Game of Thrones: Season 4, Episode 1
Two Swords
Adam O'Brien

Disclaimer: This is a review of the television show Game of Thrones, based on the book series A Song of Ice and Fire. As the show has limited time to tell a very large story, I will from time to time clarify or expand on events in the show. However, I will make every effort to avoid giving away plot points the audience isn’t supposed to know yet.

One thing I love about Game of Thrones that isn’t really talked about much is its momentum. The nature of television is that each season will have certain themes, yes, and the teenage actors are all a little bit taller than they were last May, sure, but otherwise, the transition between the end of season 3 and the beginning of season 4 is pretty seamless. It speaks both to the fluidity of the story and the fanaticism of the fan base, who make it their business to know what’s going on.

The season opens with Tywin having the Stark Valyrian great sword, Ice, melted down to make two new swords. Valyrian steel is a superior metal, but the knowledge of how to make it was lost after the mysterious Doom of Valyria, hundreds of years ago. Now, it’s become a status symbol in Westeros to own a weapon made of Valyrian steel, and only the greatest families possess them. It makes sense, then, that Tywin Lannister, who can’t stand to be shamed or looked down on, jumps at the chance to both increase his family’s reputation and symbolically destroy the Starks’.

I’m not sure what to think of the scene between Tywin and Jaime. I imagined it being a lot more explosive, instead of a relatively amicable, “Hey son, I thought maybe you could do this and become the family’s heir again.” “Nah, Dad, I don’t wanna do that I wanna keep doing this.” “Oh all right, son, you do what you gotta do.” I’m not going to write it off yet; the TV show isn’t a shot-for-shot adaptation of the book, so we’ll see where they take Tywin’s and Jaime’s relationship.

Tyrion still isn’t the favorite son, but at least done cowering, expecting assassination around every corner. This episode we’re introduced to Prince Oberyn Martell, younger brother of Prince Doran Martell of Dorne (who is actually the highest authority in Dorne. He’s not actually a prince. Don’t ask me why they use royal titles, unlike the other six kingdoms). I’m really interested to see how his character is developed. His first scene in the brothel makes him look like another venal, oversexed, vaguely sinister medieval stereotype. Right after that, however, we see a man who’s waited almost twenty years to avenge his sister, which makes him look, if not admirable, at least respectable.

Jon is back at Castle Black, and answering for his crimes. It’s good to see Jon back in his own world. He even seems to have grown a bit of a spine, to speak deliberately when he stands up for himself, instead of whining about everything. It’s troubling to see Ser Alliser Thorne in charge, even just temporarily, but not as troubling as it is to see him buddy-buddy with Janos Slynt, one of the men who betrayed Eddard Stark, and whom Tyrion banished to the Wall back in season 2.

Daenerys is on the march to liberate the third major city of Slaver’s Bay, Meereen, and it looks like this one might give her more trouble than the first two—but that wasn’t the most interesting thing about her this week. What I was most intrigued by was the first instance in which she couldn’t control her dragons, and the look on her face when Jorah told her nobody can train a dragon, not even its mother. Keep in mind where Dany has been. Remember Mirri Maz Duur in season 1? She told Daenerys that she would never conceive a child again. Since then, the dragons have become her surrogate children, as evidenced by how fiercely defensive and proud she is of them. The look on her face when Drogon snapped at her wasn’t fear, and wasn’t even really betrayal, but the beginnings of empty nest syndrome, and her still a teenager. What will Dany do to fill this hole in her heart? Maybe she’ll find the solution in all these thousands of people who call her Mhysa—Mother.

We see more of the same from Arya: she’s angry and wants to kill some people. I have to admit I was expecting more. The only progression left for her character is to get increasingly violent and out of control, to turn around and find some peace, or at least to develop her thirst for vengeance in some new way. I was happy to see her finally get Needle back, but she’s stagnating.

As season premieres go, this episode was pretty solid. Each storyline that’s currently important was given some time, instead of rushing to include every character (i.e. Bran, Stannis, Davos). If you’ve been watching for three years now, you probably don’t need a reminder of where everyone is all the time.

Grade: B

Other Thoughts:

-After the introduction to the White Walkers, the introduction to Stannis and Melisandre, and a sequence of the Night’s Watch being terrorized by the White Walkers, Tywin Lannister playing blacksmith is a little underwhelming for a pre-intro season opener.

-Poor, poor Sansa. Isn’t it hard to believe that just about everyone once hated her?

-Does Styr, with his ritually scarred head, remind anyone else of Xerxes?

-As much as they hate each other, Sandor and Arya feel like they’re in a buddy road trip movie at times.

-Sandor: “A man’s got to have a code.” Funny, but I couldn’t help thinking it’s unlike GoT to echo another show. Felt weird.

-I’m liking the new actor playing Daario Naharis. He’s less douche- looking (although given the nature of the character, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing).

-Shout out to Ramin Djawadi for yet another great arrangement of the main theme that played over the closing credits.

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