By most measures, the season four premiere of HBO’s Game of the Thrones presents viewers a straightforward, simple canvas. Letting us catch up with where the players stand in the aftermath of last season’s bloody ending.
At the end of last season, we see Jaime (Nicholaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) enter King’s Landing after their ordeals: Jaime to Cersei (Lena Heady) and Brienne to her sworn duty. Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) marriage to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and the horror of the Red Wedding massacre is yet an open, bleeding wound. Arya (Maisie Williams), escaping the bloodbath, carried away by The Hound, Ser Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann). But other weddings are at the threshold, as King Joffrey the Brat (Jack Gleeson) is about to marry Margery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), while Cersei is betrothed to Margery’s brother Ser Loris. Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), now firmly in control as the King’s Hand has set the pieces exactly as he wishes, Lannister tentacles reaching out in every possible direction as the Starks, he assumes, are put down and out his way for good.
In the North, Jon wanders back to the Night’s Watch and Castle Black, and Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilie Clark) has amassed an army of her own: slaves bought and freed, fiercely loyal to her. But her dragons are acting disturbingly grown up, indeed.
HBO is smart in crafting an opening Game of Thrones episode this season that is quieter (relatively) and simpler, letting us ease back into our relationships with George RR Martin‘s characters, come to life onscreen. However, the calm is unlikely to last long as the book upon which season three is based is action-packed and bloody as any other of the series. This is the quiet before the storm.
Season three begins with the forging two swords–Valyrian steel blades–wrought from a singular sword. One of these magic-infused, powerful blades Tywin gives to Jaime. But with his right hand cut off, can Jaime wield such a weapon? The issue of Jaime’s diminished abilities comes up several times in the season premiere, first with his father, who doubts very much that his son is man he once was, and then again with Cersei, and finally Joffrey, whose decree is the cruelest of all. What will be Jaime’s fate is anyone’s guess, but he cannot be very happy at this juncture–a Lannister hero returned to so humiliating a welcome.
I continue to enjoy the moments between Brienne and Jaime, their friendship forged of mutual admiration and respect. I think she may be his only friend in the world these days, especially as no one in the family seems to think much of him, now that he is less than physically perfect.
As preparations continue for the Margery’s imminent wedding to Joffrey, a new wild card is cast into the cauldron in the guise of Prince Oberyn, a brutal little man, and a sworn Lannister enemy. Oberyn is related to the Targaryens–his sister Rhaegar’s wife. It is with no good intention that he has come to King’s Landing, invited or not, and revenge for his sister’s rape and murder by The Mountain can’t be far from his mind, can it?
At Castle Black, Jon Snow is called to account for his actions to the North–and the death of Qhorin Halfhand. But Jon has more important things on his mind as he warns of more than 100,000 Wildlings organized and amassed just north of the Wall under the command of Mance Rayder.
The Hound and Arya forge an uneasy alliance, and I have to admit that Clegane is growing on me (and I think on the strong-willed Arya as well), and their scenes at a small roadside inn is both stunning and delightful. To say more would be to give it away.
The Game of Thrones season premiere is strong, but does not move the story as far forward as some might desire. For me, however, it sets the chess board, easing me into what will surely be the most action-packed season yet.
Game of Thrones season four premieres Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. ET on HBO. And don’t forget, if you want to catch up, HBO2 is running a 60-hour marathon: every episode back to back–twice all weekend.
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