”A man’s GOT to have a code.”
It feels like forever since the last episode of True Detective let alone the last Game of Thrones. The HBO series has been gone so long it's hard to believe that it's really back. But it didn't come by itself, it was premiere night for the premium network with Veep also returning and Silicon Valley making its debut. Quite the two hour block. Probably the best on the small-screen. It's not really fair, though, you know, since Home Box Office is not TV. Alright, enough pimping the network and back to the stellar fourth season premiere. It has been forever since last year's finale but “Two Swords” was well worth the wait.
”Some accomplished diplomacy, that was.”
There was a bit of heavy-handed resetting the stage, like Tyrion counting the reasons why he and Shae can't be careless or Sansa not immediately remembering Ser Dontos the drunken Fool, but the premiere also spent a lot of its time introducing new characters and their motivations, the biggest obviously being the vengeful wedding guests from Dorne. Pedro Pascal as Prince Oberyn Martell (a.k.a The Red Viper) and Indira Varma as Ellaria Sand were perfectly cast, the former really getting to shine in his few scenes. His accent work just the right bit of over the top. The Dornish Prince and his paramour are an instantly compelling addition to King's Landing because their honesty is a breathe of fresh air and in sharp contrast to the other political players. And this is illustrated by both their sexual freedom as well as their not so idle threats. "Two Swords," even more than most episodes of Game of Thrones, was about the power of deception. Not many characters can afford to be honest, especially not in the capital.
”A one handed man with no family needs all the help he can get.”
While Tyrion was forced to face the truth about his family (particularly his father)'s nasty past deeds, Tywin opened the installment with a different kind of deception. Arrogance is self-deception, right? It was a wonderful (wordless) way to open the season though, with the Lannister Lord symbolically melting down the Stark family sword and burning the pelt. I mean, he's got every right to feel high and mighty at the moment but Oberyn already showed that the golden lions aren't even safe on their turf and, by episode's end, Arya will prove that the ruling House isn't as powerful as they think. Their colors don't mean shit in a wasteland. Jaime's also having a hard time facing the truth but at least he's facing it (and his father), instead of Cersei, who is trying to hide his hand with that gold prosthetic not to mention drown her, well, everything with booze. And whatever else (non)Maester Qyburn is hooking her up with. The incestuous twins also didn't get to the truth because a bird came by with yet another secret.
”Seeing is one thing.”
Shae's having a hard time adapting to her Little Lion's marriage to Sansa because she's no longer sure where she stands and, unfortunately for them, one of Cersei's spies overheard her attempt to force the truth out of him. A man's got to have a code and Tyrion seems troubled by the idea of extra-marital affairs, probably because of the way things went with his first love. And that Sansa is in an-extra fragile spot after hearing the news of her mother and brother's deaths. No lemon cakes? That's bad. She does, however, now have Brienne and possibly Jaime looking out for her safety, not to mention Dontos giving her all that's left from a once rising house. Okay, that part is sad, considering the parallels to her own. Speaking of necklaces, Margaery and Olenna are on the lookout for the perfect one to wear to the former's impending wedding to Joffrey. As for the young king, at least he's learning a little history while being a right prick this week. And there's no bigger lie than that statue. Well, except how it makes him look like a dictator.
”Something wrong with your leg, boy?”
My favorite stretch of the premiere was the final sequence with the Hound and Arya. It further exposed the lie of Lannister omnipotence, with Polliver finally getting what was coming to him only moments after sharing how their colors let them do whatever they want, as well as functioned as a lovely little short film. Well, lovely might be a stretch, no matter how much joy fans might have taken in her revenge, it was a sign of how cold she's become. The bloodlust was spurred, however, by a desire to retrieve needle, an item of sentimental value that just also happens to kill. That's Arya in a nutshell. Her companion is equally complex and had all the best lines. Someone tell The Onion that is how you call a young girl a c-word. So many perfect deliveries. The 'short' was also structured perfectly on two fronts, the horse ride in and out serving as bookends for the sequence while Arya getting needle back balanced nicely with Tywin's destruction of Ice. "Two Swords" indeed.
”Thenns. I fucking hate Thenns.”
In the north, things continue to get wilder (sorry) with the introduction of another clan of the free folk. The Thenns, like the Dornish, aren't big on bullshit but I wouldn't say their brand of honesty is nearly as welcome. Tormund is still the standout when it comes to the wildlings, spouting almost as many great lines as the Hound while also forcing Ygritte to deal with her (self-)deception. If she wanted Jon to be dead, he'd be dead. Instead, the pretty crow is back at Castle Black mourning the loss of his brother and coming clean to a council of, well, his other brothers. The parallel they made between Jon and Robb and Sam and Jon was really well done, making the moment even more emotional. The Stark bastard has grown up quite a bit during the time he spent beyond the Wall and that's contrasted against former Commander of the City Watch Slynt's naiveté. Giants? Hah! Oh, you mean there are giants?! Lucky for Jon, Maester Aemon has a sold head on his shoulders and knows the truth when he hears it. He's a Targaryen who grew up King's Landing, after all.
”You have to know a land to rule it.”
And finally the lie that HBO kept telling the audience over and over, this is Daario Naharis. Okay, I'm obviously kidding. That is Daario, he just doesn't look the same because the original actor became The Transporter. I actually prefer the new one. This Michiel Huisman guy just seems more natural. Keeping with the theme of self-deception, Daenerys would like to believe that she has complete control over her dragons but Drogon is quick to suggest otherwise with a snap of his jaw. Her dragons are usually also a reflection of her, they grow in size and power as her rule does and that means learning along the way. They are all just kids, except she's not a maturing mythical creature, she's a young queen in charge of a vast army. She's still insanely headstrong, choosing to bear witness to all 163 dead children that mark her path to Meereen. When will people learn not to fuel her fire? And in case you didn't remember how many Unsullied there were, that aerial shot served as a nice reminder. When fighting slave traders and masters, it's nice to have the most well trained and fearless former slaves on your side.
”Fuck the King.”
The fourth season of Game of Thrones continues with “The Lion and the Rose” next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Based on the novels by George R.R. Martin, the TV series was adapted by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
Those who have read GRRM’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” books can head to the next page for a spoiler section and open comment thread...
BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD: Everything beyond this point includes spoilers from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” books.
”A Song of Ice and Fire” Speculation
All the smug bastards (last name would be ‘Readers’) that have finished all five of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels don’t want simple recaps of the Game of Thrones’ Season 4 episodes, they want to talk about how Benioff and Weiss have adapted the source material for the small-screen as well as the future of the HBO fantasy. On that note, I should also say that I’ve only read the series once (okay, some extended sections twice) so go easy on me if I screw up and/or if there’s something I fail to mention. Now. Winter is coming. And, if it wasn’t clear by now, so are SPOILERS. Final warning…
There was a lot for readers of the novels to like about "Two Swords" with the premiere hitting a few notes that many thought were missed last season, like the return and development of Ser Dontos as well as Arya's crucial interaction with Polliver. I liked the way that Benioff and Weiss delayed the young Stark's journey a little and substituting Polliver for the Tickler is also no big deal. All the characters' storylines need to fit together and, in my complete fourth season speculations, I guessed that her time with the Hound would be a little longer than it was in the books. They are too good together (like she was with Tywin) to not milk (of the poppy) it for all it's worth.
I'm sure it didn't take eagle-eyed observers to note that Dontos didn't give Sansa a fancy hairnet but instead a necklace full of jewels. Oh, and what do you know, Olenna was also talking about necklaces and their relevance to the royal wedding in a week's time. That's right, next week is the Purple Wedding (aptly titled "The Lion and the Rose") which means social media is going to explode after the reception. It's actually a shame to lose Jack Gleeson's Joffrey. He is really quite fun to hate. The series is also doing a nice job with Shae's thread, making me believe that she might turn on Tyrion when I had never really bought it in the books. She wasn't as full of a character in the novels, more of a plot device. And how about Tywin's self-foreshadowing? No, he will not see Casterly Rock again. Or shit gold.
What else? Daario wasn't just new but brought with him a bunch of flowers including both a blue rose and harpy's gold. The latter could be used in the Locusts (if that's still a go without Strong Belwas) while the former is a nice nod to Lyanna Stark and the events that started Robert's Rebellion. The past got a lot of time this week with Oberyn recounting the story from the Dornish perspective (just after Tyrion called them both 'Second Sons') and Joffrey giving us a glimpse at the White Book which included a page about the events at the Tower of Joy. Arthur Dayne and Oswell Whent both got namechecked. As did Eddard Stark, obviously. Ser Duncan the Tall and his four pages of exploits also snuck into the conversation which I'm sure delighted fans of the novellas.
There's probably plenty more to pick apart (the Thenns being cannibals, Oberyn's pov on Robert's Rebellion), so feel free to remind me all that I forgot in the comments...
Like I said, The fourth season of Game of Thrones continues with “The Lion and the Rose” next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.