Tuesday, April 8, 2014

(TV) Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 1 "Two Swords" Review

With tragic events at the end of last season depicting the heartbreaking and bloody destruction of house Stark as a force to be reckoned with in Westeros, it's quite clear that this season that House Lannister will be the main focus of the show as while they have destroyed one of their enemies, it looks like a host of  more formidable opponents have taken their place. 

The Lannisters and Jamies' Hand 

House Lannister faces threats from all quarters from scheming the scheming Tyrells clearly not satisfied with being the second most powerful house in Westeros and a precocious and promiscuous dornishman with a jumbo sized grudge against them in their midst to a mother of fire breathing dragons who with every conquest is becoming less and less of a "curiosity on the far side of world"Add to that Whitewalkers and wildlings marching south on the wall, it becomes clear that the Lannister clan have their work cut for them if they are to avoid the same fate as the Starks. 

Despite all these threats within and without, the episode begins with Tywin, with a unfamiliar smile on his face, handing ice (House Starks's great sword) to a blacksmith to melt and make two swords, one of which he gives to Jamie. The significance of this scene hasn't really been explained in earlier episodes but this could well be in Tywin's eyes his greatest achievement as every great house in Westeros has a great sword forged with Valyrian steel, all except the Lannisters. This fact has been a major a bed bug in the family legacy for years beyond counting, until now.

The Lannister are an unforgiving bunch and in this episode, Tywin, Joffrey and notably Cersei's Interaction with Jamie showed they were none too pleased about his imprisonment or new disability. Tywin has shown throughout the Shows' run that he is a master strategist and politician but he's has also shown on countless occasions why he'll never get a "best dad in the world" T-shirt or mug on fathers' day. 

However in the few interaction we've seen with Tywin with his oldest son, it's clear he loves Jamie the most as he tries to convince a defiant Jamie to relinquish his role as commander of the Knightsguard and become lord of Casterly Rock in his stead. Seeing that his son is just as stubborn as he is, he throws a jab at Jamie having one hand, his lack of children and needing all the help he can get" for the lack of both.

The jabs aimed at Jamie's lack of  a hand kept coming in his exchanges with his sister and lover Cersei coldly filling him in on what happened during his grueling excursion north at the hands of the Starks and later the Boltons. It's a bit harsh to blame Jamie for getting captured by the starks and getting his hand chopped off by house Bolton hunters but she did have a point. Jamie did start a "brawl" with Ned Stark and did miss the Battle of Blackwater Bay which without Tyrion's masterful use of wildfire and leadership on the field of battle, could have ended with Cersei, Tyrion, and Joffrey heads on a pike. However she was being unfair when he responded to Jamie stating he made it back eventually with a cold and unreasonable "you took too long".

Joffrey continued the barrage mercilessly pointing out Jamie's lack of achievements as Commander of Kingsguard and again pointing out once again to his lack of a hand in expressing doubts in his ability to his protect him. Joffrey is, and always will be, an arsehole of epic proportion (just like his father pre-hand dismemberment) but he does have a point and as usual, the boy king has no reservations in expressing them. I, and I'm sure everybody watching this great show, hopes that Joffrey meets a cruel and usual end but it looks like we may have to put up with his snide remarks for just bit longer, not long too long, I hope.

The Red Viper 


No one in Westeros really likes Lannisters, including other Lannisters, but as we see from his Badass exchange with Lannister guards in Littlefingers' pleasure house and his menacing exchange with Tyrion not too long after, Oberyn Martell (brilliantly played by Pedro Pascal), also Known as the Red Viper, has more reason to hate the Lannister brood than most. The Lannisters were responsible for the brutal death of  Oberyn's sister, Elia Targaryen, at the hands of the Mountain (The Lannisters answer to Luca Brasi) and his baby nephew which has left him with a long held desire to show that the Lannisters aren't the only ones  adept at paying debts.

Pedro Pascal as the Red Viper provided the standout performance of the episode as the hot tempered prince with a score to settle as he excels in portraying his menace, promiscuity, and inability to take no for an answer.

Arya and The Hound continue their "kicking ass and taking names" tour of Westeros

However "Two Swords" belonged to the bloody brilliant set piece in the final minutes of the episode as Arya spots Polliver, an old foe from season two who coldly killed her friend Lommy.  Arya, more than most, has been through hell losing her dad, mother and older brother and being present or in close vicinity to their grisly deaths. Like fat turns into muscle under duress, Arya sadness has turned into blood lust as her thirst for revenge drags the Hound into the tavern where Polliver and his men were drinking ale, eating chickens and molesting a young girl.

Arya and The Hound take an uneasy seat as Polliver men eye The Hound and Arya for a beat then return to their ale, chicken, and the girl unfortunate enough to run into them. As they take their seat, Polliver recognizes the The Hound (though, to his detriment, not Arya) and takes a seat at their table for a chit chat.

Things begin rather pleasantly as the former comrades have a chat and catch up but things soon go awry as Polliver makes the mistake of mentioning the king then offers The Hound to join his merry band of pillaging rapists as they make their way back to Kings Landing. Having no desire to go king's Landing or listen to Polliver odious rhetoric along the lines of "we're the king's men, no one can fuck with us", The hound changes the tone of conversation the moment he barks "fuck the king". The look of astonishment on Polliver face was priceless as he tried to register what his former colleague had just said and after a long beat, threw a jab at The Hound's pride that clearly didn't land citing his less than amiable departure from King's Landing during the battle of Blackwater Bay.

Then The Hound, hungry and clearly in a mood to kill a man doesn't like, takes a drink, and tells him to go get him a chicken. Polliver, in no giving mood, ask him to pay for the chicken The Hound rightly points out he didn't pay for himself. Then, if he hadn't already, revealed himself for the slimeball he really is when he offered The Hound a trade: the chicken for Arya. The hound, now in full badass mode, takes Polliver drink, downs it in one long gulp staring right at Polliver and then tells him to get him two chickens. Polliver, none to pleased with the blatant disrespect, tries to reason with The Hound pointing out subtly that he's outnumbered and questions whether he's really ready to die over chicken to which The Hound replies, with full menace "someone is".

After a long beat of silence where we see the wheels turning in Polliver head as to whether he should attack the The Hound, Polliver shoots up from his seat only for The Hound to turn over the table flatten him before he could draws his sword. The Hound, with a little bit of help from Arya,  makes relatively light work of Pollivers men including a face gouging kill that I still can't watch without wincing.  But the most telling part of the scene was at the end when Arya made her growing hit list one target light by taking "needle" and killing Polliver in the same cold hearted fashion Polliver killed Lommy while repeating line for line the words Polliver used before did the deed.

this small scene was brilliant yet harrowing as we've always known that Arya wasn't one to faint at the sight of blood but in this episode we watched her take pleasure in making an albeit very unpleasant man meet his death which doesn't bode well for anybody in her way and certainly not the names on her hit list.

Overall "Two Swords" was a strong opening for season and has done it's job of setting up some of sure to be epic events set to take place this season as if the trailers are worthy sources of where this season will go, then we're in for a treat.

Episode rating: 


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