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Monday, 7 April 2014

Game of Thrones, Series 4 Episode 1, Two Swords

Game of Thrones.
Series 4, Episode 1.
Two Swords.

Increasingly, it seems that most Wildling conversations revolve partially or completely around how pretty Jon Snow is. He's not even with them any more, and they still seem to be wistfully pining for his hair.

Anyway, yesterday aired the first episode of Game of Thrones Series 4, and it was – roughly what you'd expect from a Game of Thrones series opener. Nothing truly startling happened: Instead, the episode was mostly devoted to establishing the 'starting positions' of the characters in question.

The story was strung out thinly, as GoT openers and finales are, with some characters getting only single scenes. But that's fine – as has been the case in previous series, it seems likely that subsequent episodes will focus on only a few viewpoints. Perhaps we might even get an episode like Blackwater, which remains the best episode in Game of Thrones, which is anchored in a single location throughout.

Most of the action in this episode was set at King's Landing, with the Lannisters, in no small part because with the demise of Robb Stark and his retinue, and the wedding of Sansa to Tyrion, the Lannisters now hold the lion's share (heh) of the viewpoints. There is discontent brewing amongst the ranks of the Lannisters (when isn't there?) as Jaime has handily (heh) managed to irritate his father, his sister and his nephew in one fell swoop by refusing to step down from the Kingsguard. Tyrion, meanwhile, is at his most awkward peacemaking as he attempts to console Sansa while simultaneously reassuring an increasingly jealous and dissatisfied Shae, and it looks like Cersei may have her eye on making his life as miserable as possible.

None of this really adds to the plot yet, as the politicking and machinations that characterise almost any gathering of Lannisters within a fifty mile area have yet to properly begin, but it gives us a good viewpoint into how each character is coping with some of the bombshells of the last series: The Red Wedding, Jaime losing his hand, and Joffrey's impending nuptials, or as hopeful fans are already calling it The Red Wedding II: Would a stag's head or a lion's be more ironic?

My personal suggestion.

Neither do the scenes for Jon, Ygritte or Arya really benefit the plot any: Jon's ties up a loose end, while Arya's is character development – my hopes are high that this will lead into a wacky spin-off sitcom called One and a Half Hounds in which Arya and Clegane roam Westeros getting into wacky misunderstandings and then brutally murdering every incidental character nearby – and Ygritte's is mostly to establish that the Wildlings are still South of the wall.

The bulk of plot, then, rests on the arrival of Oberyn Martell, and Daenerys' ongoing march towards Mereen. We're given a brief overview of the Martells' beef with the Lannisters and an assurance that vengeance is going to be sought, and some establishing moments of Oberyn Martell as a jolly fellow who enjoys subtle insults, remarks about how he's going to murder all the Lannisters, and engaging in foursomes with his wife and prostitutes of both genders. Man has many hobbies, is what I'm saying.

For Daenerys, most of the plot is establishing that she'll soon be invading another slave-holding city in Mereen, who have established their villain status early by crucifying over a hundred slaves in an attempt to deter her. We can presume that Daenerys is also rather pleased that in between series, Daario Naharis has regenerated into someone better looking and less irritating to watch.

Some fans of the books are still wondering why Daario's hair is not blue. Ignore them.

"Yes, that's perfect! Cast that man immediately!"

It was a solid but not striking episode, and the series should start getting into its rhythm a bit more with Episode 2, when we can probably expect something shocking and awful to happen. Personally, my bets for this series are on Daario transforming into Peter Capaldi half way through; a crossover with Eastenders in which Tyrion gets thrown out of the Queen Vic for being a 'half man'; and a thrilling Joffrey/Jon love story in which they meet at a masquerade ball but find they are cruelly divided by their warring houses and several hundred thousand kilometres.

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