Game of Thrones 4×1 ‘Two Swords’: All Hail the Lannisters

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The flames of war are growing colder in Westeros, and although the War of the Five Kings isn’t quite done, it has lost a major player. After last season’s horrifically incredible Red Wedding and the brutal deaths of Robb, Catelyn, Talisa, and the majority of the Stark and Tully armies, the Lannisters reign almost uncontested. Tywin’s even melted down Ice, the ancient Stark heirloom and sword of Valyrian steel, to create two swords – one for Jaime and the other, presumably, for Joffrey. We’re starting from an awful place, looking at the “good” characters of the show. The world is one step closer to a barren wasteland, and it’s time for the scavengers to fight over the scraps.

Two Swords drops in on most of the plotlines and characters of the show, but wisely leaves out a few – Bran, Stannis, and Theon. The show is at its strongest when it actually swims around the muck with a plotline for longer than usual, and trying to fit every single character into one episode just makes it feel bloated while also sparse on plot. Not a ton happens in this episode, but what is here manages to hint at the excitement to come while always remaining intriguing. It does dip into the unnecessary and frankly a bit disturbing random nudity, as Game of Thrones tends to do, but thankfully it’s over rather quickly.

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Photo Source: HBO

It’s obvious that the Lannisters are the main characters this season, especially after losing Robb and Catelyn. Tyrion is scrambling to stay important to his father; he’s tasked with preventing new character Oberyn Martell from murdering his way through King’s Landing. Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand already seem to be intriguing new additions to the show, and hopefully Oberyn’s thirst for vengeance against the House that murdered his wife and her children will play a part in the season to come.

Jaime, now one-handed and short-haired, hopes in vain to return to the life he once he had as a glorious knight and Cersei’s lover, but unsurprisingly, it’s not that simple. A drunken Cersei blames him for being gone too long, and all but ends their relationship. To Jaime, who’s loved Cersei his whole life, this is more than just a breakup. His identity is shattered, and the Jaime that’s returned is a changed man – both physically and emotionally. He’s lost his lover, his swordsmanship, his abilities, and his family. The only person left that seems to care anything for him is Brienne, who urges him to fulfill his vow to Catelyn to protect Sansa. Jaime’s not quite sure how to do that now that Catelyn’s dead at his father’s bidding. Hopefully these two will continue to interact this season, as their adventures on the road were some of the strongest parts of season three.

Sansa is naturally grieving the loss of her entire family, essentially, as she has no reason to believe that Arya, Bran and Rickon are not all dead. She’s now been married off to a dwarf who happens to be in the same family that murdered her family, expected to bear his children, and she seems doomed to a life trapped in King’s Landing, becoming a member of the family she so despises. It’s surprisingly she’s managed to keep it together as well as she has. She’s thrown a small relief in this episode, as the drunken knight she saved so many episodes ago, Ser Dontos, returns to express his thanks and give her a family heirloom. Just like her, Dontos is the last of his family, and he doesn’t think it’s going to continue on.

Photo Source: HBO

Photo Source: HBO

Back at the Wall, Jon Snow faces down a tribunal that’s eager to hang him for his crimes. He takes responsibility for his actions but stresses that he had no choice and everything he did was for the Wall. Luckily, good old Maester Aemon spares him the noose and frees him, presumably to prepare the Night’s Watch to defend Castle Black against the Wildings. And wild they are. Ygritte and Tormund’s band of wildings has met up with another faction – the hulking, cannibal Thenns, led by the Magnar. He’s appropriately menacing and terrifying, and serves as a reminder that not all the Wildings are as sympathetic as Ygritte. In fact, most are probably more animal than human.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys heads towards Meereen, with a host of freed slaves, an army of Unsullied, her trusted companions, and three enormous dragons at her side. The rulers of Meereen have caught wind of her approach, and they’ve gruesomely nailed slaves at every mile marker, their fingers guiding her towards the inevitable confrontation. Daenerys is set up to be on the few “good” characters on the show, but the question remains: do we really want her to win? She’s only been away from Viserys’ control for a short time, and now she’s a still young girl with incredible power that she’s only barely wielding. Her idealistic decision to go around freeing slaves has already cost the lives of all the slaves being boarded up along the road to Meereen, and destabilizing the whole – albeit terrible and wrong – economy of an entire continent is not going to be without its side-effects. Even if she manages to conquer these cities and make it Westeros, she’s going to have to face all the other characters. They say when a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin. Greatness or madness. It may be too early to tell which side Daenerys falls on.

Photo Source: HBO

Photo Source: HBO

Finally we come to the most entertaining part of Two Swords – the adventures of Arya and the Hound. This mismatch pair offers a twisted parallel of Jaime and Brienne’s journey from last season. Whereas Brienne helped Jaime reach inside himself and become a better man, the Hound’s ruthlessness offers Arya’s hidden darkness an environment to thrive in. She spots Polliver, the man who stole Needle and used it to kill Lommy back in season two, and follows him into a local tavern. The resulting bloodbath may be one of the most satisfying and awesome, scenes of the show. However, it’s still unsettling to remember that Arya’s just a young girl whose already become an instrument of pure vengeance.

War marches – or limps rather – on, and the various characters of Westeros will have to find some way of continuing. Families are splintered, many lay dead and the crows have come to pick the bones. But King’s Landing is boiling with a vengeful Martell, and things are just getting started.

Valar morghulis.

is a college student who spends far too much time watching TV, because honestly, he’s going to remember the finale of Breaking Bad way more than any exam. He loves nothing more than consuming as much fiction (tv/films/books) as possible and traveling anywhere he can get himself to. He’s a DJ at WMUC, the University of Maryland’s student run-radio, and never fails to advertise it.

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