Although it probably goes without saying, there are show spoilers (but not book spoilers) ahead in the following review. Since the cast of characters grows larger and larger every season, I’ve also provided some handy links to background on some of the newest major players if you need a refresher on who’s who, but be aware that those links might include spoilers for events in the books. For those who have read A Song of Ice and Fire and know what’s coming next, please don’t jump the gun in the comments or pick apart this review based on knowledge of the books. I’ve purposely written this review for those who have not read the books.
Starting off the new season with a bang, Game of Thrones season 4 sets the stage for more bloodshed and betrayal—just what we love to see! Opening on Tywin Lannister melting down Eddard Stark’s sword, Ice, the show reminds us immediately of the treachery that occurred to get the Lannisters where they are today. While there were definitely lulls in the action as the show attempts to get its viewers up to speed on the goings on in Westeros and Essos, the last ten minutes of “Two Swords” more than make up for the exposition-heavy beginning.
Spoilers From This Point On!
“A one-handed man with no family needs all the help he can get.”
Gifting a newly forged Valyrian steel sword upon Jaime, Tywin attempts once again to force his oldest son to take over as Lord of Casterly Rock. Of course, we know that Jaime will do no such thing since he’d much rather stay at Cersei’s side, protecting his little shit of a bastard son. Not that Jaime seems particularly happy about his choice, given the fact that Cersei is hell-bent on blaming him for every bad turn that’s occurred since he was captured; and Joffrey is just as much of a swaggering cock as usual, determined to antagonize and belittle his uncle/dad.
The abuse of Jaime doesn’t stop there, as Brienne of Tarth is also determined to get in her two cents with him, insisting that he needs to keep his word to Lady Catelyn Stark and rescue Sansa from the evil clutches of his family. Unfortunately, Jaime didn’t know that Sansa would be married off to Tyrion when he made that promise, so now he’s in the position of being an oathbreaker once again. Either break his oath to Catelyn Stark and leave Sansa in her current circumstances, or whisk Sansa away from King’s Landing, thus breaking his oath as a member of the Kingsguard. It’s a no-win situation for poor Jaime.
Speaking of no-win situations, Tyrion isn’t having much luck in life either. With a grief-stricken child bride on one side, and an irate mistress on the other, Tyrion’s troubles are only just beginning. Not only does he feel guilty for Sansa’s misery, but he also has to try and placate Shae, who’s growing less and less tolerant of his absence in her bed. Curiously, she’s also convinced that he’s trying to get rid of her by giving her diamonds and encouraging her to ship off; but Tyrion’s confusion when she brings up the jewels suggests that there’s something more going on that the Imp is completely unaware of. Given the fact that Cersei’s spies catch the fight, he’s probably not going to have much time to figure out the mystery before his affair with Shae is exposed.
Oberyn Martell is another problem Tyrion has to deal with at the beginning of the episode. The introduction of Oberyn also acquaints us with the Dornish, who are often described in the books as hot-tempered and passionate. We get all of that and more in our first view of Oberyn, whose righteous anger is aimed squarely at the Lannisters. He may be in King’s Landing for Joffrey’s wedding, but it’s clear that he has other motives as well, not the least of which is a desire to somehow avenge his sister, Elia’s death. It’s doubtful that he’s going to start any bloodshed at the wedding, but that doesn’t mean he won’t do his best to take out a few Lannister soldiers on the streets of King’s Landing, wherever and whenever it suits him.
Daenerys doesn’t get much screen time this week, but we do catch some important snippets about her, most importantly that she’s losing control of her dragons. As Ser Jorah tells her ominously, “They can never be tamed, not even by their mother.” For those who remember Daario Naharis from last season, yes he was recast, and no you’re not going crazy if you didn’t recognize who the heck he is because they’re still not costuming him in the way that the character is described in the books. Personally, I’m still not impressed with Daario’s character since the show is obviously setting him up as a love interest for Daenerys (giving wild flowers to the Mother of Dragons? Really?!?) and it doesn’t seem like the two have much chemistry. Honestly, Emilia Clarke doesn’t seem to have chemistry with anyone, especially given how coldly she plays Daenerys, so I don’t really know what I expect them to do about that.
Finally, we catch up with my personal favorite, Arya Stark. Still on the road with the Hound, Arya and her unexpected bodyguard are on the way to the Eyrie so that he can try and sell her back to her aunt Lysa now that Catelyn Stark is dead. Fortuitously (at least for Arya), they run into a group of the Mountain’s men, now led by the greasy Polliver—one of the many men on Arya’s hit list. The ensuing mayhem is definitely in my top ten Game of Thrones bloodbaths, eliciting numerous exclamations of surprise and disgust from this reviewer. Maisie Williams gives a brilliant performance as Arya, and I can’t say enough good things about how she’s brought the character to life. Arya is not a shrinking violet by any means, but Williams adds an extra layer of psychosis that I think is difficult to imagine when reading the books. She’s fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what else she does with Arya.
Overall, it was a great start to what is sure to be a particularly gory and mind-blowing season of Game of Thrones. Tell us what your favorite part of the episode was in the comments!
“Two Swords” – B+
Game of Thrones: Season 4 Episode 1, “Two Swords” aired April 6th, 2014 on HBO.
Please Note – Due the nature of this show being quite far behind the books in terms of plot, we want to remind everyone that there is a zero tolerance policy regarding spoilers in the comments. Keep discussions relevant to the show only!