Game of Thrones 4×1 Review: Two Swords
Though it definitely required the viewer to be paying attention (or, let’s be honest, to have read the books) the opening scene of the season four premiere of Game of Thrones was, in my opinion, one of the show’s strongest openings ever. Though I’ve had my gripes with the show’s interpretation of many things, the fact that they chose to portray Ice being melted down and forged into two new swords – along with the symbolic bit where Tywin throws the wolf pelt into the fire – was both a brave choice and a very, very good one.
While the conversation between Jaime and Tywin wasn’t quite what I would have hoped for, it was certainly a good inclusion in terms of moving the Lannister family drama forward. I’m not sure how I feel about Tywin cracking snarky jokes, but as usual Charles Dance’s acting was impeccable, and it was great finally seeing Jaime interact with another Lannister again.
However, Tyrion’s meeting with the Dornishmen felt nothing short of awkward. It was unclear where he was supposed to be, and the fact that they chose to film in an area that wasn’t open and also to not have Tyrion, Bronn, and Podrick on horses seems a bit nonsensical to me. Even more so when there was no Martell for Tyrion to greet, and while I enjoyed Oberyn and Ellaria Sand’s introduction I do think that some importance in regards to Oberyn and Tyrion’s relationship was lost with these changes from their book storyline. Thankfully, while the brothel scene was clearly a way for the episode to throw in some nudity as soon as possible, the fact that we were treated to a look at Oberyn’s sexuality so soon and even given a hint regarding a different side to the story of Robert’s Rebellion was refreshing.
Danaerys’ introduction, on the other hand, was less about her and more about her dragons. I’m honestly torn between the thought, “It’s about time!” and worrying that it’s going to be a while before we get to see the dragons again…because this had to have hurt the Game of Thrones CGI budget.
One thing that pleasantly surprised me in Two Swords was the fact that Sansa was featured several times, and her scenes seemed far more well-written than they have been in a while. I may not care for the fact that they essentially gave some of her interior monologue to Tyrion, but I understand that it’s quite necessary because it would be very difficult for the show to portray such things in Sansa’s own words.
I’m still uncertain about the show’s version of the Tyrion and Shae relationship, but the added intrigue of them being spied on – and what it may mean for things that are likely to occur in the future – was a plus. The fact that the somewhat weak addition of Tyrion and Shae’s argument was followed by an amazing scene with Jaime and Cersei certainly helped bolster my confidence in Two Swords‘ storyline, though. Other than a brief moment at the end of last season, the Lannister twins haven’t been together since season one…and from the writing to the acting, this was in my opinion their best dialogue yet. (Though to be fair, I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow when Jaime claimed that ‘a hook would be more practical’ than a gold hand.) The fact that the scene ended with the girl who was spying on Tyrion showing up to talk to Cersei was certainly an interesting twist, as well.
Up in the North, we finally got to meet the Magnar of Thenn. While he’s introduced much sooner in the books, this was another one of those times when Game of Thrones did a perfectly respectable job of bringing in a new character. That is, until the implied cannibalism, which to me felt unnecessary on several levels. But then, this is the show that had quite a few unnecessary extended torture scenes last season.
Admittedly, I’ve never been the biggest fan of scenes featuring the Night’s Watch and/or Jon Snow, but in Two Swords the show writers did a great job of bringing back some characters we haven’t seen in a while – namely Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt. Like the scene with Jaime and Cersei earlier in the episode, this was one of the most well-written and best-acted Jon Snow scenes that’s aired yet. He certainly seemed more than one-dimensional – he even made a joke!
Speaking of jokes, there were plenty of them in this episode. Perhaps it’s just me, but Two Swords seemed quite lighthearted in comparison to most of last season. Thankfully, it never felt like too much; in fact, on the heels of the Jon Snow actually having an amusing moment, Margaery and Olenna’s conversation was a perfect fit…especially Margaery’s comment about Joffrey giving her a string of dead sparrows for a necklace. Brienne’s arrival and Olenna’s reaction were sheer perfection, though I hope that Brienne’s conversation with Margaery isn’t a replacement for the interactions Brienne has with Loras in the books.
Speaking of the books, it felt like the show was really going out of its way to pay homage to them in Two Swords. Not only did we get to see Ice being melted down, but then Joffrey is thumbing through the White Book of the Kingsguard and talking about Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning – and even more importantly, Ser Duncan the Tall, who has four pages of deeds recorded. It was a bit over the top when Joffrey followed in Tywin’s and Cersei’s footsteps by going out of his way to put Jaime down, though – for me, this was very much a “We get it, Jaime’s useless with only one hand” moment.
At first I wasn’t too sure about the interactions between Danaerys and Daario, but their conversation about local flora was actually both amusing and interesting. Sadly, it also made the change of the actor portraying Daario a glaring one. While I liked their dialogue (and the fact that Dany clearly thought he was only hitting on her when he was actually giving her advice), he’s still not the Daario from the books, and he’s also obviously not the Daario from last season. I can only hope that this new Daario ends up being good enough to make those things easier to overlook.
I do wish that we’d gotten a bit more Brienne and Jaime interaction in Two Swords, but their brief scene was a good one, and I can forgive there not being more considering how much I loved Jaime’s scene with Cersei. Also, Jaime and Brienne’s discussion about Sansa Stark made for a smooth transition to bring her back on screen.
However, the re-introduction of Dontos is something I wasn’t too fond of. That opinion may change depending on what happens later in the season, but as his character has been ignored since the first episode of season two, for now it just seems gratuitous. (Yes, even with him giving Sansa the necklace – which I have to assume is the show’s version of the hairnet he gives her in the books.)
I certainly wasn’t expecting the last ten minutes or so of Two Swords to be entirely about Arya and Sandor, and even more surprising was the direction the show took with their storyline. When they arrive at the inn and see Polliver, the first thought that came to mind was, “Whoa…are they going to do this now?!” ‘This’ being the fight between Sandor and his brother’s buddies, of course…but as it turned out, Game of Thrones took a very different direction. Polliver’s request for Sandor to ‘give them a go’ at Arya was, in my opinion, a bit over the top, and I do wish that they’d talked about Sansa – but the sword fight was certainly an entertaining and gruesome end to the episode. It’s obvious that the show is doing its best to prove that Arya has gone off the deep end, but even though she has Needle and her own horse, Sandor isn’t injured in the fight like he is in Storm of Swords – and that certainly raises some questions about both of their futures.
A lot of characters were left out of Two Swords – I may not have missed more Theon torture scenes, but the absence of Stannis and even more importantly, Bran, was quite notable. All that said, I was still very impressed with this episode – it was a powerful start to what will hopefully be a thrilling season.
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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