By Jay Kirell
We reached the equivalent of the All-Star break in the Game of Thrones universe last night. The 10-episode fourth season hit its midway point with “First of His Name” – advancing storylines for some of our favorite characters and stalling them for others.
Since this show is unparalleled in both the number of characters it features, as well as how many divergent storylines it manages to use, sometimes Game of Thrones feels more like sport than a tv show, with each of the many noble and lesser houses coming across like teams vying for a post-season birth.
And I guess in this instance, a post-season birth in Game of Thrones is just surviving to Season 5.
With that said, as both a fan of the books and show, I thought it would be fun to evaluate the characters through the prism of a sports fan evaluating players across a league. I’m just basing this off of Season 4 so far, and how this season has effected all those who were still left alive after Season 3.
Two Major Mid-Season Awards:
Mid-Season MVP: Lady Olenna Tyrell
The Red Wedding seemed to set Tywin Lannister up as the MVP for a few seasons, what with his biggest threats eliminated and new wardens set up in the North, but the Purple Wedding, while not undoing all Tywin worked for, knocked him off the top spot. It was brilliant manipulation from one of the lesser noble houses in Westeros – but one skilled in playing the game and making valuable allies. Tywin lost a grandson, but gained a more teachable king. Olenna ensured her granddaughter won’t marry a beast, and still remains in the running to be queen, to a boy she can teach how to be a husband. Advantage Olenna.
Mid-Season Most Improved: Bran Stark
The earlier seasons showed us he could warg into his wolf’s body, but this season showed us he could look into trees and even jump into the body of Hodor and go all Hodor Smash when he has to. Chose to go north last night instead of reuniting with his brother Jon. Seems to be headed towards doing something really important. Peter Beylish was also in the running, with him being a master game-player, even if he does seem to be playing an entirely different game than everyone else. His marriage to Lysa Arryn is a big step up for him, but the fact that it appears Lysa has no interest in it being done before the other lords of the Vail (to legitimize Beylish, at least in his eyes), keeps him from getting the top spot as most improved.
Grades By House:
Tywin Lannister: B
The master game-player who broke all the rules (old and new) to ensure his family stayed strong heading into Season 4. Suffered two major blows with his grandson getting poisoned and the gold mines in Lannisport running dry, thus making him vulnerable to the Iron Bank. Still in charge, however, but his slip is showing.
Jamie Lannister: B
Received a golden hand and a brand new sword and then turned his back on his father; raped his sister next to the corpse of their son; gave Brienne of Tarth the priceless sword his father gave him. Still, that’s better than where he was the last two seasons on the show, so like he said to his brother in his cell – “I’ve had worse.”
Cersei Lannister: C
Her daughter was shipped away to Dorne, her eldest son died in her arms, and her youngest son is being seduced by a younger, more beautiful woman who wants to take her title. All in all this has been her worst half-season since the show began, and it doesn’t look like Cersei’s second half is going to be any better than her first half.
Tyrion Lannister: D
Had to ship his true, but stubborn love away. Wife wants nothing to do with him. Just got framed for the murder of his nephew. His sister wants to see his head cut off. His father hates him and is also one of his judges. Currently locked in a tower cell, awaiting trial. Future looks uncertain at best, but there’s been moments in all three season where things looked grim and Tyrion came out on top.
Joffrey Baratheon: F
Hard to give anything else but an F to a guy who gets poisoned and dies horribly in his mother’s arms during his wedding, after being poised by his grandmother-in-law. Oh, and then his corpse got desecrated by his mother and father when the latter raped the former right next to it while it was on display in the sept. So yeah, bad half season for Joffrey.
Myrcella Baratheon: A
Boy, if there was ever a time to be shipped out of Kings Landing and off to a place completely disconnected with the rest of the continent. Myrcella had no screen time this half-season, but was mentioned by a few in various episodes. She seems to be a bartering tool between the Lannisters and Martel’s, but is probably safer in Dorne than anywhere else.
Tommen Baratheon: A
A half season ago did anyone even know this kid’s name? Talk about a background player stepping into the spotlight. Tommen seems to have none of Joffrey’s cruelty, but doesn’t necessarily seem any smarter either. If anything, he comes across like a typical sensitive 14 year old. Perhaps he could grow into a good king one day, but does anyone think he’ll live long enough? Still, he’s king today.
Stannis Baratheon: C
Burning folks on the beach and having no army or navy seems to be wearing on old Stannis. His enemies keep dying, but he’s no closer to the Iron Throne than he was in Season 3. If it wasn’t for his favorite Onion Knight and his prisoner-daughter, he might just starve to death at Dragonstone with his fire priestess and crazy wife.
Catelyn Stark: F
Not only is she still dead, but we found out last night that her sister was the one who killed Jon Arryn, and sent the letter to her blaming the Lannisters. It’s not easy to top death, but knowing all the bad that happened to your family happened because of something your own sister did behind your back, well, jeez.
Sansa Stark: C
Escaping the Purple Wedding has to be considered the highlight of Sansa’s time on Game of Thrones since before Cersei had her direwolf killed in season one. She’s finally out of Kings Landing, though she’s hooked up with the untrustworthy Littlefinger and what appears to be a psychopathic aunt Lysa, who told her she’s going to marry the sickly and weird Robin.
Arya Stark: B
She got her needle back, and managed to get some measure of revenge on the dude who killed her friend. Not to mention, she got a nice bowl of rabbit stew. Her story seems stuck on a slow burn, and I wouldn’t expect much to happen in the next few episodes, but she’s alive, not crippled and not currently wed to anyone, which puts her head and shoulders above her siblings.
Bran Stark: B
My most-improved pick has a definite storyline, even if we’re not sure exactly where he’s going or why he’s going there. Showed a viscous side last night when he rescued himself by stepping into Hodor and snapping the head off Roose Bolton’s hired henchman.
Rickon Stark: INC
I’m not sure we’ve even seen Rickon this half-season. Last we saw he was heading off with Osha the wildling and his direwolf Shaggydog to some lesser house (Umber) that was loyal to the Starks back in the day. We might not see him again this season, which I’m sure will be a great loss to many of you who remember Rickon for…um… well, Osha was entertaining.
Olenna Tyrell: A+
Has anybody played the game better than the Queen of Thorns? She maneuvered her daughter into marrying the king, then killed the king after find out he was a monster, then subtly maneuvered her daughter back into the new king’s sight. She matched wits with Tywin Lannister and came to a draw, if not a little ahead. She knows the Iron Bank will be a pain to the Lannisters and their family, being the second most wealthy in Westeros, stand to benefit the most from their downfall.
Margery Tyrell: A
Lucked into becoming Queen to not one, but potentially two kings. Good at playing the populist game and the games required at court. Her own grandmother called her more skilled then she is, which is quite the compliment. Not having to marry Joffrey ranks right up there as the biggest personal win for a character on the show since Jon Snow was given his own Valerian sword.
Loras Tyrell: C
The only Tyrell who got the bum end of the deal. The Knight of Flowers is still stuck with having to marry Cersei in a wedding neither want, and Jamie made it pretty clear to Sir Loras that he better sleep with one eye open if he plans on making it to any anniversaries.
Daenerys Targaryen: B
She completed the triple-crown of Slaver’s Bay, taking Mereen early in the season, only to find out later on the first two cities she conquered are now in rebellion. She was counseled on sailing west to reclaim the Iron Throne, but instead chose to stay and learn how to rule a kingdom. Whether this is a wise decision remains to be seen, but all signs point to it being easier to conquer and free people than it is to rule them.
Aemon Targaryen: C
The maester at Castle Black has Jon’s back, is a valuable advisor to Sam, and distrusts some of the newer members of the night’s watch leadership. Still, he’s an old man living at a castle that has less than 100 men defending it from a hoard of wildlings and cannibals. His future looks severely less secure than that of Daenerys.
Lysa Arryn: A
The really kinda crazy Aunt of Sansa, sister of Catelyn and new wife of Littlefinger, Lysa Arryn shocked many when she revealed she poisoned her old husband, hand-of-the-king Jon Arryn, at the request of her new husband. The motive behind the poisoning remains unclear, but it seem to point to Lysa wanting Robin, her son, to be the new lord of the Vale. Throwing her lot in with Littlefinger might have gotten her an enjoyable wedding night, but it doesn’t bode well for her long-term future.
Robin Arryn: B
Still seems like a sickly, kinda weird kid. Will become acting ruler of the Vale if he actually lives long enough. Will wed Sansa one day, according to his mom, making their children the eventual wardens of the North. Again, if he lives long enough to do so and doesn’t keep playing by the openings of moon doors.
Olberyn Martel: A
Seems to be having a grand old time in Kings Landing. Still looking for justice for his murdered sister and her kids. Got some face time with the Lannisters to size them up. Appointed to the jury of Tyrion and then approached by Cersei asking about her daughter. Has more power than just about any enemy of the Lannisters and looks poised to make a move soon.
Balon Greyjoy: C+
Son’s manhood got returned to him in a box at the end of last season and we haven’t seen him since. Heard that the Ironborne are pillaging the north and assume Balon gave to okay to take advantage of the disruption caused by the Red Wedding. Still appears to be a weak leader, afraid to stand up to those more powerful than him, content with sitting on his islands.
Theon Greyjoy: D
Saw his hobbling briefly as Reek, and appears under the command of Ramsay Snow. Looks like a beaten man most of the time, but you still get the sense that the real Theon is still in there, just waiting for the right moment. Still, I wouldn’t want to be trapped at the Dreadfort with the Bolton.
Asha Greyjoy: INC
She took a ship and departed to go rescue her brother. We have yet to see her in the first five episodes of the fourth season, but you get the sense she’ll return soon.
Roose Bolton: A
Took advantage of the Red Wedding to improve his family’s station. Now is the warden of the North. Still worried about both the ability of his bastard son to do anything correctly, and the news that two Stark boys are still alive. Still, Roose is smart and cunning, if a bit pre-occupied with the Ironborn right now. Also got a nice sack of silver for marrying “Fat” Walda Frey.
Ramsey Bolton: A
Last we saw of Ramsey he had been given the okay by his father to re-take Moat Caitlin from the Iron Islanders. Has a new pet in Reek, and possibly the respect of his father, should he perform well in taking back Moat Caitlin.
The Hound: B
Stuck with Arya Stark until he drops her off at the Vale. Thinking of sailing east to get away from the madness of the Iron Throne. Got a nice bowl of rabbit stew and only had to punch one old man for it. All in all not a bad first half for everybody’s favorite dog.
The Mountain: INC
Last we heard of the Mountain he was rampaging through the lands still loyal to the Starks and Tully’s. Hasn’t been featured in the first half of the season, but anyone who has read the books knows he has a huge part to play soon.
Walder Frey: INC
The villain of the Red Wedding hasn’t had any screen time this half-season, but that will probably change as the series goes along. One of the more interesting instances of foreshadowing done on the series is the story of the Rat Cook and how killing someone under your protection is the worst sin in the eyes of the Gods. You know Walder will get his, we just don’t know how yet.
He plays the long game and plays it well. Was conspicuously absent from the latest episode, but you know it won’t be long before everyone’s favorite bald eunuch returns, probably at Tyrion’s trial.
Jon Snow: A
Lead a party in a successful sack of Craster’s Keep. In line to be voted in as the next lord commander of the Night’s Watch. Still has a bad-ass sword. Will get a chance to show his worth soon, as the wildling invasion will probably occur before the season finale.
Whiffed on sending Gilly away south of Castle Black just when the Wildling attacks start to increase. Becoming more assertive and useful with his smarts and learned under Maester Aemon.
Her and the baby are away from Sam, the only person in the world who actually cares about them. Will they reuinite? Probably, but nonetheless, Sam didn’t exactly drop her and baby off at the Hilton.
Bariston Selmy: C
The legendary knight is still is in the Queensguard of Daenerys Targaryen, even if he’s considered too valuable to use to fight Mereen’s champion, or too merciful to convince Daeny that she should show mercy on the masters of Mereen.
Daario Naharis: B
Slowly climbing up the ranks of the mother of dragons’ inner circle. Defeated the Mereen champion like a boss, impressing Daenerys, but also sacked its navy, which displeased the queen.
Jorah Mormont: B
Still the most trusted advisor to Ms. Stormborn, despite their awkward feelings for each other and her refusal to listen to him most of the time.
The old maester is still going strong, now serving his fourth king. Still tricking people into believing he’s a near senile old man, and not one of the major behind the scenes players in the show.
Meera Reed: C
Got smacked in the face with a rock last week, almost raped this week. Not the best half season for the daughter of the swamp people.
Jojen Reed: C
He’s either having halucinations now, or his visions are just getting weirder. Still a sickly boy, he looks like he might not make it all the way with Bran on his way to see the three-eyed crow.
Hodor gonna Hodor. The lovable giant got stabbed with long spears last episode, eliciting a genuine feeling of horror at the sight of one of the show’s undisputed innocents being mistreated. With the help of Bran and his warg powers, Hodor was able to exact some measure of revenge, nearly ripping the head off the Bolton henchman.
Like her lord Stannis, she seems to be spinning her fiery wheels on the beaches of Dragonstone, making no moves to get them closer to the Iron Throne. She had visions of the Wildling or White Walker attack at the Wall, but so far they don’t seem in a rush to get there.
Davos Seaworth: A
The only guy around Stannis who seems to have a brain. Recognizes the usefulness of Stannis’ daughter and uses her to help him get a letter to the Iron Bank. If Stannis does end up on the Iron Throne one day, he’ll owe it all to Davos. Which means, by Stannis logic, he’ll probably take the fingers off his other hand.
Brienne of Tarth: A
Escaped having a seriously jealous Cersei looming over her at Kings Landing. Receiving new (slimming) black armor and a bright, shiny new Valiryan sword. She got Podrick in the deal too, which may prove useful, or a hinderance, but so far fills our need of constantly having Brienne on a road in a pseudo buddy comedy.
Relieved of his duties as squire for Tyrion, Podrick found himself leaving Kings Landing (and all his appreciative whores) to setting on a road trip with a 6-foot tall warrior woman, even though he’s never squired for a real knight before. It’s probably a step down for him, I’d imagine. But at least he avoids whatever fate awaits his beloved former lord.
One of my favorite characters on the show. Just in for himself. We’re not sure where he goes from here after Tyrion’s imprisonment, but he seems to be doing fine training a one-handed Jamie in fighting with his left hand.
Was dissed by her man, then found out about by the hand of the king. Last we heard she was being shipped out of the kingdom, or at least that’s what Bronn said. We never saw it, which according to tv law, means it might never have happened.
Beric Dondarrion: INC
Lost a fight to the Hound and then got killed by him, only to be brought back to life for the sixth time. Not featured so far this half-season, but I’m including him in this list because I believe he’ll pop up soon.
Thoros of Myr: INC
The guy who brings Beric back to life again and again. Also hasn’t been featured this season, but as goes Beric Dondarrion, so goes Thoros of Myr.
Overall, this first half has been one of recovery for Game of Thrones fans. Recovery from the shock of the Red Wedding at the end of last season, then not even three episodes into this season, the Purple Wedding happens and the recovery process starts again. As we head towards next week’s episode, some pieces on the Game of Thrones board are being tossed off and new one’s are scrambling to take their place,
The downhill sprint to the Season 4 conclusion starts now.