After last year’s “The Rains of Castamere” set Twitter afire with the Red Wedding (has anyone gotten over that yet?), the Season Four premiere of HBO’s most popular show “Game of Thrones” is less shocking by comparison. There are few deaths and even less action. But that doesn’t mean the season opener “Two Swords,” is lackluster. Filled with tension, drama–and yes, nudity–“Two Swords” sets the tone for what promises to be the fantasy’s best season yet.
The episode cold opens on Tywin Lannister celebrating his victory over the Starks at the Twins by melting Ned Stark’s Valyrian blade Ice into two separate swords. It’s a quiet scene by “Game of Thrones” standards, but that doesn’t make it any less chilling. You can practically feel the Lannister patriarch’s twisted joy as he tosses a wolf pelt into the fire. With half the Stark family gone (Ned, Catelyn and Robb) and the other half missing (Arya, Bran and Rickon), Tywin Lannister can finally rest easy knowing that full control of the Seven Realms is finally in his grasp…or so he thinks.
Tywin’s relationship with his children has always been tenuous at best, but his exchange with oldest son Jamie, illustrates just how much tension and animosity resides in House Lannister–tension that threatens to tear King’s Landing and the Seven Realms apart.
Despite knowing that Jamie lost his right hand last season, Tywin throws more salt in his son’s wound by presenting him with one of the swords from the opening scene. He wants to strike a deal with Jamie–leave the King’s Guard and rule over the Lannister keep at Casterly Rock. To a normal person, this would seem like a good idea. But Jamie isn’t normal. Far from it. Aside from being in an incestuous relationship with his sister Cersei and fathering arguably the most vicious and loathsome character on the show, Jamie has a reputation for breaking his vows–a reputation he is committed to changing.
I really love what this show is doing with Jamie’s character. Though he started out as arguably the most boring Lannister–not cunning like Cersi or witty like Tyrion–Jamie has come a long way over the course of the past three seasons and I am eager to see how much he transforms over the next few weeks. He is a character with limitless potential, a character that can really change the status quo on King’s Landing.
So after a heated argument, Jamie rejects his father’s offer and promises to continue protecting the King whether Tywin likes it or not. Poor Casterly Rock. No one wants to rule over it and the one person who does, Tyrion, will probably never get the chance.
Speaking of Tyrion, the Master of Coin waits with Bronn and Podrick for the arrival of Prince Doran of Dorne for the Royal Wedding. (If you don’t remember, Dorne was mentioned in season two when Princess Myrcella Baratheon was sent to the kingdom to marry Trystane Martell). Representatives from Dorne finally arrive without Prince Doran in tow. The monarch, sick with gout, sent his brother Prince Oberyn in his stead…except Oberyn is nowhere to be found. Worried about the Lannister carnage that Oberyn could leave behind, Tyrion sets out to find the Dornish prince.
What would an episode of “Game of Thrones” be without a visit to a brothel? Clearly not interested in mingling with the Lannisters, Prince Oberyn–also known as the Red Viper— and his paramour, the bastard Ellaria Sand, take their pick of the litter. Their activities are interrupted when Oberyn hears Lannisters singing “The Rains of Castamere” in an adjacent room. Filled with Lannister blood lust, Oberyn picks a fight with the two men and proceeds to makeout with Ellaria. Once again, they are interrupted by a Lannister. Tyrion marches into the brothel and pulls Oberyn aside.
The two monarchs briefly bond over being the second sons in their respective families. The conversation quickly turns sour however when Tyrion inquires about Oberyn’s presence in King’s Landing. What follows is an exchange wrought with foreshadow and threats. Oberyn’s sister Elia was married to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, son of Aerys “the Mad King” Targaryen. Aerys is the king Jamie killed prior to Robert Baratheon’s ascension to throne. When Tywin Lannister overthrew the crazy monarch, he ordered Ser Gregor Clegan or “The Mountain” to kill Elia and her children. As for Rhaegar, he ran off with another woman. (Kudos to the writers for including this line. Book fans will know exactly who Oberyn is talking about. It involves the possibly parentage of one of the show’s most important characters). Oberyn wants revenge for the death of his sister and her children. He leaves Tyrion with an ominous warning: “The Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.”
On the road to Meereen
We take a break from Lannister family drama to visit Daenerys Targaryen and her merry band of soldiers, the Unsullied. Taking a moment to relax, Dany watches her three dragons fly and fight over food. Her loyal servant Ser Jorah warns her that dragons cannot be tamed, not even by their mother. This point is confirmed when one of the dragons nips at Dany.
Upon returning to the Unsullied, Dany discovers that two members of her entourage are missing–sellsword Daario Naharis and Grey Worm, the leader of the Unsullied. Both men are in the midst of a sword holding contest. Dany is annoyed at the men for making her wait and orders them to travel in the back of the group.
Everyone at King’s Landing is still rejoicing over the death of Robb and Catelyn Stark–everyone that is except Sansa. Distraught over losing yet another member of her family, Sansa refuses to eat and ignores husband Tyrion’s attempts at consolation.
I might be alone, but I really like this pairing and hope that Sansa is finally given at least one minute of happiness to enjoy her marriage to a man who is probably one of the only decent people left in Westeros.
Tyrion watches in frustration as Sansa leaves him. Poor Tyrion. It’s not the little Lannister’s day. After being threatened by Oberyn and given the cold shouldered by his wife, you would think that Tyrion would want nothing more than to spend time with his lover Shae. Unfortunately, being the only person with brains on King’s Landing, Tyrion rejects Shae’s offer of sex. He is worried about her well being but Shae doesn’t seem to care and thinks that his unwillingness to sleep with her stems from his love for Sansa. The two argue and Shae storms out. Their heated debate was overheard by one of Cersei’s many spies. That cannot be good.
Tyrion isn’t the only Lannister turning down sex however. Cersei, angry at Jamie for abandoning her, rejects his advances after she gives him a brand new gold hand. Jamie is trying his best to make amends. He declined Tywin’s offer to go to King’s Landing because he wants to be close to his sister but unfortunately for him, Cersei has already checked out of the relationship. Jamie wasn’t there when Cersei needed him the most. “You took too long,” she tells him. Poor Jamie. The guy cannot catch a break.
Somewhere Near the Wall
Hell hath no fury like Ygritte scorned. Bitter over Jon Snow’s betrayal, Ygritte is more determined than ever to get revenge on her ex-lover. She and fellow wildling Tormund Giantsbane talk about their strategy for their surprise Southern invasion of the Castle Black.
Before they can get started however, they encounter a group of Thenns. These wildlings are cannibals and are more than happy to help their brethren attack Castle Black. Well, this should be interesting to say the least.
Jon Snow is informed by Samwell Tarly that his brother Robb was killed by the Lannisters at the Twins. Rather than show some emotion, Jon flatly tells Sam that he was always jealous of his brother, but he didn’t hate him. Look, I understand that Jon has been through a lot. It’s not easy being a bastard in Westeros, but come on, your brother died. At least shed a tear or two.
But alas, Jon saves all of his pent up anger and emotion for his meeting with the Night Watch command. They are accusing him of treason. Jon does not deny that he broke his vows, but he insists that he did it on Qhorin Halfhand’s orders. While the council members deliberate over Jon’s fate, Ned Stark’s bastard warns them of an impending wildling invasion. They don’t believe him of course. This seems to be a growing trend on the show. No one believes in White Walkers. No one believes in dragons and no one believes the wildlings are a threat. The people of Westeros are going to be in for a rude awakening when they are inevitably attacked by all three groups and I’m sure we’ll all enjoy watching the result.
Joffery revels in delusions of grandeur as Jamie tries to go over strategy. He seems to think he was the one who saved the city at the Battle of Blackwater. Right Joffery. Keep dreaming.
Joffery then flips through ‘The White Book’, which is a comprehensive guide of the history of the Kingsguard. The king takes joy in pointing out the fact that his uncle only has one paragraph dedicated to his service. Joffery then proceeds to mock Jamie’s missing hand. “How can you protect me with that?” he taunts. Oh Joffery, Joffery, Joffery. You need to learn about a little thing called karma.
As if confrontations with Tywin, Cersei and Joffery weren’t enough, Brienne pulls Jamie aside and reminds him about the promise he made to Catelyn Stark. He was supposed to keep the Stark girls safe. Jamie’s hands-or hand–is tied: Arya has been missing since her father’s death and Sansa is married to Tyrion.
Meanwhile, Sansa had a run in with Ser Dantos, the knight that she rescued in season two. He thanks her for saving his life with a necklace that was a family heirloom.
Daario might be regulated to the back of the line, but that does not stop him from flirting with Dany. Played by a different actor this season, Michiel Husiman, Daario schools the would-be queen on Meereen strategy while lavishing her with flowers. He urges her to become part of their world.
Their march towards Meereen is stopped when the group stumble upon a crucified slave. Apparently there is a dead slave at every mile marker on the road to Meereen–all 163 of them. Rather than wait for her entourage to dispose of the bodies before she sees them, Dany insists upon looking into the face of every slave. Apparently Meereen under estimates the mother of dragons. I’m no expert, but I don’t think it’s wise to anger a woman with hundreds of soldiers and dragons in her command. But that’s just me.
Arya and the Hound are on their way to the Vale of Arryn where the Hound plans on selling Arya to her Aunt Lysa. It’s a long way to the Vale and the Hound is hungry. And when the Hound is hungry, woe to all of those who stand in his way. They come across a tavern where the men of the Hound’s brother, the Mountain, are stationed. Arya recognizes one of the men as Polliver. He stole Arya’s sword Needle in season two and killed her friend.
It’s business as usual when the duo enters the tavern. The Mountain’s men walk around the pub like they own the place, bullying the owner and assaulting his daughter. Polliver approaches the Hound and talks about King Joffery’s victory at Blackwater. (I think Polliver is another character who needs a reality check). After the Hound denounces the King, he antagonizes Polliver. In normal circumstances, I would say it unwise to pick a fight when outnumbered, but this is the Hound we’re talking about and he’s hungry so anything goes.
The men end up getting into a fight and in true Hound style, Sandor Clegane lays waste to them, but not before Arya retrieves Needle and kills Polliver herself. This is a departure from George R.R. Martin’s novels. In the text it was the Hound who killed Polliver, not Arya. It will be interesting to see how this plays out during the course of the season. Arya certainly looks happy when she leaves the tavern with a well-fed Hound.
And that’s it for the season four premiere. Tune in next week for the Royal Wedding.