Ned Stark’s weapon was ‘absurdly large’ — clearly too much so for Lannister men to handle and watching it smithed in twain to create two blades of a more manageable size was an exquisite way to open season four of Sky Atlantic’s finest offering.

The King in the North is dead, and with him goes a major protagonist, not to mention a major protagonists irritating mother. Robb’s untimely demise at the end of season three has forced the creative team behind the best thing on TV to begin afresh (sort of) with plot lines emerging in five or six promising new ways. The lack of a male Stark to battle the Lannisters was a major turning point in the novels and so it’s proving in the show which is no bad thing, giving as it does Arya, my favourite character, more screen time to shine and kill people in disturbing new ways for a thirteen year old girl. Or anyone at all.

“I understand that if any more words come pouring out of your cunt mouth, I’m going to have to eat every chicken in this room.”

Arya’s growing up fast and she’s facing all of the usual difficulties of a young woman going through puberty: her brother’s head was sewn onto the body of a wolf, her father was beheaded in front of her, her mother had her throat cut, her friend was stabbed by an evil bastard name Polliver and said bastard then stole her sword. Which, as we saw in this episode, was a mistake on his part. 

The masterly direction of the depiction of Arya’s descent into gleeful vengeance was nothing short of artful, an exquisite mirror held up in stark reflection to the earlier death of supporting character Lommy, with an attention to detail which was almost perverse. ‘Can you walk boy?’ she asked Polliver, with a glint in her eye.  No ‘mam, he cannot.

“You took too long.”

Far to the South in the nest of vipers that is Kings Landing, Tywin Lannister continued to be an absolute bastard, taking vile shots at his now one-handed son, the dashing, sort-of-morally-ambiguous-but-we-like-him-anyway, Jaime, who is keen to reunite with his sister in the special way that they’ve united in the past, if you know what we’re saying, wink wink.

Unfortunately for Jaime, Cersei’s having none of it, spurning his advances and simultaneously leaving me confused that I felt so much sympathy a character who’s essentially dedicated his whole life to getting his twin sister into bed.

“Tell your father I’m here. Tell him the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.”

If you’ve read the books then you know all about Oberyn Martell and if you haven’t then you’re in for quite a treat. He’s barely been in the show ten minutes and he’s already stabbed a Lannister soldier through the wrist, engaged in some homoerotic whore-play and given a chilling proclamation of upcoming vengeance, telling Tyrion all about the murder of his sister at the hands of Tywin’s man, Gregor Clegane.  They don’t call Oberyn the Viper for nothing. If I were Tywin, I’d be watching my back.

“They’re dragons Khaleesi. They can never be tamed. Even by their mother.”

Across the narrow sea we stopped in to witness Daenerys Targaryen almost becoming a snack for one of her dragons, as she continues her march to become Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, stopping along the way to bury some crucified slaves and flirt with just about every member of her entourage, except poor Jorah, who still hasn’t realised that she thinks he’s gross. Does nobody but me find Daeny’s story a little…boring?  The character a little one dimensional? No? Just me? Sorry. Won’t mention it again.

“He was better than me at everything. I wanted to hate him for it. But I couldn’t.”

Finally, in t’North, Jon spares a moment to remember his fallen half-brother, whilst the wildlings bicker and feast on a manwich. Or perhaps a handwich. There’s a surprising amount of puns to be had when it comes to cannibalism.

Game of Thrones’ amazing cast of characters step it up a notch in the season 4 opener to fill Robb’s empty boots with aplomb. If Two Swords is any indication of the season as a whole then I’m sad to say, we’re not going to miss you one bit, Robb. The King in the North is dead. Long live the King. 





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