“The Red Honeymoon,” GAME OF THRONES Season 4 Episode 1 Review- ‘Two Swords’
This review is rife with White Walking Spoilers, slowly, slooooooowly shambling toward you. Also, this is written from the point of view of someone who has not read the books, so please refrain from both spoiling future events/ telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about because I bet there’s at least one book out there that you haven’t read and I can rub my intimate knowledge of Pride and Prejudice right in your face.
Aaaaaaaaaaand we’re back!
As I’m sure your Facebook has made you aware, Game of Thrones is back for Season 4, which is actually the second half of Book Three, which is why last season ended with what felt more like a scene where Harry Potter breaks his arm playing Quidditch and less like a scene where he lucks into stopping Voldemort. The show has some mighty big shoes to fill, namely its own, as last season’s Red Wedding took the Internet by storm (the Internet apparently having never watched television before).
Obviously, nothing that happened in tonight’s premiere was going to match the severity of last season’s big Stark-slaying. This wasn’t only the first episode of a season of a television, but the first episode of a season of Game of Thrones, a show based off of books, a medium famous for taking a long time to do things. Tonight’s episode felt less like a sweeping episode of television and more like the opening credits sequence of an ensemble comedy where major character’s names are placed right next to their face in freeze frames. And, of course, this is all careful table-setting, so that the tablecloth might be pulled out later, shattering our favorite wine glass.
There’s a very famous picture on the Internet where someone placed a Post-It Note on every page in the book series where a significant character dies (a picture that people look at with an almost fetishistic joy), and we are now plunging into the half of the series that must have cost that photographer a fortune in stickies. So let’s spend as much time with these people as we can before all of these actors are unemployed.
Using the structure that I established last season, I’ll break down tonight’s episode character by character, and declare the Winner of the Evening at the end.
Bran’d This Week
“Bran’d” is a term which here means “character that the show forgot to put in the episode,” so named because that little crippled orphan is in this show less often than Sean Bean.
–Bran is missing tonight, naturally. Last Seen: Plunging into the Great White North with the most ragtag group of underdogs ever assembled.
–Melisandre and Gendry. Last Seen: Doing something really vague involving lineage.
–Stannis. Last Seen: Looking sad, as Stannis is wont to do.
–Littlefinger and Varys, aka My Favorite Parts of the Show. Last Seen: Making sure that interesting things happen, and are ideally continuing to do likewise now. Also, Varys has a wizard in his trunk. Thoughts?
–The Brothers Without Banners have been missing for a while now, probably so that we can have some more riveting scenes of Jon Snow looking sad near a gorgeous woman.
–Anyone Who Survived at the Red Wedding. Because that is obviously the least interesting plot thread from which we do not demand answers/ retribution.
–Probably Lots of Other People Because This Show’s Cast is More Like a Phone Book Than an IMDb Page. Now, on to show actually showed up tonight…
Daenerys, Queen of the Slaves
Danny’s brief appearance tonight opens with her three really cool and rapidly-growing dragons playing around and leaving dead animals at her feet, because there are only two ways that writers know how to characterize animals. Here we get “They’re Just Dogs,” because a dragon with a celebrity voice is coming our way again later this year.
Ser Jorah the Buzzkill then comes up and tells the Mother of Dragons that her pets “can never be tamed.” This is probably true, but I wonder what Jorah is suggesting here? Is he saying they shouldn’t use the dragons? Is that his advice? Is he plotting out some exercise regimen for what must be the literally thousands of slaves in their entourage that he just hasn’t told Danny about yet to replace those dragons he doesn’t want us to use? I assume that this isn’t foreshadowing, just more of a throwaway line that, like the ‘Podric has a Giant Penis’ storyline before it, will just simply be forgotten about and will have ultimately meant nothing.
One wouldn’t be too amiss by getting really excited for whatever is planned for Danny this season. As one of the few Targaryan defenders during the “Where are my dragons?” years, I was thrilled when she stopped wandering around and started production on the Very Aboveground Railroad. It was her first liberation success that started this content for Winner of the Week. As much as the show eventually needs to break the pattern already present in Danny’s landmarch, right now it is working like gangbusters, and there’s enough mileage here for one last big score. After that, she really needs to put all of her new friends on the project of building some boats (ideally not becoming the monster she sought to destroy), but we will cross that seemingly endless stretch of water when we come to it. For now, party on, Daenerys.
Tyrion Lannister, Fan Favorite
Man, Tyrion really is the star of this show now, huh? I don’t know when it became official, but he is definitely the premiere billboard star for the program now. This is cool for a couple of reasons: one political and societal about a person with dwarfism leading a cultural phenomenon that I am going to avoid here as much as possible, the other being the mere fact that he is one of the most consistently entertaining aspects of this show that sometimes can get lost in the tedium of dull northerners. Whether it was George R. R. Martin or Denioff and Weiss, someone was really listening to the fanfare people played surrounding Tyrion Lannister, and now he is firmly cemented as our leading man.
Tyrion’s stuff was good this episode, if a little immaterial. His first storyline was obviously setting up the events to come for this year, his second a reminder of a slow-boiling plotline from last year that seems like it’s going to get a real kick in the ass. I’ll get to the former later in this review and the latter when something actually becomes of it, but… yeah… Tyrion. He’s still great and Sansa is still sad. Consistency is nice.
By the Gods… Jon Snow Actually Did Something
My pure, Lannisterian hatred for Jon Snow is well-documented and as stoked as ever. I find him to be the least interesting part of the program, and his removal would only seek to improve it. This is probably largely due to the performance from Kit Harrington, a handsome but dull, sweet thing, who admittedly is not given much more to do than squint at snow but still manages to present us with a character and voice that both seem to be emanating from his beard. With each passing day, he and his chubby friend Samwell become more and more like Frodo and Sam (curly brunette protagonist with a stunning lack of personality, with a fat sidekick named “Sam” who seems perpetually three seconds away from confessing his undying love).
Well, color me tickled pink, because Jon Snow managed to fundamentally floor me tonight by doing something mildly interesting. He stood up to a tribunal of old people, showing the human emotions of sarcasm and disdain, standing in directly contrast to his usual nothing he displayed during grossly out-of-place hot springs sex scenes. He’s not the first person I’d go talk to at the Westeros mixer, but maybe if I got him talking about an encroaching army of white walkers he might actually perk up a bit.
But for the sake of our sanity, let’s hope this whole panel of grouchy, stuck-in-their-ways old folks doesn’t last for too long. It’s an incredibly familiar plot line to anybody who has ever read or watching anything, the sort of group of fuddy-duddies that check in approximately 200 pages before Voldemort comes into wreck their shit to tell Harry that no, Voldemort hasn’t returned from the dead and, no, he won’t be wrecking their shit. You know exactly where this plotline is going before it even knows itself, and it’s only a matter of time before either a.) an enemy soldiers kills someone on Watch and the council has to eat three-eyed crow, b.) The horde of Wildlings arrives at their doorstep to find a grossly-unprepared Night’s Watch whose shit they can wreck, or c.) Jon Snow leads an army of defectors from the Watch of people made up of defectors to take on the army because he doesn’t care about your rules, man. So, let us pray to the old gods and the new that they cut this shit out while they’re ahead.
Dammit, Tell Me We’re Not Following Ygritte Now, Too?
I can’t. I can’t even. If there is a character who interests me less than Jon Snow, it’s his accented lover who insults him constantly. I know I should love her for those reasons alone, but I just can’t bring myself to care about anyone tangentially related to Captain Coldandmopey.
There are creepy, rapey bald men involved now, however, which is better than nothing, I suppose. Please let the reunion between Ygritte and Jon Snow be swift and soon, so that we can at least watch them be boring in love and not boring and pining for each other.
Jamie Lannister, A Rich Man’s Charlie Brown
After Jamie spent last year rising from someone I forgot was on the show to one of my favorite characters, I was excited to see where he’d arrive back this year. What we got was a series of people pooping on his dreams. Every member of his family that he once valued spit in his face over the course of this hour of television. The only bright spot of his day was a fancy gold hand to replace the one he lost last year. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you set up a plotline. I can only wait to see where he and Brienne got from here. Hopefully, to a bed to make sweet, sweet love.
The New Guys
Sweet, buttery rolls, what the hell was this all about?
It’s, what, the third scene of the premiere, and we are treated to a scene in a whore house, apropos of nothing, with two characters we have never seen before. This scene seems to exist to satisfy HBO’s now unbelievably cliché and hilarious naked lady quota. It’s hard to even pay attention to what is happening in them now. It’s as if we’ve become desensitized to naked ladies of questionable characterization. We get it, HBO. You can show boobies, and you like to show boobies. That’s fine. But it’s becoming like grandpa, who can get away with saying racial slurs because he’s old so he chooses to say them constantly.
Who were the characters in this scene again? At first glance, we have Sexually Aggressive Ramsay Bolton, who carries himself in the same way as our castrating friend from last year’s less-than-stellar Theon Greyjoy storyline (“storyline” being a term I use here loosely, and “Theon Greyjoy” being a character so important to the overall narrative that I forgot to put him in the list of characters left out of the episode and decided against editing him back into the list to prove a point), and Evil Shae, who reminds me so thoroughly of Tyrion’s ladyfriend that I will be hard-pressed to think otherwise, choosing to believe that this character dropped from a wormhole between seasons with a jet black goatee to remove the Shae of the Prime Timeline.
A brief Google search tells me that these are the “Martells,” but I think Gay Bolton and Evil Shae are much more appropriate names. Did anything actually happen in these scenes this week, or was it just out-of-place forced-lesbianism like I remember? I guess we’ll find out by how confused I am next week. Stay tuned!
WINNER OF THE WEEK: AVENGE MEEEEEEEE!
For the revenge of a death the Previously On had to remind me ever happened, this was a fairly emotional sequence and a real gut punch for our girl Arya. Having experienced a string of bad luck of John McClanian proportions, Arya finally came out on top of something. Much like Tyrion, the crafters of this show have to know that Arya is about as beloved as a character can get. And after stripping her of almost literally her entirely family, it was bordering on cruelty to not give the girl something. And she got her vengeance here. I don’t know if it’s a real “win,” because watching a girl that young kill someone can never be a true “win” as far as this reviewer is concerned, but she finally came out on top of something. And that was enough to earn her this week’s top slot.
You know, Arya’s real strength (besides being the living embodiment of how cool we all thought we were at her age) is in her partners. She has been saddled up for seasons with some of the coolest and most interesting characters on the show. The Hound, Tywin, The Brothers Without Banners, her assassin friend… It’s really easy to get us excited about an already strong character if you put her up with some of your other most entertaining characters, and it has worked like gangbusters for the Best Stark Left Alive.
Overall, it was a strong set-up for a season, a lot of last year’s promising plotlines still dangling in front of our faces, with some new threads come to join them. It’s a little unfair to judge this show week to week, as each season really is meant to be taken sort-of all in one go. Other shows, even the most serialized ones like Breaking Bad, have something that needs to get accomplished that episode. Game of Thrones has none of that, making particular plots stretch out for episodes if not seasons. Judging any one episode one its own is sort of like judging a Thomas Pynchon novel on a chapter by chapter basis. That being said, I am going to do it anyway.
6/10 Gold Hands, a strong episode that spends a little bit too much time with the parts of the show I find dull, namely Jon Snow and whorehouses
Which character are you most excited to see return? Comment below and let me know!
I hope you liked tonight’s review! I’ll be doing one of these for every episode of the season. If you like what you read, try catching up on some of mine from last season.
Keep coming back to Chekhov’s Gunman for more reviews like this. Be sure to Follow or Subscribe above, and follow Kevin on Twitter if you’re so inclined. See you next week!