Ned Stark may have lost his head in season one, but his mighty greatsword, Ice–as much a symbol of his grim, cold morality as his family’s famous saying, “Winter is Coming”–still endured.
Until now. A triumphant Tywin Lannister melts Ice and reforges it into the “Two Swords” for which the season four premiere episode of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is named. He allows himself just the smallest hint of a grin as he does it–an evil but purposeful man taking slight enjoyment in his victory.
As season four begins, the Lannisters have all but won the War of Five Kings, which began when Ned was beheaded by the arrogant, inbred King Joffrey, and ended when Ned’s son and wife were brutally murdered at the infamous Red Wedding. Sansa Stark, believed to be the last living member of her family, is a prisoner of the Lannisters and a prisoner of her own nightmares, which are haunted by the terrifying knowledge of how her family died.
Robb, her eldest brother, was stabbed after watching his own wife bleed to death. Sansa’s mother, Catelyn, was tossed into a river, her throat slit. Sansa’s own sentence–becoming the wife of the deformed, outcast Lannister, Tyrion–is only better by degrees.
Of course, Tyrion is no longer the only Lannister with significant physical handicaps. Jaime, once the mightiest fighter in the Seven Kingdoms, has lost his sword hand. That’s an unfortunate turn of events for someone whose job–guarding the king–requires no small amount of proficiency with a blade.
One of the many taglines of the show is, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” But “Two Swords,” suggests that there are actually a number of other options. Sometimes, you achieve all-surpassing victory. Sometimes, you die horribly. But other times, you just go home, with whatever changes you have been forced to accept, like the loss of a hand or the addition of an unsightly facial scar. Indeed, most of Game of Thrones’ characters have neither won nor died because they played the game. Most are just trying to cope with the changes such carnage has wrought.