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Life after the Red Wedding

By Jingyuan Fu
On April 13, 2014

Not many science fiction or fantasy shows receive positive critical attention, but every once in a while one manages to break free from the genre ghetto and becomes a success. A decade ago, the remake of "Battlestar Galactica" ascended to such a position by offering a bleak deconstruction of the space opera, and for the past three years "Game of Thrones" has been following in its footsteps for high fantasy-offering up a grim interpretation of a genre formerly populated by black and white morality, and killing its main characters left and right.
The fourth season picks up where the last season left off. After the bloodbath of the "Red Wedding"-an infamous event where several very important characters were brutally murdered-the living are slowly picking up the pieces. For the victorious Lannisters, this means planning a royal wedding while uneasily consolidating their political power in the capital and retaining their status as the most dysfunctional family in all of Westeros. For the few Starks left alive, this means desperately trying to stay that way, and for those caught in between, like the Tyrells, this means using any means to grab some power for themselves.
Meanwhile, away from the center of the action, two wars are imminent; the exiled queen Daenerys Targaryen continues her quest to return to Westeros with an army at her back, while in the North, Jon Snow and fellow members of the Night's Watch prepare for the oncoming invasion of the wildlings from further north. Perhaps most threatening of all are the "white walkers" from even further north, who could potentially bring about the end of the world.
True to the conventions of its genre, "Game of Thrones" is highly ambitious in its breadth, but unfortunately this ambition is starting to push the show's story to its breaking point. Despite having easily the largest cast of any television series, the fourth season adds even more characters to the already massive list as the heretofore unknown House Martell joins the turmoil in King's Landing. Adding to the sense of looming mediocrity, none of the aforementioned storylines seem to really be going anywhere exciting; the wildling and white walker invasions are progressing at a glacial pace, and across the narrow sea Daenerys keeps getting sidetracked by various subplots that only add more names for the already beleaguered audience.
Still, it's not all bad. As usual, the acting in "Game of Thrones" spectacular. The Lannister family in particular continues to delight viewers as the loathing among Tywin, Cersei, Tyrion and Joffrey slowly spreads to the newly returned Jaime. The Tyrell family is also tremendously fun to watch as they brazenly scheme their way to the top, and though there are now very few Starks left in Westeros, talented young actors like Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams continue to pull at viewers' heartstrings. It is possible that "Game of Thrones" can continue to be a highly entertaining and thought-provoking show, but it should tread carefully from now on so that its plethora of intertwining plots don't all spontaneously turn to dust.

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