Now that I’ve watched it thrice, it’s time for some random thoughts on Game of Thrones s4e1. Out of the four season premieres, Game of Thrones s4e1 had the peppiest pacing. The previous three lagged a bit, due to necessary setup, while this episode moved at a brisk pace. Old characters came back, some new ones were established, and a somewhat important character hasbeen recast. Overall, it was a very strong episode that left me thoroughly entertained. It showed me where this season is going, had me wondering how the time flew by so fast, and left me excited for the next episode. Warning: There be spoilers ahead!
Hot Open: Instead of the customary opening credits, Game of Thrones s4e1 starts with a cold open, that was full of fire
and blood. The world isn’t done screwing with the dearly departed Ned Stark. Tywin Lannister imported a smith from Volantis to reforge Ned’s sword — the great sword named Ice, made from rare Valyrian steel — into two weapons for the Lannister family. Twyin then throws a wolf pelt into a fire and stares at it with a look of satisfying triumph. Charles Dance has pretty much made Tywin Lannister the coolest cat in Westeros.
Don’t Call Me Lefty: Jaime Lannister is back in King’s Landing, sans right (sword) hand. Papa Tywin wants Jaime to leave the Kingsguard and go home to rule Casterly Rock. Jaime wants to stay in King’s Landing to bone his sister, Queen Regent Cersei Lannister. Tywin delivers one of his patented takedowns and disowns Jaime for refusing his family duties. Yeah, Tywin is getting even cooler with every minute of Game of Thrones s4e1.
My Name is Oberyn Martell…You Killed My Sister…Prepare to Die: At the edge of the city, Tyrion Lannister is waiting for the arrival of the Martells for King Joffrey’s wedding. Ser Bronn is there for excellent comic relief and sexual dynamo Squire Podrick is there to give nerds hope.
Prince Oberyn Martell is introduced in a surprisingly effective way. He’s hanging out a brothel with his paramour and it’s established that he has a voracious (bi)sexual appetite. He messes with some lower Lannisters for having the gaul to sing “The Rains of Castamere” in his presence, establishing him as a bad-ass. Finally, he has a great conversation with Tyrion that establishes his background and motives. Yeah, he’s speaking in plot summaries, but it comes off in a (mostly) natural way that’s dramatic and effective. You’re left knowing a lot more about Oberyn Martell and hoping to see more of this kick-ass character. Normally, I hate when characters in TV, movies, and comics speak in plot summaries, but this was well executed and especially beneficial to viewers that haven’t read the books. Huge credit goes to Pedro Pascal, who owned the screen as the Red Viper of Dorne.
(A lot of people have equated Oberyn with a sexier and nastier version of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. I don’t fully agree, but I get it, ergo the title to this section.)
How (Not) to Train Your Dragons: Over in Pentos, Daenerys is tending to her lovely dragons. The scene shows how big and uncontrollable the dragons are getting. It’s also a nice opportunity to show off some incredibly sweet dragon CGI.
Meanwhile, her army is being held up by a childish standoff between Grey Worm and Daario Naharis. A new actor is playing Daario…and I still don’t think he’s handsome or exotic enough. The book version of Daario seems exponentially cooler. Daario does get in a nice jab to Grey Worm about not having balls. Making fun of eunuchs is always a good time and I’m glad it was slipped into Game of Thrones s4e1.
Back to King’s Landing: Sansa Stark isn’t eating, which isn’t surprising. Her brother and mother were killed in a vile act of betrayal in s3e9, so her lack of appetite is understandable. Tyrion is trying his best to console his wife, to no avail. Everyone’s favorite imp is getting stressed out by life in King’s Landing — his wife hates him, his nephew wants to kill him, his father and sister loathe him, and his whore lover wants more attention. While I’ve always been a fan of Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion, I’m surprised by how much Sophie Turner has improved as Sansa. She started as a stupid little girl and has grown into a tortured beauty that you can’t help but feel for.
The Man with the Golden Hand: Book purists are whining about this scene taking place before it should, but whatever. Jaime is getting his stub fitted with a golden hand, courtesy of mad scientist and former Maester of the Citadel, Qyburn. I totally cracked up when Jaime waived goodbye to Qyburn with his fake hand.
Jaime wants to get busy with Cersei, but she isn’t having it. She suggests that she has found new lovers (spoiler: she has) and no longer wants Jaime in that way. Cersei is becoming more depressed, more of an alcoholic, and more unbalanced. Lena Headey has always owned as Cersei Lannister. I’m excited to see her descent into madness.
Where the Wildlings Are: The wildlings south of The Wall are regrouping after Jon Snow’s betrayal. The Thenn Tribe is introduced…and they are scary. The Thenns are a brutal branch of wildlings that enjoy carving scars on their faces and chowing down on a lovely cannibal meal, but they’re also smarter and more aware than they’re scarred visages would suggest. These guys scare the bejeezus out of me. I’m pretty sure one of them mugged me in Queens once…or maybe that was Anthony Mason.
Jon Snow…Acting: Kit Harington pulls off his best acting to date in Game of Thrones s4e1. The Jon Snow he plays in this episode is complex and conflicted, while showing signs of developing strength. He’s mourning for his beheaded brother and dealing with accusations of betrayal. It’s tough being Jon Snow right now. The Night’s Watch leadership has a number of pricks in it since Lord Commander Mormont was killed. Two of them — Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt — would love to see Snow killed. Thankfully, Maester Aemon is there to look out for Jon. Oh yeah, during Jon’s questioning, he manages to deliver a wickedly sharp line to Slynt. That was cool.
Olenna Tyrell Owns: What is it with old people being so cool in Westeros? Fossils Tywin Lannister and Olenna Tyrell seem like the coolest people to hang out with. Lady Tyrell is clearly the sharpest woman on the show right now and probably the second-most cunning person in King’s Landing.
In a transition scene, an awesome statue of King Joffrey is shown. He’s standing triumphantly with a crossbow, with his foot is on a dead wolf. I want one of those statues.
In another part of King’s Landing, Jaime is planning security for the royal wedding. Joffrey is shown being unreasonable and borderline insane. He name drops some famous characters that will delight fans of the books. He also blasts his uncle/secret father, taking a jab at his age and one-handedness.
Daario Loves Dany: Back in Pentos, Daario is trying to educate and seduce Dany at the same time. There’s another Easter egg for fans of the books. Otherwise, this was a throwaway scene (mostly because I don’t yet like the actor playing Daario).
Enter the Fool: Brienne and Jaime are arguing about what to do with Sansa, watching over the Little Dove as she prays. I love the dynamic between these two characters. The actors have fantastic chemistry.
After finishing her prayers, Sansa’s Stark-sense goes off and she feels that she’s being followed. She is…and it’s former knight and current fool Dontos Hollard. He gifts her with a necklace. Fans of the books will know what’s coming and why it was important to establish him in Game of Thrones s4e1. Viewers that haven’t read the books will like seeing Sansa getting a brief moment of happiness in her tortured life.
On the Road Again: “The Hound” Sandor Clegane and Arya Stark are on the road again. This pair is fantastic. Their banter is delightful, with the actors playing off of each other wonderfully. Like many viewers, I would watch an hour of Arya and the Hound on the road. The Hound’s unintentional humor in this scene is brilliant, with him questioning what a “Lommy” is and giving his opinion on people that name their swords. Rory McCann’s deliver is awesome.
The scene is a mashup of happenings from the books. The timing and characters have changed, but the result is effective television. The climax has Arya getting back her sword, Needle, and getting some revenge on Polliver. It leaves you with so many emotions. It’s cool seeing Arya become an effective killer. It’s sweet seeing a Stark finally go on the offensive. And then you realize that she’s still a little girl and the person she’s becoming is completely messed up. Watching Arya’s satisfied smile as she rides off on the road at the end of Game of Thrones s4e1 is a conflicting moment. You’re happy, sad, and afraid for her all at the same time.