Spoilers from the fourth season of HBO's Game of Thrones can be found in the paragraphs below. If you'd prefer to remain in the dark or are not yet caught up on the show, stop reading now.
With this week's episode, “First of His Name,” we have officially reached the halfway point in Season 4 of Game of Thrones. The previous episode of the season, “Oathkeeper” brought some shocking new developments in the not-so-wonderful world of Westeros, and this week addresses many of the story lines that last week set in motion. Payoffs abound as we finally get to see Hodor (Kristian Nairn) be a bad-ass (with Bran's help), a handful of vile baddies meet their well-deserved ends, and we witness an unusually civil conversation between Cersei (Lena Headey) and Margaery (Natalie Dormer). It's about time you eased up on the incessant cat fighting, ladies. While a sizable chunk of this episode contains material that is not found in George R. R. Martin's books, showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss manage to keep things fresh and interesting while at the same time adhering to the themes that made the books so marvelous.
Unlike the preceding four episodes in this season, “First of His Name” focuses heavily on action and suspense rather than the political intrigue we've come to love. While this isn't exactly a problem, it feels like a departure from the tone and structure of the rest of the series. Game of Thrones has given us some great fight scenes (with many more to follow), but it shouldn't be considered an action/adventure show. It's more of a drama or a medieval political thriller, with war, betrayal, and fatal nuptials added for good measure.
With that being said, the fight at Craster's Keep is handled extremely well, and may very well be remembered as one of the show's best action sequences. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (the leader of the Night's Watch who was murdered early last season) can rest easy now that his killers lay in a charred heap amid the smoking ruins of Craster's home. Chances are that most viewers will be extremely pleased with how things come to pass, considering that the show's more noble characters have been on the losing end of things for a while now. We hesitate to say “good guys” when referring to Game of Thrones characters, because something the show (and the books) have stressed since the beginning is that the black and white idea of good vs. evil doesn't really exist the way we think it does. Good people can commit heinous crimes, and bad people can show glimpses of kindness or compassion in the most unexpected ways. That's why the show and its source material are so brilliant. That's what keeps millions of people watching and what sets this show apart from almost everything else on television.
All in all, “First of His Name” is an exciting, action-packed episode that marks a major comeback for the “good” characters and raises even more questions about what's to come. Next week's episode, “The Laws of Gods and Men” shifts the focus back to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and whether or not he'll lose his head for killing the vicious King Joffrey. Until then, check back in with Starburst for all your Game of Thrones and other pop culture needs.