the flames". As we saw at the conclusion of season three, no one but Stannis has hinted at doing something about the harsh shenanigans -- untamed, undead, or OTHERwise -- afoot beyond the wall so I hope we see Action Stannis come out to play this season, lured by the prospect of honor and glory not necessarily related to his quest to claim the Iron Throne as the one true King of Westeros, but definitely influenced by it. Whatever keeps you propped up, old boy.
Speaking of the Lord of Light, I'm ready to see what is up with the unkillable flaming swordsman Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) and that greasy Red monk he rolls with -- the one with the very special resurrection skillz. Which begs the question: in Game of Thrones are the dead really dead and loving it South of the wall? Of course, freshness is an issue here. I mean, for example, how much would it suck if you were brought back to life only partially intact or headless? Could it be done? I promise no spoilers, but non-reader fan theories on the subject are wildly divergent and so brutally gnar it boggles the mind. Though I suppose this phenomenon won't affect cast numbers very much, as we are so often reminded by the priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten) that the Red God's gifts cost dearly i.e. "only life can pay for death", I think, at the very least, we should expect the usual death, death, death, with the only the most extreme as very necessary possibility of the creepiest sort of corpse revival broadcastable. Also: excited to see those pirates again (please)!
Damn, the Titan of Bravos be lookin' hella tite! Worlds better than any fan art I've seen so far. I bet if you were given three chances to guess who's storyline is leading us there you'd would guess correctly on the first try. Seeing this quick take featured in a season four trailer lit up the GoT nerdnet faster than Tyrion Lannister downing, say, an ounce of Dornish red. Which leads me to...
They came... from Dorne. A dry yet temperate region in the South famous for top shelf wine and wild, wild women. Certainly we will see this season if the representatives of House Martell, the "Red Viper" Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) and his paramour Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), support the Dornish stereotypes we've been fed so far. Expect political complications and hot, hot action, chiefly the sexy and swords-y varieties.
Well, this is a Cersei certainty, especially with the Martell's entering the Lion's den. The Lannister family matters really bring the most delicious drama to the table and this season will be no different, except that shocking character developments within the tight-knit clan will strain political, personal, and familial relationships more than ever. Wait, yeah, like I said: no different. But, okay... I promised no spoilers. Just be sure to have that big bowl of popcorn ready so that you can be sure to send it flying over your head at the right moment. While you're at it, you might wanna go ahead and make that pile of popcorn ready for every episode.
Everybody remember that travelling harp player from season one? His name may or may not be Marillion (Emun Elliott) and he may or may not resurface this season in spite of the tongue torture inflicted upon him at King Joffrey's behest. The whole book-to-screen adaptation is tricky business and I'm very curious to see how season four will play with or without him returning to the game. Either way, as a fan of the books, I really hope we get to see this fan art rendering of a book scene, below, fully realized for HBO:
No spoilers, 'kay? Don't go thinking this is Sansa because it isn't her!
Another treat for fans of the books, I bet Hodor's season four trajectory will remain nothing if not fully faithful to this:
Before I can get even more carried away with this, let me just say I am so excited for this show to return to TV already, enough said. There is no way I could list absolutely everything I am eagerly anticipating with this season because I want it all and I want it now. I eat up every detail the show presents, from obsessing over Daenerys Targaryen's super siiick golden horn necklaces and wondering how the show's writers will solve the "Mereenese knot", to loving every nuance of Ian McElhinney's portrayal of Ser Barristan Selmy as well as Gwendoline Christie's perfection as Brienne of Tarth, from questioning how far the Reed siblings will take Brandon to cringing at Joffrey's hateful face, the horror that is House Bolton and Reek's predicament in general, from dreading those unnecessary "sexpository" explorations and questioning Margaery Tyrell's unfashionable parade of untoward silhouettes and odd cutouts to mulling the complexities of living with a concept as brutal as the "Iron Price"....I love it, all of it.
Above all, watching those dragons grow has been a rare and terrifying delight. Game on, everyone!