By Ben Lane
WARNING: FULL SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES FOLLOW!
It’s an exciting time in the world of television. Sunday night marked the return of what is in my opinion the best show on television, Game of Thrones. I remember the first time I sat down to give this show a try, knowing virtually nothing about the plot and only having heard the show’s title thrown around the geek world. So, when I sat down and watched it, I was in awe, and ended up devouring the first season in a matter of a couple days. I will never forget the moment Ned Stark was executed on screen, as it was one of the strongest “WTF” moments in television history and it served as the first real illustration of what the show is so famously known for at this point: its killing off of its many characters. I have read A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings and I can’t help but agree with the crowd that this is one of the most extraordinarily imaginative and deeply involving stories ever put to the page or screen. I binge-watched the first three seasons, so needless to say I was excited about finally being able to watch week to week, being caught up with everyone else. And so we have season 4, and the season premiere did what the show’s premieres do best: set things up in style.
Before the completely enthralling and somewhat peaceful opening theme, we open straight up to Tywin Lannister who is melting down Ned Stark’s famous sword, Ice, and then molded into two swords (hence the episode’s title), one of which is gifted to Jaime. What a way to kick off the season. Spectacular sure, but also harrowing, as what it is essentially doing is pounding home the fact that the Starks are done. This is one of the most unpredictable shows out there, largely because it doesn’t follow the typical “hero-saves-the-day” cliche. No, when season 1 opened, the Starks were portrayed as the primary protagonists of the series, and so they were. Now Ned is gone, Catelyn is gone, Robb is gone. They’re down to nothing. Sure, the kids remain, but that’s all they are. Kids. And this episode does a hell of a job of making that fact known to the audience and the characters. Once we move past the opening theme, which is always glorious to sit through, we get a little more with Tywin, as we see him talking with Jaime after presenting him with the sword. It’s made clear by Tywin himself that he wants Jaime to return to Casterly Rock, but Jaime is persistent on staying in King’s Landing as a member of the Kingsguard, despite having only one hand. This will surely prove to be an important subplot as the season progresses, as he is clearly not backing down on his chance at staying with Cersei. Which brings us to one of the more outstanding aspects of the premiere: the confrontation between Jaime and Cersei. The guy loves his sister. We know this now, and we have to learn to accept it. For now anyway. So it doesn’t make us like her any more when she practically blames him for his own capture and his leaving her. “You took to long!” she exclaims. Here radiates Cersei’s selfishness.
But how about that other Lannister? Yeah, you guessed it, Tyrion himself is back folks! I can’t get enough of this little guy. Peter Dinklage’s take on this character is totally in sync with the words of George R.R. Martin. I don’t think anyone else could have pulled this character off so well. We see him as he awaits the arrival Doran Martell from Dorne, who is to arrive for the Royal Wedding of King Joffrey. In his place comes Oberyn Martell, Doran’s brother, the newest character in the seemingly endless lineup. Something’s going down at this Royal Wedding. With the scenes we get of his character and his bluntness, I’m very curious to see how things are handled with his character down the road. Involving Tyrion comes another of the episode’s most standout moments as he tries to initiate conversation with Sansa, who is clearly emotionally defeated. Her words come out like water from a broken faucet. She doesn’t say much. She isn’t happy, and that kills Tyrion.
Up north, Ygritte and Tormund have a pretty awesome scene in which they meet the Thenn, a cannibalistic group led by Styr. This should prove to be very important as the season progresses. We also see Jon Snow trying to explain himself to Throne and Slynt regarding the mission Qhorin tasked him with. Jon’s journey has been rough, and this little scene definitely showcases that.
And then we have the stuff across the Narrow Sea. We are finally seeing the dragons for what they are: dragons. They are evolving. Growing. They are no longer the cute little babies we knew them as a couple seasons ago. No, these things are changing, even in the eyes of Dany. That scene where she touched Drogon only to have him rip around and hiss in her face was nothing short of horrifying. Word of advice: if your dragon is fighting with other dragons to get to a dead lamb, don’t interfere. Jorah himself said that dragons cannot be tamed. Hopefully she takes that to heart if she plans to make it to the throne. Also with Daenerys we see Daario, formerly played by Ed Skrein, now being played by Michiel Huisman. But now this character is completely different. I mean, he and Dany screwed! Now it seems as if they don’t know each other and are being reintroduced. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll warm up to Huisman as the season goes on, but for now, I’m not sure I’m feeling it. Oh, and let’s not forget that epic shot of all of Daenerys’ new slaves. So epic.
But by far the best thing this episode had to offer was Arya’s story. Arya has had some up and down moments in this show, as she has tended to go from being with one person to another very often, but now we’re finally getting what we hoped we would: she and The Hound are together! Not together in a romantic sense, obviously. No, the two are kicking ass together! I gave an audible cheer when Arya took out Polliver in the same cruel way he took out Lommy in season 3. Amidst all the death of protagonists throughout this show, it’s a breath of fresh air to see some baddies getting theirs as well. As a fan of The Hound and in knowledge of the fact that in this show anyone can go at any time, I was really fearing for him at the end of this episode. Sure, it was six on one, but when they had him on the ground, I thought for a second he was gone. Just a solid reminder to never take for granted your time with these characters, because they could be gone tomorrow.
FINAL THOUGHTS: “Two Swords” is a solid, grounded, and ambitious opening episode for season 4. It’s mostly uneventful, up until the final few moments, but it expertly makes its case for the shift in tone of the series, and it sets up what is sure to be a marvelous season remainder of the season.
8.5 / 10