New Show Recap, Game of Thrones, 4×01, “Two Swords”

This episode does exactly what it says on the tin. In a way…

Did we all spot the Dreadfort and Meereen in the title sequence? Good work team! But we don’t actually get to see either of them in this episode. First, it’s off to…

King’s Landing

Tywin has brought over his very own pet swordsmith from Volantis to put the finishing symbolic touches to the almost-total destruction of the Starks. Some of the rare Valyrian steel that used to belong to Ned’s “absurdly large” sword is going to Jaime. Just so long as he knows what he’s expected to do in thanks: quit the Kingsguard and go back to Casterly Rock to rule in Tywin’s place. He refuses; and Tywin puts him down with one swoop:

A one-handed man with no family needs all the help he can get.

Jaime‘s not having the best day. Put down by his father, slagged off by his nephew-son, and irritated by Brienne reminding him of his promise to Catelyn (RIP) regarding Sansa, being back in the capital isn’t all rosy for him: despite all this, Jaime wants to stay in King’s Landing, because that’s where Cersei is. But though she gave him a golden hand that she spent “the better part of an afternoon” on, she doesn’t seem to want him the way she used to. Wink wink, nudge nudge. Her reasons  — he was “gone too long” — don’t seem all that watertight, even to her.  Is this something to do with the “symptoms” she mentioned to Qyburn? Or is it just his new hair?

Cersei and Jaime on a couh
It’s definitely the hair.

On the plus side, Brienne seems to have gained an admirer in Olenna Tyrell — a handy friend to have. I mean, if she has to have people other the hell out of her every time she appears, at least “absolutely singular” is a compliment? Brienne tells Margaery what really happened to Renly, but Margaery seems entirely unperturbed, only concerned about Brienne knowing who to acknowledge as king these days. She’s too practical a woman to give much thought to murdering shadows.

Poor Sansa is under a spotlight as the only Stark left (they think): she repulses both Shae’s and Tyrion’s attempts to ease her grief, retreating to the Godswood. Where she’s followed by Ser Dontos, the drunken knight-made-fool whose life Sansa saved in Season 2 (want to really get an attempted-rape survivor on your side? Maybe don’t follow her through the woods and scare the hell out of her! Pro tip from your friendly author). His present-giving gives Sansa the chance to slip into a more comfortable role — the grand lady bestowing favour, rather than the grieving orphan — and we finally see her smile a little. (Any other book readers think the Godswood here was utterly wrong?)

Sansa holds Dontos' necklace.
It’s not a patch on Margaery’s, but I’ll take it.

Shae, meanwhile, is getting more insecure and — in my mind — implausibly jealous of Sansa. When Tyrion refuses to have sex with her in his rooms, she storms out loudly, giving her fellow handmaid the chance to run to Cersei with what she’s overheard.  Her recklessness here is difficult to believe — does she just not believe Tyrion about how ruthless his father is? Tywin had Tyrion’s first wife gang-raped  — and has Shae missed that Tywin was behind the whole Red Wedding? In the books, the character is much younger and sillier than Sibel Kekilli’s intelligent, watchful Shae, so her behaviour is more believable.

And on to my favourite new character — yes, it’s Oberyn Martell, the younger brother of the Prince of Dorne and a man bent on revenge, after some hot four-ways with his lover Ellaria and some of Littlefinger’s best employees, of course. I liked that they brought Blond Guy back after his adventures last season seducing key info out of Loras; he obviously got a promotion for his pains and he’s the new Ros.

Oberyn comes on to Hot Blond Guy
“My Way”: not just a Sinatra song.

Oberyn is arrogant (“everyone is on offer”) and violent, but he’s a man with a plan: revenge. Helpfully for non-book readers, he manages to get through quite a lot of exposition while shaming Tyrion for his family’s dreadful deeds. To wit, Oberyn’s sister Elia was Rhaegar Targaryen’s wife, who was raped and killed by the Mountain on Tywin’s orders at the end of Robert’s Rebellion. (The “other woman” Oberyn refers to is Lyanna Stark, Ned’s sister and Robert’s fiancée, whose tomb we saw in the very first episode). Is revenge a dish best served decades in the making? But with Tywin at the top of the festering pit of power in King’s Landing, how exactly does Oberyn plan on getting his revenge without breaking the new, fragile peace in Westeros?

I hope Margaery’s not planning a rousing rendition of “The Rains of Castamere” as her first dance.

The North

Tormund finally says what we were all thinking:

If that boy’s still walking, it’s because you let him go.

But there’s no time to roll his eyes at Ygritte when there are cannibals — the bald, scarified Thenns — to avoid.

The second surviving Stark, Jon, is mostly recovered from aforementioned arrows, and while mourning his brother also has to defend himself against the Night’s Watch leaders for his “desertion.” Sam explicitly compares himself to Jon — is that supposed to make him feel better? In Jon’s reaction here, we see how much his priorities have changed since the first season. When Ned was killed, Jon was ready to break his vows and rush headlong to Robb’s side: but Robb’s own death inspires reminiscence, not action. Jon has more important things to do than avenge his family — there are giants coming. This is something that makes an impression even on Alliser Thorne, though not on the fresh-from-King’s-Landing jackass Janos Slynt.

Jon looks at Sam
Growl “I’ve done plenty wrong” at me again, Jon.

Essos

Dany seems to be having fun on her road trip through Essos, relaxing with her hyuuuuge dragons and flirting florally with the new Daario Noharis. Having burnt Qarth and sacked Yunkai, she’s looking forward to unleashing some freedom-loving Unsullied on Meereen, but the welcome party wasn’t exactly what she was expecting. Crucified children are such a bummer.

The Riverlands

And finally, here’s the second sword we’re really talking about — Arya‘s gift from Jon, Needle. Who didn’t love the dark comedy in these scenes?

The Hound: Ugh, you named your sword.

Arya: Lots of people name their swords!

The Hound: Lots of cunts.

But the darkness is the lasting impression, not the comedy. When Arya sees her chance to get revenge on the man who murdered Lommy and get her sword back, she relishes it. Really relishes it (the producers obviously read that Winds of Winter chapter extract before the rest of us). She gets Needle back, and the Hound even allows her a horse of her own. But how many men has Arya killed already? If they get to the Eyrie, what will Aunt Lysa think of her?

Arya rides away on a white horse
LIKE A BAWSE

What did you think of the re-introduction to Westeros? We’ve still to catch up with Gilly, Bran, Rickon, Theon, Yara, Davos, Gendry, Stannis, and the lovely Melisandre. Not to mention the Brotherhood and the Tullys — did the Blackfish escape? How did Edmure enjoy his wedding night? Come theorise with me in the comments. 

UPDATED SPOILER WARNING: if you want to talk about the books from this event in A Storm of Swords on, please be nice and use rot13.com to encypher your comment (go to that site, write your comment, click, then copy and paste the new text back here). Events from the books that have already been depicted in the first three seasons of the show are not considered spoilers.

Screencaps c/o screencapped.net. All images are the property of HBO.

12 thoughts on “New Show Recap, Game of Thrones, 4×01, “Two Swords””

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who hates Jaime’s new haircut. I’m not entirely sure why he wants to look like Jason Bateman, but it is what it is, I guess.

    (SPOILERS)

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  2. First, I’m so excited that I caught up and can actually participate in these discussions this year.
    Second, I’m really proud that I kept track of who all these people are, without a cheat sheet.

    This episode nicely illustrated the two characters I’ve done the most dramatic turn around about, Sansa and Jamie. I hated first season (and first book) Sansa, well, hate is awfully strong, I didn’t connect with her is more apt. I think I really started to appreciate her in season two, grew to love her in season three, and now I’m ready for her to go on a Lannister rampage with a flaming sword and a Super Soaker full of wildfyre. Jamie, of course, was made better by Brienne, who makes everything better, but I was surprised at how much sympathy I had for him after Tywin and Cersei both rejected him.

    I’ve seen comments all over the Internet demanding a spin off where Arya and the Hound solve crime, eat chicken, and exchange quips, and I would like to sign that petition.

    All in all, I thought it was a great, somewhat quiet, by GOT standards, episode to start off a new season. Now I’m off to polish my good jewelry, because I think we’re all about to go to b a big ol’ wedding.

    1. I’m impressed!

      We’ve got three really good buddy-cop-road-movie spinoffs so far: Tyrion and Bronn; Brienne and Jaime; and now Arya and the Hound.

      Jaime is a changed man, I think, and maybe Cersei can see it. And yes, Sansa gets under your skin with time. Part of me is willing her to trust Tyrion a bit more, because we know him, but she doesn’t – she doesn’t know how much he hates his father, and she does know his father had a hand in the slaughter of her family, bit by bit. In some ways Sansa is one of the strongest characters there is. I read a good review of this episode this week – google has failed me – which said that Sansa is so important because she represents reality. We all like to think we’d be like Arya in that situation, kicking ass and taking names, but most of us would do what Sansa does – keep her head down and try to survive with as much dignity as she can.

      1. I can admit that I’d be somewhat like Sansa, but two chances at escape and she balks? Now she’s really stuck. Thinking she would marry the Knight of Flowers and that that would keep her safe from Joffrey? Come on child. I get that you’re sheltered and you live in a fairy tale but after everything that’s happened to your family you’re STILL choosing to believe in make believe? I think she’s still incredibly fortunate. She has Margaery and her badass nana who could easily take her under their wings and school her on palace intrigue and she Tyrion, who I do wish she could learn to trust. He’s the only Lannister who cares about her.

  3. Maaaan, they packed *a lot* into this sixty minutes. Maybe too much, as I don’t know how in the world non-book readers are able to fully appreciate the depth of this story using only the brief clips of each storyline we’re offered on screen. But that’s they’re problem!

    I loved Arya getting Needle back but I also found that scene very depressing. It struck me just how powerless the serfs are. Completely, totally powerless and with no recourse if bad people do bad things. I’ve always said that I’m uninterested in time travel if it means going backward because I know my place and I’d end up someone’s maid. Scenes like this one just remind me that no matter what else goes wrong in my life, at least I live in a mostly law-abiding society with rules and regulations.

    1. You’re so right. I was thinking the same thing during that scene. Arya and the Hound could leave and that girl could end up in the exact same situation again with the next round of customers. And that’s assuming it hasn’t already happened before. No. If I ended up in a world like that (NEVARRR) if I couldn’t be some badass warrior woman with an equally badass posse (maybe some dragons) I wouldn’t wanna exist.

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