Last night brought us the fourth season premiere of Game of Thrones (garnering the highest HBO ratings since The Sopranos finale, by the way) which serviced a great number of characters in its grand and sprawling narrative and also allowed the opportunity to showcase the Lannisters basking in their Red Wedding victory (although this does not mean they were all smiles).
On this week’s podcast, I talked with Daniel (my co-host who is not a fan of the show) about his main issues with the series; ultimately, it’s that it appears to be far more complex than it is while not a whole lot actually happens. On this week’s SNL, one of the corrections featured on their Fox & Friends sketch was “Game of Thrones is not actually an adult version of musical chairs; I understand Daniel’s view and get the SNL joke, although Game of Thrones could probably be more accurately described as a chess game. In my opinion, there ARE, in fact, several episodes where there’s not a whole lot of forward momentum as far as the main narrative is concerned and despite the overwhelming number of characters and locations, GOT is, at its heart, a pretty simple power struggle story; still, from the performances to the set pieces to the dialogue and masterful tone of tension and intellect that permeates the series, I believe Game of Thrones successfully stands as exactly the type of epic series it’s hoping to be.
Last night’s premiere was a great example of this. Sure, there wasn’t necessarily a whole lot that happened besides a few tense scenes and some parts being put into place for future results, no doubt, but it was still a gripping hour of television. With most characters getting only a few minutes of screen time, each minute counted and was used wisely to engross us into this world afresh.
The most memorable scene came right at the very end when Arya and The Hound took on Polliver and his men. This, to me, serves as a fantastic example of why this show works and why it’s so emotionally compelling in a very unique way. This was a very violent brawl scene that ultimately doesn’t seem like it plays a huge role in the bigger arc, but it becomes this powerful character moment for Arya as she transforms into a vengeful killer. Once the little Stark girl, she’s become an unlikely hero, but a hero that can be ruthless and dark; a product of her circumstances. Her killing of Polliver (reciting the same words he’d used while killing her friend) and reclaiming of Needle was an incredibly chilling and memorable note upon which to end this premiere.
As already stated, there’s an awful lot going on here with an awful lot of characters, so rather than a tedious play by play, here’s a few quick thoughts on the rest of the episode:
-Tyrion had an awful lot to do this week between being an esteemed diplomat to comforting his “child bride” and then later his actual lover, all with less than desirable results. Tyrion’s welcoming of Prince Oberyn (just as he was about to engage in some group sex with his half-sister because, well, it’s Game of Thrones) revealed that Oberyn may not just be in town for the beloved king’s wedding, but may, in fact, be in town to execute a violent, vengeful vendetta. Tyrion’s love life fares nearly as bad with Sansa mourning the death of her mom and brother while refusing to eat and being generally inconsolable (can’t blame her). Peter Dinklage was great as usual last night, but I really enjoyed the scene where Tyrion hopelessly tries to connect with his miserable wife by speaking of the respect he had for her mother. Minutes later, he faced the wrath of Shae who is not content to just be his whore and can’t help but feel ignored and unwanted as Tyrion neglects her in the midst of more pressing obligations.
-Tyrion’s big bro isn’t in much of a better place as former Stark captive, Jaime Lannister, seems to be receiving far less than a hero’s welcome home. Between Cersei’s cold shoulder, Joffrey’s incessant mocking (he continues to be the character that enrages me more than any other TV) and Tywin’s disapproval, Jaime’s in rough shape. Oh, and that whole one hand thing isn’t helping much either (despite his ornate replacement). Jaime became a much more sympathetic character last season as he faced persistent plight and forged an unlikely connection with Brienne; him being ousted from his family certainly sets up the possibility that Jaime could actually choose to be a good person rather than an evil Lannister in the end.
-Back to Sansa, she didn’t begin as an especially likeable character (by design), but as her situation grows more depressing, you can’t help but feel bad for the girl who was once just Arya’s spoiled, bratty older sister fawning over Joffrey (my, how things have changed). When she’s kind to Dontos, you kind of realize she’s basically Mother Teresa compared to the rest of King’s Landing.
-I had the misfortune of seeing Pompeii a while back and while that movie made me lose a good dose of respect for Kit Harrington, it’s good to see him back where he belongs as Jon Snow. Not a whole lot happened with him last night, but I did enjoy him sassing the council at the Night’s Watch. I also laughed at hearing how seriously the Night’s Watch take their vows—it’s not big a deal if you break your vow of celibacy, just not with a wildling!
-Though she always feels like she’s in her own separate series, I typically enjoy Daenarys’s scenes simply because she’s such a formidable character, I’m crazy about Emilia Clarke’s fierce performance and well, there’s dragons. Duh. Our first two visits on her side of the sea were a bit slow last night and I imagine very frustrating for some due to one of the more absurd castings in recent memory. Many watching likely thought Daario was a new character, but the rugged, bearded man (Michael Huisman) is just replacing the long-haired pretty boy (Ed Skrein) from last season without any rational explanation for why they’d recast without trying to make the new actor at least look the tiniest bit similar to the former. But whatever. Dany and her army are on their way to Meereen to free slaves and recruit more for her army. I imagine a fight is waiting for her when she gets there as the Meereen welcoming committee has lined the road there with dead bodies of slave children to taunt her.
-In other news, Ygritte has found herself teamed up with some nice men known as the Thenns who are barbequing a human arm when we first meet them.
We’ll be talking more Game of Thrones on this week’s podcast and I want to hear from YOU! Questions/Comments about this week’s show that you’d like to hear discussed on the podcast this week can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure to vote in our poll and you can comment below as well, but NO BOOK SPOILERS. If any book spoilers are posted, I’ll shut down comments on this thread. Let’s play nice, ok?