Jamie Lannister’s welcome home isn’t so welcome, Oberyn Martell arrives in King’s Landing and a host of debts are paid including one Arya Stark has been savoring for years…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Every house on ‘Game of Thrones’ has a set of words that accompanies the name and sigil of that particular family. For instance, the Stark words are ‘winter is coming’. The Lannisters of Casterly Rock have words that say ‘hear me roar’ but they are more famously known for another attributed quote that gets passed around more often than a girl at Littlefinger’s brothel — ‘a Lannister always pays his debts’.
The season 4 premiere of ‘Game of Thrones’ titled ‘Two Swords’ was all about debts being paid — from the opening sequence where Tywin Lannister put what he believes is the final nail in the coffin of the Stark family when he took the legendary Valyrian steel sword belonging to Ned called Ice, and then melted it down and reformed into two new swords to be given out to his family. The first went to his son Jamie, who will now learn to wield a sword using only his left hand after the right was cut off last season, and the second is still to be given out by Lord Tywin. Now, how is Tywin melting down Ned’s sword a debt being paid? It’s not — but I would wager anyone left alive with Stark blood still running through their veins from Jon Snow to Arya Stark will surely seek vengeance on House Lannister from now until eternity because between Ned, Robb, Catelyn and everyone else that’s died under Tywin’s orders, there’s a mighty large debt that needs to be settled.
It’s also not often that we see Lord Tywin not get his way when orders are being handed out. He’s the man ruling the kingdom of Westeros while the king is likely busy burning ants with a magnifying glass or torturing helpless puppies. But what we’ve rarely seen in these now three plus seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ is interaction between Tywin and his oldest son Jamie. We saw them briefly together in season one before Jamie set off to conquer Robb Stark’s army, only to be captured days later. Now back in his father’s presence, Jamie is being asked to forgo his oath as a Kingsguard and instead saunter off to Casterly Rock to rule in his father’s stead. Given the fact that Tywin is already resigned to his work as the Hand of the King, thus knowing he will likely never see his homeland again, this is him passing on his legacy to Jamie and I’m assuming opening up the floodgates for him to get married, have children and pass on the Lannister name.
Instead, Jamie spurns his father’s wishes and says he can still be an effective Kingsguard even with one hand. “As long as I’m better than everyone else, I suppose it doesn’t matter,” Jamie tells Tywin. Needless to say, Tywin looks none too amused. He wanted to use Jamie’s misfortune as a way to eradicate him from his vows as a Kinsguard (no wife, no kids, no legacy – kind of like joining the Night’s Watch but with a gold set of armor and a much warmer place to live). Jamie wants no part of it and would rather stay close to his nephew/son Joffrey, who is planning his wedding to Margaery.
It’s amazing how in the span of just a few seasons, the creators of ‘Game of Thrones’ the TV show along with the original incarnation first thought up by George R.R. Martin, Joffrey Baratheon has become the 2014 version of Darth Vader and Hitler all rolled up into one snarling, blonde entitled package. You love to hate this kid, and he’s such an antagonist that there cannot be a person alive who watches this show that doesn’t want to smack him at least once or twice an hour. While he can’t be bothered with security at his own wedding, Joffrey would rather mock Jamie’s handless state as well as reminding him that he was off being captured instead of helping to end the war like he apparently did singlehandedly while hiding under the skirt of his mother.
To cap off the humiliation, Joffrey goes through the book that lists all of the great members of the Kingsguard and their accomplishments, but when he gets to his uncle’s page, there’s very little listed. Jamie does his best to remind the king that there’s plenty of time for script to be added, but Joffrey, ever quick with the words to slice and dice like a sword through flesh, says that a 40-year old knight with one hand probably won’t be adding to his own legacy any time soon. And the capper on Jamie’s day was being turned down for sex by his own sister/lover, Cersei, who is also upset at her brother/lover for being gone so long that she had to turn to another family member to help get her rocks off. Cersei is drinking a lot more these days while Jamie’s faux-Pycelle Qyburn, who helped mold a gold hand to replace the one he lost, is treating her for an unknown ailment that she’d rather not talk about.
It’s really a sad homecoming for poor Jamie — not to say the Kingslayer didn’t do his own fair share of awful deeds including tossing Bran Stark off a castle window once upon a time that will probably be paid back in full for the rest of his life — but still after being gone for what we have to presume are years, losing a hand, and yet somehow making it back home again he’s met by a father who wants him gone from King’s Landing, a sister who apparently no longer wants him in her bed, and a king/nephew/son who can only mock his disfigurement and bally about what a disgrace he’s been as a Kingsguard for so many years. This nuJamie is trying to be a better man, but as we’ve learned through painful experiences over the many years, better men and noble men rarely survive the Game of Thrones.
Another debt that is being sought this year is from a prince named Oberyn, who is coming to King’s Landing for Joffrey’s royal wedding. Oberyn hails from Dorne, the southern most region in Westeros where we often hear about as the source of the best wine in all the land. It appears, however, that Dornish men and women are looked down upon in King’s Landing the same way the word ‘wilding’ evokes curled lips and furrowed brows from Northerners. Prince Oberyn is here to attend the wedding in the stead of his brother, Prince Doran, who is sick at home and couldn’t make the two week trip. It’s Tyrion who is sent to meet the prince as he arrives in town, and as his uneasiness tells the story, this is a delicate relationship that could spoil at any moment. He’s not out here so much as a welcome wagon as the least important Lannister Tywin could throw out there on any given day in case one of them must be sacrificed. As he finds out after waiting for several hours once the Dornish party arrives, Price Oberyn got there in the morning well ahead of the rest of the men and as he is known as a fellow who likes to partake in the fleshiest of libations, there’s only one place he’ll be at right now.
Prince Oberyn has a taste for flesh, but not in the flayed way the Bolton family has fun with their prisoners. No, Oberyn likes to share in women and men along with his paramour Ellaria Sand (Sand is the bastard name in the south the way that Snow is the bastard name up north). But before they can get down to business and work off the two weeks of bumps in the road experienced on the way to King’s Landing, Oberyn hears a familiar tune just a couple of rooms over that he can’t resist. Two men, while trying to bed some women in the brothel, are singing the lyrics to ‘The Rains of Castamere’. Oberyn doesn’t take kindly to hearing the Lannister song, and after dropping his knife blade through one of the men’s wrists, it’s clear he’s not here to bow and scrape to Lord Tywin or his petulant grandson, King Joffrey.
A few words shared with Tyrion outside confirm Oberyn’s true mission in King’s Landing — years ago his sister Elia was married to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, and produced two young children. During the uprising of Robert Baratheon, Tywin Lannister ordered his knight Ser Gregor Clegane aka The Mountain to dash out the last of the Targaryens, so he quickly killed both children before raping their mother and then cutting her in half with his giant sword. Oberyn is here to find out if this tale of his sister’s death is in deed true, and then avenge her accordingly. “Tell your father I’m here,” Oberyn tells Tyrion, “tell him the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts”. Quite an ominous warning from Prince Oberyn to the mighty Tywin Lannister. Stark fans should grow to love this guy.
Poor Sansa Stark is still grieving over the loss of her mother and brother at the Red Wedding. At such a young age, a mind like hers can’t possibly comprehend what it’s like to lose your entire family in such a gruesome way in the matter of just a couple of years, but these continued torments have left her in an almost catatonic state, unwilling to eat, and barely engaging with her ‘husband’ Tyrion. These days, she mostly goes to the godskeep, but not to pray — it’s the only place where she can be left alone. Except on this day she has a visitor, who at first frightens her, but then draws a sly smile from the ginger haired princess. It’s the knight who we first met during Joffrey’s name day ceremony is season two, who was a bit of a bumbling idiot and was set to be killed until Sansa took up for him and saved his life. Now he’s no longer a knight, but at least he’s alive. He’s there to give Sansa a necklace, a family heirloom, as thanks for helping to spare him from Joffrey’s wrath. Sansa’s coy smile finally creeps across her face, and for a character that seemed destined for doom, it was nice to finally see her happy if only for a moment. Given her last name, her husband, and her current disposition in King’s Landing, even with the protection of Jamie Lannister and his new friend Brienne of Tarth, she’s never going to be completely out of danger.
Brienne’s not convinced that Sansa is safe in King’s Landing, much less that Arya Stark is dead, so she’s still on a mission to fulfill her promise to Catelyn, even if it’s a posthumous oath at this point. Brienne also sets forth to see Margaery to reveal that she was not the one who killed beloved Renly, but instead a smoky force that looked an awful lot like Stannis. Margaery has moved on to Joffrey at this point, but something tells me she’s going to call on Brienne again at some point in the future.
To the north, Jon Snow is answering for his ‘crimes’ of killing Qhorin Halfhand, teaming up with the wildings and sleeping with the enemy, which of course breaks his vows as a member of the Night’s Watch. Janos Slynt — he was the knight who played a part in Ned Stark’s capture and death, who was stripped of his titles and sent packing to the Night’s Watch while Tyrion was Hand of the King — wants Jon’s head for what he’s done. So does Ser Alliser Thorne, the trainer who didn’t like Stark bastard from the first day he arrived at the wall. But thankfully Maester Aemon is there to take up for Jon, and he’s allowed to go about his way — for now. Jon is having a rough time of it as well — finally hearing about his brother Robb’s death and sort of mourning him while also admitting deep down he was always jealous of Ned’s first born and rightful heir to Winterfell. Nowhere in his diatribe about the loss of another family member did he mention Catelyn, no small shock there given her icy discourse towards the young boy when he came home with Ned after the war was over.
Just south of the wall, the wildings are waiting for reinforcements from Mance Rayder so they can begin their attack on Castle Black. Tormund questions Ygritte after she put three arrows into Jon Snow, but not a single one landed anywhere near his head or his heart — the two places she obviously just can’t let go of him. Before they can get too far in conversation, a group of Thenns shows up as backup to the wilding raiding party. As Tormund says so eloquently ‘I fucking hate Thenns’ and after the leader of the party reveals the spoils of their ‘hunt’ as a member of the Night’s Watch they’ve killed and are now cooking up as supper, I’m starting to understand his reasoning.
While the wildings are trying to keep warm in the north, Daenarys and her Unsullied are marching out to the final slave city she needs to conquer to truly be the breaker of chains. The city of Mereen is the greatest of all the slave cities, and as a warning to Daenerys and her legions of troops, they’ve marked each mile — all 163 of them — with a child slave, crucified while left pointing the way. Daenerys refuses to allow her troops to move ahead and take down these poor souls because she needs to witness each of them, as her anger grows, so will the resolve she needs to destroy this final slave city so she can finally move back across the Narrow Sea to reclaim her throne in Westeros.
She’s also starting to fall for the affections of Daario Naharis, who is played by a new actor this season thus why I think they said his name so much this episode so you’d get the point that it’s not the same blonde Barbie doll from last year. Daario is sparring a bit with Grey Worm, the leader of the Unsullied, because he’s unable to attain Daenerys’ affections due to his Varys like problems as all of the boys are castrated before being bred as soldiers in Astapor. Daario’s attempts to gain the Khaleesi’s favor is certainly also being noticed by Ser Jorah, who has longed for her since the first time she was handed over to Khal Drogo by her nitwit brother in season one.
It also must be noted the growth in Dany’s dragons this year — no longer the size of a lion or tiger, but instead starting to develop into the city burning monstrosities that once helped the Targaryen family conquer Westeros. Dany loves her ‘children’ and while they love her back, when the trio are fighting over a slaughtered goat corpse, even her briefest touch nearly ignites a bite from her scaled and winged protectors. Very much like a vicious dog, who loves his master, these dragons are fiercely loyal to Dany, but also still creatures of instinct and habit. When it’s time to eat, no one should put their hand out in protest unless they want to draw back a stump and join Jamie Lannister in the ‘I can’t clap’ crowd.
And finally there’s Arya Stark — still on the road with the Hound, ever traveling, and trying to find a way to hand her off to safety while making some money for his troubles. With Catelyn and Robb dead, the Hound’s next plan is to take Arya to the Vale of Arryn and sell her back to her aunt Lysa. While traveling, they spot an inn stocked with food and also a Lannister raiding party. Arya quickly recognizes Polliver — the brute from season two who took her ‘needle’ and stabbed her friend through the throat when he was unable to walk with them back to Harrenhal. Arya is out for revenge, but the Hound isn’t in the mood to kill five men on an empty stomach.
As witnessed last year, Arya is nothing if not quick and in a flash she’s down on the path to the inn’s door, so the Hound accompanies her inside. There the Lannister men are having their way with the innkeeper’s daughter while partaking in chicken and ale. Polliver recognizes the Hound and begins to tell him of the exploits his men are having under the command of his brother Gregor Clegane, and with Robb Stark’s army dispatched, they can have their run of the lands, stealing and raping all along the way. Polliver’s words only invoke a vicious response from the Hound, who despite an empty stomach still kills almost all of the men. Arya sees her opportunity to gain a taste of revenge by ramming a sword through one man’s back before setting her sights on Polliver. She recites back to him the same things he said to her friend before shoving needled straight into his gullet. As he spits up blood before his death, one of the infamous names on Arya’s death list has been scratched off and with it, the second man she’s now killed before even becoming a teenager and another debt is paid.
Next week on Game of Thrones we catch up with Bran Stark and his trek north of the wall while the entire kingdom prepares for a royal wedding as Joffrey finally weds Margaery with all of Westoros preparing to bow to a new queen.