After an excruciatingly long wait, especially considering that the game-changing Red Wedding served as last season’s penultimate episode, Game of Thrones is back, and Westeros is currently experiencing some calm before the storm. The Red Wedding has set an unstoppable chain of events in motion, and all the audience, and Seven Kingdoms denizens, can do is wait to see how it all unfolds.
(Full disclosure: I’m officially caught up with the Song of Ice and Fire book series, so I do know how it’s going to unfold, and I can’t wait. But I won’t post any spoilers here – I’ll only comment on what’s currently happening on the show.)
We find ourself back in Westeros, where Tywin, who could not possibly look more evil, is spending a dark and ominous afternoon melting down swords and burning up wolves – clearly, this is Robb/Ned’s sword, being split in two to better serve the Lannister household. One of the swords goes to Jaime, even though he’s a little lopsided these days. Tywin, clearly disappointed that he now has two, er, “different” sons, tries to take Jaime off of the Kings Guard, but Jaime’s having none of that. He has to keep an eye on his boy-king incest son, anyway. Speaking of the boy-king – SHOCKER – he still completely sucks. Prince Charming is getting old, Joffrey points out, and he doesn’t really need protecting, since the whole kingdom adores him and is thrilled for his upcoming wedding. Yeah, okay. We’ll see. Joffrey’s mom and Jaime’s twin slash lover, Cersei, gives him an equally chilly reception – she’s furious at him for “leaving her” (apparently, to Cersei, “leaving” and “being captured” are exactly the same thing), and she basically wants nothing to do with him. At least Jaime still has his best bro, Brienne, who’s still ready to call him on his shit and remind him that they promised Catelyn Stark (RIP) that they would keep an eye out for weepy little Sansa. Well, now that he’s her brother-in-law, Jaime feels a little more obligated.
He’s not the only one who’s trying to watch out for Sansa. Tyrion, feeling plenty guilty that his family is completely responsible for her family’s horrific demise, tries to comfort her, but Sansa is having none of it, disappearing into woods and hiding in churches just to get away from him – and really, everyone else. (This did lead to a lovely little scene between Sansa and Ser Dontos, though, who begged her to wear his mother’s necklace to show his family a little honor before their name dies out completely.) Tyrion’s attempts to connect with his young bride, however, sets up conflict with Shae, who has the unfortunate double duty of being both Tyrion’s lover and Sansa’s lady-in-waiting. Shae can’t even seduce her lion anymore because he’s so distracted, and she’s unhappy, although her fury at Sansa seems fairly misguided. To make matters worse, Cersei has spies everywhere, one of whom sees Shae leave Tyrion’s room in a huff. Tyrion is bearing too many heavy weights at the moment, and it’s only a matter of time before he loses control of one of them. (It’s worth noting that Peter Dinklage, masterful as ever, gives Tyrion an aggrieved air this season that, while it makes him significantly less sassy, lends a gravitas to the character that serves his scenework very well.)
But, with the Royal Wedding coming up next week, the Lannisters and Tyrells are finding themselves a little too busy to worry about too much. Tyrion is a little occupied with Oberyn Martell, the Dornish prince who shows up in King’s Landing ready to bone everything and lay waste to Lannisters (particularly ones hanging out in brothels who accuse him of goat-fucking, which probably isn’t the best idea). Oberyn seems like a fairly over-the-top character at the moment – he stabs men without consideration and makes out with his companion, the sultry bastard Ellaria Sand, whenever he feels like it, because he’s from a savage land or whatever (bringing to mind the ridiculously brutish Dothraki from Season 1) – but his quest for revenge rings true, since his sister, Elia, was brought to King’s Landing for an arranged marriage only to be raped and murdered (by the Hound’s brother) along with her two children. So, yeah, that’s a legit reason to be a little fussed at the Lannisters. We didn’t see a whole lot of Joffrey preparing for his nuptials, but we did see Margary with her badass grandmother, throwing necklaces off of cliffs and discussing Margery’s upcoming queendom. (Her line about Joffrey designing a “necklace of sparrow heads” for her to wear on her special day was just too good.) At least someone’s getting ready – if we’ve learned anything on Game of Thrones, it’s that weddings rarely go smoothly.
Dany, still lurking around out in the desert trying to liberate city after city (which doesn’t seem to be going particularly well, as her path is literally lined with dead slaves), is learning how to mother both her new people and her dragons, which definitely aren’t little and cute anymore. Even though she’s imbued with a power over them, they’ll still snap at her over a goat carcass, which should teach her that “a dragon can’t be tamed, even by its mother” (advice courtesy of Jorah, still permanently stuck in the friendzone). She’s also got New Daario Naharis to deal with (the show randomly recast the part, but New Daario, even without his canonical blue hair, is way hotter, so this works), who gives her flowers under the guise of teaching her about the customs of Mereen. Yeah, okay. Emilia Clarke hasn’t done a nude scene in a while, so it’s only a matter of time. Also, Khaleesi needs a stress reliever.
And, to cover character who haven’t changed at all since last season: Cersei is still day-drinking (which is not only hilarious material for Lena Headey to play, but serves as a great character parallel to her late husband Robert Baratheon, whose drinking habit she despised), and Jon Snow still knows nothing. Wait, actually, Jon Snow knows that giants and wildlings are coming for the wall – 100,000, to be precise, and this information keeps his head on his shoulders for another day. (He also does some whining about how he was never as good as Robb, while Sam stands there, being literate and sensitive, like always.) Oh, and the wildlings are still pissed at him, especially Ygritte. So that should all work out nicely.
The most interesting moments of the premiere, however, come courtesy of Arya Stark, the tiniest Westerosi badass there ever was. Traveling with the Hound and insulting him every step of the way (I’m blanking on exact quotes, but whatever, they were really funny), she stumbles upon Polliver, a Lannister lackey who stole her sword (Needle, gifted to her by Jon Snow) and killed her friend Lommy with it. After The Hound and Polliver have the tensest slash funniest conversation that there ever was about roast chicken, he attacks, but even The Hound has a little trouble when it’s five against one. Luckily, Arya can handle herself, and her quiet assassination of two Lannister men is masterful, but the piece de resistance comes when she has Needle at Polliver’s throat. Arya’s killed before, but this is her biggest victory yet, and the camera makes sure to focus in on the child killer, who watches, satisfied, as the life leaves her victim. Forget Dany – if anyone’s taking what is theirs with fire and blood, it’s Arya.
Next week is the actual Royal Wedding, so, uh, buckle up, kids. We’ll also have to visit Stannis and Bran next week, though (the two least interesting characters, especially Stannis, who’s basically a block of wood with a face painted on it), so that’s the trade-off. If anyone does read this and then comment on it, please mark book spoilers or leave them at home. See you at the wedding, guys!