Game of Thrones Season 4 Premiere Review “Two Swords”

Over the weekend, HBO, as it typically does, was running reruns of the first three seasons of Game of Thrones. As a fan first before a reviewer, I naturally got sucked in to the proceedings. The episodes remained as engrossing as the first time I saw them. I reveled in the sight of these interesting people and the world they inhabit. My heart soared when Daenerys was held aloft by the freed slaves of Yunkai. I cheered every time Tyrion slapped Joffrey in the face. And I nodded in satisfaction every time Tywin Lannister put somebody in their place. I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend more time with these people. Never has a fantastical show on this level put forth more relatable characters.

One thing I had managed to purge from my mind is the sheer brutality of the series. You can pick any number of moments throughout the series as an example, but the show has never been shy about chopping off body parts no matter how sensitive. Some of the moments have been gross; others have been unsettling, and some have been downright horrifying. Under normal circumstances, all of the violence and brutality in a series set in this type of place would lead to a fractured audience. However, these are not normal circumstances. Game of Thrones remains the biggest things on HBO’s airwaves, and that’s without counting the millions of people who continue to pirate the show over the series of tubes known as the interwebs. The Walking Dead is a ratings behemoth, but it’s violence makes the show play more like a video game. When a character can sign a scroll and a person thousands of miles away can be killed, that’s something entirely different.

But that’s why Game of Thrones remains one of the biggest things on our television screens. It’s more than the clash of swords and shields with some breasts thrown in. It’s the people attached to those swords, shields, and breasts. The show has one of the more impressive gathering of talent we’ll ever see on a television screen. Watching these people in tonight’s beautifully crafted season premiere was like reuniting with old friends. I love to watch these characters move around in the world. I love to watch them interact with each other. And I love the way the show allows these people to control the proceedings. Scenes are allowed to breathe (a long hello to Prince Oberyn springs to mind), characters are able to do more with exposition, and the stakes always seem raised anytime certain characters walk into a room (I’m looking directly at you, Tywin Lannister). Yes, there is the typical mix of premium cable blood and boobs, but if you’re watching Game of Thrones waiting for the next Blackwater, the next Red Wedding, or the next time Margaery Tyrell takes her top off then you’re missing a lot of terrific television along the way.

The premiere to the show’s fourth season is another fine example when you combine all of the merits of Game of Thrones. At times one of the funniest shows on television, the episode has its moments of levity and snappy one-liners from all of our favorites. It’s a enjoyable romp of an hour that watches the House Lannister take a bow after their sweeping victories over the past few years. However, the episode also shows just how fleeting the celebration will be. We may still be waiting on the arrival of winter, but those dragons in Essos are getting bigger, Stannis yet lives, and people continue to gather around The Wall with big plans of their own. Still, our old friends are back, so we should enjoy the moment now before everything goes sideways (because you know it will).

***Important note: I have not read one page of the books penned by George RRRRRRRRRRRRRR Martin, nor do I plan to do so. Therefore, I respectfully request that all discussion in the comments below be focused on the television show. I thank the book readers among us for their restraint.