Game of Thrones: “Two Swords” Season 4 Episode 1 Review

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And we’re back. The Season 4 premiere continues the outstanding character development and the ever shifting dynamics, even if it isn’t a very eventful outing.

But a Game of Thrones premiere can never really be bad. Why? Because the show has been off the air and missed now for months. When the writing is this consistently sharp, there are no bad episodes.

As with last season’s premiere, not every character showed up in the first hour of the season. But the ones that did offered the same great storytelling we’ve come to expect.

King’s Landing was especially rich with developing the dynamic switches that are in effect for Season 4. First and foremost, Jaime is back with his family for the first time since Season 1. As you know, virtually everything has changed since then.

The premiere started with Tywin forging two swords out of one, Ned’s. He gave the first to Jaime, who also got a shiny new gold hand to replace the flesh he lost last season. Jaime hasn’t been welcomed home with open arms. His father doesn’t trust his strength as the King’s Guard. Cersei claims he’s been gone too long. Joffrey, well, he’s just a d*ck to everyone so Jaime shouldn’t be too offended.

Oddly enough, when it seems his family has abandoned him, Brienne of Tarth is there to keep his mind focused and give him direction. Seriously, a lot has changed. As Jaime points out, he may as well call Brienne a Lannister for pestering him, when she is probably the closest he has to family right now. She reminds Jaime that he is to protect Sansa, even though that doesn’t entail returning the young Stark to her mother anymore (rest easy Catelyn). This episode set up a lot of great conflicts for Jaime and the characters around him. The Kingslayer is a changed man upon his return to King’s Landing, while some of those that used to be closest to him haven’t changed in the same direction.

King’s Landing was also graced with a new character, Oberyn Martell, who easily had one of the best character introductions since Season 1. Pedro Pascal used what time he had in the premiere to really put your eyes on Oberyn. This new force is quick to remind Tyrion that Lannisters are not the only ones who pay their debts. When a show is this densely populated with strong characters, its always amazing when another is added so flawlessly. I can’t wait to see more of this guy.

Meanwhile, Jon Snow and Samwell have reconvened, albeit separately, with what’s left of the Nightswatch. But Jon Snow spent some time with the wildlings and he even dared to lay with one! (Who are the Nightswatch anyway, Jedi?) I’m glad not too much time was wasted getting him back up to speed at Castle Black. What should be even better is when the wildlings, including Ygritte, inevitably attack the crows. The seeds are being planted for quite a confrontation.

Daenerys is still kind of doing her thing, freeing cities to recruit armies. But boy, those dragons are getting big. It seems the Mother of Dragons may have to deal with her young outgrowing her sooner rather than later.

The premiere closed with Arya and the Hound figuring out their new post-Red Wedding plan. It involves Arya going to visit her aunt in the veil for a whole lot of crazy. But first, they’re going to get in a bar fight because Arya has been reunited with her sword Needle. It was nice to have a little action to close the premiere, with Arya and the Hound both getting moments of complete badassery.

While the premiere was a bit of a place-setter episode, this season does seem to be going some very interesting places. Between Jaime’s return, Sansa’s grief, the upcoming wedding, and Oberyn’s arrival, King’s Landing looks to be all the hustle and bustle this year. But don’t count out Arya and the Hound. Even though they are essentially doing the same thing they did last season, these two are evolving in compelling ways, and their chemistry has never been sharper. Otherwise, seeds were planted for what we might see from Jon Snow and Daenerys this season. I guess we’ll get Bran, Stannis, Theon, and whoever else we missed next week. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be here for whatever direction we take. Winter is here once more, let it be a long one. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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