The “Game of Thrones” season 4 premiere starts off with two clear messages. Tywin Lannister is ready to say goodbye to the Starks while Jaime is willing to give up his family. In “Two Swords,” power, revenge and death are central to the characters and what we’ve come to expect from “Game of Thrones.”
Tywin has melted down Ned Stark’s greatsword Ice and forged two new swords that will belong to House Lannister. The gift of one of the swords to Jaime marks the beginning of the rift between Jaime and his family which is later punctuated by Cersei’s refusal to continue their relationship later on in the episode.
The banter continues as “Two Swords” is full of conversations involving two parties. Poor Tyrion is stuck with the unenviable task of greeting the Prince of Dorne, the Martells and Lannisters have some bad blood and unresolved issues, but at least we get some great back-and-forth between Tyrion and Bronn.
Peter Dinklage does a fine job portraying the range of emotions, from sudden panic to easy platitudes, that comes with hearing the news that someone with the reputation as a volatile and dangerous warrior as Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper, is at King’s Landing.
Tyrion proves prophetic as he fails to find Oberyn before someone is hurt. As for the introduction of the Red Viper what better place to do it than in a brothel? “Game of Thrones” has strayed away from using the brothel as a place to conduct important business, but the scene introducing Oberyn and Ellaria, his paramour, is dynamic with plenty of sexual politics and intensity to spare.
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“Game of Thrones” keeps the hits coming with Oberyn or Ellaria as the brothel scene sets up the next sequence of events that fans have come to love from the series. Oberyn's anger of hearing two Lannster men singing “Rains of Castamere” to the swift stabbing of one of the men through the wrist, followed by the intense embrace between Oberyn and Ellaria in front of Tyrion as though nothing happened sets up a poignant moment between the Red Viper and Tyrion. Oberyn is a man driven by passion, of all kinds, with a moral center and he makes his reasons for coming to King’s Landing very clear.
“Two Swords” has a lot to do but the “GoT” season 4 premiere never feels burdened by what it has to do, laying out the plot points of the season, due in part to all the small, character-driven moments that the show finds time to explore. Whether it is the gambling between Daario Naharis and Grey Worm, with Daenerys chiding both of them for such a silly display, or the way Tyrion lays out why it’s not a “good time” to Shae, each scene is building to something more, such as revealing the emotional core of a character or the severity of a situation.
While the Lannisters should be reveling in their victory following the Red Wedding, it seems as though no one is happy. Jaime has lost his hand, his worth as a swordsman, his standing with his father and can now add Cersei to the list of things lost. Cersei’s venom over the recent series of events is a hint at one of her greatest weaknesses.
Cersei wants to be able to make her own decisions, forget having to bow to the whims of men, and have true power but her inability to control her desire for quick, impulsive revenge will prove problematic in the future. For now, Cersei is content with punishing Jaime, saying, “You took too long.”
Jon Snow left the Wildlings but Mance Rayder continues to amass his forces for the attack on the Wall and we get a look at Styr and the Thenns. These Wildlings are cannibals with a much more menacing presence than the raiders we’ve come to know, Tormund, and love, Ygritte. As season 4 progress, I’m looking forward to seeing how David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the series creators, weave together the disparate groups of Wildlings. The Thenns and the raiders are cut from the same cloth, with the major exception being the Thenns are cannibals, but there have been talks of giants, snow bears and mammoths, and the show is finally going to deliver on some of these beasts.
Jon’s story of killing Qhorin Halfhand and joining the Wildlings is met with doubt but the Wildling threat is given credibility as Maester Aemon dismisses the informal hearing and Jon from any punishment. Janos Slynt and Alliser Thorne are looking for any excuse to punish Jon but their first attempt is thwarted.
A season of “Game of Thrones” would not be complete without a wedding and planning for the lavish affair for Joffrey and Margaery is in full swing. The Tyrells get to laugh at the gaudy jewelry and the boorish behavior of Joffrey while the boy king can scoff at the security plans, take credit for winning the war and putting down his uncle. Nothing unusual for Joffrey and his short time on screen rekindles all the hatred for the character. The worst mix of arrogance, entitlement and power, Joffrey is a terrible king and would probably give the Mad King a run for his money if given enough time. Margaery and the Queen of Thorns are excellent in their roles and are not afraid to let their opinions be known.
Dany’s dragons have grown up and she has quite the formidable army serving her. Daario presses his luck by offering to discuss “strategy,” telling Dany that a queen has to know the land and the customs of the people she is ruling but that’s also a perfect excuse to give her some flowers. Can’t blame the guy for trying, right?
Ser Dontos returns! Last we saw of the disgraced knight, Sansa saved his life during Joffrey’s name day celebration. Dontos is still drunk but hopes that a small gift, an amethyst necklace, will serve as one last moment of glory for his house.
“Two Swords” ends with one last duo, the Hound and Arya. This odd couple beats Jaime and Brienne as unlikely allies but Arya seems to have softened her stance on killing the Hound. For now, at least. Arya sees Polliver, one of the names of her prayer, at an inn and she has vengeance on her mind. The Hound abides and follows Arya’s lead. After a no-nonsense exchange between the Hound and Polliver, it is easy to see where this is going and the result is a bloody end to the season 4 premiere.
The Hound is a powerful fighter and makes quick work of Polliver’s men, including one violent display of strength, while Arya takes the opportunity to wound Polliver and recites the words that he said to Lommy in season. As a fitting punctuation, Arya gets Neddle back and uses it kill Polliver. Revenge has been the driving force behind Arya’s actions and it’s an interesting contrast to a, somewhat, reformed killer such as the Hound. Arya is at the very beginning of her journey while the Hound just wants it to end and the duo are going to learn from each other while on the road to the Vale.
“Two Swords” may not be the most thematically cohesive “Game of Thrones” episode it is a perfect introduction to season 4. The “Game of Thrones” season 4 premiere also reminds viewers of the most important thing in the series, “Valar Morghulis,” or “All men must die.”
“Game of Thrones” Spoiler Discussion
- I liked the quick set up between Ser Dontos and Sansa. It sets things up for the Purple Wedding while not giving itself away.
- How will Janos and Alliser get Jon to meet with Mance Rayder? The scene in “Two Swords” is pretty different from “A Storm of Swords” as the arrival of Janos leads to Jon’s trial so I expect there will be some more scheming from the two leading up to the wildling attack that serves as a precursor to the Battle of Castle Black.
- The biggest change in “Two Swords” is the attack in the inn. In “Swords,” the Hound is mortally wounded in the fight but he seems unscathed and happy. I guess they can encounter one last fight or it can be revealed that the Hound was wounded before Saltpans.