Millions thought “this is not a drill” as they turned on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” for the highly anticipated premiere episode of the fourth season. Finally, after months of impatiently waiting, some of the highly sought-out questions would be answered from last season’s gloomy, character-altering finale.
The episode, airing last Sunday night, began by reminding viewers that several former key characters were no longer with us — most notably, Robb Stark [Richard Madden], the former acclaimed King of the North, and his mother, Lady Catelyn Stark [Michelle Fairley]. The war that occupied most of the third season between the Starks and the Lannisters is literally smelted away as Tywin Lannister [Charles Dance], King Joffrey’s ruthless uncle appointed as the Hand of the King, has Robb Stark’s powerful Valyrian steel sword melted in a furnace. They’ll certainly be missed throughout the new season but “Game of Thrones” viewers are definitely not new to the death of vital characters.
The reign of the Lannisters in King’s Landing
After a season filled with imprisonment and unsuccessful attempts to escape, Jaime Lannister [Nikolaj Coster-Waldau] walks through the capitol, King’s Landing, as a free man once more. Upon arrival, Tywin Lannister rejoices over the return of Jaime, but it quickly turns into an unpleasant reunion as Jaime reveals the loss of his right hand. It was refreshing to see the clean-shaven Jaime suited in royal armor instead of the poverty-stricken look sported during his imprisonment.
His malicious, short-tempered sister, Cersei Lannister [Lena Headey], the Queen Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, is capriciously angry at Jaime’s sudden arrival. The presumed continuation of the previous incestuous relationship between Jaime and Cersei seems like it won’t take place any time soon.
The theme of weddings continues in King’s Landing as the episode focuses on newlywed Tyrion Lannister [Peter Dinklage] and Sansa Stark [Sophie Tuner] — one of the few remaining Starks. The already miserable Sansa enters a new level of depression due to the recent news of her deceased brother and mother. Eventually she has to receive somewhat good news, right?
Dealing with death in Westeros
While some feared the three arrows lodged in Jon Snow’s [Kit Harington] back as he fled on horseback last season might have killed him, viewers had the pleasant surprise of seeing him back at Castle Black.
The commanders of the Night’s Watch hold Jon Snow accountable for the murder of their leader while the squadron traveled north of The Wall, which is punishable by death, but they reluctantly let him live. Could viewers really handle the death of another key character this early in the season?
Even an episode bursting at times with sorrow and grief had moments of cheer. When Hodor [Kristian Nairn], the Stark’s loyal servant that carries Bran Stark around, said the only word he’s said throughout the series, “Hodor,” a quick smile was inevitable.
Then viewers remember there might just be one last possible threat to the throne. Still traveling by horse with Sandor Clegane [Rory McCann], known as the Hound for his uninviting face and remorselessness in battle, is Arya Stark [Maisie Wlliams]. The Hound claims to be delivering Arya Stark to any living family member for gold, but during this episode, a more sensitive, paternal side to the Hound shows.
Then came the dragons across the Narrow Sea
Across the Narrow Sea, thousands of miles away from the Seven Kingdoms, Daenerys Targaryen [Emilia Clarke], the “Mother of Dragons,” continues to command her great army of the Unsullied. Flying above them all are the three dragons, which are no longer the “puppies” shown in the previous seasons. They’ve grown into the massive, flame-breathing beasts that everyone has waited for. The constant foreshadowing alerts the viewer that soon enough, these dragons will wreak havoc. Tamed or not, expect to see dragons in future episodes.
Introduced late in the last season, Daario Naharis was played by Ed Skrien, but this season he’s played by Michiel Huisman. If he is to become a staple in Daenerys Targaryen’s army, as well as her lover, then why change the actor? It’s not like he dyed his hair or changed his outfit — at least choose a new actor who slightly resembles the last one.
This episode delivered just about everything fans been expecting for these past few months. It was the action-packed, drama-infused, question-answering season premiere people envisioned. Now, all “Game of Thrones” viewers can do is wait until next Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.
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