“Game of Thrones” Season 4, Episode 1 “Two Swords” Recap

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The countdown on our little website has ticked to 0 and “Game of Thrones” is finally back after what seemed like an eternity. If you’re like me and have no life as well as an obsession with all things Westeros you’ve dissected the three official HBO trailers to death in eager anticipation of the show’s triumphant return. This is my first official recap of GoT and just another fair warning before continuing: I have read the books and I will be making reference to future events from the books and the show in addition to a recap. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum, but If you wish to remain entirely spoiler free, this is definitely not the place you want to be. You’ve been warned.

We pick things up in King’s Landing with everyone’s favorite dysfunctional family: the Lannisters. Following the shocking events of The Red Wedding and the apparent defeat of Stannis, Joffrey struts around the town that now features statues of their “beloved king” with an air of even more arrogance and face-punchability than usual (if that’s humanly possible). Further highlighting the perceived demise of the Starks is the opening scene of Tywin melting down Ned Starks’ giant Valyrian steel sword “Ice” into two smaller swords which he plans to keep within the family for generations to come; the first of which he gives to the recently returned Jaime. Once considered one of the most skilled swordsmen in all of the Seven Kingdoms, the loss of his hand has resulted in questions about the current nature of his skills at least from his father, ever his biggest doubter. Although Joffrey is king in name, ever since his arrival in King’s Landing it has been his grandfather, the acting Hand of the King who has really controlled everything behind the scenes and he doesn’t plan on ever leaving King’s Landing until the day that he dies (STRONG FORSHADOWING).

Instead, he insists in a stern and unforgiving tone that only Charles Dance can deliver (“A one handed man with no family needs all the help he can get”) that Jaime return to Casterly Rock in his stead and father heirs to the Lannister fortune. Jaime, of course, has no interest in this as the only woman he’s ever had eyes for is his sister who happens to be right there in King’s Landing. Unfortunately for Jaime, Cersei has cooled to her brother/lover because he was “gone too long”. This will no doubt be explored in further detail in episodes to come, but for now I think we can chalk her reticence up to the fact that she has a lot on her plate (what with her betrothal to Loras Tyrell and her son’s upcoming wedding to Margaery). Regardless of his sister’s reactions, as disappointing as they must be, Jaime also needs to stick around to add to his short entry The Book of Brothers (which is one of the best internal monologues in the books and I like how they decided to handle it on screen).

These relatively minor squabbles amongst the Lannister clan are far from their biggest problem as they now face an outside threat in the form of newcomer Oberyn Martell, the Prince of Dorne. In town ostensibly for the wedding between Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell, Oberyn reveals to Tyrion that he is actually there to remind the Lannisters that they are not the only ones who repay their debts; and he has a rather large debt to repay. As it turns out, his sister Elia was married to Rhaegar Targaryen and was killed along with her two children by the Mountain during Robert’s Rebellion, which was orchestrated by none other than Tywin Lannister. Oberyn is one of the most memorable characters from the novels and it looks like they nailed the casting with Pedro Pascal, who immediately makes his impact felt upon his arrival in King’s Landing and the narrative as a whole with his fiery vows of revenge and passionate, ahem, love life. It appears as though the Lannisters stranglehold on the power structure in Westeros may be very short lived indeed.

Elsewhere in Westeros we see Jon Snow, now back at Castle Black, facing the music of his broken vows. He readily admits that he not only broke his vow of celibacy, but that he literally slept with the enemy but insists that’s what’s of more dire importance than his wildling lovin’ is that Mance Rayder is approaching with thousands of wildlings, giants, cannibal Thenns and gods knows what else are rapidly ascending on the Wall. Kit Harrington’s acting chops have been criticized in the past but I thought he did a great job in this scene. This is important as a major portion of the plot this season will be centered on the maturity of Jon into a leader of men. It looks like Harrington is up to the challenge.

On the other side of the Narrow Sea, we see Dany’s now enormous and terrifying dragons go through a little teenage rebellion. Jorah warns her that they cannot ever be truly tamed, even by their mother. Once again, Dany’s storyline is the most removed from the crux of the action and could potentially suffer as a result. However, the previews keep showing a dragon’s shadow over King’s Landing and as this has never happened in the novels, I wonder if one of her restless dragons (LOOKING AT YOU DROGON) escapes and puts a scare into the folks over in Westeros. I think this would be an interesting way to remind the people that although they are at relative peace for the first time in a while, albeit under the rule of a petulant psychopath, there are still much more dangerous times to come.

This brings us to the concluding scene of the episode, which also happens to be one of the best premiere episode scenes in the show’s four year run: the misadventures of Arya and the Hound. The unlikely duo play off each other wonderfully (the Hound really displays a soft spot in his misunderstood heart for the Stark girls) as they argue in the bushes about murdering some wrongdoers at a local Inn. Eventually, after some initial struggles, the two of them brutally dispatch of the group, which includes Polliver, the man who killed Arya’s friend Lommy (“What the fuck’s a Lommy?”). He might not have been one of the names on her “People to Kill” list, but it’s at least a little bit of vengeance for a character deserves so much (as sad as it is to see how our favorite little water dancing, cat chaser has been forced to transform into a cold blooded killer, it’s satisfying that she’s finally reunited with her sword “Needle”. And she remembered to slice ’em with the pointy end.) I also enjoyed how she parroted the same words that Polliver said when he killed Lommy (“Fine little blade, maybe I’ll pick my teeth with it.”). Can’t wait to see what the pair has in store for the episodes to come.

Stray Observations:

-Jaime trying out his new gold hand with that wave was the hardest I’ve ever laughed at a scene from GoT.

God, we’ve come such a long way from the sister-banging, child-pushing douche in Season 1. He should have also gotten adjusted to his new hand by slapping his son/nephew’s stupid face a la Tyrion. I can really never get enough of Joffrey getting slapped.

-“A man’s got to have a code.”
-Omar “the Hound” Little
There’s no way HBO didn’t purposely include that as a nod to lovers of “The Wire”.

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Relevant link: http://asongoficeandthewire.tumblr.com/

-Speaking of the Hound, that ending scene at the Inn was fantastic. It contained some Tarantino levels of tension. Also, Maisie Williams continues to have absolutely amazing chemistry with everybody that she’s paired with. Her scenes with Syrio, Tywin, Gendry, Jaqen H’gar and now the Hound have been my absolute favorite. It’s hard to believe that not only is this her first acting gig, but the first role she ever even auditioned for.

-“I swear to god if one more word comes out of your cunt mouth I’m gonna have to eat all the fucking chickens in the room.” That might be the best sentence I’ve ever heard on TV. Has anyone in this Inn ever even SEEN a chicken? And also, what kind of chicken are we talking about? Was it succulent? A little dry? GRRM needs to know!

-More Arya – Hound banter:
“Of course you name your sword.”
“A lot of people name their swords.”
“Lot of cunts.”
-Whoa, Sansa doesn’t want lemon cakes. Things must be really serious! All kidding aside, I’m glad that we got to spend a good deal of time with Sansa this episode as I feel that Sophie Turner really has a chance to shine this season. All of her previous childish dreams of marrying a noble King and having 2.5 children and a valyrian steel picket fence are out the window. For all she knows her entire family has been murdered and she’s stuck in a marriage to a drunken dwarf.

-Speaking of Tyrion, he has his own issues to deal with in the form of his former lover Shae. While he’s trying his best to balance all of the issues facing himself and his family, the last thing that he needs is a scorned lover causing even more problems (which, of course, she will in the episodes to come).

-Oh I bet you wish Brienne was related to you, Jaime *wink wink, nudge, nudge*.

-I enjoyed the Queen of Thorns’ shocked reaction to the abrupt appearance of Brienne of Tarth. She must have bit her tongue mighty hard to not unleash any of her trademark wit on the poor girl.

-While I’m sure many of the female fans are disappointed in the new Daario, I think he showed some impressive acting chops and will be at least be an upgrade in that area over that douche from last year.

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