Did you hear that? The pulsing, prodding boom of drums punctuated by nerdglee? Dun-dun-da-na-na-nuh-nun-da-nah-nun (dun-dun-da-da-dun-dun): that’s right, Game of Thrones is back! I don’t know if you were aware of its return — they’ve been so quiet about it on the marketing front — but if you don’t know, now you know. And given the fact that season three put into motion a ton of changes, it makes sense that the season four premiere — “Two Swords” — spent much of its time setting the stage for the fall-out and even bigger changes to come.
Are you ready for the wild(lings) ride, kids? Let’s go:
The great (OK, maybe that sounds a little too gleeful) thing about this season of Game of Thrones is that so many of the major characters have died now, it’s basically as though the story is starting over, making it way easy for you to convince your friends to join in on the madness, so we’ve got some new characters to meet today.
Like Oberyn Martell, also known as the Red Viper. The tricky Dornish prince sent in place of his older brother is not afraid to get down and dirty, in the bedroom and in politics. You see, Oberyn’s sister, Elia Martell, was once the queen-to-be of Westeros (before she was killed), as she was married to crown prince Rhaegar Targaryen, whom she loved very much (she even had two of his babies). But Rhaegar had the hots for Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister) and ran off with her, starting the war that put Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne. So now that Oberyn’s in town, every Lannister and Tyrell in the Red Keep is seriously on edge.
And there’s also the Thenn. This creepy stripe-headed cannibal cavalcade is part of the Mance Rayder’s wildling crew heading towards the Wall. The tall guy, Styr, is their leader. There’s also Ser Dontos, not so much a new character, as he was the drunken knight that Sansa saved from death during Joffrey’s name-day tournament, but more than a footnote now that he’s one of King Joffrey’s fools.
Not a new character per se, but certainly a new setting, is Meereen, the last of the slave cities in Slavers’ Bay. After taking down Astapor and Yunkai, Dany and her Unsullied (and all the freed slaves that have followed suit) are heading to the last of the cities run by slave labor in a quest to take them over, too. With the adorable Grey Worm and Daario Naharis 2.0 (a warm welcome to Michiel Huisman) in tow, surely Khaleesi will have no troubles owning shit, right? Well, not if she’s not careful, because, hoo boy, are those dragons ever the wily ones. Harder, better, faster, stronger those little puppies are, and turning into some seriously big dogs. Drogon is particularly snippy, but who isn’t when you try to interrupt during feeding time, eh? No time to worry about keeping them in check now, though, as the march to Meereen is a long one; a road paved with mile markers made of dead slaves leading the way. Obviously this woke a bit of the dragon up inside Dany and she’s on the warpath to avenge them all.
Falling into a false sense of peace — because this is Game of Thrones and by now, even folks who haven’t read the books have figured out that nothing stays swell for long, right? — are the Lannisters. And oh how good it is to have them back: Tyrion’s lookin’ fresh and Jaime’s got both a brand new Valyrian steel sword (courtesy of Ned Stark’s greatsword, sigh) and a sweet new gold hand, thanks to his sisterlover Cersei. But even with that gift, she’s less than keen on her brotherlover these days it seems, because he took too long to get back. Uh oh, is there trouble in incest paradise?
Maybe it’s because Jaime has realized that his nephewson is totally the worst, a pure, unadulterated shithead: That hasn’t changed. He even managed to get a few digs in about Jaime’s lost hand, because isn’t that what family does? The best part is that you can tell Jaime’s feeling a bit of guilt about the fact that the king is an absolute madman. It’s all “oh, shit, he’s sort of my fault, isn’t he?” in his eyes.
Lannister-to-be Margaery Tyrell is also back, playing careless with both the baubles and her feelings about her betrothed. But granny Olenna isn’t having any of that. “You watch that,” she insists. “Even here, even with me.” Oh, and Olenna’s love for Brienne of Tarth is worth noting, because no one else has been called magnificent on this show.
Speaking of Brienne, aren’t her verbal tête-à-têtes with Jaime the best? These two, what a delightful odd couple….
…Though they’re hardly as odd as Arya and the Hound, who are THE unlikeliest of bedfellows. While out on their cross-country adventure (to the Eyrie so that the Hound might sell Arya back to her aunt), they come across several of the Mountain’s men (the Hound’s meany-peany older brother, who’s somehow even bigger and more brutal than our big pooch), including Polliver, the guy who stole her sword, Needle. When Arya sees this, her serial murderperson heart-to-be naturally goes all aflutter with dreams of getting back her blade. “Of course you named your sword,” the Hound scoffed. “Lots of people do.” “Yeah, lots of cunts.” And the Hound’s sweet and saccharine mouth is exactly what set off the battle that returned Arya’s sword to her person. All it took was a wee “f-ck the king” and it was swordfightin’ time. A swift callback to Polliver’s killing of Lommy and that was that. On the road again.
Meanwhile, Jon Snow is back in black (♪♫ ‘cuz he’s back in black! ♪♫) and, of course, real sad. After killing Qhorin Halfhand, the elders of the Nights’ Watch aren’t too keen on Lord Snow’s return. Perceived deserters, after all, aren’t a favorite of those hellbent on oaths and loyalty. But Maester Aemon knows that Snow is telling the truth about the Wildings impending attack — from both the South and the North of the Wall — and they’d all be smart to lay off poor ol’ Snow and get on with the preparations for the battle. Above all else, we’re just glad the bromance is reunited. Samwell Tarly + Jon Snow 4eva.
Now go update your fantasy fantasy league standings. Here’s hoping you all have Arya on your teams.
UPDATED: Game of Thrones Fantasy Fantasy rankings
(Editor’s note: we’ll do our best to get these figures out to you in a timely fashion, but as many of you are finding out, there’s a ton of characters! These are calculated by game creator Andrew Nielson. Some of you have slightly different counts in the comments, but any disputes should be resolved by Small Council or your local Game Maester.)
Week 1 – “Two Swords”
Arya Stark: 7 points
Sandor Clegane: 3 points
Olenna Tyrell: 2 points
Oberyn Martell: 1 point
Mance Rayder: -1 points
All other characters received a net score of zero points. We will do our best to have these scores calculated for you the day following the original episode’s run.
What’d you think of the premiere? Let us know in the comments!