IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE EPISODE – DO NOT READ. SPOILERS APLENTY!
“The night is dark and full of terror” – a great line from a hell of a great episode. We got to see glimpses of nearly all of the story lines, advance some of the lesser ones (Daenerys is back!), and really push the season saga along.
Episode Four began with a bit of childish levity and a fart joke. Seemingly out of left field for Game of Thrones, naturally, it was a red herring that quickly ended with the mauling death via Direwolf. That’ll teach to you fart and laugh about it while wearing Lannister red! Robb Stark wins yet another battle and meets a skilled nurse who taunts his victory with a smile and a bit of flirting. Despite its dark nature, this scene is close to the most lighthearted of the episode.
From here the story takes us to King’s Landing, where King Asshole, sorry, Joffrey, is back at it, “ruling” his kingdom. As a means to send Robb a message for his latest victory, he begins torturing Sansa Stark, before Tyrion puts a stop to it, helps Sansa to her feet, and gently escorts her from the King’s presence. Joffrey is just such a piece of work (props to actor Jack Gleeson for his portrayal), it’s infuriating to watch him. I’ve never wanted to punch a twelve-year-old more in my life.
As a means of trying to assuage Joffrey’s troubled hormones, Bronn and Tyrion arrange for a visit from two whores. Rather than do the obvious, Joffrey does his obvious thing and has one torture the other while he watches. Joffrey’s sadistic nature is sickening, yet the viewer needs someone to hate. Joffrey is perfect for this cathartic release because every story needs its horrific bad guy.
Back in King Renly’s court, Littlefinger has arrived to do his thing – but to no avail. Renly is not as easily swayed, and he admits that he doesn’t like or trust Littlefinger. The potential offer of entering King’s Landing with open gates apparently (and smartly) intrigues Renly, but we never see the conclusion of the conversation. Later, Littlefinger attempts to pry into the details of his marriage arrangement, only to have things settled quite nicely by the Queen.
Shortly later, Littlefinger approaches Lady Stark. After attempting to lay his moves on her and she shoots him down, he plays his “What about your daughters?” card and lies through his teeth about their current situations. As he gives Tyrion’s message about a trade between the Kingslayer and the Stark daughters, he and Tryion show good faith by returning Ned Stark’s remains. It’s the moment of closure that Lady Stark has needed for so long – and it’s a very satisfying moment for the audience.
The next day, Renly, Lady Stark, and his guard go to meet with Stannis, Melisandre, and his guard. In a short sarcastic duel of words, it’s settled that in the morning the brothers’ armies will duel because no truce and alliance could be established. More on Stannis and Melisandre shortly.
Meanwhile in the deserts of Tatooine, Daenerys and her now rinky-dink kahlasar have arrived at the gates of Qarth, the oldest, best and most awesome city ever, man! Run by The Thirteen, this desert oasis and apparent hipster convent are skeptical of her intentions. As one of The Thirteen (I’m pretty sure the first black actor of the entire series thus far), steps forward to support her, Daenerys – the Mother of Dragons – finally catches a break. Overall, there’s not a lot of time dedicated to her, but it’s a significant advancement of her story. With three baby dragons, the real excitement and good stuff for her is yet to come.
Finally, just as in the episode, I’ve saved the best for last. As Stannis is on one of his boats, he asks the Onion Knight (Davos) to return to his old smuggling ways and do his bidding. He is charged to bring Melisandre to a secret cove. Davos does so, and they arrive in a tunnel at a series of gates, which bars their passage any further. Melisandre strips down in what we initially believe will be your typical HBO sex scene. However, just a few short days after Melisandre and Stannis had sex, it turns out that she is über pregnant and ready to pop. She sits in birth position on the floor of the cave passage and begins to give birth. This is no normal birth (as she apparently seems to enjoy it), and as the camera follows the profile of her body, we see Davos filled with terror in the background. Shadows slowly and terrifyingly begin to crawl their way from her womb. The Shadow Child is born. The shadow floats along the floor and begins to manifest into human form and… fade to black.
Seriously – this episode has a lot! Ending on this shadowy cliffhanger is scary and unreal in the best way possible. The fate and futures of the characters are at this point murky and unpredictable, just like this new creature/child (who’s a bit like the Smoke Monster in Lost (2004-2010)).
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Game of Thrones, it’s that nothing will happen as expected and that lots of people will die, including the main characters. It’s a totally different take on storytelling by George R.R. Martin. After developing and devoting all of this time to a character that you care so much about, he cuts their head off (ex: Ned Stark). This evolution and then quick destruction of character development is refreshing and infuriating. The creators and this episode’s director (David Petrarca) have grasped that same feeling and leave us thinking that “the night is dark and full of terrors.” Indeed.