Fans of Game of Thrones have been promised that this season will be the bloodiest, most action-packed yet, which has viewers guessing which main characters will be killed off over the next 10 episodes. We didn’t receive any big shocks in Season 4’s long-anticipated premiere — though we did see a fair amount of blood, thanks to Arya and the Hound, the best reluctant “buddy-cop” team this side of True Detective — but we all know they’re coming.
A couple of Thrones fans I know weren’t huge fans of this episode, due to its somewhat slow, chatter-filled pace, but I thought it was quite brilliant — and necessary. We got to see the full assimilation of Jaime back into the Lannister clan, which revealed just how much the former best swordsman in Westeros changed while he was taken hostage, and how disjointed the entire family is now: Tywin has alienated all of his children, Cersei and Tyrion still hate each other, everyone hates Joffrey (duh) and it seems as though Cersei and Jaime’s incestuous relationship is firmly in the past. The strongest bond seems to exist between brothers Jaime and Tyrion — but don’t mistake these two for the MacManus brothers from The Boondock Saints. Jaime, now sporting just one hand, can no longer bloodily avenge any wrongs done to them, and Tyrion is a dwarf who almost got killed immediately the last time he tried to engage in battle. So it seems there’s no one in the Lannister family that both can and want to physically protect one another, if it ever comes to that. Their bond has never been weaker, and even though they currently possess all positions of power in King’s Landing, they have oddly never been as collectively vulnerable.
And we were introduced to two fascinating characters in Oberyn Martell and his paramour, Ellaria Sand, who seem poised to take advantage of that by delivering chaos straight to the Lannister family doorstep — something that the royal family has had coming, and that audiences have been craving. Martell (portrayed excellently by Pedro Pascal) oozed such cunning that I’m not questioning if he’ll kill a royal Lannister, but which one will be the target of his revenge.
Tywin, however, seems somewhat unconcerned, telling Jaime, “The king is safe.” But of course, as Jamie retorts, “The king is never safe.” That exchange prompts me to think one of two things.
First, perhaps Tywin really does believe what he’s saying. After all, he thinks Stannis’ army is soundly defeated and that all the Stark children are either dead or married to a Lannister. Maybe he already has a counterattack planned to push back the efforts of Martell, as it seems strange that he would underestimate such a seemingly potent guest to his grandson’s wedding — an event he already knows is no sanctuary from violence.
The second possibility, which seems more realistic to me, is that he knows Joffrey is in danger but doesn’t care. After all, if Joffrey perished, Tywin (as Hand of the King) would be a strong candidate to oversee King’s Landing until Tommen is old enough to claim the throne. And do you really think the power-hungry patriarch doesn’t want to sit on the Iron Throne? Sure, he enjoys pulling the strings from behind the curtains, as he already has been while serving as Hand. But this is the guy who menacingly smirked as he witnessed the smelting of Ned Stark’s broadsword into a pair of Lannister swords. That look alone convinced me that Tywin has bigger plans than merely serving as Joffrey’s advisor.
Then again, perhaps I don’t have the polygraph sense of Maester Aemon — who delivered my favorite line of the episode after unilaterally dismissing the Night Watch’s treason charge against Jon Snow. By reminding the rest of the council, “I grew up in King’s Landing,” Maester Aemon substantiated his even-handed assessment of Snow, who, it turns out, does know something. The intel Snow gained from his time with the Wildlings likely saved his life, and set up an interesting season for the Night’s Watch — who I don’t foresee mixing very well with the newly introduced cannibalistic Thenns, even if the White Walkers manage to scale The Wall and threaten the livelihoods of everyone in Westeros.
Meanwhile, in the Far East, Daenerys is still strengthening her slave army and dragons — though it seems the latter will eventually spiral out of her control. Until then, however, it’s hard for me to muster much interest in her storyline, which has unfortunately devolved into an endless circle of encountering ruthless, enigmatic rulers, dispatching their soldiers with dragons, then marching onto the next city.
Still, “Two Swords” served as an excellent exposition for the upcoming season — and there’s still so much we don’t know. How will Bran and his fellow psychics affect the brewing war in the North? Will Stannis and Melisandre’s refocused neo-Wicca efforts have any impact on the White Walkers? Can Gendry make it back to King’s Landing in his dinghy? Will Theon — actually, after last season, maybe it’s better that Theon doesn’t have any scenes for a while. The guy deserves a break.
Anyway — at this point, it takes longer than an hour to touch on all of George R.R. Martin’s characters that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have integrated into Westeros. The good news is that they have plenty more time to do so, and we have plenty more time to enjoy it.
Will Laws is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. He is also the Associate Managing Editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Spoiler Alert,” runs every other Wednesday.