game of thrones first of his name

As we reach the halfway mark of Season 4 it seems as though Game of Thrones is getting better with each episode. Rarely can a show offer as much variety and quality each week, and even more of an anomaly is a programme that can see the resurgence of past characters with such lightness of touch that it feels as if they never left.

Returning to the frame is that of Lysa Tully (Kate Dickie); the creepy Lady of the Eyrie who mournfully watched her finest gladiators tumble to their deaths from the famed Eye at the hands of Lord Tyrion’s drunkard swordsman Bronn (neither of whom feature in this episode). Lord Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Balish and Lady Sansa Stark have arrived ashore and he has taken her to the Eyre where she is reunited with her estranged and indeed strange aunty, who quickly declares she wishes to marry Balish that very same evening and pre-warns the guards that the screams of orgasm from her chambers will rack up some serious decibels.

Meanwhile Daenerys Targaryen learns of King Joffrey’s murder and is keen to infiltrate King’s Landing during their hour of sorrow. Her Unsullied army is now 8,000 strong and she has a plethora of ships ready to set sail to the Blackwater but plans to head for the Capital are quickly stunted by the news of the enslavement of the people of Mereen who opted not to join her fraternity of soldiers. She questions her abilities as a leader and begins to wonder how she could possibly rule the Seven Kingdoms if she can’t keep a mere handful of slaves free from vicious reign and chain.

Arya Stark and ‘The Hound’  share some of the episode’s best scenes as they continue to bicker and grow as a duo. Fuelled by hate and vengeance, Arya utters the names of all those who will feel ‘Needle’s’ wrath before she is able to sleep and concludes her speech by confirming her current partner as a member of the hit-list. We later see her practising her swordplay and footwork as she water dances at sunrise. Quickly ‘The Hound’ begins to mock her methods but the viewer will be able to appreciate the skill and fluidity Williams has as a performer, and indeed what Ayra offers as a character. Her gender and age show no signs of limitation as she delicately twists and turns, folding her trusty sword through her fingers and directing the ‘pointy end’ into the growling brute’s armour.

Much like with Arya and her weapon of choice, First of His Name is brimming with intelligent and thoughtful character moments. As frequently recalled, the scale of the series is tremendous, yet never a single member within Westeros feels dimensionless – regardless of size or relevance, every presence is rendered, yet there is always room to grow. Jon Snow is able to make his mark here; despite being one of the show’s poster heroes  he leads a somewhat unprepared army into Craster’s Keep to slay the former brothers of the Night’s Watch who opted to go rogue and amuse themselves with rape and sacrilege. Bran Stark  is soon freed from kidnap but disappears into the woods undetected by his brave brother who is busy burying his sword into many-a-foe.

Snow is obviously the man who faces up to resident monster Karl Tanner (Burn Gorman) who ferociously battles him armed with duelling daggers. As Tanner gets the upper hand and is about to seal his fate (which let’s face it, this is Game of Thrones; Snow could easily get the chop), a young woman aids as a distraction and the Crow of the Watch plunges his sword through the back of his head, forcing the blood-soaked blade to exit via his foul mouth. It’s a typically savage demise and trademark of the show, but it is darn satisfying and helps to unveil further layers to Snow’s complex façade.

Supporting the sequences of brutality are glimmers of surprising warmth; stone-faced Cersei Lannister exchanges words with Margaery Tyrell which are rather comforting considering her nature; she seems keen to have her son’s former wife as Westeros’ Queen and wants to see Thommen have a successful and good-natured reign. Plus Brienne of Tarth and her new squire Podrick share a charming moment in which he proves his worth as a sidekick. Originally reluctant, Jaime’s protector seems to enjoy his company and it looks as though their relationship will grow into something truly special.

HBO have been right to let David Beinoff and D.B. Weiss adapt George R.R. Martin’s saga their way; each episode is bursting with detail, intrigue and cinematic brilliance, and despite such grand nature and content, the pair have been able to make the show feel so personal and intimate. With five episodes remaining, it look as though Season 4 is well on the way to being a hallmark in the television channel’s career – a series to truly rival the best of their back catalogue.