After the traumatic event in season three known as “The Red Wedding,” HBO’s critically and commercially successful series “Game of Thrones” promises to raise the stakes in the upcoming season. Like the unexpected execution of Ned Stark in season one, “The Red Wedding” was a heartbreaking but necessary event that plunges Westeros further into chaos as the different factions continue their march toward the throne.
Though it would seem only rational that “Thrones” characters stay away from weddings for the next couple of years, season four’s first episode “Two Swords” begins with the characters at King’s Landing preparing for Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell’s nuptials, known as the Purple Wedding.
The royal family welcomes a representative from the southern Martell clan, the dangerous and powerful Prince Oberyn. It is quickly established that there is bad blood between the Martells and Lannisters — as Oberyn puts it, “the Lannisters are not the only ones who pay their debts.” Pedro Pascal nails the role with his natural charisma, so it will be exciting to see what insanity he brings to the character this season.
A reformed Jaime Lannister returns from captivity to an unwelcoming household — Tywin wants to send him away and Cersei has grown distant. But, as a glorified captive of his own house, Tyrion probably has it worse. Oberyn is just a new addition to an already long list of characters who want Tyrion dead. The humanization of Jaime and Tyrion was the high point of seasons two and three, and it appears the show will continue to explore this.
At the Wall, Jon Snow returns to Castle Black and faces a tribunal for his actions. But, the elders ultimately decide that they need the information he has acquired in order to fight the war. For three seasons, the forces that are on the other side of the Wall — including Wildlings, White Walkers and giants — have amassed, and the long-awaited battle at the Wall is finally coming.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen’s plotline is rather plain as she continues to march her army toward Westeros. As her dragons grow, it is put into question whether she still holds control over them.
However, the best part of the season four premiere is easily the interaction between Arya Stark and the brutish man known as the Hound. After the Hound rescued Arya from the Red Wedding, the two have formed a bond and embarked on some sort of buddy road trip. The pair unwittingly run into some Lannister men, one of whom killed Arya’s friend and stole her sword. The scene dissolves into an epic display of the Hound’s valor, until Arya eventually steps in and finishes them off.
It is difficult to dislike Arya, but she has been forced to grow up so quickly that there is little or no trace of the sweet girl we met in the first season. It will certainly be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out.
All in all, “Two Swords” promises an epic fourth season as new alliances and conflicts are born.
Bob Teoh is entertainment editor. Email him at email@example.com.