Game of Thrones has rapidly become one of the biggest TV series in history. With each new season the stakes increase and scope of the story grows more compelling, heartbreaking and awesome. As most of us know, one of the greatest aspects of this show is the cast where almost every single performance is brilliant. While new cast members are always a welcoming sight, the best performances continue to come from the actresses/actors that have survived all the seasons thus far. Season 4 was another high-mark for acting in Game of Thrones so let's get right down to it:
5. Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister.
Cersei Lannister might the most unlikeable and despicable character since the pilot episode, but Lena Headey’s performance is so consistently good that we all secretly or otherwise love to hate her. What I love about Cersei Lannister is that she doesn’t give a single fuck, except when it comes to her children. She is a character who voices her opinions and will go to any lengths to get what she wants. Cersei may be a cunt, but she is the most compelling cunt. Lena Headey delivers her line in such a deliciously rich way that you enjoy how mean or brutally honest she is to everyone who annoys her. You look forward to those moments as well as those rare moments where Headey allows us to see the cracks in Cersei’s armour. Lena Headey makes you appreciate Cersei’s ruthlessness, and utter honesty about who she is as she demonstrated in the season 4 finale. Now that Cersie's biggest obstacles our out of the picture, I can't wait to see what season 5 has in store for her.
4. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister.
Tyrion Lannister had a shitty season, but it provided Peter Dinklage with an array of rich and dramatic scenes that showed why he is the most beloved character in the show. Most people will point to the trial episode where Tyrion’s closing speech was full of: “OH SHIT! DON’T DO IT! NO! SHIT! WHAT? FUCK YEAH!” But I think the scene where Dinklage really shined was in episode 7, Mockingbird, during Oberyn’s speech about visiting Castlely Rock and seeing kid Cersei torture baby Tyrion. Peter Dinklage said nothing but in that silence all of his emotions and thoughts were visible in his face. There is a palpable vulnerability and subtlety to the way Dinklage conveys all this history of terror Tyrion has lived that you as a viewer grow closer to the character. It’s a devastating moment and impressive when you consider that Oberyn’s speech becomes background noise to Tyrion’s silent turmoil. Then at the end of the season Peter gets two murder scenes to push things further. I’ll admit that I wasn’t satisfied with Tywin’s death, I wished the camera had linger longer on Tywin’s suffering a la Joffrey dying. At any case, those culminating scenes finally provided Tyrion with closure and an unknown path that we cannot wait 10 months for. It will be great as expected, as Peter Dinklage has proved that with each new season he finds new layers to make Tyrion even better.
3. Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell:
The Red Viper impressed from his introductory episode and rapidly became one of our favourite characters. It’s great when you get a character that by his very nature is already awesome, but when you add a scene-stealing performance like the one Pedro Pascal delivered, the results are utter heartbreak really. We all fell in love with Oberyn "Lannister-hating-bisexual-sexy-as-hell-potential-slayer-of-assholes" Martell only to then witness him die the most horrible and graphic death in Game of Thrones thus far. It speaks volumes of Pedro Pascal’s acting talents that as a new character this season, he was able connect so profusely with viewers. In a lot ways, Oberyn represented the many attitudes that we as viewers have about the characters in King’s Landing. He wanted justice and happily for us that Oberyn’s hate was directed at the family who really deserves to suffer the most. Too bad honour is the downfall to many of our most beloved characters in Game of Thrones. Nevertheless, Pedro Pascal performance as Oberyn will forever be one of the highlights of the entire series, and we will always be sad by the fact we only got to see him be a total badass for less than 8 episodes.
2. Maisie Williams as Arya Stark:
Amongst the Stark children, Arya Stark has been the most immediately awesome, relatable and compelling character. Maisie Williams brought such a palpable confidence to her performance that it felt like she had been acting for decades. Like most of the young cast members, Maisie Williams is a natural and with each new season her performance constantly surpasses expectations. In season 4, Arya Stark appeared only a few times but each time it was an event. She and The Hound closed off the opening episode of the season in the most badass way by eating chicken and slaying some assholes. A great scene that presented us with an Arya even more determined and cunning. Here we have a character whose world is actively being destroyed and with each new encounter she understands more and more the reality, the truth of this world: the true god death is everywhere all time and what do we say to death? No today. Arya is a survivor and seeing Maisie Williams’ performance mature and reach a point where she can silently deny The Hound’s request to die with such a command and excellent subtlety, that we honestly need to start giving these young actresses some award recognition. When the acting is this brilliant instead of everyone silently agreeing, let’s fucking celebrate it.
1. Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark:
Sansa Stark is the most despised of the Starks. I think the overall dislike towards Sansa stems from our universal frustration towards her. She is a rag doll pushed around and played with time and time again. As the seasons have progressed, through all the suffering and humiliation Sansa is gradually understanding how to play the game. Sophie Turner has been excellent throughout all the show, but in this 4th season she blew me away unlike ever before. One of the things I absolutely love about the performances in Game of Thrones, is the subtlety, the insurmountable amount of things actresses/actors can convey with their face. Sophie Turner has become a master in this, which you can clearly see during the Purple Wedding. She barely had any lines in that episode but she didn’t need to voice herself, her face communicated it everything beautifully. I always appreciate actresses that even though they might be in the background, if you look at their face you can tell how deep in thought they are. It adds a richness to the scenes that make the show more enjoyable. Sophie Turner had a big moment later in the season with her speech about her aunt’s suicide. That moment, which turned off a lot of people, was absolutely brilliant and shown how much Sansa had grown as a character. She takes advantage of people’s inherit disregard or underestimation towards her. Lots of people don’t like how close Sansa is to Littlefinger now, but I find that relationship to be genius and ripe with promise. It makes Sansa super interesting, especially since I always got the sense that she is attracted to Littlefinger. When he kissed her, Sansa’s reaction wasn’t disgust but instead it had tinges of both surrender and curiosity. All that is Sophie Turner and I honestly cannot wait to see all the amazing things she’s going to do in season 5.
Honourable Mentions: Rory McCann as The Hound (never thought I would feel sad about him dying), Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm (his scenes with Missandei were always pleasant), Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister (fuck yeah you're dead), and of course Jack Gleeson as King Joffrey Baratheon (you made me feel guilty about how good it felt to see Joffrey die).