Welcome Back, Arya
Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 1 recap
“Lots of people name their swords.”
“Lots of c-nts.”
Welcome back to Westeros. It felt like it was an awfully long time this time, didn’t it? Every time, but especially this time, because we have been so completely sure that we need to MOVE. Things have to happen. After a year when everyone walked around just saying “Red Wedding” to complete strangers, we need something new to get at. Luckily, this episode, in which we tee up the fourth season, is jammed. Everything you thought you knew is up for serious debate, and episode 401 points out that everything’s about to get messy.
Let’s start with the place I was most itchy to get past in this episode – the league of eight thousand warriors. Could we possibly have something move in this storyline sometime soon? A reminder, if you’re new to the GOT reviews, we haven’t read the books and choose to let the show stand on its own – a decision that seems wiser and wiser the more George R.R. Martin decides to procrastinate with all his fancy HBO money.
So Daenerys is blithely living her life, hanging out with her now big and touchy dragons, and it seems to me that almost everyone is smirking behind her back. I’ve never hated Jorah Marmont the way some of you have (Lainey: ME!), but his furrowed brow of concern is a little tired already, and it’s about minute six.
The seeds of unrest in the camp are most welcome, especially since Grey Worm and his jerky friend are acting like typical 11 year olds playing toys with boys. If Daenerys is going to be mother of all of these, she’s going to have to deal with what it is to have a whole bunch of brats on her hands. Overgrown teenage dragons? Check. Sulky Grey Worm playing games of fake-out? Check. Daario, who only recently swore his loyalty and proves it by handing over what look like tinfoil versions of red and blue flowers? Check. (If this confused the life out of you, it’s because they recast the actor between seasons, so you shouldn’t worry about being out of touch.) And, of course, Dany shows her heart by saying that each of the slain slaves on the road markers will be properly memorialized and buried on their journey…but this girl has not cracked a sweat or a frown in over a season. We need to get this moving, please, and fast.
Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, it’s the best time ever because Jaime is home! All hail Jaime! I am not trying to be more cynical than necessary, and in fact I was, I know, but…I was actually kind of touched at the softness with which Tywin addresses his golden boy. Like this softness has been inside him all this time, just waiting for his older son to come home and see it.
But he’s welcomed by a sword of Valyrian steel for which Tywin sacrificed something, and which has a twin we don’t yet know the fate of, “from someone who didn’t need it anymore”. The hand he has to work with is much less well-crafted, but it would do what it was designed for well enough if only Cersei could bear to look at it.
But she can’t, because she’s Cersei, and because she’s been dealing with some “symptoms” that have now cleared up. It’s left intentionally vague, but I shudder to think. Jaime thinks what I’m thinking, that maybe Cersei has symptoms of another unfortunate sibling for Joffrey and Tommen and poor Myrcella sent to Dorn, but she says no, and the image of Pycelle touching her allows us all to shiver in sympathy with Cersei. This, in itself, a feat. The fact that she can’t sleep with her brother is, well, kind of hard to sympathize with, but the fact that she won’t do it because of his hand is a bit touchier still.
With Cersei uncomfortably uninterested in Jaime, and no chance of anything changing in the immediate future, who else would he find solace with? It’s Brienne, more uncomfortable than ever now that she’s clean. She’s on Jaime to get Sansa Stark to safety, and Jaime very reasonably asks where that would be? Sure, he owes it to now-dead Catelyn, but it’s not like he could throw her in a tower and be done with it. It’s a little more complicated than that.
Not that she would mind. Sansa is on a hunger strike because everyone is dead. I’ve been accused of being insensitive to Sansa before, but again I must ask, what would she expect? This is one of the problems with the show stretching out over so long, because it’s probably been a minute since she found out, but it seems like forever, just as it does when she gnashes her teeth for seasons on end all “My father, my father”. It’s not fair to the character probably, but it is fair to the show. It’s been a long time like this and it would be nice to have her change.
Most notably, it would be great to make some use out of the fact that her husband is the most interesting character on the show. Tyrion is in typically great form, trying to fight off the ever-more-restless Shae (who’s just been outed) and being sent on thankless errands by his father – such that he has to be a welcoming committee for the Dornish, and has chosen not to stage the welcome, as per Bronn, in a Tavern. As it turns out, Oberyn is the type who likes to f*ck people up before he f*cks people, so there’s a whole sequence of hand stabbing just to welcome you back to the gore. If I followed correctly (and I’m sure you will email me if I didn’t), he’s related to our young Targaryen and seems poised to cause some sh*t.
That’s before we even get to Castle Black and those who do and don’t believe that Jon Snow knows nothing (and I’m finding it harder and harder to get behind the prevailing narrative that Robb Stark was the older, smoother brother. Has anyone looked at Kit Harrington?) and a very sad, very small amount of my beloved Sam.
And on top of everything else Diana Rigg is all like “None of these are decent necklaces, because if you’re going to marry that absolute psychotic jackass Joffrey you need to at least be getting something out of it”, but who has time for that discussion, because:
How happy were you to see Arya with The Hound? First of all, they’re the best duo on this show – everything he has, she lacks, and vice versa. The fact that they have a shared goal is fantastic but we don’t need to see The Hound become self-actualized. We need to see Arya trust her instincts. She knows who f*cked her over at Harrenhall, and she knows who she needs to become to survive in a world where her mother and brother are so completely dead.
Arya relies on nobody but herself, and the moment of truth comes when she runs dude through with the sword. She’s worried, for a bit, that she won’t be able to do it – but when she does, she feels power and strength, not remorse. Needle has proven worthy of her. Now she has to be worthy of the warrior she’s just become.
….And it’s only episode one.