Recovered yet? Has your anxiety faded? Can you go to a wedding without checking the band for crossbows and nervously checking out the door? After last season’s Worst Reception Ever, King Joffrey and the Lannisters are confidently enjoying their post-slaughter honeymoon period ruling Westeros. The Stark rebellion is crushed and there are no more imminent-threat contenders to the Iron Throne.
And so we begin season 4 with "Two Swords." It's an episode that starts and finishes with scenes involving swords and in between there's a bunch of characters who consider having sex, but don't. It's a hugely confident hour that effortlessly dives into nearly all the major storylines, an appealing mix of super-tight storytelling with a relaxed vibe -- the actors are so comfortable in these roles, the dialog so conversational and sharp-witted, this hour just flies by.
The cold open this season is a Red Wedding victory lap by Lord Tywin, melting down Ned Stark's priceless Valyrian greatsword Ice to the strains of "The Rains of Castamere." In the show's pilot we saw Ned use this sword to behead a deserter, then Joffrey's executioner killed him with it, and now Ice is being forged into two swords to be given to Jaime Lannister and King Smirk-Face. Looking at the brooding tyrannical Tywin, it's almost like he's melting the blade himself with his searing gaze.
MapQuest updates: In the opening credits, we see the Dreadfort has been added (the keep of House Bolton where Theon is being held and tormented) and we're introduced to the slave city of Meereen, with its giant pyramid (which is where Dany is headed in Essos).
King's Landing: Jaime has shaved his prisoner beard. Tywin presents his son with one of the impressive new swords. This seems like a rather cruel gift for somebody who just lost their sword hand, like: Oh you just lost a leg? Here's an awesome new pair of boots!
And naturally Tywin wants something in return -- for Jaime to leave King's Landing and take over the Lannister keep of Casterly Rock. We have never actually seen Casterly Rock on the show, but one imagines there are a lot of blonde people walking around with a certain degree of cool detachment, like Sweden. Jaime annoys his father by saying something the stern patriarch doesn't hear very often, if ever:
NEXT: The Hot-Blood Prince