[MASSIVE spoilers throughout. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 if you haven’t watched the episode.]
At the onset of the premiere episode of Season 4 of Game of Thrones, what “two swords” actually means seems to be clear: one big sword is melted and two (of varying sizes) are made from it. This sword is special, though. This sword is draped in wolf’s skin, it’s seen years of death, it’s delivered hard justice. This sword is Ned Stark’s Ice, the sword that not only delivered Northern justice to a Night’s Watch deserter at Ned’s hands, but also the very same one that beheaded the elder Stark at the hands of the Lannisters. And so, now that both Ned and his King in the North son Robb are dead, the sword’s re-smithing can be further proof of the downfall of the Stark clan.
Or, that’s what it seems to be, anyway.
The title “Two Swords”, much like every episode of the series so far, has deep, underlying thematic meaning that ties the entire 60-minute piece together. We see the great Valyrian steel sword melted into two, one of which is given to the returned Jaime Lannister and the other saved for some later date. That take place at the beginning of the show. The might of the Lannisters. The power of Tywin, smirk in tow, glares at the Jaime as he holds a remnant of a destroyed Stark dream. The Lannisters are kings now in his mind, and no one can stand in their way.
Except, the second sword. Not the second sword that was smelted earlier that day, but the one that was pushed through the throat of a Lannister soldier by a ghost. A frail sword, a returned sword, a Needle sword. There is a Stark sword in the world again, and it’s back in the hands of Arya. No, the direwolves aren’t all dead. In fact, they’re just getting started. “We’re not dead yet. We’re not going away. We’re coming for you, Lannisters.” Those words are never stated, but they’re there. They’re understood.
The Valyrian steel sword is given to a Lannister man who can’t yet use it. That metaphor is strong: the Lannisters, with all their kingdom-crushing might, are in decline. Their world is in disarray. What values they once held with ego-filled esteem — Jaime’s swordsmanship, Cersei’s Queenship, Joffrey’s Kingship, Tywin’s alliances — are all crumbling.
And unbeknownst to them the Starks are on the rise. It’s no coincidence that Arya trots off on a white horse while the world around her burns. A white horse? I don’t think a cleaner horse exists in all of Westeros. It’s spotless. A more in-your-face foreshadowing doesn’t exist. But her future still has some death and destruction in it, as we see on the road in front of her. Heck, she’s following (and becoming more like) the Hound every day. The imagery is magnificent!
Sansa is seeing some hope now, in the form of the drunken Ser Dontos and his creepy stalking of her. What his intentions are we don’t know yet, but he’s giving Sansa her first smile possibly in months. Sansa still lives in her fantasy world of princes and gallantry, but now a part of it seems to be coming true.
Jon Snow, having returned to the Wall after being shot full of arrows by his love interest in the most un-Cupid like way, has recovered. Apparently those arrows and their shooter didn’t try hard enough, and the now-fully healed Stark bastard needs to stand in front of the leadership of the Night’s Watch to confess his crimes and deal with his punishment. Again the Lannisters are in the mix as former Lion crony Janos Slynt and Stark enemy Alliser Thorne sit glaring, ready to cast judgement. Jon stands his ground, and with the help of Maester Aemon is able to walk away a free man, much to the chagrin of the those currently in charge. Jon is no longer a boy; he exudes the experience and knowledge that can only come with being thrown into the jaws of the Wildling enemy and coming back alive. Ned would be proud.
One comment that is almost too casually passed over is Maester Aemon’s response to Thorne. When questioned about how the blind man can tell if a man is lying or not, Aemon replies that he knows because he grew up in King’s Landing. King’s Landing is the seat of the King of Westeros, with its power relying on lies and misinformation. It’s worth noting that Aemon’s family name is Targaryen, as in the house of the dragon, and so he knows what betrayal can lead to. He’s of royal blood, though he never speaks of it.
Tywin reforged Ice, thinking that his conquest of the Starks was complete, but the Starks are making a return. The direwolves are awake. The sword of Ice is melted, but Winter is still coming.
[pullquote_right]”Tell your father I’m here. And tell him the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts”[/pullquote_right]
Up until now we’d hardly heard from the seventh kingdom of Westeros, Dorne. We’re finally treated to Dornish wine with the appearance of the truly enjoyable Oberyn Martell. He’s a jerk, but a confident jerk. He knows what he wants, he knows who he wants, and he knows how to get what he wants. He’s in town because of his hatred of the Lannisters for the murder of his sister by Gregor Clegane. He wants people to know that he’s there for revenge, and only revenge, and he’s not hiding it.
Dany is getting close to the next destination on her journey to free all of the Eastern cities. Meereen, the pinnacle of the slave trade, seems to be awaiting her arrival: the slavers have left the bodies of children pointing the way to the city and its great pyramid. This won’t be easy for her; unlike the previous towns she freed, Meereen isn’t afraid. Neither is Daario Naharis (being played by a new actor this season) as he openly tries to woo Dany. Guess what? It’s working. Even a widow queen needs a love interest, but who can ever match up to our Khal Drogo?
And Tyrion. Poor Tyrion. His dutifulness towards what his father wants means that he’s slowly pushing Shae away. He hasn’t stopped loving her by any means, but he also doesn’t want Sansa to be mistreated. Shae doesn’t like it, obviously, and their secret affair may soon be under further scrutiny as one of Cersei’s handmaidens has discovered the tryst.
[All images courtesy HBO]