After the shocking events of last season and the awful things that have befallen the Starks since the start of the series, it was perhaps perfectly fitting that we kicked off Season 4 with the silent and sombre melting down of “Ice,” Ned Stark’s sword. With Tywin standing over proceedings, backed by the shows wonderful score, the whole scene just served to remind us where the power lies on the show now.
Following on from this opening, we got a rather standard “Game of Thrones” season premiere, and that’s not a bad thing. This show has so many characters involved that it’s good to take a bit of time to catch up with them and establish any new storylines for the coming season. So what we got here was a couple of scenes each with a decent amount of characters, with others such as Bran, Theon and Davos still to make an appearance. What’s abundantly clear from the very beginning is how the Lannisters are now the focal point off the series, for the time being at least, with the remaining Starks very much scattered to the winds.
Jaime’s arc last season was up there with the shows best. While once he appeared to be a straight up villain, we saw a completely different side of him last year. Now that he’s back in King’s Landing, it’s evident from the start that his missing hand won’t be his only trouble going forward. His father wants him to leave the King’s Guard and return to Casterly Rock, but that’s not something Jaime is willing to do. The main reason he wants to stay is Cersei, who now drinks excessively and acts cold to him. Each scene Jaime appeared in this week had somebody tearing him down a bit, except for his solitary one with Brienne. Their time together last year was fascinating to watch, but it’s not likely she’ll want to spend too much more time in the company of the other Lannisters.
Continuing our round trip of Westeros, we got to catch up with Jon and Ygritte as they faced separate troubles up North. Jon has made it back to the Night’s Watch but faces an interrogation about the events that transpired during his time with The Wildlings. Jon comes clean about his oath breaking with Maester Aemon, sparing him the usual punishment. Meanwhile, Ygritte and her fellow wildlings find themselves joined by some reinforcements in the form of the cannibalistic Thenns. While most of the senior members of the Night’s Watch may be a little doubtful about Jon’s account of 100,000 wildlings marching on The Wall, it’s clear to us that that battle isn’t too far away, and Jon and Ygritte will be stuck right in the middle of it.
Poor Tyrion is up against it already this season too. Not only does he have to deal with an increasingly cocky Bronn and a distrusting and dissatisfied Shae, he now has to contend with the red Viper of Dorne, Oberyn Martell, a newcomer to the show. Oberyn comes to Kings Landing with a huge grudge against the Lannisters, stemming from the brutal murder of his sister and her children during the sack of King’s Landing many years ago. He’s the kind of character who should be incredibly entertaining to watch throughout the season, as his cunning and impulsive nature are sure to get him into plenty of scrapes in the city.
Way across The Narrow Sea, Daenerys continues on her quest to free slaves and grow her army, an army which is already starting to look mighty impressive. Her dragons are also continuing to grow but as Jorah warns, they can never be tamed. This story has the biggest scale of them all now that the “War of the Five Kings” has seemingly ended, but it’s also the one that is completely removed from everything else in the show. That being said, it’s going to have to be able to stand on its own and keep up the momentum. We already have the possible beginnings of a romantic entanglement between Daenerys and Daario (who is the same character introduced last season, just with a different actor!) and with a firm target on the horizon in the shape of the slave city of Meereen, hopefully that won’t be a problem.
Thankfully this episode saved the best for last as we got to catch up with fan favorite pairing, Arya and The Hound. Poor Arya, who has changed so much from the rebellious child who didn’t want to be like her sister, doesn’t want to travel with The Hound but realizes that she won’t survive too long without him. Their run-in with Horrid Polliver and his men at the tavern was the perfect, crowd-pleasing way to end the episode. Polliver, who murdered poor little Lommy last season, finally got what was coming to him as Arya “stuck him with the pointy end” of Needle, after reciting what he had said to Lommy. It was brutal and a little disturbing to see considering her age, but also the one true “hell yeah!” moment of the episode, as well as The Hound beating the hell out of them beforehand. After the events of the Red Wedding and the very beginning of this episode with further symbolic destruction of House Stark, Arya shows that there may be hope for them yet.
So “Two Swords” was a very solid, story-hopping start to Season 4. It did a great job of continuing storylines from last season while also kick starting a few new ones. There are still plenty of characters yet to make an appearance, but with the Royal Wedding of Joffrey (who was still a total jackass is in his solitary appearance here) and Maergery, along with Daenerys’ march to Meereen and the Wildlings potential attack on The Wall, there’s a ton to look forward to in the coming weeks already.
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