Game Of Thrones: 4.01 - Two Swords
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Welcome back Game Of Thrones. The biggest show on TV. The greatest show on TV. Oh we've missed you. And isn’t it great to have that theme tune back. So many memories are tied into that piece of music, more than any other show the iconic moments are tied to that opening blast are numerous.
Back to Westeros we go, the place that no-one can wait to get back to but that in reality where no-one would want to go to. It seems time has passed, a few weeks rather than a few months and King’s Landing and the ruling Lannister family have become a little complacent having seen off their main rivals, the Starks and Baratheons. King Joffrey is his usual l'enfant terrible self, and has now added statues of himself to the scenery of the capital city.
Showing that the showrunners haven’t lost any of their propensity for nudity there’s a full frontal shot within ten minutes of the titles, but the most interesting aspect of the scene is not that – there’s been so much nudity on the show we’re used to it – but the introduction of Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorn, or the Red Viper if you’d rather. On first viewing he seems the most intriguing new character to appear for a while, happy with men or women in his bed, as quick with his words as his sword, and a pathological (if understandable) hatred for the Lannisters (“Tell your father the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.”). You get the feeling that where he goes and the confrontations he’s involved in could be key to the fourth season, and with no obvious challenge to the Lannisters that can only be a good thing.
“A one handed man with no family needs all the help he can get.” Welcome home Jaime! Welcomed back with the usual paternal feeling from Tywin Lannister, Jaime spends most of the episode being rejected by his family; his lover / twin sister Cersei has no need for him (“You’ve been gone too long.”) and his son / nephew, odious King Joffrey. On the plus side Brienne of Tarth is still talking to him, although she wants him to uphold his oath to her to return the Stark children. The challenge is that there’s no-one to return them to… And Jaime knows Sansa isn’t safe in King’s Landing. Another fascinating character whether Jaime continues his path to redemption remains to be seen but his continued rejection and ridicule by the people he loves (loved?) may yet see him and his brother Tyrion being unlikely saviours of Westeros. He’s just as likely to die next week though.
Speaking of Tyrion, TV’s best smooth talking diplomat had a couple of contrasting scenes to show his brother, Jaime, isn’t the only one that’s evolved hugely in the previous three seasons. His scene with Bronn and Podrick was amusing and lighthearted, his scenes with Sansa and Shae were touching and heartfelt, and his scene with Oberyn crackled with menace and tension. Some change from the shagging alcoholic that first appeared at Winterfell all that time ago.
Enough of the Lannisters though, we spent some time with Daenerys - holy crap those dragons are big - but she’s saddled with too many fawning men and not quite enough action at the moment. The Tyrell’s are still in play with the impending wedding of Margaery to Joffrey. And there was a quick visit to the Wildlings camp south of the wall and the introduction of another clan, the cannibal Thenn clan.
The remaining members of House Stark had a decent week, with Jon Snow having more to say in his five minutes than he has in the last three years. Keeping his head and his freedom means it was a good day. Then there’s Arya Stark, the little girl who can. She played out the end of the episode with The Hound, Sandor Clegane. Let’s be straight, it was a fantastic end to a stonker of an opening episode. The Hound has the potential to be a stand out this season and the chemistry between that huge man and the tiny Arya is great. They also delivered two shocking scenes, the multiple stabbing of a man’s face by The Hound, and Arya’s reclaimed ‘Needle’ slowly slipping into the gullet of a stricken assailant to give the worst kind of slow painful death.
There’s not another show on television, maybe even in television history, that takes such a huge cast and sprawling story, condenses it to perfect scenes of plot and character development, whilst flipping between having fun with then horrify the viewer. As season debut episodes go, this was almost perfect.