“Game of Thrones” Episode 4.1 “Two Swords” (10 out of 10) Starring Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Natalie Dormer; Sundays on HBO.

NOTE: Slight spoilers. Read at your own risk.

The fourth season of “Game of Thrones” returns this Sunday, and I don’t think viewers will be disappointed with the season premiere. The series, adapted from George R. R. Martin’s sprawling epic novels, takes us into a world where the person sitting on the Iron Throne can change in the blink of an eye, and you either play the game, or you die.

The episode begins with the creation of two new swords (hence the episode’s name), and if we had any doubts that the Red Wedding actually happened, those hopes are quickly dashed. The news of the bloody nuptials has reached King’s Landing, and the reactions vary from smirking Lannisters to a grieving Stark (though now Lannister by marriage).

Most impressive about this episode is how many storylines it addresses in just one hour. Unlike “The Walking Dead” which focused on two or three characters at a time this season, “Two Swords” allows us to visit Daenerys, John Snow, Arya and the Hound, Cersei and Jaime, the Tyrells, Ygritte . . . the list goes on.

And they still managed to find time to introduce us to a new and charismatic character, Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal). A Dornish prince visiting the capital to attend Joffrey’s wedding, Oberyn is a fascinating character who doesn’t bother to conceal his hatred of the Lannisters. And yet somehow I don’t fear for him. He proves he is more than capable of taking care of himself.

The Mother of Dragons returns with her triplets, and my, how they’ve grown! But dragons are not meant to be tamed, even by their mother. She does prove that she still has mastery over the humans, however. While other rulers (*cough* Lannisters *cough*) seize power through fear and control, Daenerys earns loyalty and love. But she still requires respect and obedience, and she gets it.  

Unfortunately, things are not going well for some of the other characters. Some could use a hand, so to speak. Passions have cooled. Loyalty is questioned. Winter is coming. 

If the episode belonged to anyone, though, I think it was young Arya Stark. She is fearless and still focused on revenge, but circumstances keep her with the Hound as they continue their uneasy alliance. Their relationship is one of the better pairings on the show, and it offers some much needed levity on occasion. 

A spectacular opening to a highly anticipated season. If the rest of this season's episodes can keep pace with the premiere, I think we are in for the best season of the series thus far. And with another wedding on the horizon, anything can happen. 

Valar Morghulis.

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