‘Game of Thrones’ Season Four Recap: Balancing the Lannister Books

By  · Published on July 2nd, 2014

Game of Thrones

Editor’s Note: The following guest blog comes from Patrick Sponaugle, who blogs extensively about Game of Thrones on his own site, PatrickSponaugle.com. As we’re a big fan of his work, we asked him to share some thoughts about the recently concluded fourth season. Beware that this article includes spoilers for all of season four, but is also safe for those who have not read the books.

Season Four of HBO’s Game of Thrones just ended, more or less wrapping up the adaptation of the first three books in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga. I’ve been waiting a long time for this season to be presented because there were things that I really wanted to talk about. Not being able to do so was killing me.

(This is your last chance to avoid being SPOILED, if you’re not up to date on Game of Thrones, STOP READING.)

Prince Oberyn, Have You Read A Song of Ice and Fire? A Lot of Fantastic People Die in the Books. Oh, Spoiler Alert. One of Them is You.

Was it Joffrey’s death I wanted to talk about, or the fight between Oberyn and the Mountain? Sure. I was kind of looking forward to discussing those topics.

What I really had wanted to say to my friends, for at least a year, was this: please stop complaining that the story is one big piling-on of abuse exclusively on top of the Stark family. Because with the fourth season, they show finally achieves a more equitable distribution of calamity and woe. It’s the season that the Lannisters get taken down.

Previously we’ve seen seasons of relentless doom for the Starks, but now the pendulum of karma has swung back like an ice-shearing anarchist-cleaving axe-anchor, away from the usual dour targets to land on the golden lions. It would have been uncool of me to mention this before now to my unspoiled comrades. These things need to be presented in their own time.

Now that we’re waiting for Season Five to start up, it’s a fine time to remember Season Four with an obligatory season recap, and we’ll see what I’m talking about.

Ye Olde Obligatory Seasonne Recappe

Tywin Lannister

Tywin Does Enjoy Time on the Throne. (You Can See Where I’m Going With This.)

Season Four started with the Lannisters at the height of their good fortunes (at least for the big power brokers, Tywin and Joffrey.)

Ice and Fire

In regards to Ned Stark’s remaining relatives, the best we might say is that no one was literally trying to kill them in the first minutes of Season Four.

My friends like to point out that the Starks really don’t get any breaks, but this is the season things start to turn around.

Hello King’s Landing! We Are Sex Bob-Omb!

Joffrey's death

I Hope the Maesters Had Him Buried Upside Down, as a Vampire Precaution.


Hair is for the Weak!

Tyrion Wishes He Had a Hodor Right Now. Smash!

Mockingbird and Little Dove. Ewwww.

Stone Cold Killer. And Hound.

Jon Snow

Hair is for the STRONG!

With Stannis’ Arrival, there are Now Two Big Chunks of Immobile Ice in the North.

Thumbs up for Ned’s much-maligned honor. Had Ned made a different decision in Season One with regards to Stannis, we might have had one less Snow for winter.

Tywin on the privy

Tywin Wants His Privacy. It’s Called a Privy for a Reason!

I’ll miss Tywin on the show. Tyrion didn’t miss him. Twice.

Careful observers will note that this recap is nearly 100% Stark and Lannister related. (Stannis had to show up and ruin the percentage.) I’ll get around to the other parties in a moment.

Orange is the New Gray (Because Crimson + Gold = Orange… okay, I’m trying too hard…)

So, why am I focusing on just Starks and Lannisters?

Even though Game of Thrones is a really complicated show, there’s a reasonable short-hand in describing the story in terms of Team Stark/Team Lannister rankings. Who is winning? Who is losing? That type of stuff.

Although those two Houses are no longer directly in competition anymore (Robb’s death clinched that) I have an observation about the Lannisters at the end of Season Four, to speak to my earlier statement about troubles being more equally applied. The Lannisters now occupy the same position as the Starks in Season Two and Three.

I Hope the Septon isn’t Putting the Crazy Crown on Tommen.

What About Team Everyone Else?

Okay, I’ve mentioned that Stannis did one good thing this season. Who knows what’ll happen next with him? (Well, all us book readers, I guess.)

We had movement on Dany’s story and on the Bolton/Greyjoy story. Not quite the same screen time as the Lannister freefall this season, though.

With Roose and Ramsay Bolton, we’re seeing them move up in power. Roose’s army can return to the North now that Moat Caillin was retaken from the Ironborn. Although it’s probably not a good thing for the people in the North to have The Flayed Man ascendant, more players are moving to the same location and I support that. We’re going to need storylines to converge eventually.



Daenerys is staying put for the moment in Slaver’s Bay (they should really rename that body of water), having a variety of troubles and issues.

On paper, she seems to be in a position where she can make mistakes and learn from them, a kind of hands-on tutorial on leadership, social justice, and stability versus chaos. I’m surprised Littlefinger hasn’t shown up trying to sell her a ladder. I’m fine with her story as is, not every group on the show gets equal consideration, and Dany got in some quality burninating last season.

How Important are the Roots?

This gets bandied about pretty much anytime someone important dies on the show:

Now that [Hero] is dead, who can I root for?


Now that [Villain] is dead, who can I root against?


Root For Me! I’m a Natural! I’m Already Rooted!

Man, I don’t know. Is it required to root for or against someone? I understand the need to be invested in characters, but I tend to be invested abstractly in the story more.

Okay, I know this is a Season Four recap, but back in Season Two when Stannis was assaulting King’s Landing at Blackwater, I can’t say I was rooting for one side or the other. I despised Joffrey but loved Tyrion, so I simultaneously wanted King’s Landing taken and spared. I was a fan of Ser Davos, but Melisandre terrified me (in a Wow She’s Attractive and Evil kind of way) so I wasn’t squarely behind Stannis.

But Stannis was the guy to root for to get up North and save Jon, the Night’s Watch, and the North. (Unless you’re on Team Cannibal. Then Boo Stannis. See, there’s still people to root for or against. Season Four has it all.)

But Then Their Watch Had Ended

Sadly, I have friends who stopped watching Game of Thrones after Season Three. Let me paraphrase some of my daily conversations with them:

Me: Blah blah Game of Thrones blah blah Game of Thrones blah blah… (Maybe I’m not paraphasing that much…)

Them: Yeah, we don’t watch that show anymore.

Me: Whaaaaaat? Why?

And then then tell me their wild reasons for this decision:


Season Three really drove this home, but I hope it’s clear that Season Four is where:

But, No Happy Ending!

My friends are still not convinced. They’re afraid to have hopes.

It’s clear they’ve seen Season Three, since they’re always ready to quote laughing-boy Ramsay Bolton (née Snow):

Ramsay: Nip/Tuck is the best show ever!

(No, that’s not the quote. Although I can imagine Ramsay being a loyal watcher.)

Ramsay: If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.

Look, I get where they are coming from. The Red Wedding happened. Ned Stark was super-betrayed. People we identified with were getting the shaft and people we despised appeared to be thriving.

This season, Lannisters were taking lumps, but that included Lannisters we liked too. Starks didn’t fare too badly in Season Four, but they’re still all scattered to the winds, and GRRM could just kill them off in a moment.

Was I not paying attention? Is it wrong to hope for a happy ending?

Maybe. I mean, Ramsay Bolton is totally Yoda. We should hang on his every sentence like the enlightened zen koans that they are. Or maybe we should pay more attention to someone who had a better read on the big picture.

Ned Stark: Summer is the time for squabbles. In winter, we must protect one another, keep each other warm, share our strengths.

Where Have These Guys Been For Two Seasons? Isn’t That the Wall Ahead of Them? (No. That’s the Fist of the First Men. Don’t Get So Excited.)

We’re halfway through the book series, and winter has yet to come. There’s a lot of end-of-summer squabbling happening which might be profitable for some, and bad for many more. But if anyone thinks Winter isn’t coming, then they haven’t been paying attention.

When winter does come, those who have the willingness to share their strength, warmth, and protection with others will be the ones who survive.

And seeing that happen would make me happy.

But right now, I’m just trying to survive the wait until Season Five.

Now that we’ve all had some time to digest, please feel free to share your (book spoiler free) thoughts about season four in the comments below.

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