For a show teeming with bloodshed, from beheadings and severed limbs and castration to the death of children and unceremonious killing of royalty, there sure is a lot of love to go around in ‘Game of Thrones.’
Love – and what one will do for it – was at the heart, so to speak, of the much-anticipated return of HBO’s wildly captivating fantasy drama. It has been as enjoyable to see characters reach their destination as it has been watching their journey – and it’s a lot of journey, which means at some times it is the slow-boring of hard boards, with shock and intrigue happening without warning.
In the meantime, there is love, and all the problems and frustrations that come with it.
And its love that makes us feels sympathetic for those who were once the most detestable villains. While continuing to evolve emotionally, Jaime Lannister returns to the screen physically transformed. That is to say, look what a new hair, shower, and shave can do for a man!
Cleaned up, and given a fake hand (so as not to scare people, perhaps), Jaime returns to a very different world, one that the viewer has seen slowly change, but one that the Kingslayer is forced to radically accept.
He has so far, albeit with much reluctance. It’s strange to feel more than a bit of sorrow for the man who, when we first met him, knocked young Bran Stark out of a window in an attempt to kill him all so he could continue on a love affair with the queen. Now, after a harrowing journey, he looks to rekindle a love that he thought was pure and true, only to be rebuffed. Alas, he is “too late.”
To see him and Brienne reunited in apparent safety and peace, after taking turns saving each other’s lives, is one of those rare, warming moments in a show riddled with corruption, betrayal, and heartache. What’s more, even there are certainly those out there still wary of Jaime, you can’t help but take his side when he meets with King Joffrey, witnessing firsthand the petulant immaturity and cockiness of a boy who really, you can’t wait to see get his. Anyone who throws shades at Joffrey is a winner.
Love spreads: Jon Snow is alive (for now) and mostly well, returning to inform of the wildlings doings while being questioned. He even admits to “laying next to one,” which for Jon is an adorable, admirable clandestine confession of love – she’s no secret!
Meanwhile Ygritte is back with Tormund, and when she speculates that Jon may be alive, Tormund tells her (and us if we hadn't already figured), that if she wanted Jon dead from the pierce of her arrows, he would be dead. It’s sure to get awkward the next time they meet.
Speaking of which, back at King’s Landing, the continuing bizarre love triangle that tests Tyrion, Shae, and Sansa Stark may very well be the most tragic of all of them -- and Sansa wants no part of any of it. Tyrion’s quixotic nature, being secretly in love with a whore while publicly married to a teenager he wants to help but is forced to impregnate -- all of which is compounded by the fact that his family has slaughtered hers – is probably most tortuous of all (which reminds me, we didn’t check in on Theon this episode).
There is also something stirring out on the battlefield, as Daario (a bearded, and yes, better Michiel Huisman, taking over acting duties from Ed Skrein) and Grey Worm may or may not have feelings for their beautiful leader. They were both vying to ride next to Daenerys, and when she threatened them, they both adhered instantly lest they lose her presence.
Jaime and Cersei, Jon and Ygritte, Tyrion and Shae all have a lot of issues to work out and overcome; even Daenerys had to recoil and regroup when one of her offspring snapped at her (though that’s more troubling when your child is a vicious, fire-breathing behemoth).
While you may think dragons will grow up to be scary and dangerous, look out for Arya, who has not a shy, remorseful bone in her body; and why should she? Capping off a satisfying journey into Season 4, one that introduced us to Prince Oberyn Martell and lots of past hostility and backstory, we return to Arya and the Hound (which could and should be its own half-hour comedy spin-off), and realize the meaning of the episode’s title, "Two Swords."
It’s not that Ned Stark’s blade was forged into two weapons – one given to lefty Jaime; it’s that Arya is reunited with Needle in a spectacularly bloody finish that certainly gave pause. Sure, Arya probably should have acted sooner when Hound took on the bar – maybe she was thinking of what witty line to declare before exacting vengeance – but when she did, it was mesmerizing.
So ‘Games of Thrones’ is at last back, offering up another gorgeous, well-crafted, and overall satisfying premiere. We checked in on just about everyone (no Bran and others, and only a mention of Stannis), and each story is progressing with characters that are continuing to change. The war is certainly not over, as some declare, and in the final moment of the premiere, we have our action. That’s all you really need. Well, and love.