In all honesty, writing a brief, succinct, and informative rundown of why Game of Thrones was some of the best television in 2014 is nearly as tough as holding on to the Iron Throne itself. As each season of the masterful adaption of George R.R. Martin’s beloved A Song of Ice and Fire novels unfolds, the world gets bigger and the stakes get higher. Winter is…still coming in season four.
The War of the Five Kings has ended thanks to the Red Wedding, but the contention for the Iron Throne has never been more critical thanks to drama up to the eyeballs at King’s Landing. It only takes one episode before we’re thrust into the dire implications of the Purple Wedding, easily a season highlight and penned by George R.R. himself, that inspires equal parts revelry and foreboding. (Wedding season might actually be more of a hazard than Winter at this point.) It’s also in King’s Landing we meet the Martells for the first time, important for many reasons, not least of which for the introduction of Dorne and Prince Oberyn (a standout performance from Pedro Pascal, #youareourchampion), who by the end of the season is central to one of the best episodes of the entire series—a devastating and powerful twist to audience expectations, the show delivers Martin’s powerful, recurring punches on screen with the same amount of emotional significance and trauma.
Unforgettably, we were also treated to the Battle of Castle Black, a no-holds-barred action episode between the Night’s Watch/Stannis Baratheon and Mance Rayder’s wildling army from Beyond the Wall—Game of Thrones’ biggest and arguably most impressive to date (remember in season one when, due to budget, they just skipped those things altogether?)—which set a precedent for what the medium of television is capable of in 2014.
Also, let’s not forget the dragons, flayings, trials, oathkeepers, betrayals, and a lot of death. So…can’t wait for season five.—Breanna Murphy