87%Overall ScoreReader Rating: (6 Votes)91%Game of Thrones continues to be the can’t miss show on Sunday nights. Small spoilers through episode 5 Many would have thought they could exhale after the brutal Red Wedding of season three, however, as Westeros trudges to what seems the end of the war without the Starks, we are reunited and introduced to characters that continue to do what Game of Thrones does best – shock us. The Lannisters still own King’s Landing, although without the Northern army threatening the crown the lion’s hold of the Iron Throne somehow seems looser than ever. With the Tyrell’s maneuvering their way into the royal blood lines, and the introduction of Oberyn Martell – known as the Red Viper of Dorne – our favorite family from Casterly Rock has more than enough to worry about. Across the Narrow Sea the Khaleesi continues to liberate and rule Slaver’s Bay, although there isn’t much of the Mother of Dragons halfway through this season. It is absolutely delightful that Jon Snow is reunited with his brothers in black back at Castle Black, and the battle for The Wall storyline proves to be the best part of the first five episodes. Dispersed in between these three hotspots are the wonderful storyline of Arya and The Hound, a return to The Vale of Arryn along with Littlefinger, and the cringe-worthy Bolton house trying to put their stamp on the North. The Lannisters, which have been the bread and butter of the series, continue to be as dysfunctional as ever. There isn’t the happiest of reunions between Jaime and his family members, especially his sister. Without his sword hand the Kingslayer finds life a bit without meaning at first, but continues to serve as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Charles Dance’s acting as Tywin Lannister is absolutely perfect, as we can see how each of his children came to be the people they are. There isn’t as much Tyrion as previous seasons, but when Peter Dinklage is on screen he sets it on fire. It is safe to say the Royal Wedding doesn’t go as planned, and Westeros is better off for it, but it will be interesting to see how the show copes. The feeling of the rest of Westeros is quite grim, as it should be with the departure of Robb and Catelyn Stark. Winter is indeed coming as the scenery is gray, wet and moody. This doesn’t do The Hound any favors as his quest to get Arya to her Aunt Lysa involves stealing, drinking and swearing – I suppose that isn’t far off from the character we saw protecting Joffrey in King’s Landing. The images from the regions north of the capital are quite gruesome, but if you’ve gotten this far then you know what to expect from this HBO gem. Unfortunately, one of the downfalls of this season is there seems to be too many filler scenes. It is to be expected a bit after the murder of the aforementioned Starks, but the show hasn’t completely recovered, even if viewers have. For example, there is a long and drawn out scene involving a White Walker that seems quite foolish. One of the best parts of Thrones is its ability to make us believe in this world. The show runners have never relied on the fantasy and magic element to enthrall us. If you’re watching for the dragons or the Red Woman’s fire magic, then you’re not watching for the right reasons. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss go a little overboard this season with the fantasy, but like previous seasons, it seems they are saving up for a big penultimate episode to wow us again. Despite the stutters mentioned above, season four of Game of Thrones is still phenomenal. The politics and drunk on power characters are as entangled as ever and one can only expect all Hell to break loose by the finale. While not as strong as season one or two, this campaign seems to be doing its job so far – setting up the next one.