Sex and Blood – We’re Back!
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Ah, Game of Thrones, you made us wait for so long. But finally, HBO’s fantasy juggernaut is back and we can indulge in $6 million per episode ecstasy for about an hour before waiting annoyingly for another week. This season premiere was the strongest of the 4 so far, buoyed not only by not getting to every character this week, but also because of the Red Wedding’s catastrophic fallout. That way, Two Swords can address the past without being too burdened with setting up the rest of the season. The premiere as any episode of Thrones has a unifying theme and we see characters wrestling with the aspects of their lives that seemed the most secure struggling to keep their grasp when those very elements unravel. There were a few almost-sex scenes and a bit of blood at the beginning (courtesy of newcomer Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne and his paramour Ellaria Sand), but the piece de resistance was Arya and the Hound’s fight at the inn. I was floored. HBO, this is your True Detective pairing for Season Two. You know it. I know it. The realm knows it.
The episode, even before the credits, opens up with Tywin Lannister (a bold choice, considering foreshadowing) melting Ned Stark’s great sword Ice into two swords. He gives the larger one to Jaimie (Oathkeeper) and the smaller one to Joffrey for his wedding (Widow’s Wail). The morbid scene set to a version of “The Rains of Castamere” is terrifyingly haunting, a shit ton of salt on the wounds from the Red Wedding. For good measure, the asshole burns a wolf’s head. Because that was necessary. But more than anything else, the Stark legacy is dead as far as Tywin is concerned. His legacy is complete. Or so he thinks.
Then the famed credits open. Two new locations are aded to the map: Dreadfort and Meereen. We don’t get to Dreadfort this episode, but we instead begin at King’s Landing again, where some of the meatiest episodes lie (pun intended). Jaimie has returned home, courtesy of Brienne. He meets his father, who makes no disguise of how disappointed he is in his son’s dismemberment. Jaimie for Tywin was a source of undisputed strength. He was the golden-haired scion of the Lannister family and Tywin’s presumed heir. His sword hand getting chopped off was significant and Tywin commands him to leave for Casterly Rock and take up the family duties there. Jaimie refuses and Tywin makes no effort to dispel his displeasure. Jaimie was his strength and how he is not. A strength Jaimie himself had counted upon was Cersei’s love but she rebuffs him, telling him it too too long for him to come back. Jaimie is attended by his harshness and asks what she meant. She reminds him of how the war affected her, beginning with his confrontation with Ned Stark in the streets of King’s Landing. It was a great callback that reveals even more that Cersei, despite her self-protection against Ned, thought her family’s actions had gone too far. For her, she had been at the forefront of the entire damned war, living tentatively and losing everything. Being locked up sounded much better. That relationship isn’t going to get better anytime soon.
Elsewhere in King’s Landing, Olenna and Margaery are going over jewelry for the wedding. Olenna, sassy and splendid as ever, throws a necklace over the ledge. Margaery, in her first open display of her disdain for Joffrey, noted that if the King picked her necklace, it would probably be a ring of sparrow heads. Oh Margaery. Your honeymoon is going to be so sexy. Brienne comes to meet Lady Olenna and Margaery. Olenna’s reaction to Brienne was absolutely priceless, her “Oh my!” garnering rapturous laughter and applause I’m sure. Brienne explains to Margaery how Renly had died and that she had had no hand in his demise. Margaery believes her. Joffrey on the other hand is being a total dick to everyone (shocking, right?) and makes a point of letting his secret father know how worthless he was. Asshole. And to top it all off, we see a golden statue of Joffrey with his crossbow standing on top of a dead wolf. Asshole galore. He has to die soon, right? Right?
Tyrion’s marriage to Sansa is in that super awkward mode where the awkwardness is so deafening one could hear the Unsullied marching to Meereen. As we saw at the end of Season Three, Sansa learned of the Red Wedding and in this episode we learn just how much she knows. She mentions that it is said that Catelyn’s throat was slit to the bone and that her body had been thrown in the river. She recounts the Robb/Grey Wind mutilation and Sansa cements her place as the most depressed character in the series. She doesn’t even eat the lemon cakes brought by Shae. As she leaves to the Godswood, Tyrion mentions that praying can be good. Sansa closes out the scene by saying she doesn’t pray anymore (a nice contrast to her praying in Blackwater). The Godswood is where no one would go talk to her. Tyrion is left feeling tremendous guilt and Shae does little to help that. When Varys offered her gold to leave to Pentos in Season Three, she believed that Tyrion was the one who had offered her that gold. She still believes so and there’s a definitive wedge between the two. Unfortunately, the handmaiden who works for Cersei that had discovered Sansa’s first period now discovered Shae. Oh dear. Sansa’s storyline in the first episode ends with her meeting drunken Ser Dontos, the knight she had saved way back in the Season 2 premiere, The North Remembers. He gives her his mother’s necklace in gratitude and Sansa, finally smiling, promises to wear it with honor. Look for this storyline to make waves. Nothing happens without a reason in this series.
Oberyn. Fucking. Martell. Damn, what a fine, fine introduction to him and his incredible paramour Ellaria Sand. We meet him in a brothel while Tyrion and Bronn wait for the Dornishmen on the Kingsroad. That diplomacy goes over well, but you know what? Let’s talk about THAT scene. The sex. Oberyn is openly bisexual and as he and his paramour are selecting their prostitutes, he gets the procurer who slept with Loras in Season 3 to drop his clothes. Then Tyrion and Bronn arrive to disrupt the fun and Oberyn offers them to join in. Bronn looks game but Tyrion protests, noting his marriage to Sansa Stark. Tyrion asks what Oberyn is doing in the capital in private, where Oberyn responds he was invited to the wedding. With an ominous note, he reminds Tyrion to tell Tywin that the Lannisters weren’t the only ones who paid their debts. Ooh. 🙂
The wildlings are advancing and boy does Ygritte look furious. They meet a willing tribe known as the Thenns, led by the not-so-very-charismatic Styr, Magnar of Thenn. There’s an immediate clash, led by very Hannibal-istic undertones from Styr, who makes his grand entrance closing with the reveal of a Night’s Watch member’s leg roasting above a spitfire. What a nice guy. This storyline should get tumultuous. What can possibly go wrong with an alliance built with cannibals?
Daenerys gets mostly build-up scenes in the opener. She interrupts what seems to be quite the boring game between Grey Worm and Daario, the latter whom tries to schmooze her with flowers. There is an interesting moment where Drogon snaps back at Daenerys and Ser Jorah once again makes the acute observation of the scene and notes that dragons are hard to control. Teenagers, I tell you. But this could represent a problem for Daenerys down the road. Speaking of roads, the road to Meereen is littered with the crucified bodies of slave girls. People never learn, do they? Now the Mother of Dragons is pissed.
The scene of the night goes to Arya and the Hound, however. What a great piece and the best direction of the night by debut director D. B. Weiss. They run into Polliver, the man who killed Lommy way back in Season 2 and had stolen Arya’s sword Needle in the process. Polliver is originally warm to the crew, before the Hound pronounces “Fuck the king” as he clamors for chicken. The line of the night from him to Polliver: “If any more words comes out of your c*** mouth, I’m gonna have to eat all the chicken.” The fight begins and the Hound locks it out of the park, even taking a guy and slamming his own face into his own knife. Talk about irony. And then Arya. The music goes silent but ratchets up when she picks up her sword. She knocks Polliver over and then looks in his eyes, repeating his own words to Lommy as she slowly stabs him through the throat. She watches him die with a casual eye and then she and the Hound ride off into the sunset with their horses. The closing shot is absolutely gorgeous, the smoky gray of ashes spiraling morbidly into the sky. Welcome back.
Title: Two Swords
Written By: David Benioff and D. B. Weiss
Director: D. B. Weiss
Image Courtesy: Hidden Remote, SciFi Now UK, The Urban Politico, Metro UK, Game of Thrones Wiki, IGN, IB Times UK, The Big Lead, George R. R. Martin @ Live Journal