Plot: The wedding of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) is only a fortnight away. In an effort to appeal to the Houses of Dorne, especially Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), Tyrion Lanniser (Peter Dinkalge) becomes a one man welcoming party. Not only does he have Oberyn to worry about, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is actively refusing their new lifestyle. Things aren’t going well for Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) either since his return to the Red Keep. Up by the wall, Jon Show (Kit Harrington) stands trial for his actions with the Wildlings. Over the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is continuing her march for freedom while also contending with much larger dragons. Lastly, The Hound (Rory McCann) is trying to bring Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) to the Vale, but is sidetracked.
The game has changed within Westeros. While the Season 3 finale gave us the immediate aftereffects of Robb (Richard Madden) and Catelyn’s (Michelle Fairley) deaths, “Two Swords” is really when the changes sink in. For many the war is already over. The Lannisters have completely destroyed the Starks. “Two Swords” symbolically presents this in the beginning with Tywin (Charles Dance) melting down Ice and creating two new swords, one of which goes to his eldest son. What better way to declare full victory than erasing the ultimate Stark treasure from existence? Alas, if “Two Swords” proved anything, it’s that the war is far from over. The Stark heads might have been defeated, but four members are still very much alive. Plus, the Martells are starting to show their hands too, specifically the ruthless Oberyn. So while the game is different with past players out of the fray, it is still far from over. Welcome to Season 4 everyone. We have a long a bloody road ahead of us.
“Two Swords” presented itself in classic Game of Thrones fashion. It set up this season’s story for several different characters but simply didn’t have enough time to fit the rest. This season opened up looking at Tyrion, Jaime, Jon, Dany, Arya, and Sansa. As I’m sure you can imagine, nothing is going well for these characters. Perhaps the one among these six that is the most surprising is Jaime. The Jaime we see in this premiere is completely unlike what we saw prior. This is a broken man who suffered the direct consequences of his actions. He was kidnapped, beaten, and had his sword hand cut off at the wrist. Yet his return is no homecoming. Cersei (Lena Headey) takes personal offense to his disappearance (which is absurd but what did you expect), Tywin personally disowns him, and Joffrey treats him with ridicule. For the first time ever, the prodigal son is being treated with the same respect as Tyrion. You actually feel somewhat sorry for him, even with his incestuous, child crippling ways.
Speaking of Tyrion, he really is between a rock and a hard place right now. Marrying Sansa was bad enough for him especially since he really loves Shae (Sibel Kekilli), but now he has to deal with Oberyn. I’ve heard a lot of buzz surrounding House Martell’s “Red Viper” and I can see already that he won’t disappoint. His hatred toward the Lannisters is palpable and apparently only Tyrion is aware of the severity of his presence. I don’t know what the relationship is between House Stark and House Martell, but we could very well see an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation. Even if this doesn’t happen, I’m already excited to see what new dynamic Oberyn brings to the show.
Sansa was mainly wrapped into events concerning Tyrion and Jamie, but she also got one powerful moment that furthered her tale of despair. Nothing has gone right for Sansa ever since she arrived at King’s Landing. Her only hope to escape was if Robb defeated the Lannisters in combat. Now that he’s gone, she has essentially lost her will. That is until Dontos (Tony Way) returns to thank her for saving his life back on Joffrey’s nameday. Dontos hasn’t been around since but his gracious return was a pleasant reprieve for poor Sansa. It’s really the first time that she received any form of thanks for her past deeds. Dontos could have just been a throwaway event and yet the writers brought him back to give Sansa something she hasn’t had in a while: a smile. Hopefully this is a sign of her gaining some confidence and not impending doom.
Despite their extremely different situations, Jon and Arya both grew immensely in terms of bravery. Both of them have a paths filled with challenges and yet they’ve developed a strong sense of assurance. Being over the wall and interacting with the Wildlings has really changed Jon for the better. Before his journey, he was adamant on obeying the rules of the Night’s Watch. It was clearly difficult for him to become a Wildling and love Ygritte (Rose Leslie). But now that he knows exactly what Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) has planned, he has no fear standing trial for his actions. The possibility of decapitation means nothing for this new Jon Snow. He’s invaluable now to the Night’s Watch, and boy does he know it.
Arya’s story is one of revenge for her family. Unlike her siblings who are busy with their own issues, Arya is all about killing the people who ruined their lives. This isn’t easy though for someone who is still very much a child. It was a mystery last season how someone like her could possibly lead the charge to Stark redemption. “Two Swords” changed this though through an exciting battle between her, The Hound, and a group of Lannister guards. Not only does Arya have her precious Needle back now, The Hound gives her a horse to ride on, essentially viewing her as an equal. With their mutual desires to take the reins in extremely dire situations, Jon and Arya are poised to fight any threats head on.
Unfortunately not all characters focused on last night received equal attention. Nothing of note really happened during Dany’s story. We got a better look at the new Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) and much larger, more aggressive dragons, but this is all just a prelude to her claiming another city. Walking and talking about flowers can only be so exciting. While I’m sure Dany will absolutely blow us away this season, as she always does, this episode was a very “meh” moment for her.
True to the Game of Thrones style, next week will be focusing on the missing characters. Already we know that Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Stannis (Stephen Dillane) will get their proper Season 4 introductions. Looks like Joffrey will get some insight of his own too. What “Two Swords” lacked in exciting action, save for Arya’s story, it successfully laid the groundwork for one killer season. Robb and Catelyn’s deaths changed everything, but the war isn’t done. It doesn’t matter if the conflict is inward like Jaime or outward like Jon and Arya. There’s an entirely new game at hand on all counts, and whether someone lives or dies completely depends on their ability to adapt.