Due to an HBO Go website crash, I was unable to watch the first episode of the fourth season of Game of Thrones until two hours after it premiered. But, having seen it now, I can affirm that it was definitely worth the wait.
Robb Stark and his mother are dead, and the game has changed. This first episode was successful in showing most of the character arcs, and even introducing some new ones. Last season, and especially the Red Wedding, shook up the landscape of the show. In “Two Swords,” we begin to see the repercussions.
The episode begins very symbolically, with Tywin Lannister melting down the Stark sword to create two new ones for his family. Tywin is an unbelievable jerkface, and yet incredibly enjoyable. He gives one of the swords to the recently mutilated Jaime. Jaime’s also sporting a new haircut, which makes him even more easy on the eyes. I really enjoyed seeing the rising tensions between Jaime and his twin Cersei. Cersei is a terrible human being, but a fascinating character, and Lena Headey plays her brilliantly. The third and most underestimated Lannister, Tyrion, had a bit of a rough episode. His wife hates him, his prostitute secret girlfriend is mad at him, and Oberyn Martell has just arrived in King’s Landing for vengeance.
While this episode was excellent throughout, the introduction of Oberyn Martell of Dorne and his lover, Ellaria Sand, was my favorite part. Their pivotal scene did, of course, happen in a brothel, because this is Game of Thrones and we can’t go one episode without nudity. Oberyn wants revenge on the Lannisters for raping and killing his sister, who was the wife of Rhaegar, who was the older brother of Daenerys (welcome back, confusing family trees). Pedro Pascal plays the Dornish prince with such panache and an Inigo Montoya air. You practically expect him to jump out at Tywin, saying, “Hello. My name is Oberyn Martell. You killed my sister. Prepare to die.”
I’ve always admired Game of Thrones for managing to keep every single plotline and character interesting. Whether it’s Jon Snow being a sassy bastard on the Wall (see what I did there?), or his bitter ex-girlfriend and badass warrior Ygritte preparing for battle, or Daenerys Targaryen playing with her dragons, each scene is excellently paced and a thrill to watch. This could especially be said about the final segment of the episode, starring Arya and Sandor Clegane. I wouldn’t exactly call those two Thelma and Louise, but they’re really going on a crime spree road trip that’s pretty fun to watch. The last five minutes are a violent, vengeful mess, promising the blood and fire we’ve come to expect from Game of Thrones. If you thought last season was messy, this one is worse. If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.
Of course, not every plotline was covered. We’ll have to stay tuned next week to see Bran and his crew of psychic forest friends, Stannis and his Red Witch sidekick, and poor tortured Theon. But “Two Swords” successfully thrust us back into Westeros, with all of its blood and nudity and awesome quotes. I’ve read the books, and no spoilers, but this season is going to be crazy. If the first episode is any indication, it’s going to be pretty awesome as well.