It’s the penultimate category of the 2014 WiCnet Awards! This week, we’re making our picks for Best Actor.
Ani Bundel: The caliber of its cast is one of Game of Thrones’ greatest strengths. There’s been more than one casting choice where I felt like Benioff and Weiss simply went to the Shakespearean-trained pool of British actors and picked the best. So it was when Charles Dance strode onto the screen in “You Win Or You Die” in Season 1. From that moment on, he never disappointed me.
Tywin is a difficult character to take from page to screen. In the books, we never see things from his point of view. In a world where every “bad” character is shown to have shades of a good person, driven by lust, greed, or madness to make bad decisions, Tywin is one of the few whose unbending rigidity puts him uncomfortably close to the “wholly evil” category. In lesser hands, his was a character who could have gone to cardboard, as critics have accused another rigid character, Stannis, of being. But Dance was too smart for that. From the beginning, his has always been a nuanced performance….
That nuance and layering of character emotion and drive that Dance laid down during his exchanges with Arya in Season 2 were necessary groundwork for this, Tywin’s final season, and the pinnacle of his arc. In some ways, this is where Tywin goes full villain, twisting the scales of justice to blame his (innocent) dwarf son for the murder of his (evil) grandson. But though what Tywin is doing is clearly wrong and cruel, we understand it. We can see that he sees this as saving the family by pinning this murder on the least popular family member. It gets rid of a reminder of his own weakness and failings. As someone who has been playing the game through and through, from the time of being the Hand of the Mad King through the revolution to today, one can see where his mental insistence comes from that his family be the pieces he wants them to be instead of the people they are. The stunned look on his face as Cersei blindsides him with the truth of her and Jaime was one for the ages.
Even when he’s lost, Dance played Tywin playing the game to the hilt, no matter what the circumstances. Caught with his pants around his ankles in more than one way, non-readers could believe that Tywin’s smooth talking and unflappable demeanor might convince his son once last time that family really does come first, and he would help Tyrion escape King’s Landing for good. ‘Twas a pity he couldn’t stop saying “whore.” Dance will be missed.
Rebecca Pahle: Reasons Pedro Pascal deserves to be named the Best Actor of Game of Thrones, Season 4, an itemized argument:
1) Playing Oberyn Martell, one of A Song of Ice and Fire’s most beloved characters, was a really tall order. I’m not saying everybody was sharpening their pitchforks and preparing to skewer Pascal if he made a single misstep, but… well, I don’t need to tell you that ASOIAF fans are intense.
2) He did a helluva lot with not very much screen time. Sure, he had a larger presence in the season than some other characters (like Stannis, say), and in a series with such an ensemble cast, no one (save maybe Dinklage and Clarke) is really allowed to gobble up screen time in the first place. Still. Pascal had, what, 25-30 minutes over 10 hours (40 over the entire run of the show) to work with? And when all is said and done and the series comes to a close I know that for me, at least, he’ll be one of the most memorable parts. Some of the credit goes to the writing, both Martin’s and the show’s—Pascal had some really great scenes to work with, his fight with Gregor Clegane easily landing at the top of the list. But he brought amazing energy to even the smaller, less-flashier exchanges, like Oberyn unsuccessfully flirting with Cersei during the Small Council meeting in “The Laws of Gods and Men.”
4) It’s not like you can vote for him next year.
Yi Li: You have to understand— I’ve got a killer argumentative streak that picks intellectual fights just for the principle of the thing, so it kills me a little inside to defend the popular opinion. But after four seasons, I’ve come to admit that in this case, the popular opinion is popular for good reason.
There’s more than one character on this list who won’t return next season (and I’m not talking about flashbacks, Charles Dance!). I understand the desire to honor these actors while we can. Game of Thrones certainly does land guest actors of a caliber almost unmatched by any other show. But I think it also bears reminding that characters like Tywin and Oberyn are great in large part because of what they mean for Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister.
Game of Thrones is at its best not when it veers off to some whore-related tangent, but when it stays true to its core characters, and finds new depths in the people we know so well. Oberyn may be a brilliant flash in the pan, but Tyrion is the one we came to see— one of the core characters who keeps us satiated through the massacres and the occasionally disappointing executions of well-loved plot points— and goodness does Dinklage give us a lot to see.
I’ve already written about Peter Dinklage’s performance, but it bears repeating that from his utter rage at the trial to his desperation in prison to his preternaturally calm acceptance that there is no turning back, Dinklage gave us more than the same old fare you’d expect from a character who’s still the star in the show’s fourth season. One of the best things about the show is that when they claim to serve up character development, they really mean it. I don’t need a spoiler warning or reams of online speculation in hand to say that I’m confident we’ll remember this season as the one where Tyrion sealed his fate, and in turn, Westeros’ future.
That’s got to be reason enough to swallow your more-individualistic-than-thou instincts and join the chorus chanting “PeterDinklagePeterDinklagePeterDinklage…”
Andrea Towers: Our last shot of Jaime in Season 3 was of him standing in the doorway of his sister’s bedroom, disheveled and looking less proper than a Lannister should, his stump of a hand wrapped in dirty cloth. Season 4 was all about Jaime as he struggled with the fact that for the first time, he wasn’t perfect. He was “tainted,” not only by his injury, but by the fact that for the first time, he was realizing that he had feelings other than the ones that belonged to Cersei.
And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau knocked every performance this season out of the park.
It’s hard to be a stand-out in a cast of consistent professionals such as Peter Dinklage and Charles Dance. And as much as I heap praise on Coster-Waldau’s performance, I can’t not give credit to his chemistry with Gwendoline Christie, whose chemistry helped fuel the ability to see Jaime as a real person, one who wasn’t so consumed with power or jealousy or hatred, as previous seasons had led us to believe. The loss of his hand contributed to a loss of identity, and in Season 4, we got to watch that identity become rebuilt. We got to see Jaime come into his own as a character, we got to see him take back his confidence, and as much as that was wonderful to watch, it was Coster-Waldau’s performance that made the entire journey worthwhile.
Cameron White: A lot of the very best of the Thrones cast has come out of placing them in two-person parties. Brienne and Jaime’s journey back to King’s Landing gave us the awesome chemistry between Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie; the same can be said for Michelle Fairley and Richard Madden, who anchor the Stark army’s fateful march all the way to the Red Wedding, and for Kit Harington and Rose Leslie, whose romance lends an air of Shakespearian tragedy to the narratives at the Wall.
But the show’s most enduring companionship has been between Daenerys and Iain Glen’s Jorah Mormont. Season 4 is a critical turning point for the series narrative, and Jorah is absolutely a part of that. As Dany continues to conquer Slaver’s Bay in preparation for her assault on Westeros, Jorah attempts to provide solid counsel, arguing against Ser Barristan Selmy, who has a more honorable view of the world. But he is also slave to his own heart, distrusting Daario despite fighting alongside him. In reading the books for the first time, I found I enjoyed Jorah’s world-weariness in Dany’s story, even as I took issue with some of his actions, particularly in his ill-fated desire for the Khaleesi.
And another of those actions finally comes to Dany’s attention via Barristan Selmy. And once again, we come back to the scene where Dany banishes Jorah from her sight. Glen makes it so easy to forget what he’s done that you could almost be forgiven for thinking that Dany’s decision is a little harsh. The pleading look on his face, moved almost to tears by his desperate attempts to have Dany hear him out for spying on her early on in their relationship, almost moves me to tears as well. The fact that this is the show’s oldest character relationship is felt on Glen’s face; he reflects back to us the idea that the emotional fears of these characters are just as devastating as the bloodshed. That kind of compassionate performance is what makes Iain Glen great.
Rowan Kaiser: Look, I’ve managed to go four months now without going off, but: Seven Hells, are we really going to go this entire awards season without giving something to Charles Dance??!?
Season 4 of Game of Thrones belongs to Tywin Lannister. He goes from potentially sidelined by his grandson to leader of everything to a barely-competent figure. His highest point and his lowest point are in this season, and Charles Dance is there to deliver both. He’s fantastic as Tywin. He embodies Tywin Lannister in a way that I was shocked and delighted to see from the very beginning. This was his most important and best season.
So come on. I loved Rory McCann this season, and I love Peter Dinklage every season. But vote for Charles fucking Dance here! Otherwise…it’s GIF time.
Haven’t voted yet? Whose GIF was most convincing? Now’s your chance!