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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Two Swords” (S4, E1)

GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “Two Swords” (S4, E1)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.


Season 4, Episode 1: “Two Swords”

Original Air Date: April 6th, 2014
Director: D.B. Weiss
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Nothing shocking or game changing takes place in this episode—the season four premiere has no major characters die and no battles are waged. It is primarily focused with table setting, introducing us to the current status of major characters following the craziness of season three. It’s mostly a series of conversations.

And it’s fantastic.

Each conversation carries so much weight (with copious hints of explosive events to come), that they are compelling both because of the emotional heaviness that has led the characters to these points, and what they portend about events to come.


The Thenns arrive to dine on some Crow meat while Jon is busy trying to prepare the Night’s Watch for the coming attack from Mance Rayder. Cersei tells Jaime it’s too late for them while he is busy struggling with how to keep his oath to Catelyn Stark—and Brienne—about how to save Sansa. Meanwhile Tyrion deals with Shae’s unhappiness, which pails in comparison to the problem of Oberyn Martell showing up and letting Tyrion know that House Martell has not forgotten what happened to his sister Elia, Rhaegar’s wife.

Sidebar to add: Oberyn’s introduction might be the best in the show’s history. He shows up fully formed—dynamic, enthralling, and with a rich history unto himself. It also perfectly set up a new enemy to House Lannister, which just started to feel safe after seemingly destroying House Stark. The show has made major mistakes with the Dorne story line, but it wasn’t because they failed at the start. The introduction was the best part.


But it’s the opening and closing scenes that show just how powerful the show can be even when no one is talking.

Season four’s first images, a rare pre-opening credits scene, is completely dialogue free, with only the Rains of Castamere playing in the background. It gives the episode its name, “Two Swords,” because we see Tywin Lannister triumphantly melting down Ned Stark’s Valyrian steel sword Ice, the ancestral sword of House Stark, to make two new swords for House Lannister, one for Joffrey and one for Jaime.


It’s a metaphor literally come to life. Tywin thinks he has completely destroyed House Stark (Sansa is married to Tyrion, and their children will be Lannisters who rule Winterfell). He doesn’t know that Bran, Rickon (for now), and Arya still live (he doesn’t care about Jon), so this is his final, cruel act in truly erasing the Starks.

The scene is menacing, framing Tywin less like a pragmatic patriarch who cares about his family at all costs, and more like a villain who relishes the pain and suffering he has brought into the world. Tywin would never claim to be a moral man, but he could always argue he was just a practical one who knows the cost of protecting his house in this world.

But in this private scene away from the public eye, we see that Tywin—like the many killers and sellswords that dot this world—relishes in causing pain to others. Tywin Lannister is not above enjoying vengeance. It makes him more human, but that’s why this scene is also the scariest one he ever had. Tywin is a villain, one with a plan and a brain, and that’s the scariest kind.


However, while the episode starts with the destruction of a Stark sword, it ends with a Stark getting one back—when Arya forces the Hound to face down some Lannister soldiers in a tavern (including Polliver who stole her sword Needle when they captured Arya’s group of boys heading to the Night’s Watch).

First, we are reminded why The Hound is one of the funniest people the show has ever had—in the great “chickens” scene—but it’s the action packed sequence that follows that speaks volumes. The gruesome, graphic sequence (it’s still hard to watch) ends when Arya brutally murders one man, and then reenacts the killing the death of Lemmy at Polliver’s hands. It isn’t enough for her to get her revenge, she needs to toy with him first, to let Polliver know why this is happening.

Tywin did not destroy House Stark—it still stands, and it still fights. The last scene is a perfect contrast to Tywin’s triumphant melting of Ice, especially since the vengeful Arya has more in common with Tywin than either might guess. Whether she manages to hold on to a humanity that Tywin lost, which ultimately helped destroy his family he was always striving to protect, remains to be seen.


In an episode full of conversations, these two scenes say the most without speaking a word.

What do you think of this episode? Swear it to the old gods and the new in our comments below.

Images: HBO

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