Review: Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 1 – Two Swords

Fire, ice and blood - Game of Thrones season four hits our screens, and hits them hard

Oh yes, it’s that time of year again. Spring flowers are in full bloom, April showers are sprinkling onto our waiting umbrellas, it’s almost time for the Easter Bunny to leave some chocolate fertility symbols hidden in the bird bath, and Game of Thrones is back. Your Mondays are no longer yours; now, they belong to the realm.

A lot of stuff went down in season three; so much in fact, that you may be wondering if there are enough characters left alive to warrant you sticking with this careering warhorse of a show until the bitter and bloody end. The Starks, or at least most of them, may be no more, but George R. R. Martin, D. B. Weiss and David Benioff still have several suits of cards up their sleeves.

The most exciting new development in this season opener was undoubtedly the seamless introduction of Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne and his partner in crime Ellaria Sand (yes, that’s a bastard name, and we like bastards round these parts). Tyrion waits to greet the Prince (who has come to attend the wedding of Joffrey and Margaery) only to find he’s already arrived, then tracks him and Ellaria to a nearby brothel, where they are engaging in a nice classic bit of GOT sexposition.

This particular injection of bare naked plot teaches us a lot about Oberyn (and Ellaria); they’re strong-willed and ruthless, they know what they want and how to get it (especially when it’s a pansexual foursome), and don’t-whatever-you-do start singing the Rains of Castamere when they’re around, because Oberyn will suave over and staple your wrist to the table so hard you’ll probably be playing one handed patty-cake with Jaime Lannister by sundown.

So, it’s clear that the Martells (like pretty much everybody else) hate the Lannisters. This is due to myriad things, but mostly the fact that Oberyn’s sister Elia was the poor schmuck who married Rhaegar Targaryen (aka the Last Dragon) and ended up, along with her children, on the wrong end of Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane. We get so many new characters thrown at us every other week on GOT it can sometimes be hard to keep track, but Oberyn and Ellaria certainly stick in the mind; let’s hope they cause Tywin Lannister some serious stress headaches in the coming weeks.

In other news, since rocking up at Castle Black with three of Ygritte’s arrows sticking out of him, Jon Snow has grown even grouchier and growlier (if that’s at all possible). This is probably due to his learning of the death of his half-brother Robb Stark, who found himself trading heads with his pet wolf at last season’s scarlet nuptials. Played by a brilliantly grim Kit Harington, Jon defiantly tells his story to the Black Brothers, and just barely manages to avoid also losing his head.

This episode began with a sword – Ice, the sword of dead Ned Stark, being melted down in a brilliantly filmed pre-credits sequence – and it also ends with one. The standout scene has to be the intense barroom brawl that ensues when Arya and the Hound stumble upon Polliver (the torturer, and one of the many names on Arya’s deathlist) and a few more of the king’s men stirring up trouble at an inn. We know the Hound’s going to kick off eventually but the scene builds deliciously slowly, letting Polliver talk himself into a hole, before the Hound finally snaps and starts breaking heads. This allows Arya the chance to steal back needle and jam it squarely into Polliver’s throat – but not before she makes sure he knows why.

All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better opener for season four. Now we’re hoping the showrunners can keep the ball rolling for the next nine episodes (and that they don’t leave Dany and the dragons in the desert for hours on end – again).

Best Kill: Arya sticking the pointy end of Needle into Polliver’s throat

Best Scene: The Hound squaring off against Polliver over a couple of beers

Best Line: Arya: ‘Lots of people name their swords.’ The Hound: ‘Lots of cunts.’

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