Review: Game of Thrones Season 4 Premiere - Two Swords
First - A Little BackGround
Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya....
WAIT, WAIT, WAIT....That's not right.
Hello, my name is David. In the past I wrote reviews for the fantasy show Legend of the Seeker which was based on the Terry Goodkind Sword of Truth series. Every week I went through the good and bad of each episode and at times compared the show to events in the books. To that end, there really was no comparison. The books are great, the show was fun - but wasn't true to the books and it really, really angered the book-reading fanbase.
In Game of Thrones, we have a different problems, that are no less disturbing. The Game of Thrones books are absolutely enormous and include such a high level of detail, they can't possibly include everything that exists in the books. Related to that problem is that I read the books close to two years ago so I not only don't remember everything that happened, these later seasons we will be watching do not closely correspond to the books. This season will likely present the last half of book three and parts of book 4. What bothers me, and I'm sure it bothers you as well, is that they only make 10 episodes a season which seems about half of what I really want to see and half of what they really need to present such an involved story to the fullest.
Whereas Legend of the Seeker was supposed to have input from Terry Goodkind and it didn't, Game of Thrones does have input from it's author George R.R. Martin. I think you'll all agree it shows in the amazing series we have been watching. Everything from the music to the acting to the sets and costumes has looked and felt like you were pulling them right out of the books.
Not Reading the Books? Prepare Yourself
So yes, I know not everyone is reading the books. Reading these particular books will take a bit of time as they are rather large. Do you know HOW I know that people aren't reading along?
Because everyone went nuts about the Red Wedding episode last season.
Now this I remember reading about and yes, when I read it I was shocked that Robb, his wife and his mother (shown at right), were killed in the Frey household under a banner of hospitality (the Frey's will never to be trusted again - by the way). So I was not shocked when this happened in the show but everyone acted like this was a huge surprise. For those of you not reading along, prepare yourself - there are MANY deaths coming. Some you will be very happy about, others you will be very angry with but they are all necessary to move the ever winding politics along in King's Landing.
There are some spoilers below. Please continue reading at your own risk!!
Season 4, Episode 1: Two Swords
This episode begins with Tywin Lannister melting down one very large sword made of Valyrian steel and making two swords out of it, one of which he gives to Jaime upon demanding that he leave the Kingsguard and return to Casterly Rock. Jaime (looking odd with a short haircut) refuses to leave the Kingsguard in order to stay close to Cersei. Later in this episode, when he tries to engage her in some intimate time together she removes herself from his presence and blames him for leaving her alone for so long. This was handled this way in the books as well and I never liked it. Cersei is way too strong and intelligent to start laying blame on anyone for being captured and taking too long to return - she sounds like a child and it comes off rather poorly both in print and on-screen.
Meanwhile, the wedding plans continue and Tyrion is asked to welcome the Prince of Dorne. While he does this, the Dornishmen sent the second son, not the first (obviously a snub to the king). Tyrion finds Prince Oberyn in a brothel (of course). Oberyn HATES the Lannisters and makes it clear to Tyrion that he wouldn't mind killing them all. Tyrion also has brewing trouble with Sansa and Shae. Obviously, he does not want to hurt Sansa and he is trying to be compassionate but Shae is becoming jealous. Kind of weird since he's done nothing awful for a change. There is a scene later in the show showing Cersei's maid reporting on Shae's status to Cersei - which can't be good. Peter Dinklage who plays Tyrion continues to be fantastic in this role.
We get some background with Margaery and Lady Olenna with the wedding plans, Brienne of Tarth talks to Jaime about safeguarding Sansa in order to honor his promise to Catelyn Stark to safeguard her shildren in King's Landing. He does point out that nobody has seen Arya since Ned's beheading. He also gets into a very unpleasant discussion with Joffrey about his honorable deeds not being noted in the Kingsguard tome and gets told that he's essentially worthless being 40 and only having one hand - while that's perfectly in character I'm not sure it was necessary. Tywin had already said the same thing near the beginning of the episode. If your only going to produce 10 episodes a season, I don't want them to repeat concepts/discussions we've already seen.
I think they've done a good job making King Joffrey into quite the little misguided monster.
At Castle Black, Jon Snow is brought before the Nightswatch tribunal and he admits all of his wrongdoings and tells them the truth of Mance's plans. He is not beheaded (for a change). Meanwhile just south of the wall, the Wildlings Jon Snow left behind are joined by others that absolutely don't like the Nightswatchmen, since the leader pulls out an arm and starts cooking it.
Danaerys is leading her army and the dragons have gotten bigger, a lot bigger. And they look awesome on-screen. Darrio Naharis has been recast although I don't know why and I do not like this casting. Two completely different looks and the original's look and manner fit the role and character better. Maybe this new Darrio will grow on me.
This was the Shocker
So we find Arya pretty much where we left her, in the arms of the Hound. She's not fighting him but understands that she is his prisoner as he plans to sell her back to her mother's family as soon as possible. She wants to ride her own horse. This all makes sense and it follows the books at this point. While travelling they come across an inn and spy the band of thugs that are working for the king, and more importantly, the leader who took her sword away and stuck it in her friends neck. While the Hound counts horses and knows how many fighters are inside, Arya decides for him and walks to the door where they are found and brought into the inn. It is important to note that:
- Arya isn't as frightened as she should be - she's starting to grow up
- Arya wants Needle back - it was a present from her brother
- The Hound, while still a great fighter, doesn't seem to want to fight much these days
- The Hound doesn't seem to realize everyone knows who he is - he's huge and his face is burned badly, he isn't hard to recognize
- The Hound has no money and they have almost no supplies - fighting or stealing is the only way
The Hound and Arya are seated and the leader recognizes the Hound (though not Arya) and proceeds to have a very stale, sort of overdone conversation that leads them into a fight (most of the conversations like this sound alike). We eventually get to see the Hound in action. He takes all of these guys down several times, throwing them around the inn and destroying everything around them. At some point, as the fight is beginning to wind down, several of the thugs are starting to get up and Arya grabs one of their swords and she knows how to use it. She eventually gets to kill the leader, reminding him of the boy he killed, by sticking Needle through his neck.
Arya fights and wins. Arya and the Hound leave the inn with food and a horse for Arya, and she of course, regains her sword, Needle. That won't have the shock value that the Red Wedding had but it's far more shocking that the sweet, scared, tomboy finally starts to kill people than the revenge against Robb that the Freys delivered.
But one question remains, does the title of the episode: "Two Swords", refer to the two Valyrian swords made at the beginning of the episode or the Hound and Arya and their two swords working together at the end?
For those that are wondering how I feel about the nudity on this show, I do believe that some of it is totally unnecesary. There are times that there are good reasons for it. Today's episode had some while in the brothel with Oberyn Martell that wasn't really necessary to the plot. That being said, this was a promising start to the season, all well done. 4.5 out of 5 stars for some out of character whining by Cersei and leaving us with no updates on Bran and Rickon or Stannis and Melisandre. It's the first episode so I expected to see everyone important at least once.