The Remote: ‘Game of Thrones’ Premiere Review: ‘Two Swords’ is the show at its sharpest

By: Ryan Pait

Winter may always be coming on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” but luckily for viewers, it’s no winter of discontent.

In fact, Sunday’s premiere shows “Game of Thrones” at its best and brightest.

The episode begins with a cold open, in which Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) oversees the melting down of dead Ned Stark’s (RIP, Sean Bean!) old sword.

It’s a quiet, visual scene that quickly recaps the past three seasons: the Lannisters are in charge now, and the Starks are, for the most part, dead or otherwise displaced. It also segues perfectly into the show’s ever-captivating credit sequence.

Not many shows would have the guts to open a season with a nearly silent scene, but confidence seems to be the new currency of the realm for “Game of Thrones.”

That’s not to say that the show hasn’t always been good. Even from the beginning, “Game of Thrones” has been exceptional. What makes it outstanding is that it keeps getting better while also getting bigger.

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss seem to have injected the show with new, self-assured energy, however. It’s a premiere episode of “Game of Thrones,” meaning that we must play catchup with the show’s horde of characters.

But there’s something sprightly about the way “Two Swords” moves as a premiere. It’s one of the show’s faster episodes, and one of its funniest.

The actors have never seemed more comfortable in their roles, and even new additions, such as Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) feel like welcome spice instead of filler. “Game of Thrones” thrives on finding new pairings for its characters, and the lived-in performances feel more emotionally resonant than ever, despite the show’s fantasy setting.

Said setting also grows in scope each season. As things get worse for the characters on this show, the production design and cinematography only become more beautiful and inventive.

Weiss and Benioff have also grown much more adept at elegantly weaving in the complex backstory of George R.R. Martin’s books upon which the show is based. Characters recap important parts of the history of the show through clever and believable dialogue, and small references to past seasons and the books make the show feel like a whole.

The premiere closes with a 10-minute sequence featuring Arya (Maisie Williams) and the Hound (Rory McCann). They’re one of the show’s most perfectly matched pairs, and their dialogue is written in a way that’s hilariously brought to life by the two.

The tavern brawl the pair finds themselves in represents the best of what “Game of Thrones” has to offer: drama, depth, and damn good performances. It’s one of the show’s most satisfying — but ambiguous — scenes.

Weiss and Benioff have obviously hit their stride here.

“Game of Thrones” seems to be entering its imperial age, and if the premiere is any indication, the best is yet to come.

So let the snows of winter fall.

With “Game of Thrones,” it’s sure to be a hell of a ride.

Grade: A-

“Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9/8C on HBO. Previous seasons are available on DVD, Blu-Ray, HBOGo, iTunes, Amazon and On Demand.