Game of Thrones S4E1 “Two Swords”
Season premieres of Game of Thrones have often proved to be among the weakest episodes their respective seasons provide. It’s understandable as premieres usually take to the task of checking in with everyone and with a cast as large as the one Game of Thrones has, it’s hard for the scenes to carry much impact. “Two Swords” however, is easily the best season premier we’ve seen and a lot of that has to do with its focus. So many characters and story lines have settled into King’s Landing and much of the episode is centered in the capital so while we may hop around story lines a bunch, we’re staying in the same location for a lot of it. Along with the various happenings of King’s Landing, we’ve also got a day of judgement for Jon, an unwanted encounter for Tormund and Ygritte, Dany’s continued march on Slaver’s Bay, and Arya and The Hound stealing a pony and some chicken. And away we go.
The action starts in King’s Landing, before the opening theme even, as we get a cold open for “Two Swords”. We don’t waste much time finding out what the episode title is all about because we get the answer in the cold open. Tywin has invited a metal smith who has the super rare ability of reforging Valyrian steel (only three people in the world can do it) to the capital. He gives the smith Ice, Ned’s excessively large Valyrian steel sword and has it made into two regular sized swords. Tywin’s always wanted a Valyrian steel sword in the family and now he has two of them. To finish the scene, he throws the wolf pelt scabbard of Ice into the fire. This scene was just great, the Starks have lost and the time for wolves is over. It’s Tywin and the Lannisters world now and everyone else is just living in it.
We’ll talk about Jaime now as he’s got quite a bit of screen time “Two Swords”. Tywin calls Jaime into his chambers and gives him one of the new Valyrian steel swords, no surprise there. The conversation quickly turns to Jaime being without his sword hand and Tywin seizes the opportunity to get something he wants. Given that Jaime only has his weak hand left, and there is now precedent for relieving a kingsguard from their lifelong oath, Tywin wants Jaime to be relieved from the Kingsguard and go home to Casterly Rock to be acting lord while Tywin is in the capital. In time, Jaime will be the Lord of Casterly Rock and Tywin wants him to get used to ruling it. Jaime doesn’t want the Rock, or to be a lord, or to produce heirs though. He wants to remain on the kingsguard and remain close to Cersei (he obviously doesn’t tell Tywin that last part). Tywin relents and lets Jaime do what he wants. Jaime tries to give him back the sword but Tywin tells Jaime to keep it. A crippled man without a family needs all the help he can get. Not new news, but Tywin doesn’t mess around, don’t follow his orders and you get disowned. Jaime learns that lesson the hard way.
Jaime has two more scenes, one with Cersei and one with Brienne, both of which prove to be just as unproductive as his scene with Tywin. While in Cersei’s chambers, Qyburn attaches a prosthetic golden hand that Cersei had made, onto Jaime’s right arm. After Qyburn leaves, Jaime tries to ignite the romance in his relationship with Cersei but she isn’t having any of it, saying he’s been gone too long. That seems a bit harsh from Cersei considering he was a prisoner that whole time but she’s been through a lot of stuff while he’s been gone I guess. In his scene with Brienne, Brienne asks him to uphold the oath to Cat Stark but Jaime says the situation has changed drastically since he agreed to the oath. Cat is dead, Arya’s been missing for years, and Sansa is married to his brother Tyrion. Jaime probably does want to help but all his points are fair ones and bring about very serious complications if he wanted to keep his word. Makes you wonder what Brienne does from here, with the lady she swore to protect dead and the daughters she swore to find both out of her reach.
Sticking in King’s Landing, we turn our attention to Tyrion, who also has a fair amount of screen time here. He along with Podrick and Bronn wait along the Kingsroad to welcome Prince Doran Martell, the lord of Sunspear, which is the house seat of Dorne, Westeros’ southernmost province. There’s a bit of bad blood between the Lannisters and the Martells so Tyrion thinks he was sent to welcome them because of his diplomatic skill while Bronn thinks it’s because he’s the least important Lannister so if the Martells want Lannister blood, best it be Tyrion’s. Whatever the motive for sending Tyrion is isn’t that important anyway and when the Martell party arrives, Tyrion is informed that Prince Doran was too ill to make it, so he sent his younger brother, Prince Oberyn. Asking where Oberyn is, Tyrion is told that he’s already in the city and had arrived earlier in the morning. Tyrion then turns his attention to finding Oberyn.
Based off of Oberyn’s reputation, Tyrion correctly deduces that Oberyn is at a brothel and finds Oberyn at one, not before Oberyn has savagely stabbed a dagger through a Lannister solider’s wrist. Tyrion asks for a private word with Oberyn to which he agrees to. Oberyn reveals the reason he came to the capital was for revenge. His sister was Elia Martell and she was supposed to be the queen to Rhaegar Targaryen, the Mad King’s son. During Robert’s Rebellion, Elia’s children were killed and Elia was raped by The Mountain and then he killed her afterward. Oberyn wants The Mountain to pay for his crimes and perhaps even Tywin as well because he knows The Mountain almost always is on the orders of Tywin. “Tell your father I’m here. Tell him the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts” Oberyn says to Tyrion. This guy means business.
Afterward, Tyrion goes to check in on his wife and finds that Sansa is in a state of depression, she won’t even eat anything. Tyrion tries his best to console her but it’s no use. He heads over to his room and finds Shae waiting there, much to his surprise. Shae wants to rekindle their romance but Tyrion is far too stressed out for it, citing that his wife hates him for what his father did to her family and Oberyn is out for Lannister blood. Shae quickly turns the conversation towards Varys’ actions last episode and she accuses Tyrion of sending Varys in his stead so he wouldn’t have to do it himself. Tyrion doesn’t have any idea what she’s talking about and that confirms that Varys was in fact acting on his own. She leaves the room in anger after Tyrion denies it but it seems as though the whole conversation was heard by another of Sansa’s handmaidens. Uh oh.
We’ll leave the capital and head north to join Tormund and Ygritte. The two of them discuss what to do next and whether or not Ygritte showed mercy to Jon. Their conversation gets interrupted when it turns out they’ve been ambushed by a cannibal tribe of free folk known as Thenns. Their leader, Styr tells Tormund he should try crow meat, indicating he plans on going towards Castle Black.
Speaking of Castle Black, Jon has a big meeting with the leaders of the night’s watch today where he will stand trial for what he’s done. He admits to killing Qhorin, at his request so Jon could spy on the wildlings. He also admits to breaking his celibacy vow but instead of defending that one, he just rattles off all the intel he’s learned from his time spying on the wildlings. Acting Lord Commander Thorne, along with Janos Slynt (Tyrion sent him here in season two if you recall) want him executed but Aemon says they will do such thing and that everything Jon said is true. Jon lives to fight another day.
All the way on the other side of the world we have Dany and her army, who are marching towards Meereen. On the way, Daario tries to flirt with Dany while also offering the useful advice that if she wants to rule, she has to know the culture of the cities she’s trying to take. They keep marching and run into an unpleasant sight. The slave masters in Meereen have crucified a slave child to a mile marker. Jorah says that there’s going to be a child for every mile marker and that they’re 162 miles from Meereen. Ser Barristan offers to ride ahead with some men and bury the corpses but Dany coldly says they won’t be doing so. The slave masters message to Dany is just more fuel to the fire for Dany to want to liberate Meereen just like she’s done to Astapor and Yunkai.
Lastly we check in with Arya and Sandor in the Riverlands. Arya asks for a pony but Sandor says no because she’ll just run away from him. Arya says that she’s got nowhere to run to anyway. It’s almost true but Sandor says she has her Aunt Lysa in the Vale and they are going there so he can ransom her off to Lysa. They spot an inn and look at it from the woods, debating whether or not it looks worth the trouble. Sandor decides it’s not but Arya spots a familiar face, Polliver, the man who killed Lommy and is in possession of her sword Needle. Sandor is ready to keep moving but before he knows it, Arya is heading towards the entrance. He tries to bring her back but someone opens the door and they have no choice but to go in.
The two sit down in the back of the inn and it’s clear that most everyone here is scared of Sandor. Polliver isn’t among them though, he sits down next to them and tells them that they are part of The Mountain’s clan and they’re stealing and raping their way back to the capital. Polliver offers Sandor an invitation to the group but Sandor declines and instead asks for a chicken. The two get into a tense but at the same time still funny standoff about chickens and it comes to blows when Sandor flips the table. Arya heads for a corner to keep safe while Sandor savagely kills most of the men in the room. When it becomes apparent that Sandor has got this wrapped up, Arya steps in and throws a pot over Polliver’s head. While he’s down, she reclaims Needle and in a moment of sweet revenge, mimics the words Polliver said to Lommy before killing him in the same fashion that he killed Lommy. The episode ends with the dynamic duo heading off into the burned landscape, Arya with a pony and Sandor with that chicken he so desperately wanted. This was probably the longest scene Game of Thrones has ever done, but there were no signs shown that this was an uncomfortable thing. In fact, it was easily the best scene of the episode and most definitely leaves you wanting more of Arya and Sandor adventures.
When Sansa is praying in the godswood, she is confronted by Ser Dontos Hollard, the drunken knight she convinced Joffrey to make a fool instead of be executed back in “The North Remembers”. Ser Dontos insists on thanking Sansa with a necklace that is a family heirloom of his soon to be extinct house. That’s sweet of him.
The Royal Wedding seems to be nearing. Margaery and Olena are preparing the formers wardrobe for the big day and Jaime holds a kingsguard meeting to discuss security at the event.
Kingsguard commanders are quite the legendary people. All you ever hear about Jaime is that he’s one of the best swordsmen of all time but his section in the Kingsguard commander book doesn’t even take up a page, while others take up to four pages.
That little wave that Jaime gave to Qyburn with his golden hand while Qyburn was leaving was subtle but funny nonetheless.
The contrast in book education between Podrick and Bronn is hilarious. As they call out the Dornish flags that are approaching them, Pod correctly identifies house, sigil, and house seat of all of them, while Bronn is saying things such as “yellow balls”.
Dany’s a bit of a party pooper when she ends the wager between Daario and Grey Worm to see who can hold a sword forward with their arms out the longest. The game was already twelve hours in, there must be a winner. Also, it looks like Daario got recast, it happens.
Quote of the day easily goes to Sandor but there’s too many to pick from. “What the fuck is a Lommy”, “Lots of cunts name their swords” and “I understand that if any more words come pouring out your cunt mouth, I’m gonna have to eat every fucking chicken in this room.” are all marvelous. More Sandor please.
“Two Swords” delivers excitement and high stakes in ways that previous season premieres of Game of Thrones have struggled to match.