We’ve waited 10 long months for the biggest show on TV to return to our screens, and just like that the first episode is done already. But what an episode it was, setting the tone brilliantly for what is bound to be one of the best seasons of TV ever made. Based on the second half of the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, there are so many huge events to come in the next nine weeks we should be blown away.
Spoilers for the episode to come obviously.
The episode began with Lord Tywin Lannister melting down Ned Stark’s greatsword Ice into two smaller swords for Jaime and Joffrey. With The Rains of Castamere playing, and Tywin taking the wolf scabbard and dropping it into the fire, it sent a very obvious message about the focus of the show switching from the Starks to the Lannisters. An amazing opening scene.
Into the opening titles, which included two new locations of the map: Meereen, the next slaver’s city that Dany has set her sights on destroying, and the Dreadfort, the infamous stronghold of House Bolton. This being added to the map, and the amount of material of Roose and Ramsay we have seen in trailers, suggests that they will be quite important characters in their own right this season.
We then see Tywin presenting Jaime with his new sword. Jaime is pleased with it, but the feeling is slightly spoiled when his father commands him to return to Casterly Rock to rule in his stead – away from Cersei and Tyrion, and meaning he would have to leave the Kingsguard. “You would have me break another oath?” Jaime asks. He refuses, and Tywin disowns him. This scene could have packed more of an emotional punch I felt – Jaime was the only child that Tywin was in any way proud of, and disowning him must have been one of the hardest things he had to do.
Over to Tywin’s other son Tyrion, along with Bronn and Podrick as they await the arrival of Prince Doran Martell. However, Prince Doran has sent his feisty brother Oberyn in his stead, and Oberyn has decided to head straight to a brothel rather than arrive the conventional way – he does things his own way. Oberyn has been a fan favourite amongst book readers for a long time now, and most are pleased with Pedro Pascal’s depiction of him so far. The show also decided to show him as bisexual, something that was hinted at in the books. But before the orgy can get under way, he decides to go and stab a Lannister guardsman. Oberyn’s true purpose in coming to King’s Landing is to have his revenge on Tywin Lannister. “Tell your father I’m here, and that Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts” he tells Tyrion.
Now we’re off to the poster girl of the series, Daenerys, and her rapidly growing dragons. Despite her constantly being made out to be the main character of the series, she really doesn’t have that much story to tell this season. However, the CGI dragon’s are looking absolutely brilliant, and any excuse to have them on screen is welcome. We’re also introduced to Michael Huisman, the new Daario Naharis – he certainly seems a better actor than Ed Skrein, but does he have the required swagger and cockiness to play Daario faithfully?
Now, our first scene with a Stark – Sansa. Shae and Tyrion are trying to cheer her up following the news of the Red Wedding but they’re not doing a great job. Shae then has a bitch-fest at Tyrion because he hasn’t seen her much. This is more like the petulant, bratty Shae from the books, setting her up for the events to come. We also see a spy of Cersei’s listening in on their conversation.
Over to everyone’s favourite incest twins, as Jaime is fitted with his golden hand. Cersei says she has grown fond of Qyburn – some more foreshadowing for when she gives him a very special task in the future. Cersei’s spy shows up again – I felt this whole spy thing was a bit heavy-handed, and could have been more subtle.
Now, over to a storyline that the book readers won’t know anything about – Tormund, Ygritte and the other wildlings as they prepare to attack Castle Black. It will be interesting seeing it from their perspective, as after Jon leaves them we don’t see the wildlings again until the battle. We are also introduced to the Thenns – a group of wildlings who are more sophisticated than most, and just as savage. They are also shown to be cannibals – something not mentioned in the books, but it puts another interesting twist on them.
We know see Jon talking with Sam about Robb, and then as he is put on trial for breaking his vows. Kit Harington seems to have really upped his game this season – I’ve always preferred the book version of Jon, but if he can act like this all season then that might change. Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt, two of his adversaries in the Night’s Watch are back after not appearing during last season, which is good as Jon’s storyline gets very good soon and those two are important to it.
We then have a brief scene with Queen-to-be Margaery, her sharp-tongued grandmother Olenna and Brienne. Margaery and Brienne are an odd couple, but their conversation feels like good closure for Renly. Then it’s off to Joffrey discussing plans for the wedding with Jaime and Ser Meryn. Joffrey takes a few swipes at Jaime – “Oh look, someone forgot to write down all your great deeds!” – but Jaime handles himself quite well.
Back to Daenerys again, and after some flirting with Daario we see the first of the slave children nailed to sign posts by the Meereneese, in anticipation of her arrival. The episode had been fairly light hearted up until now, but this was a good reminder of what show we are watching, where grim things happen regularly.
Now it’s over to Jaime and Brienne as they watch Sansa in the godswood. The chemistry between these two is still great, although it’s strange to see them in a situation other than slugging through muddy fields. Sansa then has a run-in with an old character, Ser Dontos Hollard, from the first episode of season 2. He gives a surprisingly moving speech about the collapse of his house, and she takes his necklace – which is more important than you might have thought at first, as you’ll see next week..
And finally, it’s over to TV’s best double act, Arya and the Hound. They have amazing chemistry, and the banter is hilarious between them. However, the laughs don’t last for long before they find themselves in a fight with several Lannister soldiers – including Polliver, who took Arya’s sword Needle and killed Lommy Greenhands. And, we get to see a massively anticipated scene from the book, when Arya claims sweet revenge on Polliver, by reclaiming Needle and slowly killing Polliver, repeating the same taunts he said to Lommy before killing him. The episode ends with the Hound eating the chicken that he wanted, and Arya on her pony.
A fantastic start to the season, and belive me when I tell you that things are going to get even better, starting next week, with the royal wedding of Joffrey and Margaery.