4/07/2014

Seven Kingdoms Scoop: “Game of Thrones” recap of season four premiere “Two Swords”


Good morning, all, and welcome back to the Seven Kingdoms! If you are like me, then you obsessively watched the season four premiere of Game of Thrones last night, ignoring your family and friends in the process and instead interacting with strangers on the Internet who share your passion for this show. (Uh, I’m at @roxana_hadadi, if you want to be Internet friends with this stranger who shares your passion for this show. Just offering that out there.)

But yes, we watched “Two Swords” last night! And yes, we crashed HBOGO! And yes, I am going to recap this whole season for you, just like I did last season! Let’s get things started, no? If you recall from last season, my recaps started with a manageable length and then got more detailed and in-depth as the episodes progressed, so we’ll probably follow that same format this time around.

For now though, let’s consider “Two Swords,” and the five most important things to come from last night’s premiere. Like last season, SOME SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW, because I’ve read George R.R. Martin’s books and I like to think I know what’s going down. So I’ll throw some suggestions out there, but feel free to disagree with me in the comments or attack me on Twitter. Whichever.

Onward! Now, the five most important things!

+ The façade of a happy family of Lannisters is crumbling. Sure, they killed Robb and Catelyn Stark, Robb’s wife Talisa, and their unborn child in the Red Wedding last season, but that doesn’t mean the Lannisters themselves are a happy bunch. Tywin is still basically running the kingdom as Hand to his grandson, King Joffrey, but Joffrey continues to be a raging bratty asshole. Tyrion and Cersei remain at each other’s throats (and one of Cersei’s handmaiden might have seen Tyrion and whore/Sansa’s handmaiden Shae together, which would be very bad for Tyrion indeed), and Jaime, finally home in King’s Landing, doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. Tywin tries to throw him off the Kingsguard because of his missing hand and wants him to go back and be Lord of Casterly Rock, but Jaime refuses, basically getting disowned in the process. Cersei comes to see him as Qyburn attaches his golden hand, but shows basically zero sympathy toward his loss; when he comments on her half-drunkenness and she snipes at him, though, you see how much has changed between them. Oh, and she hasn’t slept with him at all in the months he’s been back, prompting this depressing exchange:

Jaime: “I murdered people so I could be here with you.”
Cersei: “You took too long.”

OK, so Cersei is a cold, heartless bitch. But maybe she’s pregnant with cousin Lancel’s baby? I wonder what she was talking to Qyburn about regarding her “symptoms,” and if she’s pregnant, that might explain why she hasn’t slept with Jaime. (This would be a major change from the books, but hey, it could work for shock value.) In other sad-Jaime news, he gets mocked by secret-son Joffrey, who scoffs at Jaime only having half a page in the Kinsguard’s book documenting their members (“How can you protect me with that?” Joffrey sneers of Jaime’s missing hand), and even pushes Brienne away, even though she’s the only character he really seems at ease with during the whole episode. Brienne is concerned that Sansa still isn’t safe in King’s Landing and Jaime isn’t living up to his vow to Catelyn Stark, but all Jaime can say is. “Are you sure we’re not related? … Every Lannister I’ve seen has been a miserable pain in my ass.” Oh, Jaime. Don’t push away Brienne; she’s the only person who really knows you! Argggh.

+ Say hello to the Dornish, those of lascivious appetites and fiery tempers. So this season we’re finally getting to know Dorne and the Martells; if you listened to our PDC Podcast on Sunday, you might have heard my breakdown of this. Dorne is basically the southernmost kingdom in the Seven Kingdoms, and it’s where Tyrion sent Myrcella off a couple of seasons ago, in an engagement to a Dornish prince. Back in the day, Princess Elia of Dorne was married to Rhaegar Targaryen, heir to the throne and Dany’s older brother, but Elia, Rhaegar, and their children were all killed during Robert’s Rebellion, which the Lannisters supported although Tywin Lannister was Hand to the king, Aerys. That’s also the king Jaime killed, earning himself the nickname Kingslayer. PHEW.

OK, so now we’re being introduced to Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne, the second son; his older brother, Doran, is king of Dorne. And basically Oberyn is AMAZING, a fan favorite from the books; he’s a combination of a ruthless, conniving killer (he uses a lot of poison) and a seductive, attractive, sexual force of nature who is openly bisexual. He and his paramour, Ellaria Sand (a bastard; like Jon Snow and Gendry Waters, who have common last names to where they were born), are pretty much the embodiment of YOLO—they don’t care who they offend, they don’t care who they piss off. Of course, because this is Game of Thrones, we had to get a lot of sexposition to cement their characters’ personalities—oh look, Oberyn has sex with both men and women!—but I liked the little touches in their scenes in the Lannister brothel with Tyrion. Oberyn running his hand over an open flame all nonchalantly? Nothing scares him. Ellaria’s protection of him, but her arousal when he picks a fight with the Lannisters? She’s committed to him, but his dangerous personality is what drew her in the first place. And when Oberyn tells Tyrion that he’s here for revenge for Elia’s rape and murder, and that “the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts,” he should be very wary indeed.

Other notes about Dorne and the Martells: I’ve always considered their culture a mix of the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Moorish Spain, so it makes sense to me that the Lannister men would be racist against them and throw things like “a shaved goat and a bottle of olive oil” in their faces as insults. Too bad you got a dagger through your wrist, dude. Also, love the guyliner all over the Dornishmen who Tyrion greets with Bronn and Podrick Payne.

+ Sansa and Arya Stark are dealing with grief in their own particular ways. Oh, sweet, innocent, constantly-fucked-over Sansa Stark. She’s still married to Tyrion, still hasn’t consummated the marriage, and still can barely stand the sight of him. Although in this episode he tries to be very gentle with her in discussing the deaths of Robb and Catelyn (loved Tyrion’s little speech to her: “I admired her. She wanted to have me executed, but I admired her. She was a strong woman. And she was fierce when it came to protecting her children. Sansa, your mother would want you to carry on. You know it’s true”), you can tell this is a conversation they’ve had many times before, and it’s not helping Sansa any. Instead, she retreats to the Godswood (“I don’t pray anymore. It’s the only place I can go where people don’t talk to me”) more and more often, which is where she encounters Ser Dantos, the drunk knight she saved from Joffrey some seasons ago. He gives her a necklace (PAY ATTENTION TO THE NECKLACE!), and it looks like Sansa has a new friend. She should know better by now, but if Sansa Stark weren’t constantly getting steamrolled by “new friends,” she wouldn’t be Sansa Stark.

In contrast to that is Arya, who this episode turns a significant corner in her amateur-killer personality. Still captured by the Hound, Arya makes another dent in her prayer list of names (you know, the people she chants to herself every night that she wants kill) by killing Polliver, the man who stole her sword Needle and killed her friend back in the day, before Arya was dragged to Harrenhal with Gendry and Hot Pie. That long, drawn-out scene between Polliver, the Hound, and Arya was fantastic, an example of the greatness this show can deliver when they stay in one space for a prolonged period of time. During all that lead-up, it seemed like Polliver was too oblivious (his sales pitch to the Hound of “Think about it, we could do whatever we like, wherever we go,” seemed particularly immature), but when the fighting began, this scene really came together. Never forget that the Hound is a seasoned killer, and he will eliminate an inn full of people like it’s nothing. And never forget that Arya Stark has an ax to grind, revenge to get, and people to kill. Her repeating Polliver’s taunts back to him (“Is something wrong with your leg, boy? Can you walk?”) before killing him with her Needle through his neck was extremely, horrendously chilling, and that little smile Arya gives while riding her new horse away from the bloodshed at the inn should have terrified you. This will never again be the girl we thought we knew. Too much tragedy has happened for her to ever go back.

+ Dany’s still marching on Meereen, still doing her mother of dragons thing. The storyline that might have had the least forward movement this episode was Dany’s, which basically just focused on Daario flirting with her (yes, the role has been recast, from Ed Skrein to Michiel Huisman) and telling her she needs to know the land she wants to rule; Jorah warning her that dragons “can never be tamed, not even by their mother”; and the cruelty of the Meereeneese slave traders, who killed and posted 163 slave children along the path to their city as a way to psych out Dany. Although this episode was a bit slow, we can already see where Dany’s story will go this season, I think: a struggle to control Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal, who are now pretty huge and pretty sassy, snapping at Dany when she tries to interfere in them fighting over a dead goat; and the attack against Meereen, a large slave city that has the resources to fight Dany from their gates. Daario tells Dany, “If you want them to follow you, you have to become part of their world,” and in the books, that has very specific implications for Dany that will actually piss off Daario as time progresses. But for now, it looks like we’re continuing along this slow march.

+ The Night’s Watch isn’t happy Jon Snow is back, and the wildlings aren’t that happy he’s gone. Jon Snow may be back at the Wall, supposedly where he belongs, but he’s still a wanted man. The leaders of the Night’s Watch refuse to believe he was actually acting on Qhorin Halfhand’s orders when he killed the ranger and joined the wildlings, and they threaten him with death for his supposed betrayal. Even when Jon warns them of Mance Rayder’s advancing army of wildlings, giants, and other free folk, they brush him off and essentially laugh at him. Only Maester Aemon seems to believe him and keeps the rest of the council from killing him that day, but reminds Jon of his duty: “None of us are free. We are men of the Night’s Watch.”

And speaking of that advancing army? Ygritte and Tormund Giantsbane are part of it, with the latter telling the former she should have killed Jon when she had the chance: “If that boy is still walking, it’s because you let him go.” But neither of them is particularly pleased to join up with the Thenns, a tribe of wildlings from the books who are earless (sad they didn’t keep that detail in the TV adaptation), organized, and extremely good killers; they’re efficient in a way that most of the other wildlings aren’t. Here, they’re introduced as cannibals who are eating dead men of the Night’s Watch, and who threaten Ygritte, prompting this great line from her: “I’m not anybody’s.” The cannibalism change is weird, but I guess it’s just to demonstrate that all of the wildlings aren’t really people Jon Snow would want coming through the Wall and into the proper Seven Kingdoms. Maybe some of them should stay back with there, with their weird flesh-eating ways.

+ And a few final thoughts:

+ Did anyone else notice that statue of Joffrey that is in King’s Landing, with him triumphantly standing over a wolf or something? I need the HBO Store to start stocking desk-size reproductions immediately.

+ Also speaking of Joffrey, I pretty much wanted to punch him in the face when he was mocking Jaime in comparison with Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning – the man who actually knighted Jaime and who was killed by Ned Stark during Robert’s Rebellion. In the books, Dayne was a mentor to Jaime, the kind of knight that the young Lannister emulated and idolized; in fact, his death by Ned Stark is part of what creates the bad blood between the two men. So to have Joffrey throw Dayne in his secret-father’s face was a very low blow.

+ I hope this was clear to everyone, but in the opening scene, when Tywin Lannister is melting down that Valyrian steel sword to create the new one for Jaime, it’s Ned Stark’s sword, Ice, that he used to behead people and serve up justice back at Winterfell. When Jaime notes that he’s surprised Tywin could find that much Valyrian steel, well, he didn’t really find it; he basically stole it off a dead man. So that’s nice.

+ Cersei breaks out her normal bitchiness by calling her betrothed, Loras Tyrell, a “renowned pillowbiter.” These homophobic insults are getting real specific.

+ PODRICK PAYNE HAS GROWN UP SO MUCH. HE’S SO TALL AND ALL OF HIS BABY FAT IS GONE. I LOVE HIM.

+ I also love Ellaria Sand, who displays her propensity for honesty very early on: “Timid. Timid bores me. … I’m a bastard. She is a whore. And you’re, what? A procurer?” Who can’t love a woman who cuts that deep? In a few trailers we saw Oberyn and Ellaria interacting with Cersei and Tywin, and I can’t wait for the awkward amazingness of that upcoming conversation.

+ And finally, can’t help but love Grandma Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns, who reacts to Brienne in this way: “Aren’t you just marvelous? Absolutely singular. I heard you knocked my grandson into the dirt like the silly little boy he is.” Nicely said, Granny! This is a precursor to Brienne telling Margaery of how Renly really died, with a Stannis-like shadow shoving a dagger into his heart. Interesting that in the show Brienne is telling Margaery this, when in the books, she tells Loras—who everyone knows is the one Tyrell really grieving Renly. Sure, Margaery was married to him, but Loras was clearly the one in a relationship with him. I wonder why they switched it up here, but maybe to establish a friendship between Margaery and Brienne? Interesting.