Do you dare play the game?
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first episode of season four of Game of Thrones.
The dragons are bigger, the stakes are higher, and the numbers become smaller with each episode. Season four of the wildly popular Game of Thrones premiered Sunday night, and with it came promise of a season full of twists, turns, and, of course, bloodshed.
Based on the book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, the hit HBO show is set in the fictional continents of Westoros and Essos as their inhabitants fight for control of the Iron Throne.
But the road to power and glory is lined with the lives of those who were unsuccessful, because when you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die.
This was a lesson learned the hard way by Robb Stark (Richard Madden), his mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), and his wife Talisa (Oona Chaplin) in one of the show’s most gruesome scenes from last season, dubbed “The Red Wedding.”
Last season’s finale “Mhysa” saw the fallout from the tragedy and brought many of the storylines if not to a close, then to a nice pause.
This week’s episode, “Two Swords” picks up as King’s Landing is preparing for the wedding between King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer).
Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) has his hands full dealing with the arrival of the Dornish Prince, but not the one they are expecting. Prince Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) is there to exact revenge against the Lannisters for the death of his sister.
Tyrion’s wife, Sansa (Sophie Turner) is understandably struggling after the murder of her brother and mother. In a particularly touching scene, Tyrion plays the good husband and tries to convince her to carry on for the sake of her mother, but to no avail.
Her bastard brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington) doesn’t have much time to mourn his late half-brother before he is put before a council of the Night’s Watch to answer for his transgressions last season.
He’s admitted to his time with the Wildlings, especially Ygritte (Rose Leslie), but is upset that his brothers don’t seem to believe his warnings of an oncoming war from beyond the Wall.
The despicable King Joffrey proved once again that he’s more interested in looking like a king than actually acting like one, by ignoring his duties and, instead, tormenting his uncle Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldeu).
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi, and one of the most impressive characters on the show, continues her mission of amassing an army large enough to invade Westoros and take back the kingdom she believes is right fully hers.
In the meantime, she is beginning to discover that even the most devoted mothers cannot always tame their children — be they dragons or men.
As can only be expected, it was an episode for the viewer to play catch-up, focusing more on laying the groundwork for the major storylines this season. Although lacking in any major excitement, the Game of Thrones season four premiere was the perfect episode after a long break