Game of Thrones: A Song of the Sofa

A FAMILY AFFAIR: The fearsome families and warring factions of the epic fantasy series Game of Thrones have returned for the long awaited fourth season.
A FAMILY AFFAIR: The fearsome families and warring factions of the epic fantasy series Game of Thrones have returned for the long awaited fourth season.

As TV's most violent, incestuous and horribly compelling programme returns to screens across the globe, so, too, does the Nelson Mail's most fearless review column.

Sarah Dunn and Kate Davidson have decided to turn their discussions about A Game of Thrones into a weekly blog. Each week they will email each other about each episode of the show and publish the results here. Spoilers obviously abound.

Dear Kate,

Here we are again. It's good to have you on board - for the readers who are joining us for another season, Adam Roberts has departed for the exotic shores of Melbourne, although I have a feeling we haven't seen the last of him yet.

Perhaps it's because I get so impatient waiting at the end of each season, but the first episodes of A Game of Thrones are always a blur to me. They skip and hop between each abandoned plot thread like a little sightseeing tour to remind us where each character is at, and to an extent, who they are.

When we meet Tywin Lannister forging two new blades out of Ned Stark's ancestral greatsword, Ice, the scene seems to signal that he is starting from a position of great strength and confidence. He ended last season as the strongest of several villains, all of whom had their own human weaknesses and strengths like everybody else, but Tywin's actions in melting down that symbol of Stark greatness and forging it into something permanent for his own house brought more of a Lord of the Rings vibe into the mix.

Things grow reassuringly complicated once he tries to give half of the new pair of swords to his son, Jaime Lannister. The last time we saw Jaime, he was recovering from having lost his sword hand, and had completed a long-awaited reunion with his sister, lover and literal evil twin Cersei.

Another reviewer has mentioned how this episode has been about showcasing the way the battle scars have started to come up. Jaime's appearance supports this: the former dreamboat's face is thinner, his dramatic mannerisms have mostly disappeared, and most noticeably in this season, his shiny blonde mane has been buzzed short. Game of Thrones spent most of the first three seasons emphasising how close the family resemblance between Jaime and Cersei was, but isn't it interesting how Jamie has suddenly begun to look more like battered, shop-soiled little Tyrion?

Joffrey is still exuberantly nasty, as always, and Cersei is not far behind as she rejects Jaime's advances because he ''took too long''. Poor Sansa Stark wasn't doing too well at the end of last season, and when we catch up with her at afternoon tea on a balcony, she looks as if she would like nothing better than to throw herself off it.

We also meet the first of a new house of royals - the Martells of Dorne. Based on my understanding of the book, Dorne takes some inspiration from the Middle East and some from Spain. I had therefore been reading all the lines from their impetuous young prince Oberyn Martell in the voice of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. Last night I was thrilled to find out that not only was this a more or less accurate prediction of how his accent works, there's even a bit of a physical resemblence.

Oberyn has turned up at King's Landing in a diplomatic role, and he'll be there for some time. Hopefully, we'll get to meet his family soon - they're fun, and I think it's about time we saw some new characters as this crop have been through a lot. In my opinion, Oberyn is exactly the kind of ferociously lusty addition we could stand to see more of.

I look forward to hearing your opinion on that wonderful, wonderful chicken scene.


Dear Sarah,

As a newbie jumping on board at this point, I have to say the chicken scene from last night's episode was splendid. There is nothing better than a villain with some soul as we see in the Hound who is still paired up with young Arya Stark.

The two arrive into the episode riding on the Hound's horse, exchanging barbs and banter. The Hound righteously tells Arya he is ''no thief''' before Arya reminds him he is a child murderer. His reply: "Man's got to have a code".

The dialogue between the two characters was glorious, showing how well-matched the pair are. It furthers a fatalistic bond based in violence and a lack of control over their own destinies, both having suffered at the hands of Joffrey Baratheon and his lackeys.  

The two are not without morals, but they also have a streak of brutal violence. The Hound started off as a character who appeared to have no moral compass, but has since shown a very human side. Arya started off a child, brave and innocent, but has been thrust into a world of violence, which she is actively engaging in.  

The joy of the chicken dialogue is dished out as the two come across the despicable Lannister man at arms Polliver and his band, who are attempting to rape and pillage in the name of King Joffrey. Here, we are exposed to the lawless lands lying beyond King's Landing, where the real impact of the wars are being felt.  

At the tavern, the Hound takes his seat and orders his ale, while Arya sits beside him waiting for a chance to avenge the murder of her friend Lommy Greenhands. He was killed by Polliver in Season Two.

Recognising the Hound, Polliver strolls over to the table and engages him in conversation. He invites the disgraced knight to join his band and wreak havoc in the name of Joffrey . The Hound declines as politely as possible, of course, by demanding Polliver give him food off his own plate.
The Hound: You're a talker. Listening to talkers makes me thirsty and hungry. Think I'll take two chickens.
Polliver: You don't seem to understand the situation.
The Hound: I understand that if any more words come pouring out your **** mouth, I'm going to have to eat every ****ing chicken in this room.
Polliver: You lived your life for the King. You're going to die for some chickens?
The Hound: Someone is.
The exchange is gold. I am unsure if the Hound is completely confident, or if he accepts death as inevitable - either way the fight ends, at least he is fighting.

All hell breaks loose when Polliver snaps. The Hound whips up an excellent fight scene and Ayra stands on the edge until she embraces the moment and enacts her vengeance.  Is she just a vigilante or is there something darker at play inside her? I expect this will manifest later in the season.

 When Arya killed Polliver, she reminded him at his end of the carnage he had spilled out on others. I had a sense of deep satisfaction as she took back her sword, Needle, which her half-brother Jon Snow made for her in the first season.

This reminds us the Stark bonds may seem obliterated, but this family is not finished.  
I agree with your comment about seeing the scars of the wars - on the land, on the Hounds face, and on Ayra's lost youth. While those in power squabble, the real impact of their choices is evident in the last scenes with these characters.

I also agree the Martells spice it up adding chaos and exoticism to the series. The Lannisters have the power they desired, but can they keep new vultures at bay?