As proclaimed by billboards everywhere, on 7th April, ‘all men must die’ (or ‘valar morghulis’ as one might say in High Valerian). So, despite what the Starks might have you believe, forget Winter. ‘Game of Thrones’ season four is coming. Although, given the increasing activity of the White Walkers in the show, best not forget Winter entirely…
As a unique mixture of incest, more political scheming than a BBC docu-drama can shake a stick at, and pure badassery, ‘Game of Thrones’ has thrilled, enthralled, and occasionally horrified the world for three seasons. Now it’s back, and, as promised by the series’ co-creator and showrunner, ‘It’s […] more intense than it ever has been. […] There’s just no relaxing this season. If we can pull this off, it will top season three’. That’s a tall order, to say the least. But, given the show’s history, I expect they can more than deliver on their promises. Like the Lannisters, ‘Game of Thrones’ always pays its debts. But, although for fans of George R R Martin’s books there will be plenty of knowing oooohs and aaahhs in response to the new trailers for season four, for many non-book-readers every shot is an oh-so-perplexing riddle. What’s Tyrion doing in what looks like a jail? What exactly are the White Walkers? And of course, since when were the dragons so massive?! Thus, the question for this article becomes (all in a non-spoilery fashion, I promise): what hints can we gather from these juicy tit-bits of information?
First things first: episode titles. Only the first seven titles have been released; although, it has been rumoured that the ninth episode is to be called ‘Castle Black’, so an attack on the Wall is not unlikely, especially given Jon Snow’s warnings against the wildlings in a recent teaser. Most obviously, the name of episode two, ‘The Lion and the Rose’, is likely hinting at the wedding of King Joffrey (despite nominally being a Baratheon, whose sigil is a stag, his true Lannister heritage renders him more of a ‘lion’) and Lady Margaery Tyrell (whose sigil is a ‘rose’).
Similarly, the trailers give us a first look at Jamie Lannister’s new golden-hand and new golden-head (his scraggly on-the-road locks have been lopped off for a more severe look), while also hinting at Arya’s increasingly dark path as a tool for vengeance (Maisie Williams never acted better than her cold vow to name those she ‘is going to kill’), and, excitingly, show flashes of dragonfire in action, now that Daenerys’s dragons have crossed the boundary from cute to terrifying. As well as some additional cast-members joining the show (including acting veterans Mark Gatiss, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, and many more), it’s also worth noting that there will be a series of re-castings this season. The Mountain, Tommen Baratheon, and Daario Naharis will all be played by new actors: Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Dean-Charles Chapman, and Michiel Huisman. Only time will tell if these shifts will cause confusion or improve on some slightly less-than-perfect casting choices of the past.
However, if there’s one thing we can be sure of, with a slogan like ‘all men must die’, season four will continue to do what ‘Game of Thrones’ does best: break the golden rule of television. No-one, not even fan-favourites, is, or ever will be, safe. Tune into Sky Atlantic on Monday 7th April, at 2am (if you’re feeling ambitious), or 9pm for the first episode: ‘Two Swords’.