Game of Thrones is back, and that means that for the duration of the season I’ll be polluting Blogtown with my opinions about swords. Last night’s episode was a season opener, so it was mostly catch-up. Characters did a lot of helpful exposition and explanation during the episode. Recappy speeches and dialogue were the order of the day, and, for the most part, it wasn’t too forced. People died. Nudity was seen. Things happened. Hit the jump for spoilers.

  • *SWOON!*

Fire and skin. Lord Tywin burned a wolf skin and melted down Ned’s old sword. It was a smug, celebratory action on Tywin’s part, but the episode made it clear that the Lannisters haven’t really won. The countryside is still littered with corpses, Stannis is still around, and lots of people hate the Lannisters. Tywin won the war for the Iron Throne, but ruthlessness has its price. Years later, people you screwed over are going to want revenge, such as…

Meet your new man-crush, everyone! The Byronic and dreamy Oberyn Martell, aka Red Viper, showed up last night. He’s mad at the Lannisters on account of his sister, Westros’ former queen-to-be, was murdered along with her infant children on the orders of Lord Tywin. Again, ruthlessness has consequences. However, that’s not the most notable thing about him. Game of Thrones now has a vaguely ethnic polyamourous queer person among its cast of characters. So far Game of Thrones has been middling to bad in how it’s handled diversity. Hopefully it won’t fuck this up.

Ygritte met some cannibals and Jon Snow is sad. In an attempt to make things in the North more interesting, Game of Throne’s writers had Ygritte and Tormund Giantsbane meet the Thenns, dudes with ritual scarification who eat other dudes. Meanwhile, mopey Jon Snow talked his way out of treason charges and convinced the Night Watch boss guys of the Wildling threat. Okay. I guess we needed to get that out of the way.

Meet the new Daario. Kinda different from the old Daario.If you noticed that Daario, Daenerys’ mercenary crush, was re-cast, the congratulations, you get a cookie. Last season he looked like a skinny Fabio. Now he has short dark hair and a beard. As a man with short dark hair and a beard, I fully support having this look held up as a paragon of undeniable masculine desirability. Also, the dragons are bigger now and eat sheep.

Meanwhile in King’s Landing, no one’s getting laid. Oberyn and his paramour’s brothel tryst was interrupted by Lannisters. Jaime and Cersei are reunited but not, you know, “reunited.” Tyrion and Sansa are married, but only on paper. Tyrion and Shae had an argument. Everyone’s unhappy, and no one’s having sex. It’s almost like unhappy domesticity is a metaphor for the technically peaceful but ultimately unsustainable political situation that’s currently happening in Westeros. Or something.

“A man’s got to have a code.” When the Hound quoted the most famous piece of dialogue from The Wire, my viewing party exploded with the distinctive laughter and applause of fandom that’s being pandered to. Having one morally ambiguous, scarred killer reference another goes right up to the line of naked fan service, but there’s a lot of The Wire in Game of Thrones’ DNA. The sprawling cast, the politics, the plots and alliances, the sex and violence. Very probably the show that’s most similar to one about swords and dragons is another that’s often touted for being supposedly realistic.

Araya Stark is the anti-Katniss. I haven’t seen The Hunger Games movies, but one of my main problems with the book was how incredibly bloodless many of Katniss’ victories were. Susan Collins wants us to cheer for her protagonist as a warrior and admire her skill, but when it comes to the true part of warrior-ing, killing people, The Hunger Games balks and shows almost no blood. Brave had a similar problem.

Arya Stark is a brave, plucky warrior kiddo, but Game of Thrones revels in how hugely fucked that trope actually is. We like rooting for Katniss and Merida because they’re courageous and know how to use neat weapons, but the logical conclusion of that is that the kids know how to kill people. Last night, Arya killed people slowly and deliberately. She drew out her kill of Polliver with a nasty relish that made it clear that not only is Arya an adorable sword kid, she also enjoys blood. I think I’m afraid of Massie Williams now.

Oh, and Joffrey and Margaery are getting married soon. I'm sure that that will go well for all involved. Weddings in Westeros are always lovely.