Fri
Mar 21 2014 9:30am

A Spoiler-Filled Review of Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 1: “Two Swords”

The longest winter is finally over and with spring comes the fourth season premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Fans lucky enough to score tickets to a New York-area fan event got to see “Two Swords” a full two weeks before the official air date. Plus some bonus Hodor time. But after the lines and surprise guests, what people really came to see was how such cultural landmark television was going to come back from last year’s infamous Red Wedding.

Major spoilers for the episode after the cut, book spoilers are also fair game in the comments. And some very NSFW quotes. Be warned.

We got a taste of what comes after the Freys’ and Lannisters’ epic betrayal of the Starks in last season's “Mhysa,” but this is the first hour fully in a post-Robb Stark world. To drive the point home even further, we open with a triumphant Tywin supervising the re-forging of Ned Stark’s Valyrian steel greatsword Ice into two lesser swords meant for lesser men. Watching the Stark heirloom disassembled to the tune of “Rains of Castamere” makes it that much more bitter for people who, you know, have some decency and like the Starks despite their poor decision-making.

No wonder Sansa’s so sad, she won’t even eat her lemoncakes.

One half of Ned’s sword goes to Jaime—and he’d be the first to say he’s less honorable than Ned—who is finding it more difficult to get back in the swing of things upon his return to King’s Landing, newly maimed to boot. I look forward to the gifs of Jaime’s awkward golden hand in use. Tywin’s the first to tell him he’ll “never be good” again. Not with that attitude, Lord Asshole. The biggest blow to Jaime is Cersei’s rejection of him. “You took too long,” she spits, feeling like she was abandoned while he was held captive. As if Jaime could prevent her wedding to Loras? Maybe if he killed him, but Jaime isn’t that person anymore. I felt bad for Jaime until I remembered that he’s missing sex with his twin sister.

Game of Thrones season 4 Jaime Cersei

The other, way, way, more appropriate star-crossed lovers in tonight’s episode were Jon Snow and his wildling fling Ygritte. It was nice to get a scene from Ygritte’s perspective, as we watch her and Tormund march on the Wall from the south as Mance Rayder closes in from the north. Separated by borders and vows, letting us continue in Ygritte’s world as it moves towards a fateful battle against the Night’s Watch makes the growing tension unbearable. It’s also an opportunity to introduce more of the wildling in-fighting as we meet a really nasty clan of Thenns.

In warmer climes, Dany lounges with her dragons, who are swiftly outgrowing her ability to control them. Drogon even snaps at Dany. “No one can control a dragon, not even their mother,” Jorah says, from his fixed position in the Friendzone. This has ominous implications, but not before we get to the last of the great slaver cities, Meereen, on a road paved with dead slaves. Dead kids are pretty much what it takes for Dany to stop flirting with new-Daario.

“Where’s Daario?” she asks. Oh, he’s in The Transporter prequel, but here’s some new bearded guy with whom you will have exactly zero chemistry. New-Daario is a hundred times less smug and a hundred times more boring. And he still doesn’t even have Book-Daario’s stupid blue beard. Bah. I’d much rather watch the burgeoning background love of Missandei and Grey Worm. I miss Rakharo and Irri.

So all of that’s good for a bit of set-up and exposition for future episodes, but what everyone will be talking about after seeing the premiere is 1) Arya and 2) the new sword in town, Oberyn Martell.

Let’s just put it out there: Oberyn has one of the best introduction scenes in this show’s history. He’s built up in the beginning of the episode before we even see him and when we finally do meet this fabled hot-headed playboy prince of Dorne, he delivers. The Red Viper and his equally adventurous, amorous paramour Ellaria Sand are totally allowed bisexual sexposition scenes in Littlefinger’s brothel.

When he tells Tyrion that “Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts” a stadium of seven thousand people whooped and cheered. I’m officially in love.

Going into the season premiere, I was expecting the hour to be a little slow, to be honest. There are some events looming that are as big as the Red Wedding, but I knew by the episode title list that this episode wouldn’t contain any of those. So what’s left?

While there isn’t anything as earth-shaking as Robb and Cat’s death here, there is a really great victory for at least one Stark. Fucking finally. Seven hells. Arya and Needle are reunited in heartwarming, neck-stabbing fashion. The Hound gets some of the best lines of the night and basically steals the show from sexy princes, cannibalistic wildlings, and freaking dragons. And all because one man stands between a Clegane and his chicken dinner. From “What the fuck’s a ‘Lommy’?” to “If any more words come out your cunt mouth, I’m gonna have to eat all the chickens,” Sandor and Arya lay waste to an inn in a fight scene that is by turns comic, gruesome, and so compelling, that same arena of thousands was stunned into silence before thunderous applause.

It’s that good.

 

Final thoughts and spoilers:

  • There’s a hilarious camera transition from a Joffrey statue to the little snot himself.
  • Margaery laments that her King’s taste in necklaces probably runs to “severed sparrow heads” with an epic eyeroll.
  • Olenna’s “My word!” upon seeing Brienne for the first time. We don’t see Loras this episode, nor his reaction to Renly’s accused killer, but she does get a scene with Margaery.
  • No Theon, Stannis, Davos, or Bran.
  • We never get an answer to Bronn’s burning question about how many Dornishmen it takes to fuck a goat. Damn.
  • Shae is just so slightly beginning to turn away from her little lord Tyrion. I really thought/hoped they’d go in a different direction with her compared to the books, considering the pains they took to make her love for Tyrion and her care for Sansa so genuine, but now it’s looking less likely and more contrived. Double damn.
  • Ser Dontos!
  • Dunk reference in the Kingsguard’s White Book!

Next week: Oh, hey, another Westerosi wedding. Those are always such happy affairs...

Game of Thrones returns Sunday, April 6th at 9pm ET/PT on HBO.


Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com, covering True Blood, Game of Thrones, and gaming news. She’s also the resident Hannibal fannibal at Boing Boing. Follow her on Twitter @tdelucci

28 comments
Walter Harrow
1. Walter Harrow
Cant wait for the fight at the Inn. Im hoping that this is going to be a great season for Arya (her story in the books is my favourite). The fight sounds great but i hope they dont have The Hound overshadow Arya in the scene. From the sounds of it, The Hound is the focus of the scene (its Arya's story arc so i hope she isnt just in the background)
Chris Lough
2. TorChris
The fight at the Inn actually uses that very worry against the viewer. As if it wasn't already a tense enough situation!
Walter Harrow
3. WheelofIceandFire
Is the fight at the Inn the final scene? How long is it?

And how much 'fighting' does Arya do? Is it just Polliver she kills or does she actually get a few shots in on others (i was looking forward to a little bit of teamwork from Arya/The Hound)
Chris Nelly
5. Aeryl
Since they took the time to get the WONDERFUL Indira Varma for Ellaria Sand, I do hope she's not a "One and done" appearance.

Since they did get her, I imagine, especially since they are stressing that her status as a bastard is irrelevant to Dorne, they are replacing Lady Nym with her when the Martell's return to KL.
Theresa DeLucci
6. theresa_delucci
Yes, it's the final scene, the lead-up and culmination probably lasts a full 6-7 minutes. Maybe more. Arya gets some hits in, but the real kill was Polliver. (Keep in mind I only got to watch this episode once, in a stadium, taking notes in the dark. I normally write up my reviews after two viewings. So, don't hold me to it.)
Walter Harrow
7. WheelofIceandFire
Are the hits from behind or sneak attacks or does she fight someone one on one? I just really want to Arya do something with a sword other than getting a lucky stab or something like that. (I know she has only had a few lessons and Thoros is an experienced fighter but i was a bit annoyed when Thoros disarmed her easily last season, it made it look like she learned nothing from Syrio)
Sean Curley
8. Sean_C
Loras already stated in the show that he doesn't believe Brienne killed Renly, way back in season 2 (which is a big change from the books, but there you have it).

What's the Brienne/Margaery scene about?
Theresa DeLucci
9. theresa_delucci
Thanks, forgot about that.

Brienne mostly just apologized to Margery for Renly's death, swearing it wasn't her and she was loyal to "our King" and Margery had to remind her that "we have a new king now." Short, but it was neat to see Brienne with the most glamorous woman in King's Landing. and her grandmother.
Walter Harrow
10. sofrina
missandei and grey worm? killing that whole sibling plotline, hunh?
Theresa DeLucci
11. theresa_delucci
Was there a plotline on the TV show? Book-Missandei had three Unsullied brothers, but one died. Grey Worm isn't one of the survivors.
S.S. White
12. Calico In Transition
Why is this review being posted SO early? I get that media gets an early crack, but why not post it in a more timely manner, so that regular viewers have a chance to view the episode and can therefore comment on the spoiler-filled review? This makes no sense to me....
Theresa DeLucci
13. theresa_delucci
@12 It'll be reposted the night of the premiere, too. This review is for the impatient, the spoiler lovers, and the book readers who can't wait.
Walter Harrow
14. MarcoInSD
Great job Ms Delucci. Many Thanks!
Walter Harrow
15. Impatient book reader
@13 amen brother that's why I'm here, thanks for the review.
Lauren Hartman
16. naupathia
@10 I was wondering the same. I distinctly remember in the books Missandei mentioning that Grey Worm was/is her brother. I doubt they bother to keep that in the show though.

And I was so bummed on hearing that they had to recast Daario. His first incarnation was pretty great - much handsomer/normal looking than I expected (no blue/yellow beard and I remember him being described as way more muscular/bulky in the book). But I figured that was just to allow better chemistry and for the audience to maybe actually like Daario enough to understand Dany wanting him. Book-Daario not so much. He's pretty much a Scrappy if there ever was one.

But I'm not really impressed by the new actor, and this review doesn't alleviate my fears. Which is really too bad. I wanted the Daario-Dany love affair to be interesting in the show, since we have to spend so much time on it in the books I really didn't want to have to spend hours with it in the show and it be boring. Boo.
Walter Harrow
17. Ernie Barany
Grey Worm is a eunuch like all unsullied. How can he have a romance?
Walter Harrow
20. Shawn Cantu
@Ernie

Clearly you have not read the beginning of ADWD, where Grey Worm explains this exact concept to Daenerys, and effectively makes her (and readers) take a step back and question their prejudices.
Chris Nelly
21. Aeryl
Yes, because the lack of functional sexual organs means you can never engage in intimacy, or feel emotions and grow attached. If there's NO PEEN, it's just not worth living, huh?

/sarcasm
Theresa DeLucci
22. theresa_delucci
I'm not finding any confirmation of Missandei and Grey Worm as siblings in any wikis. Yes, her brothers are Unsullied and chances are at least one of them picked the name "Grey Worm" out of a hat one morning, only to give it up the next day as per Unsullied tradition. but I don't think the current Grey Worm is her actual sibling. I'd love confirmation though, or else... ew.

And yes, just because someone doesn't have genitals doesn't mean they don't have feelings, sexual or otherwise. Not to get too into it, but there are workarounds for everything. Where there's a will, there's a way.
Chris Nelly
23. Aeryl
One of the most heartbreaking lines I ever read in a Jacqueline Carey novel, were uttered by a eunuch spy, who slept with patrons to get information, who told a friend, "No one ever thinks of a eunuch's pleasure." :^(
Walter Harrow
29. Littlefinger87
That wizard from Essos is thinking real hard on Varys' pleasure at the moment.

Interesting discussion regarding eunuch relationship capabilities onscreen and in real life. I think Dany would favor the side which encourages such relationships while Jorah would want them to remain truly Unsullied. There's a real reason why he's in the friend zone and it has nothing to do with age. He doesn't deserve her love or attachment in that way. He's too much of a soldier, spy, and slaver to ever truly be one with Dany. He makes a great general though and he's one of the most dangerous men in Essos at the moment.
Walter Harrow
30. Draken
Of all Tywin's dick moves. melting down Ice offended me the most.
Walter Harrow
31. Josh Markey
Yes, Grey Worm IS Missandei's Brother in the books. It's a fact. The one thing that really bothered me, or at least the thing that bothered me the most, was Sansa and Brienne being in Kingslanding at the same time. This is ignoring a huge piece of future plotline. I also very much missed the Oberyn introduction that was in the books. There was some excellent dialog between him and Tyrion there that I was really looking forward to.
Don Barkauskas
32. bad_platypus
Josh Markey @31: I think Theresa's point is that it's never stated in the TV show. I actually was sure it had been, but I just went back through all of the scenes involving Grey Worm in Season 3 and (unless I missed a scene---it's a little hard to navigate cleanly in HBO Go on an iPad) there is no mention of them being siblings in the show.
Rob Munnelly
33. RobMRobM
Definitely no mention of a brother relationship in the show; definite brother relationship in the books (along with two other brothers).
Tabby Alleman
36. Tabbyfl55
Um, also Book-Missandei is like 11 years old, right? So a romance with Grey Worm would be... ew.
Chris Nelly
37. Aeryl
Yes, she's been considerably aged up. And with that, it looks like they are skipping over Dany's odious affair with her handmaiden, which was the speculation when she showed up all grown up.

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