Game of Thrones: Stonehearted Internet (Spoilers)

The Game of Thrones Season 4 finale is, for my money, the best season finale the creators have delivered thus far. The show achieved notoriety for its penchant of delivering the big series impacts not in the season finale but in the penultimate episode. The beheading of Ned Stark. The Battle of Blackwater. The Red Wedding. All of those seismic events took place in the ninth episode of each 10-episode season.

Game of Thrones

The season finale has been, up until now, a closing of doors and a whisper of what is to come for those who, like me, haven’t read the books. In a sense, Sunday night’s finale continued in that vein, dealing with the aftermath of the Battle of Castle Black and wrapping up the Hound and Arya plotline. Yet, the episode in no way felt like an epilogue. It had surprises all on its own.

While it would be hard to imagine topping the epic scale and filmmaking bravura on display in the previous episode The Watchers on the Wall, this season finale, titled The Children, fed on the adrenaline rush, giving us the slaughter of the Wildlings at the hands of Stannis Baratheon’s army. It also brought a significant amount of forward momentum to Bran’s idling story, delivering him to the three-eyed crow (and other oddities) after a skirmish straight out of a Ray Harryhausen film. As if that weren’t enough, we were treated to an epic battle to the death between the Hound and Brienne of Tarth, the chaining of Daenerys’s dragons, and a whole lot of Lannister family drama.

You’d think, given the grace and efficiency the writers moved through each story, Twitter would have been overflowing with praise. After all, this wasn’t one of the “do nothing” finales. This was a season finale that had real meat to it. It answered questions, and it evoked more. It closed doors and opened a hundred windows. This is what the best season finales tend to do.

Instead, Twitter and the Internet at Large was ablaze with criticisms over plot omissions and diversions from the source material. Where was Lady Stoneheart! Brienne never fought The Hound! Shae never loved Tyrion! Season 4 was nothing but a bunch of highlights! The shock and effrontery were so intense that you’d have thought Tyler Perry showed up as Madea in King’s Landing. Stop for a moment and imagine that…

Of course, everyone is entitled to his or her opinions, and I will admit my heart was pounding with excitement at the prospect of meeting Lady Stoneheart. But that’s not what the writers had in mind for this season as they explained to Entertainment Weekly. It’s not that I particularly mind the outcries as I do believe it comes from a place of love and obsession for the show/book. What it does speak to is a concern I have over the future of the series. The Internet may be the enemy it cannot defeat.

Given the overwhelming critical adorations for Season 4, you have to wonder how the creators will top it next season. Sure, there’s plenty of material left, and there will be a growing excitement once the show fully surpasses the novels. But, like Mad Men at Season 4, I am wary that Game of Thrones has reached a critical and audience-approval peak. When will D.B. Weiss and David Benioff stumble, starting the inevitable Internet backlash that almost all great shows face? When will it be cool to say “I hated Game of Thrones before you did?” Now that entertainment is force-fed to us at lightening speed through binge watching, how long will it be before the leisurely paced 10-episode seasons aren’t enough to satiate the Internet at Large?

Until then, we can ruminate on Season 4. We can bid fond farewells to Tywin Lannister, King Joffrey, (presumably) the Hound, Ygritte, and Lady Arryn among others. We will marvel on the trial of Tyrion and his fantastically stirring hate speech. And we will never unsee the head-crushing fate of Prince Oberyn Martell. To recap this packed season is an exercise in insanity. More than a collection of highlights, Season 4 is a culmination of seeds planted early in the show. It was the best season of the best show on television.

Emmy nominations will rain down like arrows from Castle Black. Writing (The Children), Directing (The Watchers on the Wall), Drama Series and technical nominations are written in stone. The trickier part is how far will the love of the series extend to the acting categories? Peter Dinklage seems a safe bet for a nomination based on his excellent trial performance, and I would put him squarely ahead for another win. Last year’s surprise supporting actress nominee Emilia Clarke seems less likely as Daenerys’s character arc wasn’t as compelling this year. In fact, the show’s riches of great female roles ironically seem to work against the actresses when competing for awards attention. Clarke has, thus far, been the only woman to register in the major acting categories with Diana Rigg receiving a guest dramatic actress nomination last year, a feat I hope she repeats this year. I would have added Michelle Fairley, Lena Headey, Natalie Dormer, and, although she has not been officially submitted, Gwendoline Christie to the mix.

After all, in a show that boldly proclaimed at the beginning of Season 4 “All men must die,” it really should be all about the women.

Now, what to do with the next 10 months of my life…

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  1. Avatar
    Antoinette 8 years ago

    I wanted Maisie Williams nominated last year but I think she wasn’t even submitted. I think the same thing has happened to Alfie Allen this year. I need the Emmy nominating process explained to me again if it ever was.

    Either way a show like this suffers from being too much awesome just like a film like, I hate to do it but, LORD OF THE RINGS did. You have a massive cast doing amazing work and for some reason people get it into their heads that it’s an ensemble piece and therefore they don’t take the individual acting performances seriously or feel the need to reward them. Oh and it’s fantasy. God forbid. Shows that have the right amount of roles like “Breaking Bad” or “Mad Men” are able to dominate awards season because they’ve got just enough to fit. Oh and they are about “real life”. Dragons are more important than real life, fyi.

    I really believe that as it stands today, June 16th 2014, “Game of Thrones” is the best TV Show of all time. Does it have anywhere close to the awards recognition a show of that caliber should have? Hell no. So I say ‘Boo’ to you, you award givers. You suck.

    For the next ten months I’m going to be trying to read five books. Pray for me. I’m not a reader. But I’m sick to death of book fans spoiling every damn thing every time they throw a fit. I would really like to not even know there is a character called Lady Stoneheart but I started hearing about her in the weeks leading up to the finale and now I’m still not supposed to know who she is but I do. It’s like the fact that they need to whine about her not being in the finale made her existence a non-spoiler. How the hell does that work if she may or may not show up all those months from now?

    1. Avatar
      Clarence Moye 8 years ago

      Fantasy shows have a hard time receiving attention from awards bodies. The winners traditionally are the least offensive, most easy-going shows/films. That said, the themes of Game of Thrones really go beyond being pigeonholed in the Fantasy genre.

      Good luck with the books. I’ve tried a few times but to little success. I try to avoid most spoilers, but… Let me know how it goes over the next 10 months! I hope to be writing more about GOT next season. We’ll see!

  2. Avatar
    Ricky 8 years ago

    Big fan of the show. Big fan of the books. Huge hater of spoilers.

    Do yourself a big favor and read the books while you still can. There’s a reason people (like myself) were up in arms about the lack of Lady Stoneheart and I would hate for you to have it ruined before she can be properly introduced (in the way that she is in the books or otherwise).

    There is at least one (but probably more) MAJOR plot point that would freaking suck to have ruined before its time. Just read the books or prepare yourself for the likelihood that it will be ruined.

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