Hello, friends and bannermen. HBO's Game of Thrones kicks off its fourth season soon (Sunday, April 6, 9/8c), which means that it's time for more tragedy, treachery and Tyrion! But how will the series match up with the books? How will it differ?
This weekly chat series is for fans of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books, upon which HBO's fantasy drama is based. It's meant to be a safe haven to discuss spoilers and changes from the novels and how they have played out or will play out in the TV series. Hanh Nguyen and Sadie Gennis are longtime fantasy fans of varying levels of geekiness who will sound off on all things Westerosi (and beyond!).
[Warning: If you're a Game of Thrones fan who has stumbled upon this chat and hasn't read the books yet, begone! Instead, check out the Game of Thrones hit list and future recaps for spoiler-free discussions.]
Hanh: Season 4 -- I've never been so uncertain about what's coming timing-wise. I mean, I know a few of the major deaths coming, which I'm so excited for the non-readers to see. I'm going to be glued to Twitter when Joffrey chokes!
Sadie: I rarely watch live TV, but I'll definitely be making an exception for that episode. It's been so hard not spoiling anything that it'll just be such a huge relief to finally be able to talk about it!
Hanh: And with it coming up sooner in the season than later, that will be fun. I wonder, however, on the timing of Tywin's and Lysa Arryn's deaths -- two other very visual deaths. Will Charles Dance consent to die on the crapper? Lose his life on the loo?
Sadie: If Charles Dance doesn't give me the toilet death I've been dreaming, I will be Red Wedding-level upset. Tywin has always been such a powerful force that seeing him killed in such a sad, pathetic way is a reminder that everyone in this show is really so fallible. As for the timing, since Joffrey's death will have to come so soon, I wonder if they'll still stick to the big Episode 9 tradition they've been doing.
Hanh: It makes sense. With Joff dying early, there still needs to be time for Tyrion to mold in jail, the whole Oberyn fight, Jaime to break his little brother out, etc. They could conceivably stretch it until almost the end of the season. Hmm, would then Lysa die earlier or later ... or *gasp* in the same episode?
Sadie: I hope they don't die in the same episode, though the Internet would have a field day if that happened. Lysa's and Tywin's deaths are both so important that I feel like if they were to occur in the same episode, the weight of one might be lost. I feel like Lysa's will come earlier, since Sansa and Littlefinger's story line can move at its own pace without any ripples back to characters and plot lines in King's Landing (or anywhere else really. Poor Sansa is so isolated).
Hanh: Sansa is the saddest Stark!
Sadie: Sansa is the best Stark! I'm so excited for people to really see her come into her own this season.
Hanh: There is something that is filling me with dread though. The series has made Shae a much more appealing character than in the books. But Book Shae has such an ignominious end.
Sadie: I have such mixed thoughts! I have no question that she's genuinely in love with Tyrion in the show. Finding in her Tywin's bed now just wouldn't make any sense. Unless he forces her, which would just be too cruel.
Hanh: Right, I can't imagine what horrible tortures Cersei would exert to make her testify against Tyrion, be found in Tywin's bed , and worse -- have Tyrion be angry enough to strangle her. It's going to have to be an accident, right? It can't be Tyrion murdering her in cold blood!
Sadie: I just hope if Shae does have to die at Tyrion's hand, it isn't some horrible misunderstanding where he thinks she betrayed her and she didn't. That'd be too heartbreaking, even for this show.
Hanh: I'm ready for heartbreak no matter what! Did you notice from the HBO trailer that Brienne is now searching for Arya and not Sansa?
Sadie: Wait, what?! How did I miss this? And how does that make any sense?
Hanh: Oh wait a sec, that trailer may have just edited together that way to mislead the viewers. Otherwise, they'll know that Sansa is on the run, which is a spoiler at this point. My bad!
Sadie: A girl can dream! There are just so many character pairings I'd love for the show to explore that we haven't seen yet. If Brienne ever were to find Arya, she'd finally get the mentor she's deserved since Syrio died.
Hanh: Imagine the table manners!
Sadie: As for pairings we'll (hopefully) see this season, I'm particularly intrigued to see how Jon Snow fares with Stannis and Melisandre when they reach the Wall. Or should I call him Lord Snow now?
Hanh: Ah, Lord Snow! Yes, Stannis' attitude towards Jon will be intriguing to see. Jon is a bastard after all, and we all know Stannis' feelings about bastards -- sacrifice them all!
Sadie: I'm just ready for Jon to get some real self-assurance. He's done so much, yet still knows so little (as Ygritte would always point out). I want to see how Kit Harington plays him once he starts coming into his own. Plus, I can't wait to see how uncomfortable Melisandre makes him!
Hanh: Jon Snow is best when he's outwitted and befuddled by a woman. I can just imagine him swearing off all women kissed by fire (literally in this case!).
Sadie: How far do you think we'll get at the Wall this season?
Hanh: I think they can stretch out that battle for a while, and give us a really heartbreaking Ygritte farewell. I feel that Stannis coming to the rescue will be near the end. Although Jon may become Lord Snow before Stannis arrives. I think that might be why he'll be "treating" with Mance Rayder. I can't imagine Jon being locked up. That would be rather boring.
Sadie: He's gotta get out and about so he can fend off the Wall when Tormund and Styr come knocking -- which I really can't wait for. Mammoths and giants in a battle? Hell yes!
Hanh: Ooh, there weren't nearly enough last season. That's going to be epic. All hail, Ned Stark's bastard! Speaking of bastards (a segue I use as often as I can for this series), Gendry may be back if he's supposed to save Brienne's life at the Inn of the Crossroads.
Sadie: I support any excuse to bring back Gendry. I really love what they've done with his character, and it's so exciting not knowing EXACTLY what's coming. (Sidenote: Why do people still go to this inn? Every time, someone seems to either get murdered, murder someone or almost get murdered.)
Hanh: This inn must have the best lamb stew. Maybe Hot Pie should try to get a job there. Or not. He's had enough brushes with death. Ooh, speaking of pie ... I wonder how big that pie will be at the Purple Wedding.
Sadie: It better be massive! Like, if I wanted to, I should be able to comfortably nap in that pie (if it weren't filled with dead birds).
Hanh: Shoving live birds into a crust always sounded morbid to me. They would totally try to fly out if they managed to stay alive. How long are they in there? I obviously need to research more medieval cookery to know the logistics of this.
Sadie: I really hope that wedding is even half as extravagant as it was described in the book. We spend so much time in all these dirty places and with so much fighting, it'll be fun to see something so ostentatious for once.
Hanh: Yes! I want gowns, I want lutists, I want to see at least 20 of the 77 courses. I'd Instagram the Seven Hells out of that meal! #foodporn
Sadie: Though I can do without the repeated renditions of "The Rains of Castamere."
Hanh: But they'll play it with a jaunty air, I'm sure!
Sadie: And the pig and dog jousting! Don't forget that.
Hanh: Ugh! I cringed while reading that. I wonder how that will play out on the screen. ... Let's move on across the Narrow Sea to Daenerys!
Sadie: First off, I would just like to say how much I applaud the new choice of Daario. Though I'm still frustrated that he doesn't have a brightly colored spiked beard and gold tooth!
Hanh: Oh yes, you do like you some Michiel Huisman. He seems to be the go-to smoldering guy. He's going to be on Orphan Black too.
Sadie: Secondly, this is the point in her story line where I really begin to get a little frustrated. I'm not really looking forward to her hanging out in Meereen and making terrible decisions for the next few seasons.
Hanh: Well, maybe Daario will make things more interesting. That is, unless he goes off to be an ambassador. But I feel the show needs to give her some romance. A lady can only save so many slaves without recharging her batteries.
Sadie: Daario's no sun and stars, but she definitely deserves SOMETHING else going on in her life beyond emancipating entire cities.
Hanh: Yes, that was my frustration with Dany in the books. She just seemed so driven that she got to be a boring warmonger. I wanted her to have some humanity. It didn't have to be romance, but maybe a good friendship with someone, a sense of humor, something. (Aside: I have to admit that Madonna made a pretty good Mother of Dragons here.)
Sadie: It's really unfair. Not only is Madonna rich, famous and a living legend, but she also gets to borrow actual Game of Thrones costumes.
Hanh: I would trade all that for a real dragon. I'd have the best BBQs!
Sadie: I hope Daario sticks around and becomes that for her. And maybe we'll get to see more of Missandei. We really know so little about her. You don't think we'll get to Hizdahr, do you? (Please say no.)
Hanh: No. And I don't want the show to get to him either. Let's play out Daario for a bit longer, please.
Sadie: Why else go through the recasting if only to have him replaced with a creep/wannabe assasin?
Hanh: Agreed. And if they need more story for Dany this season, the show can also give the dragons more to do. On the flip side of Dany's prosperity though is poor, poor Theon. Wow, I really do hope people are feeling sorry for him. Last we saw, he was gelded. I'm sure he's fully transformed into Reek by now. And that's something I both do and don't want to see.
Sadie: Really? I can't wait to see him go full-Reek! It's going to be a true test of Alfie Allen, but I have faith he'll pull it off in all Reek's stinking, crippled glory.
Hanh: Yes, I think he'll be great, and yet it hurts me so. I'm not sure how much we'll see, but I do hope he gets to escape this season.
Sadie: Plus, Ramsay is as delightful a villain as Joffrey, and we're going to need him to fill the love-to-hate void after the Purple Wedding.
Hanh: Very true. I love/hate Ramsay. He and Theon/Reek make a very good team. I just want to hug Reek and feed him lemon cakes and pat his head.
Sadie: I think that's probably why I'm looking forward to seeing Reek so much is because I know that we'll start to see Theon emerge again. So once we get through the initial horror at seeing him broken like this, we know it can't get any worse and that there's a great redemptive journey ahead.
Hanh: The transformations are the best things about this series! And speaking of ... we may as well wrap up with Lady Stoneheart. I think that will be the big shocker this season, as a final episode cliffhanger maybe?
Sadie: Oh my (seven) gods! I almost forgot about that somehow. Too much dreamwine, perhaps?
Hanh: Ha! Do you think you could outdrink Cersei?
Sadie: I could probably handle Cersei, but not the Queen of Thorns.
Hanh: But yeah the Lady Stoneheart revelation is a tiny part of the end of Book 3, yet so effective in its shock value. I feel they have to keep that same powerful tone for the series.
Sadie: I definitely think that'd be the perfect way to end this season. And it'd also have a nice (and hugely depressing) parallel with last season, which ended with her death.
Hanh: I wonder how the makeup will be. Michelle Fairley already had such a great, emotive voice as Catelyn. As Lady Stoneheart she will be downright frightening!
Sadie: George R.R. Martin's description in the books made me so uncomfortable. Actually seeing her like that will be the thing of nightmares. And I can't wait for her to haunt my dreams every night.
Hanh: And on that note, we'll turn it over to our readers.
What are your expectations this season? Whose deaths are you looking forward to most? Will we get to Book 4?
Game of Thrones' fourth season premieres Sunday, April 6 at 9/8c on HBO.