Episode 31: Two SwordsSPOILER ALERT: This post is absolutely riddled with spoilers so if you haven't seen the episode, don't blame me.
The first show of a season is always difficult. You have to reintroduce the viewer to new story lines that are about to spawn from old ones, new characters that are about to cross paths with seemingly insignificant past characters, and bring the story on far and fast enough so as not to bore the viewing audience whose anticipation for this particular installment of the show are impossibly high. I think Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 1: Two Swords delivered in abundance.
We open on Tywin Lannister melting down Ned Stark's Valyrian ex-great-sword into two smaller, more manageable swords. While doing so, he is smug and he is victorious. This is his own kind of pomp. Tywin as usual without saying a word says all he needs to say especially with the burning of the wolf pelt.
Couple this with the very last scene where Arya is again holding Needle having exacted revenge on someone who has done her wrong in the past. The significance of the two swords (Ice and Needle as opposed to the two that Tywin had forged from Ice) is massive. While the Starks are no longer the great power they were, this power being shown by the power and majesty of Ice, they are still there, smaller, sleeker and meaner. It makes for an exciting season.
In this episode we meet some new characters and some from previous seasons who played bit-part roles. The most important to this episode is Polliver, a known associate of Gregor Clegane who Arya met previously at Harrenhal. He was on her list. WAS! Arya saw him and was immediately spoiling for a fight. In typical white girl fashion, she is soooo done. Like she can't even.... But she's not all talk. She makes a beeline to the tavern with seemingly no plan in her mind and The Hound takes care of the rest. They are the most unlikely of partners in crime but they manage to unleash one of the most kick-ass scenes ever on television with The Hound breaking the sacred guy code of not stabbing another guy in the dick and then following that up by forcing another guy to stab himself repeatedly in his own face.
At this point Arya takes over. Previous to this she has killed two people by her own sword (many more in the books but we're not talking about those). One was a little fat boy who surprised her and she surprised herself by poking a hole in him. The other was a Frey man who was talking about sewing Grey Wind's head onto Robb's body following the Red Wedding. The first could be perceived as an accident and the second was a maniacal fit of rage and grief. The tavern was neither. It was cold blooded and she made it look easy. She dispatched with the first man as if she were just climbing over a chair. He was an obstacle to her real prize which was Polliver. She cut him down before recovering Needle and mimicked the killing of Lommy in chilling fashion. Arya and The Hound rode off through the war torn land, one with the horse she wanted and the other with all the fucking chickens he needed.
The other recurring characters were Ser Dontas and Janos Slynt, both of whom we met at King's Landing previously. Slynt was the Commander of the City Watch who betrayed Ned Stark and was banished to the Wall by Tyrion. Many people probably don't even remember him and his re-introduction was quite poorly done I thought. If he is to be a recurring character from now on, he should have been introduced to the Wall earlier. Ser Dontas also played a very minor role when we met him early and we saw him popping up as an extra once or twice since but again I'm sure no one noticed so his reintroduction from obscurity could have been better handled. These are small issues I had overall but someone's gotta nitpick, right?
We also met a couple of new characters like the Thenns who are beyond creepy and cannibalistic, but it was the introduction of Oberyn Martell that one of the highlights of the show for many people. It was pretty special. In the book, Oberyn's introduction plays out very differently but gets across the same essential points. Sex and vengeance are what matter to him. It doesn't matter who the sex is with, whether it's his paramour Ellaria Sand or in a group (as Bronn and Tyrion can almost attest to). Aside from his just-plain-lust, Oberyn also showed his lust for Lannister blood and his comfort with violence by stabbing a guy through the wrist purely for the crime of being a Lannister (although he was a complete dick too, and the other guy getting off by singing The Rains of Castamere to a prostitute?) Anyway, it is plain that Oberyn is out to avenge the death of his sister and you get the feeling that is something he will achieve.
Running through the episode chronologically after that, Tywin disowning Jaime was bit of a let down and just didn't seem like a big deal. With a man so intent on preserving his legacy and that of the family, you would think he would be angrier. Tyrion has changed over time. Ever since Olenna Martell referred to him as a brow beaten bookkeeper we've begun to see it. Now he is married, diplomatic and semi-monogamous. He's also become an expert at taking huge amounts of shit from people. Bronn has an excellent episode and bounced off both Tyrion and Oberyn quite well. We can only hope to see more of him.
Daenerys' scenes don't tell us much. Her dragons are in the awkward adolescent teen, fuck-you-mom, sheep-killing phase where Dany has little control over their actions. She is well out of her depth as she tends to be quite often. The other purpose of her scenes is to introduce us to the new Daario Naharis who would blend in to a crowd which should never have been his purpose. There doesn't seem to be much chemistry between himself and the Khaleesi and what chemistry there is, is forced. We also find out that Grey Worm seems to have a phantom boner for Missandei which could lead to something or nothing in the future. The only other thing is that before Daenerys gets close to Meereen, She is already responsible for the death of 163 slave children of the city. She will look upon all their faces.
Sansa is miserable and for good reason. She turns down lemon cakes. Shae is miserable and has no reason to be. She's always been a bit of a pain in the arse. She's also making it quite obvious that she's unhappy the way she talks at Tyrion. Poor Tyrion is trying so hard. What he says about Catelyn Stark echoes a lot of the traits that Cersei has which may be somewhat of a foreshadowing. Sansa's reason for visiting the Godswood is heart-breakingly delivered. Shae should probably just fuck off. Tyrion turns down sex for the second time in the episode. Cersei's spy is an interesting development. Hopefully it doesn't ruin that arc of the story.
Cersei appears to have taken a liking to Qyburn and a major disliking to her twin brother-lover, Jaime. He hates his new golden hand but still loves his sister. She blames him for everything that has gone wrong and he makes light of them. It would appear that their relationship is pretty much over, especially the sex part. On that note, it is an incredibly powerful show with an amazingly crafted story line that would make one feel sorry for a guy because his sister won't have sex with him any more.
There's tension between Tormund and Ygritte. She's very angry at herself and Tormund blames her for Jon Snow being alive. We meet the Thenns who are instantly very hate-able as Tormund attests to. They're skin head cannibals and full of weird scars, making them very dangerous from the get go. Tormund isn't totally afraid of them but he is definitely wary. Ygritte doesn't seem to be afraid of anyone any more as she pulls a arrow on the leader (who from the books we can presume is Styr the Magnar).
Back at Castle Black, Sam and Jon are reunited. They talk of Robb but Jon is preoccupied by other things such as keeping his head. Sam is clearly nervous for him too even though he is completely on his side. He stands in front of Alliser Thorne, Janos Slynt, Maester Aemon and two other guys who sit silently. Kit Harrington appears to have really fallen into his role as Jon Snow and his more fiery side certainly suits him more than his angsty teen bastard. His time with the wildlings clearly helped him with his acting. Janos Slynt could do with the same treatment. While Jon gets to keep his head for now, Slynt and Thorne are still out to get him and Maester Aemon is very much on his side.
The Queen of Thorns and her granddaughter are discussing the wedding. Olenna is throwing her weight and money around. It is clear that herself and her grand daughter are still not enamored by Joffrey but Olenna tells Margaery to watch her tongue regardless for fear of who might hear. Brienne of Tarth interrupts them much to the excitement of Lady Olenna. Margaery and Brienne speak on Renly's death for no apparent reason. Of course nothing happens in this show for no reason.
Joffrey and Jaime are in a room together for the first time in a very long time. Joffrey is making japes at Jaime's expense, most likely to compensate for the fact that his uncle is his father. Jaime is clearly sick of his shit but keeps his tongue. That's the third person in his family to have made light of his lack of a hand. That is sure to fester as time goes on. The next we see of Jaime, he is taking shit over the possibility of his broken vow to Catelyn Stark if he does not return Sansa. We then have the awkward, completely-out-of-the-blue scene between Sansa and Ser Dontas who gives her a necklace.
We arrive at the final scene between Arya and The Hound at the inn. This was one I had personally been looking forward to and, as with the Oberyn scene, it was changed from what was in the book but may possibly have surpassed it. The Hound stole the show with his performance and really gave the episode the kick it needed. Without this scene it would have been a little more than average (by Game of Thrones exceptionally high standards).
Episode 32: The Lion & the RoseSPOILER ALERT: This post is absolutely riddled with spoilers so if you haven't seen the episode, don't blame me.
This is the episode book readers have been waiting for since the Red Wedding and even long before it. I was one of them up until it happened. Then I began to change my mind a little. The moment I am obviously talking about is Joffrey's wedding and his subsequent death. The show runners cannot be faulted for how the scene played out. It was excellent. It was built up in such a way that you knew something had to happen and it was truly delightful to see so many big players in one place at the same time. It is unlikely that we will see such again.
The reason why I began to change my thinking on Joffrey's death was because I decided I would miss him a little. He is the perfect villain and the only one the show has any more. There are plenty of horrible people but they also have some likability or redeeming qualities. Joffrey had none and he was someone people loved to hate. I am not normally one for this kind of emotion but it is one that Joffrey stirs. There are others like Tywin or Cersei or Joffrey's heir apparent for cruelest person in the Seven Kingdoms, Ramsay Snow, but they are either not on his level or have their reasons. More on the wedding later.
Speaking of Ramsay, we get to see a little of him outside of his torture chamber which makes a nice change. The opening scene serves to show us not only his immeasurable cruelty but the creature that he has made out of Theon. He is a shadow of his former self, a shell of a man. Roose Bolton returns and treats Ramsay like the shit on the bottom of his shoe which shows us where Ramsay got his cruelty. Roose is cold, he is complex and he is calculated. Ramsay plays with Reek to prove to his father his loyalty. Reek cannot even kill him as he holds a knife to Ramsay's throat. The scene is full of tension and is, as always, very well played out. Roose hatches a plan to find the Stark boys and sends Ramsay and Reek to take Moat Cailin.
We see our first scene between Tyrion and Jaime since season one. There is still clearly a strong relationship between the two despite everything that has happened in the past few years, one that is no longer shared between any other members of the Lannister family. Jaime takes sparring lessons with Bronn. I think this is a great change from the books where it was Ilyn Payne who he fought with. The show almost always makes the perfect changes to the books to allow it to flow better on screen. I'm expecting a few more great scenes between the two this season.
Meanwhile Tyrion is have woman troubles. Shae has been noticed and, as Varys reminds him, his father does not make idle threats. Shae will be hanged when she is found. Tyrion shows her the toughest of love by sending her across the narrow sea. He can't be in love with a whore. She is not fit to bear his children. It reminded me of the scene where Arya threw stones at Nymeria to save her life in season one.
In what is definitely the most disturbing story line for a main character, we watch Stannis, Melisandre and co as they burn "infidels" for not worshiping the Lord of Light. Stannis' wife is an absolute loony bin. One of the people they burned was her brother and she was excited by it all. Grilled seagull is also her favorite dish which is enough reason not to trust her. She asks Melisandre to speak with their daughter. Melisandre tries her best to educate Shireen about religion
Bran gets a token scene in this episode in which he is being a spoiled little shit. The Reeds are his voice of reason and they also think that he is of huge importance. He decides to touch a heart tree and has a vision, a number of clips of things that we have seen before but he has not. There was also a few things that we have not seen but it is all very difficult to make sense of. It sounds like they're going further north.
And finally we reach the wedding a little over half way through the episode. Those who you expect to look unimpressed do look so. Following the ceremony, the grand parents converse over money and you'd imagine they would make a more impressive power couple that the Underwoods. The Iron Bank of Braavos is mentioned briefly. Apparently Bronn has put Shae on a ship but in a show where you really need evidence for these kind of things, I remain skeptical.
What seems like a throwaway conversation occurs where Lady Olenna toys playfully with Sansa's hair and necklace.She mentions that it is just a horrid thing to kill a man at a wedding. Joffrey is brutal humor as are many other people seem to be. There are sordid and awkward exchanges: Jaime/Ser Loras, Brienne/Cersei, Cersei/Pycelle, Cersei/Tywin/Oberyn/Ellaria (see a pattern here?). Then the real shit starts.
Joffrey unleashes the War of the Five Kings on the wedding, a play joust between a gang of dwarves that offends almost everyone at the wedding to some degree and would make you want to kill Joffrey. This all pales in comparison to the torture he inflicts on Tyrion. He first tells him he should challenge another dwarf for the champions to which Tyrion politely declines, but not before getting his own dig at Joffrey for being a virgin. Joffrey calmly dumps a goblet of wine over Tyrion's head as his frustration grows. Tyrion manages to stay calm and do as he's told for the next several minutes as Joffrey goes on his biggest power trip of the entire season making Tyrion his cup bearer.
The rest is television as Joffrey begins to choke on his pie or wine. Lady Olenna seems very worried and Joffrey's parents rush to his side but they are powerless. Meanwhile Sansa disappears with Ser Fool. Something I don't usually notice is camera angles but I did for this part of the scene. There is a magnificent shot of Cersei's cleavage. As Joffrey dies in her arms, he looks like the baby at her breast that he was not so long ago. So empty and pathetic and not at all the monster that we all grew to hate. And yet not one person felt sorry for him as the Rains of Castamere played.
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