Once again, and to the excitement of nerds and geeks everywhere, Game of Thrones has come back after an extended hiatus! And after the events of last season, fans were no doubt hoping some bloody vengeance, some more answers, and plenty of resolution. Sad to say, they won’t be getting much of any! And for fans of the original novels, this is yet another opportunity to come together and nitpicks the ways in which the series isn’t living up to the original series… I am one of them!
In any case, the season premier picked up where things left off last season, roughly midway through the events told in A Storm of Swords. These include the royal wedding between Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell, Brienne and Jaime’s return to King’s Landing, Daenerys’s march on Meereen, and Arya’s ongoing misadventures in the Riverlands. And of course, there’s plenty of machinations, plots, and developments happening in between.
And now, onto the premier episode, aptly named…
The episode opens with Tywin Lannister overseeing the destruction of Ned’s sword Ice, who melts it down and uses the Valyrian steel to forge two new swords. Afterwards, he meets with Jaime and gives him the longer of the two. He then offers his son Lordship over Casterly Rock, which Jaime refuses so he can remain a White Cloak, which displeases his father. Outside the city, Tyrion is waiting with Pod and Bronn to Prince Doran Martell of Dorne, who has been invited for Joffrey’s wedding.
However, Tyrion is informed that Doran could not come due to his ailing health, and that Prince Oberyn came in his stead many days prior. They then find him and his paramour, Ellaria Sand, at a brothel, where Oberyn is making trouble with some Lannister men. After pulling him outside to talk, Oberyn claims he’s come to the capitol to seek justice for the death of his sister and her children, and tells Tyrion to tell his father “the Lannisters are not the only ones who pay their debts.”
Afterward, Tyrion returns to Sansa, who is naturally distraught over the death of Robb and her mother. He tries to console her, but is unsuccessful. He then finds Shae in his bedroom, who demands to know if they will ever be together again. She leaves when Tyrion will not answer, and we that a spy was listening in on their conversation. Meanwhile, Jaime is fitted for a golden hand by Maester Qyburn and Cersei, who afterwards spurns him for “taking too long” to return. The spy then arrives to report to Cersei.
To the north, Ygritte and her party meet with the Thenns, another clan of Wildlings, who bring the body of a Nights Watchman to eat. At Castle Black, Jon is recovering from his injuries, and talks to Sam of his half-brother’s death. He then goes to the Lord Commander to answer for Qhorin Halfhand’s death and his actions with the Wildlings. He tells them it was Qhorin’s plan to learn their plans, and shares all he learned about Mance’s plans and the raiding party to the south. They stay his execution and let him go for the time being.
Over in Essos, we see Daenerys and her forces as they march towards Mereen. As they go, Daario continues in his efforts to woo Daenerys, which he does under the pretext of teaching her about the various flowers of the land. They come to a stop when they find a dead child tied to a post. Daenerys is told that there is a dead slave for every mile along their way, serving as a warning to her approaching army. She orders them to press on and refuses to be shielded from the sight.
Brienne meets with Margaery while in the capitol and tells her what happened to Renly, and vows to avenge him. Jaime discusses preparations for the wedding and how the war is not yet finished. He is then met by Brienne, who reminds him of the pledge he made to return the Stark daughters to safety. After praying near the shore, Sansa is surprised by Dontos Hollard, the former knight who’s life she saved, who gives her a family heirloom in thanks.
In the Riverlands, Arya and Sandor Clegane continue on their way, with the latter claiming he intends to ransom Arya to her aunt. They come to a tavern and Arya spots Poliver, the man who killed Lommy, stole Needle, and brought the rest of them to Harrenhal. Arya and Sandor go inside find Poliver and his men trying to rape the innkeepers daughters. Poliver sees Sandor and Arya and recognizes the Hound, and offers him the chance to come with them and raid and pillage their way towards King’s Landing.
The Hound declines and says “fuck the King”, and things go downhill fast. Poliver draws on him and Sandor knocks him down and kills all of his men. A few remain and Arya finishes them off, stabs Poliver in the back, and then retrieves her sword. Standing over him, she reminds him of how he took her captive and killed her friend, then stabs him in the throat. Stealing one of their ponies, Arya and Sandor ride off through the burning Riverlands.
Overall, this was not a bad premier! Much like season two’s premier, things felt a little sparse in places and rushed. However, I saw the value in putting these small scenes in, in that they preview things that will be coming later on. These include Dontos reaching out to Sansa, Brienne pressuring Jaime to keep his word, the preparations for Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding, and Daenerys dragon troubles. And between and around all this, they managed to cover the major plot points.
At the same time, there were noticeable differences from the original text. For instance, Oberyn did arrive with the train from Dorne and met with Tyrion right off. There was no detour into a brothel where Oberyn picked a fight, or expressed some serious bicurious desires. In fact, to my knowledge, not a single hint was given that Oberyn as bisexual, nor his paramour Ellaria. However, they still did a very good job of capturing Oberyn’s character and his hopes to get revenge for his kin.
On another front, the whole cannibalism thing with the Thenns – this was not in the original story, and felt like a forced attempt to make them evil. Personally, I felt they were menacing enough with their hard stares and decorative scars. Also, Jon Snow told the Lord Commander, Aemon and Trant that he killed Qhorin as part of a plan to earn the Wildling’s trust. But no such plan was ever hatched by Qhorin in the show (unlike the novels), thereby making Jon’s entire defense for killing him speculation.
And last, but not least, there was the way that Cersei spurned Jaime in this episode, which seemed to come from nowhere. In the book, Cersei and Jaime made love the moment he returned, even before he donned his White Cloak again. She continued to be amorous with him for some time, and only gradually did they become estranged. But there’s still plenty of time for them to factor that in, I’m just not sure why the writers had her acting this way. Did they think we needed another reason to hate her?
However, these things seemed entirely topical to me and really didn’t distract or deter from the flow of things. Mainly, I found the episode enjoyable, especially the part where Arya gets some revenge for herself by stabbing Poliver in the throat. They also did a good job with Daenery’s march on Meereen, where she was forced to witness countless slaves being crucified to warm them away. And I really liked the fact that they cast a new actor in the role of Daario. The last one did not fit the bill AT ALL!
Oh yeah, and that sword forging scene was totally awesome! Other than that, I’m happy to see the show return and am looking forward to what they do with things this season. In particular, I am looking forward to the battle for Meereen, and the big wedding. No spoilers, but lets just say a whole lot of crap is still set to hit the fan, and on occasion – even in George RR Martins universe – bad things happen to bad people! Stay tuned…