“Game of Thrones” season four, which premiered on HBO, is too big to fail, much like the Lannisters who are now at the center of the show. The Lannisters consolidate their power through murder and manipulation, just like how showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss captured the viewers attention with bloody wedding scenes and graphic beheadings. Season premiere “Two Swords” does not feature any major deaths, but it does use it’s time wisely to start season four off strong.
After killing off most of the remaining Stark family , “Two Swords” has much more time to establish each plot and create forward momentum to carry “Game of Thrones” through the next nine episodes. Previous season premieres “The North Remembers” and “Valar Dohaeris” only had enough time to touch on each plot for a few moments before moving on to the next character, and acted as more of an episode long recap than a full season premiere. Unshackled from having to focus on The War of the Five Kings, “Two Swords” wisely uses the extra time to set several plots in motion.
“A man with no family needs all the help he can get”
Most of the first half is spent in King’s Landing as the Lannister’s attempt to survive under the hateful rule of the pissy little shit they call both king and son. Though Joffery only appears in one scene, he looms over the rest of the episode, forcing the rest of his family to whisper as they discuss their horrible situation. The Lannister’s are the most interesting characters in “Game of Thrones,” and writers Benioff and Weiss were wise to focus on them to introduce the season. The war may be over, but the game is still afoot, and the Lannisters will always be at the middle of it.
Though “Two Swords” uses it’s time more wisely than other “Game of Thrones” season premieres, it is still at times a very inelegant hour of television. Twice do characters, Tyrion and Cersie respectively, list off the reasons why their lives are in danger, in case “Game of Thrones” fans had forgotten that death is always waiting in the wings for nearly everyone on the show. It is certainly not as if Tyrion turned to his new wife Sansa and laid out everything that had happened over three seasons, but it is still a clumsy attempt to get the viewers up to speed, especially since most people won’t need a refresher.
“Let my name have one more sun before it disappears from the world”
The problem is that “Game of Thrones” is too large of a project for any medium other than novels. Since there is so much going on at any given time, leading up to some sort of catastrophe in the ninth episode, there are many episodes in a row that merely move characters around and setup the endgame of the season. Even in season three, which many consider to be a grand achievement in television, there were three episodes in a row that setup the Red Wedding, which kills the momentum of the season. I wouldn’t want “Game of Thrones” to take a “Lost” approach to storytelling, with each episode focusing on a specific character, but it needs to be streamlined to be palatable as television. Since season four is covering the last half of “A Storm of Swords” major events should be happening with more frequency, so perhaps this will not be an issue.
The last two scenes of “Two Swords,” which feature Arya and the Hound slaughtering slave traders in a tavern, represent the best that “Game of Thrones” can be. The dialogue between Arya and the Hound is tense but humorous, there are some pretty cool deaths, and Arya manages to take some control over her life. It is the last shot of the episode, as they leave the now blood soaked inn and travel through the war scarred countryside, that illustrates how thematically rich “Game of Thrones” can be. Though Arya’s murder of the slave trader was just, and contained to the inn, there will always be unjust and inescapable violence right outside the door that one cannot protect themselves from.
My Rating: 8/10