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Recap: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Returns With Strong Season 4 Opener, ‘Two Swords’

Recap: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Returns With Strong Season 4 Opener, ‘Two Swords’

Welcome back, Gameheads, Throne Bones, Red Wedding Guests, et al. I am back to bring you the most ridiculous (but most entertaining! Hopefully!) recaps of “Game of Thrones,” and I’m sure you’ve all been waiting with bated breath! This is THE destination for Throne Games discussion, tell all your friends! A programming note: I haven’t read the books, so I welcome any and all fact-checking and fact-clarification, but just remember that the show leaves some stuff unclear week-to-week, and a woman only has so much time to delve into the “Game of Thrones” wiki, though I do my darndest. At any rate, I welcome all corrections, omissions, comments, but not complaints, because that’s my prerogative. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The ante was upped in Season 3, and this season will no doubt be bigger, badder, and more ruthless. The season four opener “Two Swords” opens with literally that, two swords forged from Valyrian steel, and it’s a strong introductory episode, directed by show co-creator D.B. Weiss. The episode’s got to remind us of just what kind of fix we’re in, and also deliver on what we want from this show: scheming, sexing, and blood-letting. Also, remarkably, ‘GoT’ has invited us to yet another wedding, and we’ve accepted the invite (we never learn). 

King’s Landing
As mentioned, the show opens with Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) melting down an old Valyrian sword, not just any old sword, but as the “previously on” indicates, the sword that belonged to, and beheaded, Ned Stark. From this, two are forged (though, of course, it’s actually some guy from Volantis—like Tywin does any kind of labor that’s not just tossing off nasty epithets). Though, one is suspiciously shorter than the other… Tywin places the wolf’s carcass/sword sheath into the fire, as the Stark king has been vanquished in the Red Wedding. 

The sword serves as a gift/bribe for prodigal son Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Colster-Waldau), who Tywin wants to return to Casterly Rock and rule in his stead. Jaime refuses, still trying to fall back into the life he once had—leading the King’s Guard, shtupping his sister—though everyone reminds him that Things Have Changed, not the least of which is that he’s less a hand. He’s got a gold clunker of a replacement he’s carting around, but Cersei’s (Lena Headey) legs are decidedly closed, because he “took too long” to get back. His annoying secret incest spawn Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) takes every chance to undermine his authority in the King’s Guard. Thankfully, ol’ Joff Joff is a minor presence in this episode, though I’m sure he will have more than enough chances to infuriate us with his wedding in a fortnight.

Speaking of the wedding, Tyrion’s been tasked with welcoming Prince Doran of Martell to King’s Landing for the festivities, but Doran sends his brother, Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) in his place. Oberyn is here to attend Joffrey’s wedding, fuck some hos (and pimps!) and kill all Lannisters because they killed his sister. At this point, is there anyone in Westeros who doesn’t want to kill a Lannister for killing one of their siblings? Oberyn’s got a lot of potential: he wears an awesome yellow dress, he swings both ways, and sports an A+ beard. Also he stabs a random Lannister in the wrist for being racist against the Dornish and singing “The Rains of Castamere” (worst song ever).

Ever-suffering Tyrion is tasked with a lot this episode. Not only does he have to contain Oberyn’s appetites, but he’s also trying to manage his grieving wife, cranky tween Sansa (Sophie Turner), who’s not super stoked on the fact that her father-in-law just orchestrated the brutal murder of her mom and brother. Tyrion’s also attempting to manage his relationship with Shae (Sybill Kekilli). Jealous of Sansa, Shae drops by to seduce Tyrion, who rebuffs her because he’s so stressed out with all of the inter-family murder going on. This is when I realized that Tyrion is George R.R. Martin’s fantasy avatar (and I’m probably the last to realize this): he’s the deformed yet heroic dwarf who always does the right thing, saves everyone AND has gorgeous women throwing themselves at him. Dragons, I’ll buy, but this Shae scene is pushing the limit of my suspension of disbelief. At any rate, after their tiff, she storms out and is spotted by a spying handmaiden of Cersei’s.

The other ladies of King’s Landing are also scheming and gossiping, particularly Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) who’s made herself at home. She lets Margaery (Natalie Dormer) know that what killed her husband Renly was a shadow with the face of Stannis, which is really the smoke monster that the red witch birthed and that I truly hope we never see again. She also scolds Jaime for not keeping his word to Catelyn Stark to protect her girls, Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa. Jaime argues that Arya’s as good as dead and Sansa’s a Lannister… so, debt paid? Sansa finds a friend in drunken Ser Dontos Hollard (Tony Way), the former knight, now court fool, whom Sansa saved way, way back during Joffrey’s name day joust. He offers her a necklace and she accepts. It’s nice to see Sansa smile, but there’s definitely something up with this necklace.

Across the Narrow Sea
Our Khaleesi, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is chillin’ up on a rock with her enormous dragons, who are just nuzzlin’ and snackin’ on lamb corpses while she surveys Mereen, the land she’s marching on with her enormous army of liberated (“liberated”) slaves. She’s still got her team of Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), the two of whom are competing to ride with Daenerys via some kind of 24-hour sword-holding game. BY THE WAY, EAGLE-EYED TV FANS, did anyone else notice that the old Daario Naharis was replaced by the guy who plays the rock producer on “Nashville“? I spotted that right away. Weird, huh? What happened to old Daario Naharis (Ed Skrein)?? This is like when they replaced Darren on “Bewitched“!  In other news relevant to my specific interests, Grey Worm is kind of a sleeper hottie on this show, am I right? Too bad about his balls.

En route, Daario gives Daenerys some “strategy” in the form of flowers, which she dismisses as a part of his endless flirting/seduction, but he’s just trying to tell her about the medicinal and/or poisonous qualities of the plants of Mereen. Ya know, to get to know the place. The Mereen-ers are apparently anticipating the Mother of Dragons, because they happen upon a mile marker with a dead girl’s body pointing the way. Pretty cool sign, guys! Daenerys doesn’t want to be shielded from the gore, because she’s a bad ass feminist. She will gaze upon their faces and acknowledge them as people, not signs nor slaves. Things are not looking good for a welcoming party in Mereen though. They seem pretty attached to their slave-holding ways.  

In the North
Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and Tormund Giantsbane (Kristopher Hivju) are squabbling like siblings again, as he accuses her of letting loverboy Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) off easy with only three arrows to the body. They soon have company though, in the form of easily a Top 5 creepiest people on “GoT”—bald, creatively scarred cannibals. They quickly serve up an arm BBQ, describing it with all the fervor of an effusive Yelper. Bleh.

Meanwhile, those three arrows really didn’t do much harm to our Jon Snow, as he seems to be mostly healed up in Castle Black. He’s sad about brother Robb’s passing, but he’s got to hustle to his Night’s Watch tribunal, where they threaten to behead him for killing a fellow Night’s Watch man (Qhorin) and “laying with a Wildling,” which Jon just tells them about before they even ask. He must be thinking that he’s going to get the chop, because he spills all the info: warning them of Mance Rayder’s (Ciaran Hinds) army of Wildlings and giants, the huge bonfire signal, etc. His (precious, pretty) head is spared because Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughn), the elder on the panel, actually believes him. He knows from lying… he grew up in King’s Landing after all.

In the Woods, Between The Crossing and King’s Landing
This week in Arya Shanking Dudes in the Neck… which is my favorite show by the way, would watch an hour every week (note to self: talk to therapist about pleasure derived from watching tween girl pierce a man’s neck with a tiny sword). Arya wants a horse, as she’s clearly outgrowing riding with The Hound (Rory McCann). They’re also hungry and have no money, because The Hound takes the stance that he’s not a thief. Arya rightly points out that he has no problem murdering little boys, to which he replies, “a man’s got to have a code” (to which I say: OMAR COMIN’!).

They come upon a tavern and Arya notes that one of the drunken King’s guardsmen pissing outside is Polliver (Andy Kellegher), the guy who brought her and her friends to Harrenhal, killed her buddy and, worst of all, stole her sword Needle. When it comes to Arya and Needle, they cannot be separated. And so she marches right up to the door, and before The Hound can stop her, they blunder inside of what is just a very cool, very chill roadside bar, soaked in old mead and chicken grease, the constant threat of gang rape really adding to the ambience. The Hound plays it cool with Polliver, who recognizes him, shoots the shit, and invites him to join their rape and pillage, all before The Hound says “fuck the king,” and all bets are off. The Hound won’t stop talking about chicken (in what should inevitably become a viral ad for KFC), and it’s on: someone’s gonna die for some chicken (well a lot of someones really).

The Hound quickly dispatches several of the gang, broadswords thudding around the dark and cavelike establishment. I really appreciate the way the “GoT” fight scenes are shot, very clear and legibly, and with a distinct sense of the weight and viscera. Especially the scenes with The Hound have real heft to them. Arya bides her time before getting into the mix, making her move to snatch a sword, swiftly impale its owner, and then get Polliver from behind. She snatches Needle and, with the torturer on his back, repeats exactly what he said to her when he took it, before slowly piercing his throat down to the dirt and leaving him to drown on his blood. Then she and The Hound ride off into the sunset, she on her new white steed! Yeah! Killing people rules!

Who we have yet to see:
Sniveling Lord Baelish/Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen); Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ‘n pals; Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and the rest of the inhabitants of Dragonstone Island; poor, poor Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), his torturer, and his sister Yara (Gemma Whelan), en route to save him; Mance Rayder off amassing his armies of Wildlings; Samwell’s gal Gilly (Hannah Murray) and her baby.

What were your favorite moments? I really liked the part when Grandma Olenna (Diana Rigg) threw the bridal necklace over the balcony. With her and Tywin around, this show should be called “Queens of Shade,” because no one else throws it like they do. Other thoughts?  Is it weird how much they say “fuck” in Westeros? Sound off in the comments below! 

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