Wednesday, April 09, 2014

not that there ever was any doubt ...

.... but Game of Thrones has already been renewed by HBO for two more seasons, after its fourth season premiere (which got record ratings) last Sunday night. In fact, the first episode was so popular that it crashed HBO's streaming site, HBO GO. But not to worry about the show going anywhere anytime soon. At the rate that author George R.R. Martin is writing the final two installments of the epic fantasy series, devoted viewers should be able to tune in for many years to come.

The premiere was subdued compared to last season's penultimate Red Wedding shocker of an episode, "The Rains of Castamere," but it was full of some great moments and season foreshadowing, and thankfully, no torture check-ins with Theon Greyjoy and Ramsay Snow. The first scene centered around the forging of a sword, a very particular sword, instantly recognizable to readers of A Song of Ice and Fire. Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) was melting down Ice, Eddard "Ned" Stark's sword, as both a symbolic victory of his final defeat of the Stark family, and his acquisition of a magnificent item made of rare and precious Valyrian steel. As if melting Ned's sword down into not one, but two smaller weapons wasn't enough to slap the memory of dead Starks, he threw a dire wolf carcass on top of the fire at the end for emphasis.

Valyrian steel ...

The sword-forging scene not only showed how much the Starks had gotten under Tywin's usually imperturbable facade, but also the man's greed for glory and status. He tried to pass one of the swords on to his son Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), as a bribe for him to give up his post as Knight of the King's Guard and to return to their family seat of Casterly Rock and settle down and start his own dynasty. Jaime refused, uninterested in having kids or breaking one more vow, his vow to protect the King. One wonders if Tywin can be so blind that he doesn't realize that Jaime (and his sister Cersei) have already produced a brood of children. Tywin, in disgust, disowned his first-born, but let him keep the sword.

Jaime: "I suppose you want the sword back."
Tywin: "Keep it. A one handed man with no family needs all the help he can get."

Last season Tywin's son Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) made his bid for Casterly Rock and was rebuffed, both cynically and cruelly by his father. In this episode, "Two Swords," he was tasked as the welcoming committee for some visiting (King Joffrey and Maergery Tyrell) wedding guests, new-to-the-series characters Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) and his lady-love Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) - who just happen to hate the Lannisters and wish them dead. Get in line, folks.

Oberyn: “Tell your father I’m here. Tell him the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.”

Arya and The Hound

There were some other great check-ins, with Jon Snow and Sam, Maergery and Lady Olenna, Daenerys and her dragons, but the most memorable scene took place at the end, with the series' new favorite duo, Arya (Maisie Williams) and The Hound (Rory McCann).

The Hound: "I'm not a thief."
Arya: "You fight with murdering little boys, but thieving is beneath you."
The Hound: "Man's got to have a code."

The Hound is still traveling through the kingdom,  in search of someone he can ransom his young prize to - a difficult task as her family members have been dropping like flies. The pair come upon some King's men at a roadside inn, up to no good. Arya recognizes one of them, Polliver, as the man who killed her friend Lommy and stole her sword, Needle. What commences is one of the most badass confrontations in the series, with The Hound increasing his cool meter by thousands and Arya coming into her own as an avenger. The last scene, with the two riding off, the smile on Arya's face - was equal parts triumphant and tragic. Can her road get any tougher? We will all just have to tune in and watch it unfold as the season progresses.


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