‘Game of Thrones’ Season Premiere Recap: Arya Stark Grows Up [Spoilers]

Winter has finally arrived! Last night, Game of Thrones returned to HBO with the much anticipated season four premiere episode Two Swords. And while the episode relied heavily on preparations for yet another royal wedding – this time between the Lannisters and the Tyrells (with fans still shaken by season three’s “Red Wedding” mind you) – there were glimpses of character growth for the remaining Stark clan as well.

Game of Thrones kicked off in slightly different fashion than usual with Lord Tywin forging two brand new swords made from Ned Stark’s gargantuan former blade. As Tywin put it last night, it’s not as if Ned Stark had much use for it any longer having been beheaded in Game of Thrones season one. What made this unique, however, was the trademark theme song came after this scene was played; a departure from the previous structure put in place throughout the first three seasons. And according to an article on Rolling Stone, reflecting on the events of season three’s aforementioned Red Wedding, there’s good reason for the change:

“The moment that Walder Frey and Roose Bolton delivered their wedding presents – with Tywin’s tacit encouragement – that spark was extinguished. With its driving conflict resolved in favor of the away team, the game as we knew it basically ended. For all intents and purposes, it’s a brand new show.”

What subsequently followed was an extensive look at the Lannister’s preparation for the upcoming Purple Wedding between King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell, played by Natalie Dormer. We were also introduced to a new character, Prince Oberyn Martell, who seeks vengeance for the wrongs committed by the Lannisters. And we share in Sansa Stark’s pain for having suffered the loss of her entire family to the Red Wedding, only to see her husband-by-arrangement Tyrion trying to comfort his new bride.

And while the Lannisters may have hogged the spotlight in this episode, it was the noticeable character growth undertaken by the remaining Stark clan that made Two Swords an incredibly gripping episode of Game of Thrones. First, the usually timid Jon Snow stood trial for breaking several vows and for killing his superior officer. Only now, after being shot by his Wildling lover Ygritte in the season three finale of Game of Thrones, Snow stands before the Night Watch a new man, full of confidence and determination with an impending war with the Wildlings upon them.

And lastly Arya Stark, who when paired up with the ruthless warrior Hound makes for a deranged buddy comedy of sorts, showed a disturbing, yet gratifying shift towards brutality herself. The pair come upon horses of men to whom Arya is quite familiar, with one of the riders, Polliver, having ended her friend’s life in cold blood last season. Seeking revenge, Arya runs into the tavern against Hound’s wishes where the cadre of King’s men is boasting their status and taking advantage of the local patrons. After a brief standoff between Hound and Polliver, fisticuffs and swordplay quickly ensue with Hound dispatching the majority of men that attack him.

But it’s Arya who makes the final move when she knocks Polliver to the ground and enacts vengeance with the sword Polliver stole from her on that fateful night last season. The two come away from the tavern well fed and with new horses as the pair travel on in search of Arya’s aunt.

Game of Thrones continues Sunday April 13th with the highly anticipated “Purple Wedding.”