Season 4 of Game of Thrones was formally commissioned by HBO on 2 April 2013, following a substantial increase in audience figures between the second and third seasons. However, substantial pre-production work on the season had already taken place previously to this point, including the writing of at least six of the scripts (by March 2013), and the booking of some of the filming dates. It will again consist of ten episodes and began filming on 8 July 2013. It concluded filming on 21 November 2013. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss return as showrunners, having signed a new two-year contract with HBO prior to the commissioning of the third season. The season premiered on April 6, 2014.
Season 4 is mostly based on the second half of A Storm of Swords, the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, but also some material was added from the fourth and fifth books (which run concurrently alongside the end of the third book and each other).
Westeros Map (Season 4)Edit
The War of the Five Kings is drawing to a close, but new intrigues and plots are in motion, and the surviving factions must contend with enemies not only outside their ranks, but within. King in the North Robb Stark is dead, betrayed by his own bannermen the Boltons and Freys while he was a guest under the Freys' roof. Robb's mother Catelyn and his wife Talisa, along with most of the Northern leadership were also killed at the massacre now known as the Red Wedding, along with the entire Northern army.
Having already defeated the Baratheon threat at the Battle of the Blackwater and secured southern Westeros, House Lannister stands triumphant. The crazed boy-king Joffrey Baratheon gloats, though the victory truly belongs to his grandfather, Lord Tywin Lannister, Hand of the King and the real power behind the Iron Throne. As reward for their betrayal, Tywin has granted the Boltons rule of the North, and the Freys with nominal rule of Riverrun, though the castle remains under the command of "Blackfish" Tully.
Though the mainland of Westeros is mostly under Lannister control, there are still two factions defying them: the Greyjoys and the Baratheons. Ironborn occupiers remaining in the North are being hunted down by Ramsay Snow, bastard son of Roose Bolton. Ramsay holds Theon Greyjoy hostage, horribly torturing him at whim, but Balon Greyjoy considers his son as good as dead.
Stannis Baratheon, as the rightful heir to his older brother King Robert, still refuses to surrender, despite having only the remnants of an army. However, following the advice of Melisandre, he has focused his attention of the threat of the wildlings marching against the Wall.
The Lannisters only managed to win on the battlefield with the key support of House Tyrell of the Reach, which they won through promising a marriage-alliance between King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell, daughter of Lord Mace Tyrell. Queen Regent Cersei fears - correctly - that just as the Baratheons became dependent on the Lannisters after Robert's Rebellion, the Lannisters are starting to become dependent on the Tyrells, who are already insinuating themselves into positions of power at King's Landing. A royal wedding is to be held between Joffrey and Margaery, which will confirm the future of the realm.
The only two kingdoms which have remained entirely aloof from the war so far are the Vale of Arryn and Dorne. While Lysa Arryn chose to remain neutral, former Master of Coin and new Lord of Harrenhal Petyr Baelish has been sent by Lord Tywin to woo her with a marriage proposal, now that he's a high lord and a suitable match for the Lady Regent of the Vale. Nevertheless only Littlefinger knows what Littlefinger is plotting.
For their own part, House Martell of Dorne has loathed the Lannisters ever since the Sack of King's Landing, when Ser Gregor Clegane raped and killed Elia Martell - sister of Doran Martell, the ruling Prince of Dorne - and Lord Tywin did nothing to punish him. During the War of the Five Kings Tyrion Lannister prevented Dorne from declaring for any of House Lannister's enemies by sending Princess Myrcella to Sunspear as part of her betrothal to Prince Trystane Martell, and in return, the Martells were promised a seat on the Small Council. To the consternation of the Lannisters, a large Dornish embassy arrives in King's Landing to claim their due - but instead of the elderly Prince Doran, his brash younger brother Prince Oberyn comes to claim the council seat. Oberyn loves the ladies, he loves the boys, but most of all he loved his sister Elia, and the Lannisters aren't the only ones who pay their debts.
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea in Slaver's Bay, perhaps the greatest threat to Lannister rule is rapidly growing in strength. Daenerys Targaryen now commands not just three live dragons - who are starting to grow large enough to serve as decisive weapons of war - but also an army of eight thousand Unsullied warrior-eunuchs. For now, Queen Daenerys is carving a path through Slaver's Bay - not of conquest but of liberation. As functionally once a slave herself, Daenerys is determined to free the downtrodden slaves of the region. First Astapor and then Yunkai fell before Daenerys's forces, and hundreds of thousands of freed slaves now flock to her banner. Yet Daenerys must now face the last and greatest of the slaver-cities, Meereen - and unlike her previous victories, they have had time to prepare for her arrival.
Far to the north, beyond the politics and meaningless feuds of the south, the Wall and the dwindling Night's Watch are all that stand between the Seven Kingdoms and the horrors beyond. The White Walkers have emerged in force, leading their armies of Wights. The wildlings have rallied behind King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder in an attempt to flee south, knowing that as the White Walkers advance, anyone who remain in the lands beyond the Wall will die and become part of the undead host. Mance's wildling army now numbers in the tens of thousands, and is determined to force its way through the Wall to reach the safety of the south. All that stands between the Seven Kingdoms and this barbarian invasion is the Night's Watch, whose numbers and leadership were recently devastated with the deaths of a third of their number and that of Lord Commander Jeor Mormont. So far only Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly have returned to the safety of Castle Black.
Not only are the Night's Watch outnumbered and their remaining leadership fractured, but advanced raiding bands of wildlings have infiltrated behind the Wall by climbing over it, preparing to attack the weakly defended southern side of Castle Black. These warbands are led by Tormund Giantsbane and the fearsome Styr, Magnar of Thenn - as well as Jon Snow's ex-lover Ygritte, whom he betrayed when he revealed his true loyalty and returned to the Night's Watch.
Meanwhile, the Night's Watch faces threats within its own ranks, as new southerner recruits have been sent to the Wall, among them the power-grabbing Janos Slynt, one of the men who betrayed Ned Stark.
And throughout the Seven Kingdoms, while House Stark stands on the verge of extinction - and is believed to be just that by the realm at large - four "lone wolves" fight to survive: Sansa Stark remains a hostage of the Iron Throne and a forced marriage to Tyrion Lannister, Rickon Stark seeks the safety of Last Hearth and the fiercely loyal House Umber, Bran Stark and his three companions have crossed the Wall chasing a vision, and Arya Stark, having lost everything and forced to rely on the protection of a man she hates, clings to her thirst for vengeance, a Braavosi coin, and two words: Valar Morghulis.
Primary filming for Season 4 continued in Northern Ireland. It has been confirmed that the production returned to Dubrovnik in Croatia, as well as Iceland. Another filming location added to the Croatia production unit's schedule was the coastal city of Split.
The Making Game of Thrones official production blog has confirmed that filming did not return to Morocco for Season 4. This decreases the number of countries that the TV series films in from four to three (Northern Ireland, Croatia, and Iceland). Morocco was used for the location filming of Daenerys's Season 3 scenes set in Slaver's Bay, specifically the cities of Astapor and Yunkai. Daenerys's storyline continues to take place in Slaver's Bay during Season 4, but other locations (apparently in Croatia) will be used to represent it.
For Season 3, apparently due to the increased workload of concurrent filming in four countries, the number of production units was increased from two to three. The first two units, organized since the beginning of the TV series, are "Wolf" unit and "Dragon" unit. The new third production unit in Season 3 was called "Raven" unit. Filming in Iceland actually began in Season 2. However, a post on the official Making Game of Thrones blog on September 25th, 2013, revealed that Season 4 would switch back to having only two units, and the extra "Raven" unit would be disbanded.
The original reason that production expanded to location-shoots in Iceland in Season 2 was apparently to accurately portray the rugged frozen vistas of the lands beyond the Wall, i.e. when Jon Snow, Qhorin Halfhand, or Ygritte are walking on an actual frozen glacier with rugged mountains in the background, without the need for special effects shots to fill those details in (which it was feared would look fake). However, the location scouts found other areas in Iceland which they felt would be perfect for scenes from the other storylines. While scenes beyond the Wall were filmed in Iceland during the winter, they production team realized that during the summer melt, Iceland has many pristine landscapes and lush valleys suitable for filming other locations in Westeros. The wilding raiding party containing Ygritte and Tormund filmed in Iceland during the winter for their scenes north of the Wall: in Season 4 they have returned to Iceland but in the summer, to depict the somewhat warmer lands of the Gift immediately south of the Wall. Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane's storyline, as well as Brienne of Tarth's storyline, will also include some scenes filmed in Iceland (representing parts of the Riverlands, etc.).