With the royal wedding of Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) fast approaching, goings on at King's Landing are as deadly and devious as ever on "Two Swords," the Season 4 premiere of HBO's "Game of Thrones."
Tywin (Charles Dance), House Lannister's cold-blooded patriarch, begins Episode 31 by melting a sword made of rare Valyrian steel and having it forged into two weapons.
He presents one sword to son Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) before ordering him to leave the capitol and rule over Casterly Rock, their ancestral stronghold.
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But Jaime refuses. And even though his severed sword hand is replaced by a gold-plated prosthetic, he plans to resume his duties with the elite Kingsguard.
Actually, the reason Jaime stays put is to reignite his incestuous affair with twin sister Cersei (Lena Headey). She's not in an amorous mood, however.
Cersei is bitter about her forced engagement to Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), who prefers lords over ladies in the bedroom. And she's bitter about Jaime's long absence, even though he was captured and maimed in the war with House Stark.
The only likable Lannister, diminutive Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), is tasked with greeting VIP wedding guests. This includes vengeful Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal), who accuses the Lannisters of raping and murdering his sister.
Tyrion correctly guesses that Oberyn and his paramour Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) are unwinding in a brothel. That's where Oberyn confronts two Lannisters, stabs one in the wrist and issues a warning for Tywin.
"Tell him the Lannisters aren't the only ones who pay their debts," Oberyn snarls.
Tyrion must also contend with his bride, Sansa (Sophie Turner), who won't eat and can't sleep after learning about the slaying of her brother Robb (Richard Madden) and mother Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) at the infamous "Red Wedding."
"What happened to your family was a terrible crime," says Tyrion, whose father ordered the slaughter. "Your mother would want you to carry on."
As for Sansa's younger sister Arya (Maisie Williams), she's on the road with Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann). He's counting on a handsome reward for delivering Arya to the lofty abode of her wacko Aunt Lysa (Kate Dickie).
Stopping at an alehouse, Sandor and Arya encounter drunken soldiers from King Joffrey's army. Exacting a bit of payback on behalf of House Stark, Sandor attacks the troops.
Lying wounded on the floor is Polliver (Andy Kellegher), who killed one of Arya's friends and stole her sword, Needle. She reclaims the thin blade and finishes the soldier with one thrust.
In northern Westeros, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) receives a frosty reception from his Night's Watch comrades after escaping the wildling army and returning to Castle Black.
Master-of-arms Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) wants Jon beheaded for slaying a fellow "crow," veteran ranger Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong). But the killing was at Qhorin's request so Jon could appear traitorous and infiltrate the wildlings.
Defending Jon is elderly Aemon Targaryen (Peter Vaughan). He recognizes Jon's value to the Night's Watch as their enemies – including the undead White Walkers – draw near.
"We won't be taking your head today, Jon Snow," Aemon promises.
Across the sea from Westeros, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her thousands of warrior-eunuchs continue their relentless march toward Meereen, the mother of all slave cities.
Mercenary Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) offers Dany pointers on how to win over hearts and minds of the local populace.
"If you want them to follow you, you have to be part of their world," Daario advises.
Good strategy, sure. And having three dragons at one's command is also a plus.