Two Swords by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss
Game of Thrones is slightly difficult to review episode by episode due to the way it jumps between various story arcs and how consistent the quality is. But here goes. Season 4 had a lot to live up to – Season 3 had used some of the books best storylines (The Red Wedding, Jon Snow and Ygritte’s romance, Jamie and Brienne’s journey etc.) but the new season starts very promisingly with its opening episode.
The majority of this episode is spent in King’s Landing seeing how the land lies after the game-changing events of the last season. The pre-credits scene of Tywin Lannister melting down Ned Stark’s old sword to craft two swords for Jaime and Joffrey is a clear reminder – the Lannisters are victorious. For now anyway.
This episode belongs to Jaime (Nikolai Coster-Waldau), whose homecoming isn’t as stellar as he’d hoped. While he gets a new golden hand and a Valyrian steel sword, he realises how much things have changed – his sister/lover Cersei rejects him because he’s left her alone for so long and his father Tywin furiously disowns him after Jaime refuses to break one more vow and leave the kingsguard. It shows how much Brienne has changed Jaime, he now hates his image as a ‘kingslayer’ and ‘oathbreaker’. Indeed, over the past few seasons he’s had more character development than most, and when Joffrey mocks how few great achievements he’s had compared to previous commanders of the kingsguard, it clearly irritates Jaime.
Another major part of the episode is the introduction of Dornish prince Oberyn Martell ‘The Red Viper’ played by Pedro Pascal. Oberyn is a great character, charming, sexually liberated and inherently dangerous, who makes clear his hatred for the Lannisters by stabbing one of their soldiers in the wrist merely for singing the Lannister song ‘the rains of castamere’ within his earshot. His reason for hatred? His sister and her children were murdered by Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane supposedly on Tywin Lannister’s orders. As he tells Tyrion ‘the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts’ you just know he will end up causing more than a little trouble for Tywin.
Among the other characters featured (Daenerys, Sansa, Ygritte and the wildlings etc.) most scenes are merely setting up events that will occur later in the season. Jon Snow gets some good moments as he faces off with the leaders of the Night’s Watch for his dalliance with the wildings, but the only other storyline that really catches fire is Arya and the Hound confronting a group of Lannister soldiers in a tavern. One of the soldiers is Polliver, a man on Arya’s list because he stole her sword Needle and killed a friend of hers back in season 2. Once the Hound starts a brawl and takes out the majority of the soldiers, Arya coldly confronts Polliver with a slice of poetic justice; taunting him with the words he spoke to her dying friend before spearing Polliver’s throat with her reclaimed Needle. Her smile at the end hints how the Hound’s love of violence seems to be rubbing off on her.
Overall a good episode with a few great scenes for Jaime, Arya and newcomer Oberyn.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Next Time: It’s Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell’s wedding and Ramsay Snow is back at his worst…