Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Fans of George R.R. Martin's books know not to get too attached to his characters. In his stories, as in real life, the heroes don't always win and sometimes betrayals lead to death. This season kills off three main characters in one fell swoop!
The armies of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) are defeated and the Lannister family stand strong. Its patriarch (Charles Dance) has taken on the role of adviser to his grandson, young King Joffrey, in the hope of controlling his psychopathic tendencies. One of his methods is to engage Joffrey to the spirited, street-smart Margarery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), much to the displeasure of Joffrey's mother Cersei (Lena Headey). Not all is well in the royal family! Twyin (Peter Dinklage) fumes over the attempt on his life by Joffrey's men and his father's disinterest in his fate.
The scheming Peter Balysh (Aidan Gillan) plots to get Sansa (Sophie Turner) out of the city and smuggle her back to her family. Her mother (Michelle Fairley) and older brother (Richard Madden) are at war, navigating the difficult waters of betrayal and broken alliances. Her youngest sister has been captured and taken hostage, her little brothers are on the run in the wilds, and Jon Snow has fallen in with the northern wanderers. And Daenaries (Emilia Clarke) and her dragons are on a mission to reclaim her throne.
And... that's not even half the characters, conspiracies, and revelations in store for fans. Much like the books, the series is a long, character-heavy piece that crawls along at the pace of a snail on salt. Depending on who you're interested in, it could engage you all the way through with its vignettes or become dull and frustrating while you wait for favorite figures to reappear and certain book events to transpire. Since I haven't read beyond the first book, I was surprised that the villain introduced in the finale last season doesn't make much of an appearance at all this year. I got bored with many new faces and fast-forwarded characters I didn't like. The best addition is Natalie Dormer as Margaery, a breath of fresh, rose-scented air at court (but every rose has thorns!). The acting is terrific and brings in a host of new faces.
Anyone familiar at all with the storyline has heard of the "Red Wedding," one of the most gut-wrenching events in the series. Episode nine ends on that note, with all the trauma, gusto, and gruesomeness expected from dispatching three characters! But there are also wonderful, touching scenes here and there to remind us what the author does best... create unforgettable characters that eternally leave us wanting more.
A half-dozen graphic sex scenes (including one torture scene and a homosexual scene); full frontal nudity on whores and female characters; brief frontal male nudity; attempted rape (threats, a woman is dragged off and brought back) and conversation about rape.
Tons of f-words, uses of c--t, s-words, and profanities.
Blood spurts. Hands are cut off, skin is peeled back during torture sessions; a man is castrated (implied), a pregnant woman is stabbed in the abdomen six times; people have their throats graphically cut.
Pagan rituals include sacrifices, seeing through the eyes of animals, resurrections from death, and zombie-monsters.