Monday, April 7, 2014

Game of Thrones, Season 4 Premiere "Two Swords"

The Game of Thrones Season 4 premiere, rightly titled “Two Swords” continues the story of George R.R. Martin’s third novel in the Song of Ice and Fire Series, “A Storm of Swords.” Word around the water cooler is this episode began on a strange note with a very obvious “previously seen of Game of Thrones” series of clips that would remind the viewing audience of who everyone was and whose sword appears in the opening scene.

The episode is framed by swords, both of which belong to Starks. In the very first scene we see Tywin Lannister re-forging Ned Stark’s sword “Ice” made of Valyrian steel into two smaller swords. There’s no dialogue in this scene, and yet it speaks to everything Tywin Lannister is about: the glory of his house. He believes he has conquered the Starks. I mean look at what the Targaryens made when they conquered the seven kingdoms and made them one: The Iron Throne. Burning the pelt of the Dire Wolf was just to rub it in, even if in his own mind. But it is the symbolism of destroying Eddard Stark's famous sword and re-forging the Valyrian steel with Lannistet gold that is meant to set the tone for the season. Tywin Lannister believes he has it all.

Tywin presents Jamie with one of two new swords and basically tries to buy him off in a way. This is what Lannisters do - they rid of the things they no longer want to look at with the consolation of gold. Jamie is maimed after all, so he can’t be in the Kingsguard with any true affect. Tywin wants him to return to Casterly Rock and carry
on the Lannister line with a wife and children. Because again, at his age, all Tywin can see is the family dynasty, and so all of his moves are in securing the Lannister’s position in the current world and in history. I think this is the first time I believe that Tywin knows Joffrey is the product of incest between his twin children. He wants his beloved and broken son to leave King's Landing to keep their reputation untarnished and also to have his progeny ruling Casterly Rock.
But Jamie is different now. Jamie doesn’t want to leave Cersei and he doesn’t want to break another oath. We've come to learn a lot about Jamie and his relationship to oaths. Tywin dismisses him, but we know that he still loves him despite the scorn he rains upon him in the end.

Jamie’s only real friend seems to be Brienne of Tarth who is still struggling to find purpose in the wake of Renly and Catelyn Stark’s death. Cersei rejects him, she’s obviously less interested in him now that he is flawed, claiming that he was simply gone for too long and that he left her there alone. What a bitch. He was held captive and then maimed while fighting a war started by their deviant son. Ugh. She gives him a useless gold hand as what, a replacement for her body? Once again, she attempts to pay off what she no longer wants around her with Lannister gold. And what a chunk of useless gold it is. Jamie is nothing more than a well decorated has-been in the eyes of the only woman he has ever loved. I want to hug him; especially when Joffrey, the arrogant sadist that he is, openly insults his uncle dad and his lack of accomplishments as a knight of the Kingsguard. When Jamie says he still has time, Joffrey reminds him he is a 40-year-old knight with one hand. Ouch. What nobody realizes is that Jamie saved King's Landing from being burned to the ground by Mad King Aerys. But how can he write about that in the book? And how can he write about the oath he made to Catelyn Stark to protect her daughters? And what does he say about rescuing Brienne? Jamie has achieved knightly honors, but they are all politically poisonous to the Lannisters and to himself as the commander of the Night's Watch. What I really felt was missing was interaction between Jamie and Tyrion, who actually have a true brotherly bond. Hopefully we will get some more interaction between those two in the coming season.

Tyrion is also struggling to maintain an oath made in his marriage vows and protect a depressed Sansa while respecting their sexual distance while disregarding his mistress who should have left when Varys presented her with the diamonds last season. Tyrion is still clinging to the bottom of his family’s food chain, sent to greet Prince Doran Martell from Dorne. Come to find out the prince is ill and has sent in his stead, his brother Prince Oberyn. This reads trouble, and Tyrion knows it. Oberyn has a grievance with the Lannisters dating back to the day that his sister Elia Martell Targaryen was raped by The Mountain and then cut in half after her children were murdered in front of her and wrapped in Lannister cloaks. Messy business!

Oberyn, aside from having a healthy sexual appetite and a reputation as a warrior, The Red Viper, has just as must family pride as ole Tywin. This should play out interestingly throughout the season. Initially, when I saw who was cast as the Red Viper I wasn’t pleased, but this actually feels like a good fit. We know Oberyn is dangerous, and a loose cannon, but his presence makes more way for back story. The Martells and Targaryens have been inter-marrying for centuries, so with Dany's return into the world of power this should make for deeper developments in Dorne.

Speaking of casting decisions: hello Daario Naharis. You look nothing like the old Daario and you look nothing like the Daario from the books. So, just, hiya there with your Khal Drogo-esque dark looks making
moves on Dany. Speaking of two swords, Daario and Grey Worm challenge each other to hold swords across their arms without moving for the chance to ride next the Khaleesi. However, Dany has a bit more on her mind, she's just freed one slave city and marches on another with every 163 mile marker adorned with a dead slave child. Here we get a good juxtaposition of what kind of ruler she is versus Joffrey. Joffrey is the kind of ruler that would command slave children mounted on mile markers, and Dany is the kind who will look at them and remember them when she conquers Meereen. Her dragons are huge, and we can already see that Drogon is a threat even to her. The Mother of Dragons is now the Mother of Adolescent Dragons. I expect she’ll be sending them to their rooms without supper before long.

And way up North we have Jon Snow, recovered from the arrows Ygritte popped him with when he broke her heart at the end of last season. I’m glad we touched base with Jon. We finally get to see him act like a man instead of a boy. He stands before a panel of The Nights Watch leadership (there’s that baby killing Janos Slynt!) and admits to breaking multiple vows. However, Kit Harrington doesn’t play Jon as a moody boy being insolent like he was back at Crasters. Thank the old gods and the new! I’d almost given up hope on his ability to show complexity as an actor considering how important Jon Snow is in the grand scheme of things. But that isn’t the case now. Jon is a man. He has killed his own, infiltrated the enemy, been with a woman and lived to tell the tale of 100,000 wildngs marching on the wall. This is pretty crucial information considering all their lives are at stake.

And Ygritte’s real pissed. I get it girl. As she and her small band of wilding invaders south of the wall wait for further word from Mance they are joined by Thenns. Thenns are a very old clan of people north of the wall that shave their heads, engage in scarification and enjoy cannibalism. The Night’s Watch is in some serious trouble.

Meanwhile, Arya and The Hound continue on their journey to the coast where Clegane plans to ship her off
to her crazy Aunt Lysa in the Vale. Maybe it’s just Maisie Williams, but her ability to carry scenes with adult males that are her character's natural enemy seems so authentic. Again this is another tale of two swords within the greater framed story. When the two descend upon an Inn that she spots Polliver at with her beloved sword “Needle." The Hound tells her begrudgingly that his swords name is "My Sword," and he wants to leave the potential conflict that face by entering the Inn.

However, Arya pushes the Hound’s hand. I have to say this is my favorite scene of the episode. It’s full of tension from the beginning. The dialogue between Clegane and Polliver is full of beautifully written undertones that push them toward physical violence. And we get to see Arya studying The Hound and his variety of violence. She knows of the quick and quiet deaths that Jaquin Hagar delivered, but The Hound is another beast in battle entirely. She takes her cue and Arya runs one man through, then cuts Polliver down and delivers the same dialogue he did when he killed her friend with her own sword. And when the recognition flickers through his eyes she slowly plunges needle into his neck. Arya is a badass. It’s hard to remember that she is a child who has seen some horrible things when she so clearly is not emotionally paralyzed by the trauma. She is someone who acts. She takes the risks. And in the end she has her sword back, a piece of her identity that she lost along the way - but what else is she loosing as the body count mounts?

Some other thoughts:
  •           I was glad to get some of Margery Tyrell’s reluctance to marry Joffrey
  •         Sir Dontos in the woods giving Sansa jewelry appears random…but because I’ve read the books I see what the writers are doing here. This isn’t a spoiler so much as a reminder to non-readers that everything included in the episode is important.
  •      Sam gets to keep Gilly!
  •           Shae was spotted leaving Tyrion’s chambers by a Cersei spy…
  •      Oh, and probably my biggest gripe of all: WHERE IS BRAN? I know we’re likely to see him and Stannis and Littlefinger and Asha and Theon/Reek in coming episodes…but I want it now, don’t care how, I want it now. Actually, that’s completely untrue, I want it done well. But I love Book Bran and the show really downplays his significance.

 Written By: Amanda Lowery

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