Let's toast to Lannisters children: the dwarf, the cripple, and the mother of madness.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: D.B. Weiss
And here we are! The best season in all of Game of Thrones (with the exception of season eight, at the time of this review)! Despite "Mhysa" leaving the slightly pessimistic outlook that season four would be Game of Thrones taking a few steps backward, it actually marks the complete opposite: more rich character drama and even more high-octane thrills. As the number of main characters seems to shrink by the episode, the game becomes more and more suspenseful, with House Lannister taking the helm as the primary source of conflict for this season. Don't worry, Daenerys and her crew won't be safe from danger this time around. The Night's Watch storyline also picks up a ton of fire, as they must prepare for the incoming assault by Mance Rayder and the wildlings. We've got plenty of time to get into all the goods of what goes down in season four, but at least as the season is getting underway, it's quite exciting to think about what lies ahead.
For those of you who are completely anti-House Lannister, this might very well be the worst episode of the entire series. The Lannisters have defeated essentially all their enemies, Joffrey rules proudly as the King, and the entire family is back together in King's Landing. With practically all of Westeros cowering at their feet, it must be all peaches and cream for the Lannister household.
Or not. Jaime has gotten anything but a warm welcome from his father and his sister: Tywin tells Jaime he is to be dismissed from the Kingsguard, Cersei chastises Jaime for taking too long to get back to her. Then to kick a little more sand in his face, Joffrey makes fun of Jaime for losing his sword hand and not accomplishing enough as a member of the Kingsguard. No one appears to accept the fact that Jaime is a changed man, and this is already another blow to House Lannister, creating more cracks on top of the cracks previously generated by Tyrion being a dwarf. If you ask me, you can make the case for House Lannister being the strongest House in all of Martin's fictional fantasy world: the only thing that will ever stop them from getting what they desire is themselves. If you thought Tyrion being in King's Landing provided for enough heated confrontations, well then, a one-handed Jaime is only going to add more fuel to the fire.
The Lannisters aren't the only ones with family issues: Daenerys is having a harder time controlling her dragons, which are growing larger and more vicious by the day. I think this is the season when the dragons cross the size threshold and become integral plot pieces. After all, when fully grown, these are fiery creatures of destruction, and that is not something that Game of Thrones can just whip out whenever convenient for the plot. It's understandable that we don't see too much of the dragons when they were just little babies. But now that they're in their....teenage(?) years and fully capable of burning at least a small village to the ground, we can expect to see a lot more of them as this season and later seasons roll on.
Oh yeah, and Jon Snow, also not getting a warm welcome home. Ser Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt lean towards executing Jon for treason, but Maester Aemon, the nice grandpa figure that he is, intervenes and has Jon sent away with his head still intact. As humble and honorable as Jon seemed to be early on during his first tenure at Castle Black, season three reminded us that he's still a young lad, so of course he's going to makes mistakes. In this case, it was breaking his Night's Watch vows, but Jon admits to his dishonesty, yet feels that he did not return without gaining valuable information. The great thing about Jon's situation is that now is the time for him to truly show where his loyalties; does he put the Night's Watch above all else? Maester Aemon is convinced of Jon's loyalty, but that doesn't mean Jon is out of harm's way. He is going to have a lot more than the wrath of wildlings to worry about.
So a lot of good stuff with the Lannisters, Daenerys, and Jon Snow, but the scene with the Hound and Arya takes the crown for best scene in the entire episode. The Hound and Arya stop by an inn where Polliver, the man that took Needle from Arya, happens to be hanging out. This is the moment where the Hound officially makes his mark as one of the funniest characters in all of Game of Thrones: he has a caustic exchange of words with Polliver, threatening to take every f*cking chicken he can, spawning yet another popular Game of Thrones meme in which the Hound is the Colonel from KFC, or, excuse me, EFC (Every F*cking Chicken). As you can imagine, a fight breaks out, in which the Hound slaughters several of the men at the inn. Arya actually gets in on the action, picking up Needle and killing Polliver. Is it just me, or does almost every bitter conversation between characters in Game of Thrones have to turn into a fight to the death? Whatever, the Hound and Arya are actually a pretty great fighting pair: they both can kill without hesitation, and there's nothing to suggest that neither doesn't enjoy killing someone, given the right circumstances. Arya is kind of sadistic in the way she kills Polliver, repeating his exact words when he first took Needle and using Needle to kill the boy back in season two. We're starting to see flashes of how cold-blooded that Arya can be, all the more proof that her and the Hound are one of the best character combinations in the entire series.
In conclusion, most of "Two Swords" is set-up for what is to come throughout all of season four, but it's some pretty stirring set-up that puts the Lannister domestic war and Jon Snow's return to Castle Black storylines into motion, along with the other important storylines that we don't want to lose track of. Just when you might have thought Game of Thrones was starting to run low on ideas, it comes roaring back with a fresh batch of intrigue, promising that the world of Westeros is swelling with more chaos.
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