The Atlantic

The Pure Pleasure of Game of Thrones' Season 4 Premiere

Our roundtable on "Two Swords," the first episode of the HBO show's fourth season.
Source: HBO

Spencer Kornhaber, Christopher Orr, and Amy Sullivan discuss the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

Kornhaber: Westeros: where preteen girls gleefully stab pedophiles in the neck and incestuous royal siblings banter about the scent of rotting cat. Truly, what fun it is to be back!

But I’m also feeling a bit like Ser Jaime facing a newly frigid sister: “Something's changed.”

For starters, director D.B. Weiss seems to be working from a slightly expanded cinematic palette. I don’t recall a Game of Thrones episode ever closing with a swelling remix of the theme song, and I don’t think we’ve had a “cold open” (i.e. scene before the title sequence) since the series premiere. But here we are, at the start of Season 4, watching close-ups of liquid metal and Tywin Lannister’s almost-smile, waiting in suspense not to see what happens but rather for the Pavlovian rush provided by an animated map and the thrum of DUN-DUN-DUHDUH-DUN-DUN-DUHDUH-DUHHH.

That cold open seemed to signal a few things. One is that the central motif of the episode would be : trinkets and weaponry whose significance goes beyond physical worth. Tywin victoriously reforges the big Stark blade into two smaller swords, one of which is a gift for Jaime; I imagine this’ll come back later, so call it Chekhov’s Valyrian Steel. Lady Olenna

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