The fourth season of 'Game of Thrones' begins with the same notes that cued the Red Wedding. "The Rains of Castamere," the ballad of Lannister power, plays as Tywin melts down Ned Stark's greatsword, leaving no doubt that the Lannisters' are keeping their grip on the kingdom. "Tywin understands how power works instinctively in a way that few men in this world do," series creator D.B. Weiss explains in this week's Inside the Episode. Notes the A.V. Club's Todd VanDerWerff, "This is now the Lannisters’ world; the other characters are forced to live in it."
Enter Oberyn Martell, who made quite the first impression. Vanity Fair is already "obsessed" with the Dornish prince. Actor Pedro Pascal tells Rolling Stone about his character's distinct swagger: "All of his danger, all of his lust, all of his rage, comes from a very specific emotional truth." Like so many in Westeros, Oberyn is fueled by tragedy; his mission is to avenge his sister's death. (Explore his backstory and get to know House Martell with the newly-expanded 'Game of Thrones' Viewer's Guide.)
While Oberyn is setting the scene for revenge, Arya is making it happen. Christopher Orr of The Atlantic praised Arya and the Hound's unlikely partnership: "They’re developing quite the rookie-cop/grizzled-vet chemistry, aren’t they?" Working together, they both get what they want – the Hound gets his fill of chicken, while Arya rides off on a white horse with her sword Needle in tow. "She looks downright happy, for once, and there's something dispiriting about that," Entertainment Weekly notes.
Actress Maisie Williams tells New York Magazine that Arya's "got a hole in her heart. She fills it with all these eyes that she's going to shut forever." That darkness raised questions for audiences. Rolling Stone asks, "Should we stop to think that an abused child turning into an accomplished killer is deeply sad, no matter how much her victims deserve it?" New York Magazine calls the scene's rendition of theme song "still triumphal, but now a little sad. Arya’s smiling to herself, but what exactly has she won?"
Rewatch the scene below and share your interpretation in the comments:
NOTE: This clip contains graphic content and language and has been approved for mature audiences only.
Icing on the Lemoncake:
Not everyone is anti-Lannister:
Someone is all grown up:
The Iron Throne has a new contender: