The fourth season of "Game of Thrones" starts on Sunday, and while the usual concerns about spoilers apply even more to a show with such zest for killing off characters, the first notices don't give much away beyond the fact that we plunge back into the story at full speed, readying in particular for the wedding of Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell. At this point, it might be difficult to spoil given how many names we've had to keep in our head during the off-season -- Ser What did what to who? -- but the show does an elegant job of catching the audience up to speed, and the first reviews certain help with as well. (If you've got a few hours to spare, you can also comb through Vanity Fair's 8,300 word synopsis of the series so far.)
Reviews of "Game of Thrones," Season 4, Episode 1: "Two Swords"
Neil Miller, Film School Rejects
As season four gets up and takes off running, we are reminded why "Game of Thrones" is such an engaging hour of television every Sunday through April and May. Even its slowest moments are intriguing because its characters are boldly written and sharply tongued. Its action beats are intense and violent. Its sexuality is in no way subdued. And at its best, the show is completely unpredictable and meticulously detailed in its orchestration of pain and agony. So far as we can tell, season four stands to be its finest frame yet.
Chris Cabin, Slant Magazine
Where season three still showed some signs of the indecisive editing and troubled pacing that plagued the series from the start, the latest season moves with a thrilling decisiveness in both the cutting of the episodes and the adapting of George R.R. Martin's gargantuan tomes.
James Poniewozik, Time
HBO's fantasy series, returning to air April 6, is as stirring in its action, as rich in characters, and more sweeping in scope as ever. And while the ruling lions in King's Landing are savoring their triumphs in battle, it soon becomes plain that the war -- as often fought in palaces as on battlefields -- is far from over.
Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter
The consistent excellence in "Game of Thrones" is truly something to behold. Even in three episodes, viewers will sense things tightening up -- that winter and war are coming and they are coming on full-stop.
Sonia Saraiya, A.V. Club
Westeros is changed, and the rules of its stories have changed, as well. The first season of "Thrones" offered a story of medieval intrigue based on the Wars of the Roses, with some magic for good measure. This fourth season offers that same story, blown to pieces.
David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle
For many series, killing off major some major characters and having others change only happens because writers want to come up with something to renew viewer interest. In contrast, "Game of Thrones" isn't afraid of change: It's the lifeblood of the series, and just one of the reasons we keep watching.
Willa Paskin, Slate
"Game of Thrones" does world building and character creation at a level of detail unparalleled anywhere on television. But due to all this ambitious sprawl, "Game of Thrones" only occasionally puts together a satisfying standalone episode. There is too much going on, the one-hour limit too arbitrary. Except for those episodes dedicated to one seriously traumatic event, like the Red Wedding or the Battle of Blackwater, story is always leaking out the sides.