‘Game of Thrones’ Season 4 Premiere Review

Published 4 months ago by

Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones season 4 episode 1 Game of Thrones Season 4 Premiere Review

[This is a review of Game of Thrones season 4, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]

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HBO’s Game of Thrones is at its best when tackling matters of division in the world created by George R.R. Martin. This idea of binary opposition is key to the series’ structure, and it has enjoyed varying levels of complexity through the first three seasons. The differences began simply enough in season 1 by highlighting the variation in location between Ned Stark’s home in Winterfell and Robert Baratheon’s seat on the Iron Throne in King’s Landing. While the two men were not in conflict with one another, the settings around them generated a compelling opposition that would later branch out into the far deeper, more personal aspects of series’ vast character roster as the audience became more familiar with them.

Early on, these divisions were kept fairly simple; it was north versus south, or – the even less complicated – cold versus warm. This juxtaposition of basic structural components supplied an immediate and clear understanding of Westeros through its differences as they were in relation to one another. Naturally, this binary distinction soon grew more complex and intricate, as the characters and their desires were fleshed out, and, certainly, as the landscape expanded far beyond the two regions that first held any significance (the yearly additions made to the stop-motion map/credit sequence, season after season, offers a great example of the increased enormity of the series’ setting). The complexity of these differences reached a new high of sorts in season 3, as the discussion fell most heavily on the division between ideologies and constructs like realms, rulers, and the often-perilous distinction of loyalty.

‘Two Swords’ kicks-off season 4 with the profoundly symbolic gesture of Eddard Stark’s Valyrian steel sword being melted down into two smaller blades; one for Joffrey and one for Jaime. Tywin’s act of dividing Stark’s sword amongst his family is not merely symbolic in terms of what has happened to the likable members of House Stark; it also alludes once more to the binary principles at play in the structure of the narrative. And yet, in underlining that aspect, many more intriguing and far more personal complexities arise, building the framework for several new and continued character arcs and interpersonal conflicts that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss seem prepared to focus on in the upcoming season.

Nicolaj Coster Waldau and Jack Gleeson in Game of Thrones season 4 episode 1 Game of Thrones Season 4 Premiere Review

As it has in seasons past, the premiere sweeps through Westeros with great speed, seamlessly serving up the continuation of the storyline so many have been waiting for. Game of Thrones has become so adept at handling its many storylines within the span of a television hour (which is mercifully much longer on HBO), there’s a comforting nonchalance in the way ‘Two Swords’ briefly checks in with each character, quickly illustrating what’s changed – like the size of Daenerys’ dragons, as well as her army – and what hasn’t – like Tywin’s demonstrable ability to enervate anyone (in this instance, it’s Jaime) without getting up from behind his desk. Jaime’s string of unpleasant meetings with Tywin, Cersei, and Joffrey kicks off a series of murky reunions throughout the episode, like Jon Snow’s potentially life-threatening reintegration back into the Night’s Watch, Sansa’s introduction to her publicly drunken secret admirer, and Arya’s violent but admittedly more crowd-pleasing reunion with Needle.

There are plenty of new characters to be introduced as well, such as the tribe of scarred cannibals that’ve come to aid Ygritte, Thormund, and the rest of Mance’s people south of the Wall. Fittingly, however, the hour saves most of its time for the introduction of Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), his lover Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), and his unquenchable thirst for vengeance against Ser Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane, as well as Tywin Lannister. After he and Tyrion share a terse conversation, in which the newly appointed Master of Coin tries unsuccessfully to establish common ground by pointing out the fact they’re both second sons, Oberyn quickly changes the discussion to the far less pleasant subject of his sister’s rape and murder at the hands of Gregor by saying, “Tell your father I’m here. And tell him the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.”

Peter Dinklage is terrific, as the exchange between Tyrion and Oberyn demonstrates how admitted similarities can sometimes be a greater threat to those in the seat of power than any perceived differences. After all, who is more likely to challenge authority than those who have already tasted it? As Oberyn’s intimates: What the Lannisters do, others can do. And naturally, in a place built on the power and authority of the ruling class, this notion is bound to generate considerable heat and discord, as the distinction between those with power becomes more difficult to discern. It calls to mind the failed but continued efforts of Stannis Baratheon, but it also brings the narrative full circle, once again demonstrating that the most influential division in Game of Thrones will always be the one it explores so skillfully: the division between the haves and the have-nots.

Pedro Pascal and Indira Varma in Game of Thrones season 4 episode 1 Game of Thrones Season 4 Premiere Review

Throughout ‘Two Swords,’ there is a constant demarcation between those in possession of something and those in search of it. Hands (and various other body parts), swords, brains, money, youth, beauty, freedom, integrity…a pony, are all part of the continued focus of how these characters are initially defined by what they are lacking – either temporarily or permanently – while the dramatic manner in which they proceed to overcome that deficiency is the series’ greatest strength. This has been the MO of the program from the beginning; the difference here being that season 4 demonstrates the advantages of the program’s age. Every character beat feels like it’s been crafted to its finest point, while each scene carries with it the possibility of drastic change – but that is only because the series has done such a fantastic job conditioning the audience to expect such things with little warning.

That is one of the pleasures of watching a series like this. And while the deft presentation of an enormous multi-faceted narrative and the successful delivery of tremendous, traumatic events have likely cemented Game of Thrones‘ place in the annals of TV history already, the series doesn’t shirk its responsibility to make the smaller, character moments – like Arya enacting her revenge with the camera positioned to make the diminutive Stark look as large as the fury within her – say something that deepens the experience in between the moments that seek to define it.

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Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘The Lion and the Rose’ @9pm on HBO.

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  1. Spot on review, everything was so fleshed out perfectly. The inclusion of the new Daario is so so, must to be desired in terms of portrayal compared to last version (Ed Skein) but its the first episode so…….

    • :)
      You should read the book. Daario is described as wearing a somewhat golden armor, blue waivy hair, heavy rings, a thin gold tainted mustache and his beard, split as an upside down trident. His sword’s hand grip is supposed to bear the image of naked women contorded onto each other as if around a metal phallus. Very excentric. He’d get along with Oberyn, I’m sure.

      • I never liked the way the book’s Daario was explained – he sounded more like a crazed Salvador Dali or Cirque du Solei character than an actual warrior who can inspire fear or the lust if Kahlisi. I would laugh at him if I saw him coming at me in battle or in bed. I like the Daario of the TV series much more, more believable and capable of gravitas than the Daario charicature in the book.

      • I’m on my way to obtaining the books which is great, I read his SOF&I wiki a while back and he is quite the flamboyant one. Really interested in how his story plays out in the show, some cool stuff* happens with him and the D and yes he and RV would get along ……most likely.

        *I sorta read the spoilers.

      • I kinda think they toned him down for the non readers because you have to admit he has a interesting way of dressing and doing his hair haha. Not that I wouldnt enjoy seeing it. I noticed while re-watching the 3rd season that Daario’s sword handle does have the naked woman on it just like in the books. They do a close up on it but I only realized it recently.

  2. I really enjoyed this episode. The making of the two swords was nice addition. The Hound and Arya could end up being the best pairing of the season if this keeps up.

  3. Great episode, definitely glad the best show on TV is back.

    What made it better was the fact that Sky Atlantic aired it at the exact same time as HBO (which means I’m sitting here at 3:20am typing this) instead of the usual Monday night slot and there were zero commercial breaks at all, meaning the episode finished at the 58 minute mark instead of spilling over into the 75th minute.

    Everything from that epic opening scene to Arya killing that guy and just delivering a boat load of attitude as she did it was jaw dropping.

    • Game of Thrones usually airs with commercials in the UK? Wow. I cannot imagine watching any show on HBO with commercials.

      • Yeah, that’s why it’s usually on 9-10:15pm (or the goofy time I have to record it early in the morning if I have other shows being recorded, shared house and all that).

        True Detective is also on for 1 hour 20 minutes on Saturday nights on the same channel (also at goofy times because Revolution’s on at 10pm but I have to record it an hour later because another show I record airs around 9:20 and True Detective not only airs at 9 and overruns but that makes 3 things on at the exact same time, highly annoying).

        I don’t really complain about the commercial breaks themselves though, especially in the UK. We have them every 15-20 minutes for 3-5 minutes in total, US shows seem to have commercials every 40 seconds. Hated watching live shows from the US and cutting to a break just as things were getting going.

    • I just watched it online, but i know what you mean, jaw dropping. I was hooked on every scene to such an extent that when the credits rolled i had to double check the timer on the video cause i couldnt believe it was over already lol

      • Haha, yeah.

        Remember though, it’s on at the usual time of 9pm on Mondays now, the 2am “no commercials” thing was a one off unfortunately so be prepared to avoid the internet for a day while the US and Canada talk about episode 2 next weekend.

        I think it’s the Purple Wedding already.

  4. wiener wiener wiener wiener wiener wiener wiener wiener.

    • Yeah…i don`t care how much that`s true to the books,i did not care for it.

  5. Great review as always Kevin. All i can say is i`m glad Sansa mentioned her mother`s body being thrown in the river. Gives me hope they`ll stick to the source material on that matter.

    • That worries me as well. We haven’t seen Nymeria since season 1, I believe…I’m willing to bet one of the episodes this season will begin with a POV of Nymeria along the river.

    • Yeah me too. Now I wonder how far they’ll take it

  6. So I just watched it online at ridiculous o’clock in the morning (I have all the box sets and posters I am a true fan just don’t have sky!)

    Someone answer this question for me PLEASE! Is the ending of that episode different to the books? I won’t venture into spoiler territory for the none book readers, and please whoever answers, answer vaguely! But I am sure that tavern scene ended very differently in the book? Do I recall correctly or am I wrong?

    • If I recall correctly in the book the Hound is badly injured from that fight in the tavern.

      • +1. I imagine that the writers have decided to add to their story a little bit, which I’m not fussed with as I’m definitely keen to see more of The Hound and Arya. Maybe they get attacked by bandits in one of the next few episodes or something.

    • You’re right. The ending to that episode was the same as in the books.

      • I wasn’t happy with how GRRM dealt with the Hound in the books. It seems like he gets bored with certain characters and just writes them off.

  7. Honestly this whole first episode was fking terrible, the actors spoke like they had a stop watch counting down behind them. Across the board, the acting, and the dialogue felt like they were instructed from someone who did not give a sh*t. Also Hbo being left wing center, they stepped up the feminism to new werid heights. Makes me want to vomit. Shay yells at Tyrion for the billionith time, Cercee insults Jamie, Grandmother Tyrell calls Loras a “silly little boy”, Egritte shoots Jon with arrows but that was showing her love? Arya kills grown men after the Hound wounds them, the Hound is following Arya’s lead now? I love the books and if liberal Hollywood wants to poison another series then I guess theres nothing I can do about it. Boardwalk empire, True Detectives, some of shittyest tv ever…and now Game of Thrones is dropping. If you havent canceled Hbo before, you should now.

    • A bad troll uses way too many words.

      • Wow. Somebody is looking waaaaay too deep into things. Come back down from that high you’re on, boy.

    • LOL, although I don’t think it was a grand slam episode, I thought it was a good episode. I do agree that Boardwalk Empire has gone downhill since season 2 but I did like True Detectives so HBO will be fine if you cancel. I won’t because I love the majority of their series.

    • what the hell are you talking about??? women have been a driving force in this show from season 1. and what does politics have to do with it? liberal or conservative its a great hour of television. i wish conservatives would use the guns they love so much on themselves so the rest of the civilized world can live in peace!

      • Although I don’t exactly agree with Charles, I do agree that the book is way better. Now the whole feminism part is something that has been going on since the beginning. It’s nothing new. The whole Ygritte character is rather annoying. I’ve never been a fan of Rose Leslie though. Give me more Daenerys Targaryen and all is good. Emilia Clarke is the reason why I watch, LOL

    • Wow. Just wow. The world of “Game of Thrones” is heavily misogynist. Brienne is mistreated and mocked by nearly everyone for not dressing and acting super-feminine. One of the reasons Cersei is so messed up is because she feels imprisoned as a woman.

      A wench was getting raped or nearly so in the tavern at the end of the episode, and Arya (12 year old girl) was threatened with gang rape. But Cersei rejects her brother’s incestuous advances and that’s some whacked-out liberal left feminism? Note that Grandma Tyrell insults everyone, including other women. Arya did assist in the tavern fight. She was riding well behind the Hound in the last scene, so how is she leading him?

      In short, you have problems. Time for some serious self-introspection or therapy.

      • I always shake my head at angry feminists who cry “misogyny” every chance they get. Its “misogyny” because of ‘rape threats’? OK

        Its ironic because in these types of shows thousands of men are killed off, yet one ‘rape threat’ and the feminists are up in arms.

        Tell me, how do you explain the male genital mutilation? Must be Misandry right? Oh, that doesn’t exist in the feminist mind. Nope only imaginary “misogyny”.

        Please take your feminism back to Jezebel (who like to mock male victims of genital assault and domestic violence…even more ironic considering they are the largest feminist website on the web).

        • It’s hard for some people to see things objectively. They have their mind bent to see only the side they want to see, so I’m pretty sure she never even noticed any of what you mentioned…

          I personally believe in equal rights and equal opportunity. But activists seem to want to push things from being skewed one way to being skewed the other way…

  8. “I understand that if any more words come pouring out your c*** mouth I’m going to have to eat every f****** chicken in this room…”

    I’m glad I wasn’t drinking anything when that line was said, because it would have come out of my nose…

    • I really liked the Hounds character when I read the books (one of my favourites) but the way Rory Mccann plays him just makes him so much more of a baddass c**t!

    • i liked bronn’s explanation of his rise from “hired killer” to knight better: “I guess I killed the right people.”

      • For me, the thing I like about Bronn is that he (intentionally) never gives the response Tyrion expects of him when he asks him a question. I think he does it just to piss him off a little bit like friends would do. Like when Tyrion asks him where he would go after a long ride, instead of saying the brothel, which we all know is the answer Tyrion expected, Bronn just had to say something different. In this case, he says “I’d probably go to sleep” and you see how annoyed Tyrion gets by his facial expression, although you would think he’d be used to it by now, lol.

  9. Arya Stark is unbelievably terrible.

    • LOL

    • Kill yourself… before she finds you.

  10. What the hell does ‘binary opposition’ mean?

  11. Needle is back baby!!!

    WHOOOT!!!

  12. Im just happy its back.

    :)

  13. hannibal is better

    • You know before I would have said there is no way and it’s still debatable but right now if I would have to pick a series that is “better” it would be Vikings. The dialogue seems to fit each character perfectly and the story seems to move along rather nicely with a perfect combination of character development, scheming, and action. Right now though, it’s a toss up between GOT and Vikings IMO

  14. Just watched the promo for next week. The Purple Wedding! Also, at the end of the promo there was a shadow of a dragon screeching whilst flying over King’ Landing. Will Dany finally set sail during this season for Westeros?

    • I hope so. That will get things moving forward

    • Hate to disappoint you but from what little I know (haven’t read the books yet), people are waiting to see if she’ll set sail for Kings Landing in book 6.

  15. While this episode was obviously highlighting the new tension to come and spoil the Lannister’s party in King’s Landing, and definitely had a more narrow feel to it, as in they were doing their best to try and keep the viewers interested to begin the new season, and introduce as much as they could without having to sacrifice much depth. I felt the first 40 minutes of the episode were dull, and then came the Hound and Arya and it completely redeemed itself. I totally get the theme for the episode though. It’s setting up the rest of the season. Showing where the focus will be, as always. We didn’t see a few POV’s, mainly Theon’s, which we will next week.

    In reply to the guy down here, Dany isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

    And I’m not sure if the writer realized this, but the intro of the clockwork world and cities doesn’t change from season to season, but rather, episode to episode. If you pay attention to it, it shows the cities by which each POV will take place that episode.

    • Yeah, Dany, for me at least, is what keeps me tuned in, LOL

    • “If you pay attention to it, it shows the cities by which each POV will take place that episode.”

      Thats not entirely true. The intro to last night season premier showed Dragonstone, but yet we did not see Stannis, Melisandre or Davos. The intro does change throughout the season, but it is not tied to who will be showing up in that particular episode.

      • True, but there are places that are fixated and places that revolve on the intro. I also recalled seeing the Dreadfort on last nights intro as well. But yea, it typically gives a clue as to what you can expect to see.

  16. I love the fact that the sword of Ned Stark now takes 2 Lannister’s to handle.

    Also,
    The Red Viper (just learned the name today) over the course of 10 minutes immediately became a new favorite.

  17. If I recall, Jaime took it as disrespect that Tywin gave him that sword, because he knew he wouldn’t be able to use it.

  18. If I recall, doesn’t Jaime take the gift from Tywin as disrespect?

  19. If there was such a thing as reincarnation in Westeros, I would want Robb Stark to come back as a pigeon and take a S**t on that statue of Jeoffrey in the garden — the one where he stands tall with his corssbow, a foot on a dead direwolf. That thing made me want to throw something at the tv.
    SPOILER AHEAD
    SPOILER AHEAD
    SPOILER AHEAD
    SPOILER AHEAD
    SPOILER AHEAD
    …Then again, Bran may yet learn to do that eventually

  20. Absolutely magnificent review I applaud you you sir

  21. Ahhhh… so glad this show is back on! Great episode!

  22. I liked it.

  23. I almost forgot how good this show is. The wait has been long, but such quality is hard to come by. Best TV shows ever!

    To kick start the season and make the first chapter totally complete I missed a glimpse at Stanis Baratheon (meant to ignore for now the Five Kings War (only 3 left) and going to the Wall in the North) and perhaps the Iron Islands situation (sister sailing to rescue little brother). They touched on absolutely everything else.

    But in any case, time was very well served and the Hound and the chicken situation was priceless.

  24. WARNING BOOK SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    SPOILER

    SPOILER

    SPOILER

    SPOILER

    Well after i watched the episode i just have one question…

    Does the hound live through out this season? which would be sweet because i thought the hound in the book was becoming a anti-hero albeit complicated but didnt have enough time to really come full circle..

    I mean the Hound was mortally wounded in that tavern fight and basically dies soon there after (i know supposivly)

    so do you think the show writers are gonna keep Sandor around a while longer?

    • I certainly hope they keep it going a little while, and muddy the outcome from the way the books portray his exit. I think its interesting how people complain that the show is not as good as the books, but my two favorite interactions in the show where Tywin and Arya. And now the Hound and Arya. The first was never in the books and the second has now been extended, even if only for another episode, its still extended and I am happy to see it. I’ve read the books but have learned to tune into the show as there will be changes and most are very good changes.

  25. Aside from the dragon-petting scene, everything felt a bit too tidy and predictable. Also, more sitcom lighting is creeping into the show. I think the series is going the way of True Blood. And all the self-congratulation that’s been heaped upon the show, coupled with the inevitable, focus group-driven ‘notes’ from the studio, are only serving to weaken the core story-arcs, as the producers look to create an ever more grand spectacle.

  26. you can watch Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 2 this sunday on this link http://tvtoast.com/watch/?ch_id=1394462097

  27. You talk of misandry yet it’s men killing men in battle, it’s men mutilating male genitalia. Women as a sex are not subjecting men to terror and humiliation. Misogyny is male hatred of women. Misandry is women hating men. If the balance of power is all in men’s favour then talk of women hating men is absurd. Game of Thrones the tv series is not misogynistic but the world of Westeros undoubtedly is, hence titles passing down the male line, etc. George RR Martin is quite explicit when he said that he wanted to depict strong female characters as opposed to the usual vapid kind we get, yet apparently that according to you is man-hating. You forget men and women share our world fifty fifty. It’s like you’re looking for stuff to be offended by.

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