Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 1
Content Note: Rape, incest, homophobia, gendered insults, potential anorexia, sleep disorders
Spoiler’s From Last Night’s Episode Ahead
Fresh from last season’s crowd-surfing, white savior finale (and just as our hearts were beginning to heal after the Red Wedding), Game of Thrones is back for more action, incest, and just plain weird-ass shit. Who will die this season? Will Joffrey stop being terrible? Will women finally start getting treated like people? Find this out (and more!), during my weekly Mad Art Lab recaps! My goal for these recaps is to hit the high points of the episode, snark a little bit, and hopefully provide a social justice lens for your next viewing of Game of Thrones.
Our opening scene shows a sword being forged from the sword of the now-deceased Nedd Stark. The dirty thieving Lannisters have taken the sword and re-forged it into a new weapon for the woefully one-handed Jamie Lannister. After the opening credits (which will never be the same for me thanks to this remake Rebecca introduced me to), Jamie faces his horrible father, Tywin, who snidely berates him and make jokes about his missing limb. Tywin wants Jamie to go back Casterly Rock to rule, but ol’ Jamie Lannister says he still has some fight left in him. Later in the episode, we see he has a fake hand forged in an attempt to try to feel more normal.
Next we are introduced to Prince Oberyn, a newcomer to the show, played by Pedro Pascal. He and his paramour, Ellaria Sand, are taking their pick from some of the capital’s choice sex workers. It seems the two of them are bisexual, and Ellaria is not, as certain folks like to say, very “politically correct.” While she picks her partner from a set of young girls, she takes offense to being called a lady and tells the sex worker’s accompanying gentleman, “I’m a bastard, she’s a whore, and you’re a procurer.” Oberyn is interested in the procurer, and asks, “Have you ever been with a prince?” Unfortunately, their sexual repartee is cut short by a chilly rendition of The Rains of Castamere, because this show is vindictive and cruel, and a Lannister gets stabbed in the hand.
Later in the show, Oberyn tells Tyrion (who I had hoped to see more of this episode) of his sister, Elia. Elia, like so many characters on this show, met a pretty brutal and rapey end – at the hand of the Lannisters, no less. This news makes Tyrion visibly uncomfortable, which is somewhat surprising since this seems to be the status quo in Westeros. It’s moments like Tyrion’s that remind you that somewhere deep down, some of these characters actually do have a sense of morality underneath all their barbarism. Overall, Oberyn promises to be an interesting character this season, and it’s nice to see some semblance of bisexual representation. He’s not an ideal representation, what with his stabby tendencies, but in Westeros you take what you can get I guess.
Danaerys Targaryen, white savior extraordinaire, is starting to realize that keeping dragons as pets might present some problems to her own well-being. Somebody get the Animal Liberation Front on the line, before Dany and the dragons both meet cruel fates! After nearly having her face torn off by her own darling dragon-son, we find that Daario (who was recast this season?!) and Grey Worm are engaging in some strange sword-balancing act in a competition for Dany’s affection (they really know how to impress the ladies!). After having their game broken up by Danaerys herself, Daario tells Grey Worm the eunuch, “I’d rather have no brains and two balls.” Nobody ever accused anyone in
Westeros Essos (EDIT: Thanks to reader Paul for correcting my incorrect GoT Geography!) of being sensitive! I’m guessing we will see more of this love triangle this season.
Later in her travels, Dany comes upon a crucified slave girl in her adventures, and Ser Jorah informs here there are 162 more of them (one every mile). Instead of wincing and having her army ride ahead to spare her the sight, she collects the collar of the slave child and asks for all of them to be buried. It’s moments like this that make remember why I love the Khaleesi, despite her white savior complex.
Back in the capital, Sansa isn’t eating, which I suppose is fairly understandable if your brother had his head sewn to a wolf and your mother was thrown naked into a river. She doesn’t pray anymore, either, but instead goes to the temple because “it’s the only place people don’t talk to her.” I’ve never been a fan of Sansa, and this season premiere did little to change that. She’s a dull and lifeless character, as always, but I still can’t help but feel sorry for her. Despite constantly doing the “right” thing by her society’s standards, she’s still managed to get the shit end of the stick time and time again.
Cersei is still upset about having to marry a “renowned pillow-biter” and about having her son marry the “bitch” from High Garden. Despite her unhappiness with her upcoming nuptials, she still doesn’t seem too interested in renewing her tryst with her brother/former lover. While I can understand feeling upset about being left high and dry during a siege, I’m not sure her brother had such a great time last season either. Cersei continues to be a complicated character for me: On the one hand she’s smart, darkly funny, and not afraid to speak her mind in a world dominated by cruel me. But then on the other hand she seems intent on keeping every other woman down in her never-ending struggle for more power. She reminds me a bit of Skyler White – a badass lady, willing to protect her family at all costs, whether what she’s doing is morally right or not.
We find Jon Snow in front of a Night’s Watch council, where he admits to breaking his oath and laying with a Wildling – yet somehow he still avoids beheading. As Master Aemon says, “If we beheaded every Ranger who lay with a girl, the Wall would be manned by headless Rangers.” One councilman tries to argue that there’s a difference between sneaking around and lying with the enemy, but regardless Jon Snow and his beautiful hair live to see another day.
Joffrey is a sniveling little turd, as always. His Bieber-reminiscent, shit-eating grin as he berates his uncle Jamie as a “40-year-old former knight with one hand,” leaves even the most spoiler-evasive viewers Googling for hints as to if/when he will meet a (hopefully) gruesome end. I have nothing more to say about Joffrey, except that he is the worst.
Arya is still mucking about with the foul-mouthed Hound, and as she complains to the Hound about together they come across some of Joffrey’s men. Long story short, the Hound is hungry, and so he kills like 10 dudes for a couple chickens. This scene was pretty gruesome, and had my usually desensitized husband yelling, “OH FUCK! JESUS!” Arya gets some bloody revenge for her family, and as an added bonus gets her beloved sword (the daintly-named “Needle”) back.
Overall, the episode was more of a set-up for the plot points of the season. While it was gory and filled with nudity, it was rather mild by Game of Thrones standards. It certainly wasn’t the most memorable episode, but if you’ve read the books you know there’s plenty to look forward to this season. What were your thoughts on the episode? Favorite moments?