Watchers on the Wall staff were polled on their perceptions of season 4 and predictions for season 5. Here are their answers to a series of questions leading up to Sunday’s premiere. Consensus may have built on several questions but as usual WotW staff possess diverse points of view.
Looking back to season 4, on a scale from 1-10, how would you rate the season?
HearMarkoRoar: It was a top season. How to translate that to numbers? I give it a 9, because there is always room for improvement. Some moments could have had an even more powerful impact (but I only know that because I’ve read the books). I’m on the record saying S4 was my favourite so far, and I’m staying true to myself with the high grade.
Oz: On a personal level, my problem with attempting to apply a scale to GoT is a qualification issue as it relates to the rest of the TV industry. The truth is, I don’t currently watch much television. So comparing apples to apples wouldn’t be just for this guy since my consumption of apples is limited.
What I can say with certainty is that I have always felt as if I was being treated to a major motion picture rather than a television show when I’ve absorbed GoT, which puts the apple from the GoT Tree on a different level altogether. That has to be worth a 10, or at least a high nine.
When drawing comparisons to previous seasons, my personal grade would be a strong 8.
Dame Pasty: I would rate Season 4 an 8.
Cian: 9/10. For comparison’s sake, season 1 is 9/10, season 2 6/10, and season 3 7/10.
Bex: Starkalypse reviews averaged to a 7.
What were some of the strengths of season 4 that you would like to see continued into season 5?
Axechucker: I’d like to see that same balance between faithfulness to the source material and quality television in cases where things need to be amalgamated. And I want more deaths – early, on-screen deaths if (IF!) they are more impactful on the screen than they were in the books, i.e. Grenn taking Donal Noye’s place. We probably only have 30 episodes of television left to tell George’s story, so I want it told with impact.
SuetheFury: Having exciting moments throughout the season instead of putting most of them off until the big finish in the last two episodes. Also the long-running trend of bath/hot tub scenes.
HearMarkoRoar: Tyrion’s powerhouse performance will be hard to repeat, simply because his best plot moments came last year, but I want more of that. The pacing was tighter with fewer slow patches, and I’d like to see that continued. Combining the plots of AFFC and ADWD gives us all the oportunity for this to happen.
Oz: The production and visual effects continue to progress as the show matures and I fully expect it to maintain if not slightly improve, especially considering the increased budget.
Dame Pasty: The strengths of Season 4 were visual effects, pace of the story, and getting into stuff that wasn’t in the books. I KNOW I will be unsullied about some things in Season 5 so I’m excited about that. And I’m pretty certain that the visual effects will only be better because of the bigger budget (or is that too big of an assumption?). The thing that is up in the air, is how D&D will pace things. Since each season has gotten better and better (IMO) I think it bodes well in this aspect as well.
Cian: The confidence to comfortably settle down and only focus on certain characters for extended periods at the expense of others. This way, everyone gets their due, and we avoid instances like the season 2 premiere.
The stronger focus on Jon Snow – both screentime- and content-wise. Kit really came into his own last season after some lacking material north of the Wall.
There was a certain reflective and pensive nature to a lot of the dialogue-heavy scenes that was quite effective. I’d like to see that contemplative aspect continue into season 5.
Bex: I always appreciate strong visuals and loved what Neil Marshall did with episode 9. It would be great to see more experimentation on that count, especially with new locations.
Anything (plot devices, character arcs, technical elements) that you wouldn’t mind leaving in season 4?
Axechucker: That’s tough to say. Less rape? I know some people have complained about the Missandei/Grey Worm lovestory sideplot, which I personally enjoy (I enjoyed Grey Worm playing “raise the sword” with Daario much less)… but I think a lot of fans don’t understand that actors need to act. If they’re name characters, they need something to do other than standing in the background saying, “Yes, Khaleesi.” Else why are they there? They could be replaced with extras.
SuetheFury: Jon’s occasional poutiness. It was almost gone in season 4, which was great to see.
HearMarkoRoar: Well, the unsuccessful bit was the single scene with Yara Greyjoy. It was probably necessary in the overall scheme of things in terms of moving the pieces around the board, but it stuck out like a sore thumb, and in terms of editing the viewer had to infer a lot of the motivations and off-screen action. I’d be happy to find out the reason behind those decision in S5, and to see that similarly confusing scenes are not part of the new season.
Oz: Overall, GoT hits a hell of a lot more than it misses. And while those misses constitute discussion, a man doesn’t like to dwell on the negative. But since you asked…
The Botched Theon Rescue: The end of S3 left many of us with an expectation that Yara and 50 of Pyke’s best killers were going to stage quite an offensive in the attempt to retrieve Reek. What we received from the buildup in S4 was less than four minutes of an undertaking that ended with the potential of being attacked by a few dogs. Granted, they were extremely aggravated dogs who were without vaccinations. But still. I do hold out hope that we will see the Greyjoy family in the future, but only if it is a meaningful necessity to the entirety of the story.
My other issue is probably more of a personal preference as it relates to the fantasy genre, so take it with a grain of salt. The blazing fireballs of exploding magic in the S4 finale were a little too capricious for my taste. It was the first time throughout the duration of the series that I actually felt like I was watching something other than Game of Thrones.
Dame Pasty: To answer your question directly–I don’t want to see Jaime continue to be Lena’s lap dog. I want him to move beyond her. Now I’m gonna answer from a slightly different angle. There are some things from the books that didn’t make the screen that I don’t want to see in Season 5.
Cian: Ramsay Bolton’s dogs – they’re too OP.
Bex: At this point, I don’t care if they deviate from the source material, but if they do it in a way that is smart, makes sense in the context, and ultimately is a better fit for what the show is doing. That being said, there seemed to be a wealth of gratuitous, original rapey scenes that they can feel free to cease and desist in season 5.
Game of Thrones is known for its strong performances. WITHOUT SPOILERS, who do you think will have compelling arcs in season 5?
Axechucker: I’m going to say Sansa. Not just because I’m #TeamSansa but because we’re in completely unknown territory with her this season. And while I have doubts she will actually DIE (they wouldn’t dare?!), I will be on the edge of my seat every time she’s onscreen. Additionally, I believe this will be Cersei’s season. Lena’s going to knock it out of the park.
SuetheFury: Cersei will have a big year. Arya’s journey should be fascinating. I’m very curious to see what they have in store for Sansa since we last saw her starting a new phase, this should be a big year for her as well.
HearMarkoRoar: I’m most interested to see what they have done with Dorne. I believe it has a lot of potential to be strong, the changed/expanded plot notwithstanding (or even because of it, with the plot more fleshed out). The most compelling part of the story, I think, will be following the characters that now find themselves at the Wall. So many combinations and personalities that can create some amazing moments just by being in the same room, let alone interacting with one another.
Oz: For obvious reasons, Unsullied expectations are implied for characters like Cersei, Jon, Dany, Arya, Littlefinger and Sansa to have compelling arcs. As an extension of the great character that was Oberyn and the previews heavily teasing Dorne, logic suggests the characters surrounding the new location will be an important aspect of S5 also.
Personally I’m optimistically hoping for more Jorah, and praying to the Seven that the scene in the arena is not his final act.
Dame Pasty: I think Cersei and Jon’s arcs will be the most compelling. The least will be Dany’s but hers has always been the weakest (again IMO) in both the books and the shows (so no fault of D&D).
Cian: Cersei, Jon, Arya, Sansa.
There are many facets to ASOIAF. What from that world would you like to see potentially incorporated from the books? (actual plots and characterizations notwithstanding)
Axechucker: I was hoping to meet Harry the Heir, but I’m not even sure we’ll meet him in the books. Griff/Young Griff doesn’t seem like it’s happening either (which supports a popular fan theory). I think I will be most sad if we don’t see Oldtown. I want to see the Sphynx!
SuetheFury: I’d like to see incorporated from the books the aftereffects of the war. The sense of devastation to Westeros. That’s a major part of A Feast for Crows, understanding just what this war has done to the people that the lords and kings are supposed to serve, and I’d like to see some of that. Sometimes we only get the insulated worlds of castle keeps and you can almost forget there was a war. Hopefully Brienne and Pod’s travels will convey some of this.
HearMarkoRoar: I was really happy to learn Volantis was depicted in S5. That part of the world really stirred up my imagination with strong imagery when reading the latest book. I’m keeping realistic as I know we won’t get it onscreen in the same way – but since you ask: Volantis at night, buzzing with people, with night fires reflecting in the river and elephants in the streets!
Oz: Book club application rejected (until further notice).
Dame Pasty: The one thing I want to see and something I think we will get is the devastation and chaos that war brings to a nation. They really started delving into it last season with The Hound and Arya’s story and if Winter ever finally arrives things should get worse. Speaking of Winter, I want to see more damn snow further south than The Wall.
Cian: I’d like some of the more recent and relevant historical events to be mentioned/expounded e.g. the tourney at Harrenhal, the Tower of Joy. As amazing as the Dragonstone set was, we never got a look at what the castle itself really looks like, e.g. courtyards, corridors, halls. The scope in population terms felt a bit lacking. I’d say the same for Pyke. I’d love some scenes in the Reach. It’s the one Westerosi region (I presume) we won’t have seen by the end of this season, and by all reports it is absolutely gorgeous – a stark contrast to (most of) the rest of the continent.
Bex: I would love to see things we DON’T get to see in the books. What does Highgarden look like? Will we get a glimpse of other places GRRM has never set in his novels? That would be cool. Also, Darkstar please. (Note: Bex is largely Unsullied for season 5 so please do not spoil potential appearances of Darkstar)
For some pure speculation, who will/should see some Emmy noms for this season, and/or who deserves them?
Axechucker: Lena will get a nod and might even win.
SuetheFury: Lena Headey just may be walking up to that podium. As for who deserves them, it’s too soon to say, but there are so many actors who deserve recognition for their performances every year with this amazing cast. People like Conleth Hill or Michael McElhatton will never receive Emmy recognition for their work on the show and that’s a shame.
HearMarkoRoar: I consider Alfie Allen the most underrated guy on the show, with some amazingly powerful performances. So Alfie, always Alfie. Not that it will happen :/
Oz: Tough question for Unsullied as it is difficult to speculate which characters will have story arcs that will contain significant screen time and opportunity to shine. To further complicate, there are many who I consider deserving from the previous seasons who never garnered a mere honorable mention. But I think both Lena and NCW would be likely candidates with Lena being more of a favorite due to her overall body of work as an actor and what appears to be an arc where her decisions and the resulting dramatics should surely be a headliner.
Sentimental picks: McElhatton and Conleth Hill.
Dame Pasty: Lena Headey will probably see a nod and will deserve it (at least I hope). Jonathan Pryce might see a guest Emmy nod and will probably deserve it–I think he is going chew up the scenery. Peter Dinklage will get a nod but we’ll have to see if he ends up deserving it. I thought he should have won for last season but Emmy horde does what Emmy horde wants.
Cian: Lena Headey is long overdue, in my opinion. This could be the year she takes it home, and appropriately so considering the material she has to work with. Jonathan Pryce could very well steal the show, just as Diana Rigg did. We’ll soon find out. Kit Harington may be in the running, too, considering his meaty material this season. I’d also love for Sophie Turner to take one home. Fans may balk at where Sansa’s storyline seems to be heading, but that doesn’t mean Sophie won’t knock it out of the park. Stephen Dillane and Michael McElhatton both deserve nominations and perhaps wins. Whether they will ever get them is doubtful, as both performances are very understated and full of nuance in a series chock-full of scene-chewing (not that that’s inherently a bad thing).
Bex: Lena Headey and Lena Headey.
And finally, on a scale from ‘Arya practicing embroidery’ to ‘Podrick in a brothel’ how excited are you for season 5?
Axechucker: Let’s be fair, no one can quite match Podrick in a brothel. But I’m really freaking excited!
SuetheFury: I’m ‘Sansa with a fresh tray of lemoncakes.’ excited. I’m ready to dive in and get messy.
HearMarkoRoar: My excitement has been slowly building up since the beginning of the year – so by now it’s definitely ‘Podrick in a brothel’. With bells on. No one would take my money.
Oz: I am Pycelle wearing dead cat cologne excited.
Dame Pasty: My excitement level is more like ‘Sam’s first kiss’–excited but trepidatious.
Cian: Either of those in isolation doesn’t do my hype justice. How about: “Pycelle is speaking to Podrick in a brothel, when in walks Tyrion with a jackass and a honeycomb…”
Bex: Cersei on a Finger Lakes wine tour.
There you have it! Agree/disagree with any of our esteemed staffers? Thoughts or feelings about seasons 4 or 5? Special thanks to Marc Kleinhenz.