Game of Thrones: “Two Swords” Review

By Chip Tamplin

Published on Saturday, April 12, 2014

Full spoilers from the opening episode of Game of Thrones follows. You’ve been warned.

With the overly traumatic Red Wedding (season three’s “Rains of Castamere” episode) firmly behind us (at least in terms of the story, we’re still shaken up about it), the opening episode from season four, “Two Swords”, aims to ease the viewer back into the world of Westeros. We know that, unlike season 3, the majority of the season won’t be leading up to some major episode later in the season, but will have many roller coaster moments for viewers. After all, next week we’ll have to suffer through Joffrey’s wedding.

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As “Two Swords” begins, the camera pans to a sword still in its sheath. It took me a moment to realize this was in fact Ned Stark’s sword, Ice. It took roughly five seconds to get my first gut punch from Game of Thrones. Thanks a lot. The sword is then melted down and forged into two swords, one given to Jaime Lannister, the other kept by his father Tywin. All of this was going on while a remix of “Rains of Castamere” plays in the background; gut punch number two. We haven’t forgotten.

Jaime: Where did you get this much Valyrian steel?

Tywin: From someone who no longer had any needs of it.

There’s a major tonal shift going into this season. With Rob and Catelyn Stark murdered by Walder Frey last season, King Joffrey isn’t far off proclaiming that the war is over. While Arya Stark would certainly love to avenge her father, mother and brothers deaths at the hands of the Lannisters, there’s not much she can do. The same can be said for Sansa. Jon Snow also seems to have different priorities.

There’s no denying that things have taken a major change and one of the biggest things we can expect from this season is relying on the characters themselves and their individual journey’s. There’s no going back for any character on the show right now. Even for the Lannisters, Jaime in particular, change is undeniable. As he has a fake hand molded for him, he disregards his fathers demands to rule Casterly Rock in his stay. Instead, Jaime remains on the Kings Guard, even without his dominant hand. As the episode progresses, he’s torn apart from all angles. His father practically disowns him, Cersei has moved on and King Joffrey, whom Jaime has sworn to protect, makes passive aggressive comments to him at any opportunity. With all this uncertainty, it was the perfect time to introduce a new character.

Enter Prince Oberyn “Famous for Fucking Half of Westeros” Martell. As Tyrion waits outside the gates of Kings Landing to greet party guests for Joffrey’s upcoming wedding, he learns that the Prince of Dorne won’t be attending, but rather his brother Oberyn will be attending in his stead. Oberyn is equal parts lust and loath. He blames the Lannisters for the death of his sister her babies (his sister was married to Rhaegar Targaryen). So while the Lannisters aren’t safe by any means, we’re not entirely sure of his motives so far. But with his distaste for the Lannisters, it’s hard to believe this won’t play some major role at some point this season.

Oberyn: You know why the whole world hates the Lannisters? You think your gold and your lions and your gold lions make you better than everyone. May I tell you a secret? You’re not a gold lion. You’re just a pink little man who’s far too slow on the draw.

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While the majority of the episode took place in and around Kings Landing, we also had a chance to catch up with some of our favorite characters up North. Ygritte, who is still torn between her love for Jon Snow and her allegiance to the Wildlings, waits for orders from Mance Rayder. As she argues with Tormund Giantsbane, they’re confronted by a new group of cannibalistic Wildlings called Thenn. Not much is learned in this encounter, but the issues between the Thenn and self-proclaimed Free Folk, should make for some great drama this season.

After Jon Snow managed to get away from the Wildlings, his horse carried him, near death, back to the Wall. He’s now on trial by the Night’s Watch for killing Qhorin Halfhand. Eventually he’s cleared of the charges, mostly due to the intervention by Maester Aemon, but not before giving a startling warning to the Night’s Watch: Mance Rayder has an army of 100,000 Wildlings and giants and plans to march on the Wall.

Maester Aemon: He told the truth.

Alliser Thorne: And you always know when a man’s telling a lie? How did you acquire this magical power?

Maester Aemon: I grew up in King’s Landing.

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Across the Narrow Sea, we’re met by a much-needed sight – Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons. It was certainly a great site to see the dragons, now doubled in size from when we last saw them, are much more intimidating. What’s more interesting, we see them snap at Daenerys when they felt their food was threatened. Jorah mentions they can never truly be trained. Hopefully she’s able to hold some sort of lasting control over them or else they might just feel too gimmicky.

Daenerys, along with her dragons are still making their way to Meereen, the third and final great slave city. Daario Naharis (who was re-cast following the conclusion of season three) attempts to teach Daenerys that she must learn the land before attempting to rule it. Much of the back and forth we grew familiar with in season three has seemingly be re-cast as well.

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For much of season three, Daenerys appeared as something of a quivering school girl around Daario. That seemed rather out of character for Dany and it appears that the writers took the recasting as an opportunity to revamp their relationship. This time, Daario seems like he’s trying hard to actively chase her, while Dany appears to be much more standoff-ish and cold towards him. It might take some getting used to, but it seems like it’s the best thing for the characters in the long run.

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One of the biggest surprises of the opening episodes was how much screen time Arya Stark was given. Over the course of the shows run, Arya has been given very inconsistent time on camera and it’s usually with a revolving door of cast mates. For the latter portions of season three, she was paired with The Hound, who, oddly enough, seems to fit some sort of perverse father/daughter role with her.

The Hound: I’m not a thief.

Arya: You’re find with murdering little boys but thieving is beneath you?

The Hound: Man’s got to have a code.

It was at this moment that we truly start to understand how much depth there is (surprisingly) to The Hound, and just how much of a badass Arya Stark can be. I hope they’re paired together for the foreseeable future because they make a fantastic pair.

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“Two Swords” did a decent job of not only easing us back into Westeros,but showing us where each character is and how much the world has shifted. While the world isn’t quite as frenzied as it was before the Red Wedding, there’s no denying that the shows tonal shifts are taking us in a different direction than what we’re accustomed to. New characters like Oberyn and the Thenn are giving us something new to look forward to for the coming season. I’m excited for the journey.

The Good

+ Dragons.

+ Arya and the Hound were fantastic.

+ Introduction of the clan of Thenn.

+ Oberyn.

+ Jaime's uneasy homecoming.


The Bad

- Daario being re-cast.

- As expected, the opening episode dragged a bit in parts.

- Daenerys' story was majorly lacking.

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