After the interminable winter that North America has suffered through, it’s a relief to return to the world of Westeros where winter is still just a threat. That’s right, folks, television’s best epic fantasy series has returned!
Let’s bitch it out…
There’s a consistency and reassurance in how series creators David Benioff & D.B. Weiss have guided the development of George R.R. Martin’s bestselling series to television. It’s honestly a surprise that they’ve so perfectly captured even half of this correctly, which makes episodes like ‘Two Swords’ something of a triumph when you step back and consider it.
Let’s be clear: this is no ‘Red Wedding’. People will be talking about ‘Two Swords’ not because anything particularly spectacular happened, but rather because the series is back. But it would do the show a disservice to suggest that the construction of this supersized episode isn’t worthy of extreme praise. Consider for a moment how in a single episode we get completely caught up on what everyone (well, nearly everyone) has been up to. Despite having one (if not the) largest casts on television, ‘Two Swords’ sneaks in memorable moments for everyone, and although some characters still get more screentime and “hell yeah” moments than others, the sheer volume of characters and storylines in play at any given time make it a marvel that anyone manages to get noticed, much less develops a compelling arc.
As it stands, ‘Two Swords’ is a quintessential season premiere: a reintroduction to the characters, where they are and what conflict they may shortly find themselves in. One GoT element that I’m happy Benioff and Weiss have developed is allowing scenes to play out. My favourite examples involve a couple of elderly characters: Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan – edited) cheeky explanation about how he can identify truth because he spent time in King’s Landing, followed immediately by the always-hilarious Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) who advises Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) on the importance of jewelry at a royal wedding. Both of these bits could have easily ended up on the editing room floor to save time for the “big moments”, but by being kept, their presence offers that much more insight into these characters and the world they live in (Side Note: Westeros might be a much better place if these two were in charge of the Nightwatch and King’s Landing).
Obviously there is plenty of other good stuff packed into ‘Two Swords’:
- The bemused, but pained way that Tywin (Charles Dance) disowns his eldest son, Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
- The myriad of jokes about Jamie’s inability to function now that his greatest asset has been lost (some funny, some underhanded).
- The introduction of the Red Viper, Prince Oberyn Martell (Pascal Pedro) and his free sexuality (Way to get the sexposition out in the open early on, Game Of Thrones!).
- Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) connection to Oberyn as the black sheep of the family and his terrible position as awkward husband to Sansa (Sophie Turner) and cautious lover to Shae (Sibel Kekilli). Dinklage is the show’s de facto MVP in part due to his ability to go from comedy to pathos on a dime.
- And obviously anything involving the Hound (Rory Cochrane) and Arya (Maisie Williams) is an automatic winner. The extended final scene when Arya seeks vengeance by killing Polliver (Andy Kellegher) is definitely the episode’s stand-out, though. The slow roll-out towards inevitable violence, punctuated by the Hound’s cursing, certainly makes the scene memorable, though I wonder how fans will react to Arya’s decidedly darker tone. She’s been surrounded by death the entire series, but this is one of the first real significant deaths – unlike the semi-accidental stable boy or the Jaqen H’ghar-ordered murders of S2.
- The melting of Ice into two swords didn’t really resonate with me at first, but reading Weiss’ comments on Entertainment Weekly about how it’s a statement about Tywin’s power makes a lot of sense. It also fits well with the mourning we overhear fromeach remaining Stark family member when we see them.
- Dany’s (Emilia Clarke) clearly going to have problems with her dragons. It’s just a quick nip from Drogon, but the move is enough to demonstrate – as Jorah (Iain Glen) reminds her – that dragons can’t ever be tamed. Still, she should have known better than to pat a dragon during feeding time!
- Things that don’t work #1: The new Daario (Michiel Huisman). Perhaps I have residual feelings from his work on Nashville, but this Daario feels far too consciously “playboy” to me. The flower “strategic meeting” was cheesy and the Mother of Dragons doesn’t go for cheesy, folks.
- Things that don’t work #2: Clearly there’s something being set up with Sansa’s storyline with the knight who is now a fool, but for now it’s just kind of weird and a little creepy. Stranger danger, Sansa!
- I wonder if Cersei (Lena Headey) knows she’s being ridiculous when she berates Jamie for being captured and not coming home earlier?
- If The Walking Dead has taught us anything, it’s that cannibals are bad news. So it’s likely not great news that a group of them have joined forces with the wildlings gathering to attack Castle Black.
- Finally, did anyone else forget that Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Margaery knew each other? Half of my time watching this show is trying to remember who knows who and how long it’s been since they’ve interacted. Renly? Oh Renly….Man that was a long time ago!
- MIA: Bran & co., Stannis & Dragonstone co., Theon, Littlefinger & Varys. Miss ’em?
- Tywin (to Jamie): “A one handed man with no family needs all the help he can get”
- Bron (when Tyrion asks where he would go after so long on the road): “I’d probably go to sleep, but then, I’m getting old”
- Tyrion (trying to reassure Sansa): “Your mother I admired. She wanted to have me executed, but I admired her.”
- Cersei (when Jamie challenges her assertion that the gold hand took a day to craft): “The better part of an afternoon.”
- Jamie (accusing Brienne of being a pain in his ass): “Are you sure you’re not a Lannister? You’ve got the hair…but not the looks”
- The Hound (when Arya inquires why he’ll kill boys, but won’t steal): “Man’s gotta have a code”
- The Hound (to Arya, when she spots Needle): “Of course you named your sword.” Arya: “Lots of people name their sword.” The Hound: “Lots of cunts”
And just like that we’re back! What did you think of Oberyn? Enjoy spending so much time with the Lannisters? Hoping for more screentime with Jon (Kit Harrington), Dany or Arya? Which scene stood out most for you? Comment away below, but please remember that we have a strict No Spoilers policy regarding the books or upcoming episodes.
Game Of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO