Spoiler-free review: Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 1 – Two Swords
Selina Pearson | On 06, Apr 2014
Season 4 of Game of Thrones is set to cover the second half of George RR Martin’s A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire Book 3). Unlike Season 1 and 2, adapting books 3 and 4 is a little more challenging. Book 3 was published in two volumes in paperback, but the split between Season 3 and Season 4 doesn’t happen in the same place: the Red Wedding is in the second part of the novel. The producers, rightly so, used it as the devastating climax of Season 3.
Season 4 picks up shortly after.
At the beginning of Two Swords, the general air of smugness in the Lannister camp is palpable – gloating that they have “won the war” following the smashing of Stannis Baratheon at Blackwater (Season 2) and the slaughter of Robb Stark’s Northmen at the Red Wedding (Season 3). Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), never one to miss an opportunity to add insult to injury, has finally taken Ned Stark’s Valyrian steel blade, had it melted down and reforged into two blades.
The novelty of Jaime Lannister’s return to King’s Landing seems to have worn off – mostly people have been pointing at his missing hand and telling him he’s useless. His father is pushing for him to leave and Cersei is characteristically unsympathetic in Lena Headey’s default selfish Queen-bitch mode.
It is obvious, though, after last season, that Jaime’s experiences have changed him. Never a vindictively evil character, most of his actions have been broadly well-intentioned. In the hands of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jaime remains an interesting character, and one whose development should follow an interesting trajectory. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) still plays the part of his conscience, even though they are no longer tied together.
Elsewhere, the upcoming royal wedding between Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) means that Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) must play diplomat with the newly-introduced Martells of Dorne. Lord Doran Martell has sent his younger brother Oberyn, the “Red Viper” to represent Dorne. There is already a prickly relationship between Dorne and the throne, since Oberyn’s sister Elia was mudered by “The Mountain”, Gregor Clegane, during the sack of King’s Landing – where Elia, wife of Rhaegary Tagaryan, and most of the family were slaughtered during Robert’s rebellion.
There have been some odd quirks with the casting of these new faces. Pedro Pascal seems to be a little young for Oberyn, given he’s fathered bastards across all of Dorne, some of which are grown up. This is particularly odd, as almost all of the cast in Game of Thrones are two or three years older than in the book. (This has also done a disservice to Sansa Stark – in the first book, she is 11 years old, but in the TV series, she is closer to 15. It is faintly ridiculous that a girl of 15 has the same romantic notions as a child of 11, which hasn’t helped the audience sympathise with her.) An additional recasting of Michiel Huisman as Dany’s favourite Sellsword, Daario Naharis, may add confusion, but he is at least unambiguously introduced.
In the North, meanwhile, the wildlings are gathering, uniting to take on the Night’s Watch, and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) faces the consequences of killing Qhorin “Halfhand” and apparently betraying the Watch.
Two Swords is a decent start to Season 4, a relatively non-violent opener that eases us back in to RR Martin’s heavily-populated world after the trauma of Season 3. As always, visits to some characters are brief, and some are not covered at all – dragon fans will have to wait to see a lot more of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). There are a couple of references that readers of the books will pick up but Episode 1 is business as usual in Westeros. As such, it comes with the standard warning: you really don’t want to watch it with your parents.
Nudity Watch: 10 minutes until the first instance of nudity.
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