In this week’s incarnation of The Small Council, our contributors examine the current WiCnet Award being voted on: Best Death Scene in Season 4 of Game Of Thrones.
Rowan Kaiser: There were a ridiculous number of major deaths this season, rendering this a highly competitive category for my vote. After watching the sadistic Joffrey prance around with increasing impunity over three-plus seasons, seeing him receive his comeuppance was a cathartic–and slightly guilty, thanks to Jack Gleeson–pleasure. Meanwhile Oberyn’s death scene was one of the absolute highlights of the season both in narrative and craft.
But in terms of a death scene, the one I keep coming back to, oddly, is Ygritte’s. Why is that odd?
I say “oddly” because I had very little investment in the Jon-Ygritte love story (and was occasionally actively annoyed at it), and I feel that the raiders-beneath-The-Wall storyline was somewhat overextended (although I always enjoyed Rose Leslie’s interpretation of the character). But Ygritte’s death transcends those issues and is critical to Season 4 of Game Of Thrones because it creates an emotional climax to the season’s biggest and riskiest episode.
“The Watchers On The Wall” didn’t have to be the climactic episode of the season, but the producers decided to make it such. This was a risky move given that only a tiny handful of major characters are involved, as opposed to “Blackwater” which had some of the show’s most important and popular characters. “The Watchers On The Wall” had to succeed on its own merits instead of merely plot ones, and it did, thanks in large part to Neil Marshall’s direction. Yet it was also an episode lacking an inherent climax, thanks to the end of the siege occurring at the start of the next episode. In order to have emotional resonance, it needed to make its big event–the death of Ygritte at the end of the Wildling raid meaningful. And by having Jon Snow hold her, in the moment, battle raging around him, redeemed much of their love storyline and gave the technically impressive episode possess necessary emotional power. I didn’t expect this episode to work for me, but in large part because of Ygritte’s death, it was one of my favorites of the season.
Cameron White: Jojen Reed’s death may have been easy to miss in “The Children” because it’s one of several contained in the episode, as well as that it falls in the middle of a pretty crazy fight sequence that marks the end of Bran’s initial journey (not to mention the escalation of the use of magic via some pretty crazy fireball special effects). But Jojen’s death is significant for a couple of reasons.
First, while Jojen gets stabbed by a wight during the fight, it’s Meera, his sister, who makes the killing blow. This decision should undoubtedly have an effect on the dynamic of Bran’s party, even as their purpose shifts from “aimless wandering” to “whatever the heck comes next.”
Second, Jojen’s death is yet another departure from the books. Book Jojen is still alive and kicking, albeit predicting via green dream his own demise. Killing Jojen off in the show may indicate a larger purpose for Meera and Bran as their narrative shifts, or it may simply be housekeeping, a way to clear the table of unnecessary characters in order to keep production costs low for future seasons. Regardless, as we speed past Bran’s current book storyline, any changes must be marked, as they may indicate the possible new directions for Bran’s character.
As with most of book-to-screen changes, Jojen’s death may be significant…or it may be nothing at all. But the look on Meera’s face as she swings the knife is as haunting as any White Walker.
Ani Bundel: There were two deaths I was on pins and needles for in Season 4. One was Joffrey–ramped up partly because of how well the production hid that his death was coming so early in the season. Seriously, the way they played up Jack Gleeson during the promotional events, like he was going to be this season’s big bad, was genius. The other was the double murder of the season’s true big bad, Tywin, along with Shae.
I want to take a minute here to talk about Shae. The phrase “Tis a pity she’s a whore” never seemed so apt. Shae got something of a bad rap, and that’s understandable. Seen totally from Tyrion’s POV, her betrayal was an emotional horror show, the cherry on top of the shit sundae that Tywin was gleefully spoon feeding him for the masses. But from Shae’s perspective, once she was brought back to King’s Landing, what choice did she have? She was upfront with Tyrion as to what she was and what she wanted from him (as, for the record, was Bronn.) They were both going to dump him and grab the nearest upward moving rung the moment the tides of his fortunes stopped raising the boats around him.
As for hooking up with Tywin, and reclaiming her place in the Tower of the Hand’s bedchamber, it was only the most straightforward choice she could make. No, Tywin didn’t love her, but what had supposed love gotten her, except stuck on boat she didn’t want to take across to a continent she didn’t want to be on? It was a pragmatist’s move, right down to not having to worry about remembering a new nickname. “My Lion,” indeed. It was poignant that her murmuring that phrase set Tyrion over the edge to the ultimate crime of passion–strangulation.
As for the death of his father, as much as the old man had it coming, his death was all about Shae. (Cutting the Tysha subplot made sure of that.) It wasn’t just that Tywin was the World’s Worst Father. It wasn’t just that he’d turned an entire city on his son, and humiliated his flesh and blood for all to see. It wasn’t just that he fucked the woman Tyrion loved. It was that he did all that, and he didn’t even have the decency to care.
Andrea Towers: Heading into Game Of Thrones’ fourth season, I would jokingly refer to it as “the year of death.” That comment isn’t outlandish for a show where at least one main character dies per season, but let’s face it: between Joffrey, Shae, Tywin and Oberyn, there was going to be more than one departure that would resonate strongly with the audience, in both the way it happened and because of who it happened to.
I was particularly dreading Tywin’s death, if only because I knew it meant we would see the departure of Charles Dance, who has brought something to the show over 4 years that has elevated the character to a new level. Tywin is not exactly the model father–he’s diabolical, manipulative, and power-hungry. He treats his children like objects rather than actually caring about them, and he has no qualms about deciding to sacrifice their happiness or pride for his own gain as the head of the family.
Tyrion gets the brunt of Tywin’s mocking and cruelty, so it’s not surprising that he ends up being the one to seal his father’s fate. By the time Tyrion discovers Shae and her ‘lion,” it’s the straw breaking the camel’s back and in the final scene between the two you can still see Tywin trying to call his son’s bluff. I mean, this is the man who offhandedly justified the Red Wedding massacre with the words, “explain to me why it is more noble to kill ten thousand men at battle than a dozen at dinner.” It takes until Tyrion actually shoots him for the man to realize that he might have actually been asking for this all along, and you see it in Charles Dances’ incredibly powerful and subtle performance. Although his death (aside from its actual execution) was changed in the finale by cutting out the Tysha plotline, I can’t deny the impact that it had on me as a viewer and as a fan of the character, particularly after we watched his cunningly diabolical performance in Season 4.
Lord Tywin Lannister, did not, in the end, shit gold. (Erm…happy Father’s Day?)
Who’s your pick? If you haven’t voted yet, the poll’s below!