This review contains vague spoilers, naturally.
It’s baaaaack! Game of Thrones, the hottest show on TV – and not just because of the dragons – is back on our screens. For the legion of fans, consuming every trailer, documentary spot, and promo photo, it isn’t a second too soon.
The last time we were in Westeros, the Starks had been destroyed in the events of the Red Wedding. The Lannisters were triumphant. For once, the bad guys had won. The opening of Season 4 is perhaps one of the best you will see all year. Lord Tywin Lannister watches as Ice, the Stark family sword, is melted down. It will now serve as two swords – one for each Lannister heir. The Lannister ascent to power is complete.
The thing I have loved most about Game of Thrones is that it is never predictable. A lot of characters will die. Some of them will be your favourite. Some of them, you’ll cheer for. Sometimes, the bad guys win. But you will love it. And you will come back for more. Every week until the final episode. Because it keeps you on the edge of your seat until the credits roll.
Cue the theme song.
And what do we have here? A new character. Meet Oberyn Martell. He’s from a wonderful place in the south called Dorne. It’s hot there. And, oh boy, so is he. From the moment he sets foot in King’s Landing, you know this guy means business. ‘The Lannisters aren’t the only ones that pay their debts.’ What was I saying about the Lannisters being in power again?
This man is sex on legs. He walks into a brothel, stabs a guy, then picks out a woman who will be lucky enough to share his bed. And a man. You see, our Red Viper is much less uptight than those in King’s Landing. He does things his way. That includes men. I shouldn’t forget his lady, Ellaria Sand, either. This gloriously bisexual couple is a breath of fresh Dornish air. It’s dangerous. It’s sexy. Really sexy. The queue forms here. Get ye behind me, peasants.
Across the narrow sea, and fresh from crowd surfing, is Daenerys Targaryen. The dragons have grown since the last time we saw them. Congratulations, mother of dragons. You are now the mother to teenagers. Grumpy, hormonal, scaly skin, don’t listen to their mother. Oh, and these actually breathe fire. Gurrl, you’ve got a problem.
Let’s face it. The dragons are one of the best parts of Dany’s story. Hell, they’re one of the biggest draws to the show. So, your show has zombies? Ours has zombies too. And fucking DRAGONS. And I’m not just talking about Cersei when she gets drunk. Smaug’s cousins. I have to give major props to the CGI guys. We don’t see the dragons often. But, when we do, it is breathtaking.
I should take this moment to make casual viewers aware. Daario, the long haired Fabio/Legolas look-a-like has been recast. He now looks less like he took a wrong turn on the catwalk, and somehow ended up in the desert. I, for one, wasn’t fond of Daario in the last season. He was too shiny, too perfect. You kill people for money. Why do you look like you’re in a L’Oreal advert? But the new actor… well, I wouldn’t mind getting dirty in the sand with him. I’m very impressed.
Throughout this episode, there are many short, yet beautiful, scenes, such as Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister developing an unlikely form of friendship. Book readers may scream that ‘it isn’t like that in the books’, but I think it’s quite nice to see Sansa having an ally. She may not be a viewer favourite, yet I want to wrap her up in a blanket, and cuddle her.
Jon Snow remains pretty. Ygritte remains ygritte-ful. Oh, and we have new characters. The Thenns. You will remember them because they like to snack on man corn. And not the fun kind. Roast arm, anyone? A battle is brewing, and I cannot wait to see it. I smell another Blackwater coming.
Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns, is perfect. If you disagree, you are wrong. She is criminally under used, and yet every scene she is in is memorable, if only because she is in them. Her interaction with certified bad ass, Brienne of Tarth, is understated, and filled with the thorny wit that makes Olenna my personal heroine.
And now for the big scene.
Arya Stark is basically Xena, Warrior Princess. Her journey from beloved tomboy daughter of Ned Stark, to a vengeance filled sidekick to the Hound has been one of my favourite storylines in Game of Thrones. The Lannisters wiped out the Starks, did they? Nope. The fire of Winterfell still clearly burns in this girl.
There is something about the Wolf and the Hound that is so fascinating to watch. You can just see how much Arya is learning. And the Hound gets some of the best lines of the show. Tyrion is supposed to be a master of wit, is he? I present Sandor Clegane and his words of wisdom.
‘Fuck the King.’
Oscar Wilde couldn’t do better. I could watch a show of just Arya and Sandor, travelling Westeros, drinking and killing. And I would love every second of it. Their scenes together are perfect, and this is no exception. Valar Morghulis, indeed.
Two Swords – the melting of the Stark’s power into the spoils of war for the Lannisters to share. But if this episode did anything, it was to show that victory comes at a price. And the wolves will come again. The next 9 weeks are going to be intense.
I can’t wait.