Even though the winter has just begun to leave our lives for the next eight months, it is still coming for “Game of Thrones.” After a ten-month hiatus, the hit HBO series is back and I am happy to report that its premiere on Sunday was nearly flawless. Although I have read the books, I promise not to reveal any future developments for this season. But, before I go any further, let me get one thing out of the way…SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE SERIES UP UNTIL THIS POINT!
Right off the bat, the writers decided to add another blow to the already beaten, bloodied, and more-or-less buried Stark family of Winterfell. Watching Tywin smile as the Stark family Valyrian sword, “Ice,” was melted down to create two Lannister family blades was a brutal touch to an already powerful scene. Not only that, we see Tywin toss a wolf’s pelt into the flames of a crackling fireplace, a symbolic end to a once powerful and noble family. This represents a crucial shift in tone for the series. This time around, GoT seems to be heading in a brand new direction. With Stannis defeated during his attempted raid of the Red Keep and the Starks narrowed down to two young girls, a disabled boy and a banished bastard, I have to say that there seems to be a void. Who is left for us to root for? Where can we go from here?
Luckily, with this lack of direction, “Two Swords” focused intently on developing the stories of the remaining characters. At the Red Keep, Jamie has returned to the cold embrace of both his father and his sister/lover. It seems that both Tywin and Cersei realize that something beyond losing his hand has altered the Jamie that they once knew. Hell, even Joffrey lays into his “uncle” for disappearing before the battle on the Blackwater with Stannis and his forces. Although this seems like a downturn for Jamie, I would argue that he has become much more likeable by the end of this episode. We now know that he truly cares about his honor when he argues with Tywin over lordship of Casterly Rock and that he may be willing to help Sansa escape the Red Keep with Brienne. I look forward to seeing if he continues to progress as a protagonist this season.
Tyrion Lannister has a series of different problems to navigate. For one, Shae has become jealous of his wife, Sansa (yes, that actually happened). Although this conflict was the briefest of the bunch at the Red Keep, it seems fairly palpable as Shae steals a steely look towards Tyrion while he attempts to comfort Sansa as she grieves the loss of both her brother and her mother (it’s also important to note that she and everyone else have no idea that both Bran and Arya are alive, making her the only known Stark remaining in the Seven Kingdoms). On top of this conflict between his lover and his duties as a husband, Tyrion does not seem to be getting much more respect than when we last saw him. With the arrival of the Dornishmen of the South for Joffrey’s wedding, we see that the Imp’s reputation precedes him. One of the funnier moments of the episode comes when Bronn compliments Tyrion’s skills in diplomacy as the Dornish horsemen ride by him without acknowledging his welcome. I know it’s definitely to early to tell, but I really hope that the writers work Tyrion more into future episodes: his wit and sharp dialogue has always been a highlight of the show and “Two Swords” could have benefited by giving him more opportunities to display his character.
While we are on the topic of the Dornishmen, I think that the brief introduction of Oberyn stands as a major highlight of this premiere episode. Like I said earlier: there seems to be no one willing to oppose the Lannisters at this point in the story. Now, we have Oberyn: a vengeful, lethal, and Lannister-hating wildcard that has brought an exciting dimension to the series. We even get a scene of him roughing up a couple of lowly members of the Lannister family just for the hell of it. Let’s hope he gets a crack at some more important Lannisters as the season progresses.
Before I move away from the Red Keep, let’s talk about Sansa. Yes, we know that she is starving herself over the death of the rest of her family, but we also get an interesting callback to a minor character from season two: Ser Dontos. Remember him? Probably not, but he was the drunken knight that Sansa saved from Joffrey’s wrath on his name day celebration. Although he is still as drunk as ever when we catch up to him during “Two Swords,” he seems eternally grateful for Sansa’s protection. It seems odd that the writers would make it a point to introduce such a minor character in the premiere of a new season, so I’m interested to see whether or not he makes an impact in the future.
Although the majority of the main characters seem to be condensed at the Red Keep, “Two Swords” also gives some great looks at Jon Snow, Ygritte, Arya and Daenarys. Let’s start with Daenarys. First and foremost: dragons! It seems like yesterday that these guys were the size of large lizards, now they seem almost large enough to ride (please let this happen this season!). However, we also get to see that these dragons seem to be getting out of hand. The image of Drogon snapping at Danny (I hate spelling her name out) as she reaches out to pet him was both shocking and effective in establishing these beasts as powerful characters of the show. Before now, the dragons seemed to be more of a gimmick than actual factors, so it’s nice to see some early development in this premiere episode. Aside from that, Danny continues her trek to power as she plans to make her way across the Narrow Sea to reclaim her birthright: The Red Keep.
Before the premiere, we saw that Jon Snow made his escape from Ygritte and the rest of the Wildlings that he accompanied over The Wall. Now that these love-stricken characters are separated, a brand new conflict has emerged. With the Wildlings planning to attack the Night’s Watch from the North and South, it seems to be inevitable that Jon and Ygritte will come to arms again later on this season (although we also learn that Ygritte let Jon live as he escaped from the group). On top of this, Jon must now explain himself to the rest of the Night’s Watch for turning his cloak and joining the Wildlings over The Wall. Although it seems that Jon is off the hook for now, the rest of the Night’s Watch may be less likely to accept him back as a brother. Also, where the hell is Ghost? We cannot have another Direwolf go down in this show.
I saved my favorite storyline for last: Arya and The Hound. Now that Cattlyn is dead, it seems that The Hound has decided to bring Arya to her crazy aunt in The Twins. I have always been a huge fan of Arya’s story arc and her “kill list,” so watching her drive Needle through Polliver’s neck was a huge win in my book. Although she has been passed around from character to character since season one, it’s awesome to see her end up with The Hound. Watching these two characters clear out an entire Tavern full of low-life soldier-turned-bandits was immensely satisfying to watch. Now that this deadly tandem make their way to The Twins, it seems more than likely that we will get to see some more action-packed scenes in the near future.
Overall, “Two Swords” was an excellent beginning to a promising fourth season. Although there are still a few characters to catch up with and the void created by the Red Wedding looms heavily on the narrative, I think that the writers did well by leading off with this initial group of storylines. Hopefully, this slightly directionless beginning will soon aim itself towards a specific endgame that I am sure will delight every viewer.
Overall Score: 9.5/10