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film -> Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 1 Recap and Review

Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 1 Recap and Review

Two Swords

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Someone’s gotta die for those chickens!

HBO Go broke again, but not during the “True Detective” finale.  This time it happened for the season four premiere of HBO’s tent pole “Game of Thrones.”  The popularity of the show and its position among the zeitgeist is undeniable.  With all of this success, HBO Go either needs to improve or perhaps desperate fans will seek other, extra-legal methods of fulfilling their fix. After all, the popular fantasy opera annually tops the “Most Illegally Downloaded” list. This week, unfortunately, we aren’t treated to seeing what Bran, Littlefinger or Reek have been up to recently.

Season four begins with a continuation of the themes at the end of season three: ELIMINATE THE STARKS! “The Rains of Castamere” saw Robb, Talisa¸ Catelyn, and most of the Stark bannermen go down, “Mhysa” began with Roose Bolton overseeing his perfect betrayal at The Twins, now so “Two Swords” kicks the season off with the melting of Ned Stark’s Valyrian steel sword, Ice, into two swords under the watch of Tywin Lannister, the real ruler of Westeros. Tywin (Charles Dance) then carelessly tosses a wolf pelt in the flames that heated the coals.  The statement is clear: the end of the Stark line is paramount.  Tywin then calls his oldest son, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), to his quarters in order to gift one of the swords.  The Patriarch of House Lannister once again reminds his son that he’s wasting his talent, his life, and most importantly, his name. Although the Kingslayer refuses his father’s decision to leave the Kings’ Guard, he retains his freshly-forged Valyrian steel sword before leaving to learn how to fight left-handed, I’m sure. 

 

One sword down, one to go.

 

Tywin’s youngest son makes his debut in the most boring possible function.  Poor Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) waits with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Podrick to greet Doran Martell of Dorne for the royal wedding.  Two things happen to the Imp on the crossroads: a) he is informed that Oberyn Martell will attend the wedding in place of his brother, and b) that Oberyn Martell will not meet him at the crossroads.  This sends Tyrion into PR-mode, remembering the prince’s reputation and trying to thwart any conflict before it erupts. As the Martell party leaves Tyrion without much at all but information and a curt welcome, the setting shifts to Littlefinger’s brothel to meet the very man for whom Tyrion searches.

I don’t want to say the show has changed, but the absence of Robb and Catelyn has been filled with some rather colorful, memorable characters hailing from Dorne. We meet two lovers, Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), examining whores for later fun.  There is a twist, however, as these lovers are bisexual and are choosing a player from the same team.  Littlefinger’s procurer is hardly used to these peculiar Dornish requests, but can’t turn down a wealthy, handsome prince.  The procurement is interrupted by a couple Lannisters singing “The Rains of Castamere” next door, prompting the passionate prince to interrupt the goings on next door and pick a fight that ends in blood.  Now why would a Martell hate a Lannister so? If you’ve read the books, you’ll certainly remember.

Tyrion then enters the room, finally finding Oberyn in a brothel—a man after his own heart. Remember, Tyrion no longer partakes in prostitutes as he is a noble, married lord now.  Tyrion does his best (and is the best for the job) to calm Oberyn’s feelings toward the Lannisters (or at least just Tyrion Lannister) for the time being.  While Tyrion attempts small talk and thanking the prince for attending, Oberyn cuts him off with some real talk and announces his intent to avenge the rape and death of his sister, Elia, and the deaths her children at the hands of Lannister bannerman Ser Gregor “The Mountain Who Rides” Clegane. When Oberyn asks Tyrion what happened to his sister, Tyrion has no idea about how many difficult questions he’ll field before the episode is over.  Oberyn ends the scene with, “Tell your father I’m here, and tell him that the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.”  Trust me, he means it.

After all the Lannister men are covered, Westeros is briefly benched in favor of an Essos scene.  When we last saw Daenerys Targaryen, the freed slaves declared her “Mhysa,” or mother after SHE FREED THEM ALL!  Dany (Emilia Clarke fresh off an exciting offseason that found her cast in the new Terminator picture) enters the shot chilling on a rock with Drogon as the other two dragons fly and hunt. This scene is largely unnecessary as it only builds up to a meaningless bet between Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and a recast Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman).  The real function of this scene is to display just how big of dragons we should expect in season four.  The second Daenerys scene showed a flirtatious Daario and a Dany perhaps ready to move on from the death of Khal Drogo, followed by a hint to Meereen’s nastiness. Although Meereen was shown in the credits, they do not make it that far. 

 

After all the Lannister men are covered, Westeros is briefly benched in favor of an Essos scene.  When we last saw Daenerys Targaryen, the freed slaves declared her “Mhysa,” or mother after SHE FREED THEM ALL!  Dany (Emilia Clarke fresh off an exciting offseason that found her cast in the new Terminator picture) enters the shot chilling on a rock with Drogon as the other two dragons fly and hunt. This scene is largely unnecessary as it only builds up to a meaningless bet between Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and a recast Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman).  The real function of this scene is to display just how big of dragons we should expect in season four.  The second Daenerys scene showed a flirtatious Daario and a Dany perhaps ready to move on from the death of Khal Drogo, followed by a hint to Meereen’s nastiness. Although Meereen was shown in the credits, they do not make it that far. 

The action jumps to the elder Lannister brother in a similar lovers’ quarrel with the Lannister sister.  This scene was another drawn-out, seemingly pointless moment where it only amounted to Cersei (Lena Headey) unfoundedly accusing Jaime of his own capture last season. As if he wanted to lose his own hand?  These drawn out scenes tend to make me think that it’s a stalling tactic for author George R. R. Martin, a notoriously paced writer, to catch up on some writing or fill in some of the extra moments that would be inhabited by Robb or Catelyn.  It’s a new dynamic on the show to be sure, but will it work?  I think a broken HBO Go is a solid indication. However, the wildling scene with Ygritte and Tormund ran a bit long and seemed only significant because of the Thenn introduction. Everything else felt like a real struggle to boost the roles of Ygritte and Tormund.  Now that Jon is gone, it seems the showrunners want to honor the fans’ wishes by beefing up characters, but Ygritte and Tormund will be marching on Castle Black all season and I can’t see this storyline picking up steam unless Jon is reintroduced to their situation…

The next chunk of this week’s episode is all about the bastard.  Jon Snow (Kit Harrington fresh off starring in the blockbuster Pompeii) looks a lot less shot up by arrows as he stands before Maester Aemon, Alliser Thorne, and the shamed, baby killing Janos Slynt for his mock trial/ debriefing at Castle Black.  Thorne and Slynt grill Jon for his most damnable crimes while Maester Aemon really just wants to know what’s going on beyond the wall.  For a blind man, he seemed to be the only “jury” member who could see the bigger picture beyond a few grudges for Jon Snow and Ned Stark.  While Janos Slynt tries desperately to assert himself, Jon Snow shoots him down for failing in his last job while Aemon capitalizes on using Slynt’s words against him.  We’re then treated to a Jon and Sam scene that doesn’t last long, but already the seeds are planted for a close bond between these two in the coming episodes.

Jaime Lannister’s travel buddy, Brienne of Tarth, makes her debut in the following scene with our two favorite Tyrell women: Olenna and Margaery.  While Olenna (Dame Diana Rigg) is busy planning Margaery’s jewelry ensemble, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) has a much more urgent message about Shadow Baby Stannis (batteries not included) and the killing of Renly in season two. This conversation is more or less quashed by a statue of Kim Jong Joffrey standing atop a blade-pierced wolf.

The next scene involves the devil himself, Joffrey of the first of his name, berating his Father-Uncle-Dad Jaime.  Those Lannister brothers really got an earful this week.  Joffrey cracks open a record of every knight of the King’s Guard and stops on the passage reserved for Ser Jaime Lannister.  He chides and baits Jaime for to lose it, but the Kingslayers stays ever himself—keeping cool.  It’s funny how Joffrey dresses Jaime down for not accomplishing anything in the scene after his statue is shown defeating the Starks… because he’s solely responsible for bringing them down.  Cue long, painful eye roll from Levi.

The camera then jumps back to Daario hitting on Daenerys before ending the episode on a sequence devoted entirely to Arya and the Hound.

The Hound.  I want Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” playing every time this maverick walks into focus. We’ve followed Arya (Maisie Williams) and the Hound ever since they both fell upon the Brotherhood without Banners.  In season four, these two still follow the road as the Hound (Rory McCann) hopes to ransom off Arya for a comfortable payday.  (She is a Stark, after all, with a rich aunt to boot.) The weary travelers fall upon an inn.  Arya recognizes one of the guards as the one who killed Lommy in season two and they enter.  We’re treated to a classic the Hound line, “What the f***’s a Lommy?”

As the Hound and Arya sit to eat, some Lannister men toss a poor girl around the dining hall, deciding who gets the first rape.  The man whom Arya recognized approaches Sandor Clegane and correctly identifies him as the Hound.  After some words are shared about fetching chickens, true colors come out burning and the Hound reveals his true feeling for his former “master” when he repeats his famous quote, “F*** the king.”  A donnybrook erupts between the Hound and the Lannisters. Although the Hound ably fends off his attackers, it’s Arya with the final word.  After retaining her long, lost sword, Needle, she makes Lommy’s killer eat his words before moving on with the Hound as the camera pans over a smoldering, war-ruined Westeros.

“Game of Thrones” certainly knew how to get fans excited for the coming season with giant dragons, a wild card in Oberyn Martell, a put-upon imp in Tyrion Lannister, teasing a monumental wedding, and readying viewers for the very real wildling assault that’s sure to come.  

Still really could have used some Varys or Littlefinger.

 

Keywords: Games of Thrones Season 4, HBO GOT review
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