'Game of Thrones' first episode dark, brooding

Published on Thursday, 10 April 2014 16:18 - Written by By Derek Kuhn dkuhn@tylerpaper.com

*CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD*

What a way to start of the new season with Tywin Lannister having Ned Stark’s “obscenely large” Valyrian steel great sword being reforged into two smaller swords. One of the swords is gifted to Jaime (he also gets a golden hand) during a scene where Tywiin tries to convince (force) the king-slayer to renounce his vow as a King’s Guard. Tywin wants Jaime to return to Castlerock, and rule in his stead. Jaime finally as a 40-year-old man finds his spine as he refuses his father’s request. The tone is dark, and the accompanying music amplifies a vague sense of foreboding.

The show seems different. Perhaps it’s that the show’s tone shifted permanently after last season’s infamous “Red Wedding” episode. Or maybe it’s just me. There seems to be a void right now in the show. With the adult Starks dead and Stannis Baratheon and his forces headed north to the Wall, there seems to be no direct challenger to the crown. Though the newly introduced Oberyn Martel does make vague threats toward the Lannisters, so he adds a little unease to King’s Landing. Oberyn is a renowned warrior who is known as the “Red Viper,” so he probably shouldn’t be trifled with.

Fan-favorite Tyrion Lanister tries to give Oberyn a warm welcome, but falls short. The Red Viper has a score to settle, and he tells Tyrion to tell his father, Tywin, that “the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.”

In addition to trying to welcome Oberyn, Tyrion is in a precarious situation with Shae (his lover prior to his sham marriage to Sansa) who is becoming more bold (and frustrated) romantically with him as he refuses to dishonor his marriage. Sansa seems to be up to her “lost-puppy-self.”

While Tyrion is playing diplomat, and Jamie is playing King’s Guard, their sister, Cersei Lannister looks to be a wreck. She’s drinking more wine than ever before and laments her son, King Joffrey Baratheon’s impending wedding to Margaery Tyrell. Cersei seems to resent Margaery because of her youth and ability to manipulate her deranged son.

At the moment, the show seems more about character development through their journeys (Who would have thought of Jamie as a likeable character?). Jaime is back, but how effective can a one-handed man be in the King’s Guard? Sansa Stark is now begrudgingly Sansa Lannister, and hasn’t taken the news of her mother and brother’s deaths well (Who could?). Arya is still travelling with the Hound (a great pairing I might add), but what now? (Arya and the Hound — kind of sounds like a bad sitcom — have a nicely violent scene in a tavern while on the road to the Eyrie.)

Where will these characters end up and will their paths cross?

Jon Snow seems to have a bit more direction.

Jon finds out that his brother, Robb, was murdered, yet he has more pressing concerns. He finds himself at an inquisition-like board trying to justify some of his actions from last season (he had to break many vows such as being celebrant). During the board, Robb tries to warn the elders of the Knight’s Watch of the impending invasion of a 100,000-strong Wildling force. It falls mostly on deaf ears.

We also catch up with Daenerys as she is on her way to besiege another slave-permitting city. The newly recast Daario Naharis (now played by Michiel Huisman) uses his wily ways as he works to charm the “Mother of Dragons.” Judging by Daenerys’ reaction, I’ll wager that a romance of sorts may blossom (though she’s more standoffish than last season). Daenerys’ dragons have grown, and they are starting to show that dragons aren’t house cats or lap dogs.

VERDICT:This was a good episode. There wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but there wasn’t anything off-putting either. The acting was solid as always, and there is still plenty more to build on. I believe next episode will act as a second premiere where we’ll get to see Stannis, Brandon Stark, Theon (or Reek if you like) and the Boltons. "Game of Thrones" excels in balancing characters, plot and pacing. Show such as "The Walking Dead" and "The Americans" could benefit by watching how "Game of Thrones" juggles everything without focusing on certain characters for too long.

Rating: 8.2/10

+It’s Back (a year is too long to wait!)

+Jamie standing up to Tywin, and adjusting to having only one hand

+Oberyn and his confidence

-I would’ve like a slightly longer episode for the premiere