Review: Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 1
“Game of Thrones” is the leading contender for best show in the history of television, and I crave its return every year.
Last night, Season 4 premiered on HBO. Season four is actually based on the second half of book three in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. “Please Don’t Die Until After You Finish This Thing” Martin.
Here’s my summary and review of Season 4 Episode No. 1, “The Two Swords.” (Spoiler alert, naturally.)
Season 3 ended with the horrific execution of Rob Stark, his wife, his mom and his soldiers during what is known in the series as “The Red Wedding.” That event will be forever seared in my mind. I can’t remember the last time I felt a sense of loss over a fictional character. Maybe that episode of Lassie where Timmy gets shipped off to Australia, but no one can hold a candle to the acting abilities of a collie, so that’s not really fair comparison.
Where was I? Oh, yes, “The Two Swords.” Like the other season premieres of this series, this episode spends a great deal of time catching up on the most recent events in the lives of the main characters. It’s heavier on exposition than most, and tends to drag a bit. But that’s really necessary and there are some critical plot points introduced along the way.
Jamie Lannister is back in King’s Landing and his father, the surprisingly likable Tywin, wants his son to leave the Kingsguard and return to Casterly Rock. Jamie refuses and insists that he stay in King’s Landing. His father reluctantly agrees and Jamie resumes his duties protecting King Joffrey, the product of his incestuous relationship with his sister, Cersei. Jamie tries to rekindle his relationship with Cersei, but she rejects him. Joffrey is still an evil, sadistic little snot who has somehow avoided getting murdered.
Meanwhile, the other Lannister sibling, Tyrion, is waiting for Prince Doran Martell to arrive for the Joffrey’s wedding. We later learn that Martell has a grudge against the Lannisters (who doesn’t?) and can deduce that that grudge will become a relevant plot point at some crucial juncture.
The remaining members of the Stark Family are continuing their unjustly miserable existence. Jon Snow is at Castle Black working to convince members of the Night’s Watch that they should probably do something about the barbarian snow people who are marching in a straight line for their door step. The Night’s Watch plugs its ears and goes “La la la” until Snow tells them that he broke his vow by nailing some barbarian on the other side of the wall. One of the elder Night’s Watchmen says Snow should be put to death, and an even elder-er Night’s Watchman says, “Naw, a player’s got to play” and they let Jon Snow live.
His sister, Arya Stark, is still traveling around with a giant, mutilated psychopath named The Hound. The Hound is keeping Arya for ransom, and Arya is nursing one hell of a grudge against a growing list of people who have hosed her family and friends. Arya ends the episode by recovering her sword, Needle, and jabbing it through the neck of one of her earlier captors. It’s safe to conclude that watching her father’s beheading and having the rest of her family slaughtered by the Lannisters has traumatized her. The other Stark sister, Sansa, is back in King’s Landing feeling sad feels, and that’s really about all they gave her to do in this episode.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons, is playing with her dragons. She’s amassing her freed-slave army while trying to handle competition among the men in her army who want to marry her and become Daddy of the Dragons. But Daddy of Dragons doesn’t sound nearly as cool as Mother of Dragons, unless they change it to be something cool like Dragon Daddy or D&D. (Also the name of a game that didn’t get played very much during the Season Four premiere.)
The character of Varys, a cunning eunuch, and Bran Stark do not appear in this episode, but there are a billion other characters that do appear and half of them die. The producers were probably upping Varys’ and Bran’s statistical chances of survival by letting them sit this one out.
Even the bad episodes of this show put everything else to shame, and this one isn’t bad. It’s a little slow building up steam and there aren’t many shocking reveals. The superior acting and writing carry the show, particularly the performance of Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. He’s the shows flawed, moral center and the only character that hasn’t done anything to piss me off yet. It has about five minutes of gratuitous nudity, all of it female. I keep waiting for the episode where everyone just runs around naked for an hour and goes brothel hopping, because why not? “The Two Swords” does what it needs to do and holds just enough information back to whet my appetite. I am interested to see what’s up with Bran and Varys, too. I’d give this episode a 7 out of 10.