Don’t get me wrong. I really liked the fourth season of Game of Thrones. While there was some slower, filler episodes between the death of Joffrey and the Trial by Combat, the fourth season also featured some of the biggest episodes of the series run. There were some great surprising deaths, a huge spectacle episode in the Battle of the Wall, and the coolest deaths in the entire series. The only problem with much of the season, however, is that it failed to live up to the book-reader hype.
I have not read the Game of Thrones books, obviously, but by virtue of having many friends on the Internet and IRL who have, I get an earful about the books, and a common refrain in comment sections, on Facebook, on Reddit, and over beers with drinking buddies is this: “Wait until you see what happens next,” or “it’s about to get so good” or “the next episode will blow your mind.” Unfortunately, having seen the final product on the screen, those book readers may have oversold the season.
The problem, really, began with the Red Wedding. That was an episode the book readers had been hyping for months, if not years. And the thing about the Red Wedding episode is that it LIVED UP TO THE HYPE. It was every bit as shocking and gruesome and FANTASTIC as the book readers had promised.
But the book reader hype after the Red Wedding didn’t relent. “Oh, just wait until the Purple Wedding,” or “what happens next is even BETTER than the Red Wedding,” or “this episode will put the Red Wedding to shame.” And the thing is, none of that has been true. The Red Wedding was a singular, amazing moment in television history: It was unexpected and yet beyond our expectations. That was an incredible, devastating episode of television.
But after the Red Wedding, even more than Ned Stark’s death, we’ve come to expect huge twists and shocking deaths. The unexpected has become the expected. That’s perhaps not the fault of the book readers so much as it is the series for raising our level of expectation so high.
I don’t think the Red Wedding can ever be topped. The Purple Wedding was cool, but a little bit of a letdown (although, finding out from book readers exactly how it happened and who was behind it was very cool). The Red Viper/Mountain fight, I will say, almost lived up to the hype, thanks to some great special effects and a masterful fight sequence, although I was a little bummed that it didn’t come back around to Tyrion for another full episode. The Battle of The Wall fell well short of expectations, but that’s in part because things that were supposed to happen in that episode didn’t happen until the finale. Ygritte’s death, too, was underwhelming.