Game of Thrones came back with a bang in season 4, didn’t it? Personal life has forced me to consider both of the first two episodes back to back, and they were mighty entertaining.
Between the first two season four episodes, we’ve caught up with pretty much everyone, and there were plenty of great scenes, but I keep thinking about the Arya/Hound scene that closed out the first episode. It’s always fun when the show decides to linger a bit longer on one particular event, and Arya and the Hound arriving at the inn begins as a buddy comedy, moves into an exquisitely tense standoff, and ends in an abrupt spasm of violence. As satisfying as it was to see her reclaim her sword, and by extension her connection with her lost family, I felt a little sad that it was only earned back through the loss of her innocence as she killed Polliver in cold blood. And from the look of contentment on her face as she rode away from the inn with the Hound, it’s easy to surmise that she enjoyed the experience. Arya’s road ahead will be dark, I suspect, and likely littered with more of her “victims;” I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before she takes out someone who doesn’t deserve it.
And speaking of extended scenes, the wedding we’ve all been waiting for, now known as the Purple Wedding, wrapped up in episode two. It was a great example of slowly building tension. Joffrey was at his most petulant, evil, cruel, hurtful worst, so it was perhaps a bit of a relief to see him finally taken down by an anonymous poisoner in such a painful fashion. But like Arya, I wonder if we as an audience shouldn’t celebrate his demise with such gusto. Yes, Joffrey was a monstrously cruel sociopath who was a horrible ruler and only would have become worse as he grew in age and power, but if there’s one thing that Game of Thrones has taught us, it’s that violence begets revenge and greater violence in an ever widening, destructive cyclone that eventually spins out of control.
Jaime’s simple yet careless act of pushing Bran out the window of a tower spawned a brutally destructive civil war, leading to countless deaths and, on a more personal level for the Kingslayer, the loss of his son and his sword arm. As we can tell from Cersei’s look at the end of the episode, Joffrey’s demise is likely to cause a great deal of trouble for Tyrion, whether he was involved in it or not.
And what greater chaos will erupt in this Game of Thrones now that another king is dead? How will the ripples that spread out from Arya’s quest for revenge affect the world? Will she leave behind a traumatized child who turns into a killer, or something worse?