In the Season 2 premiere, “The North Remembers,” we pick up the threads of Season 1 shortly after we left them. With the death of his father Ned (Sean Bean), young Robb Stark (Richard Madden) has been declared King of the North by his bannerman and wages slow and deliberate war against the Lannisters, even taking King Slayer Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) hostage. Robb’s bastard half-brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has made his choice to stand as a member of the Night’s Watch, a black-clad Brotherhood that guards the Wall, a thousand-foot high barrier of ice that separates the Kingdom of Westeros from the terrors of the unknown North. The incestuous king Joffrey I (Jack Gleeson) has ascended the throne and begun his reign of terror, with Robb’s sister and Ned’s eldest daughter Sansa (Sophie Turner) held hostage to become his unwilling bride. Younger Stark daughter Arya (Maisie Williams) has managed to escape the trap of King’s Landing and is en route North with the dead king’s bastard son, Gendry (Joe Dempsie). Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) has proven himself in battle and finds himself charged with returning to King’s Landing to bring the new king to hand. And, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), the last descendent of the prior royal family, has become Khaleesi of the Dothraki, a horse clan that controls the Great Plains west of Braavos, then used the pyre of her dead husband to birth the first dragons seen in over a thousand years.
If this sounds like a lot of information, it is. GoT is not a series for the faint of heart or the short attention span. It does not seek to bring along slowly, but, instead, throws a viewer into the deep end and lets them sink or swim. But, for all of its density and attention to detail, the series remains surprisingly accessible and dramatic for those willing to put in the effort.
Not content to rest with the cast of thousands already assembled, we also meet new characters in this episode. Melisandre (Carice van Houten), a Priestess of R’hllor who seeks to supplant the Old Gods with her new Lord of Light, and the king she serves, Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), elder brother to Renly (seen in Season 1) and the true heir to the throne. Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) is a former smuggler and now a knight in Stannis’ service. And, Craster (Robert Pugh) lives in the last bastion of civilization north of the Wall, a cantankerous bastard with the disturbing habit of marrying his own daughters.
-In King’s Landing, Tyrion returns to assume his position as Hand, the advisor to the king, while Joffrey continues to play his cruel and sadistic games and Cersei exercises her own plays in the Game of Thrones.
-In Dragonstone, Melisandre burns the effigies of the Seven, the old gods worshipped by Westeros, and proclaims Stannis Baratheon the one true king, despite the misgivings of his priest. Emboldened by her faith, Stannis dispatches ravens to all corners of the kingdom, bearing news of Joffrey’s incestuous birth and claiming the throne as his right.
-North of the Wall, Jon Snow meets the unpleasant and dangerous Craster, as the Night’s Watch rests on their trek into the wild to hunt down Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-The-Wall, who is amassing a wildling army to march south…into Westeros.
-In the North, Robb sends an offer of peace to the Lannisters, hoping to exchange his hostage Jaime for his sisters and his father’s remains. But, he also continues his plans for war and charges his mother as his envoy to broker an allegiance with Renly Baratheon.
-In the Red Wastes south of Vaes Dothrak, Danaerys Targaryan struggles to lead her weak and starving people to safety…and vengeance.
-And, finally, the threat to succession made by Robert’s bastard children is answered with their merciless slaughter by Lannister soldiers, as they set their sights on the surviving heir, Gendry…travelling north on the King’s Road to the Wall with Arya.
-And, hanging over it all, an ominous comet blazes through the skies, symbolizing something different to all who view it: blood red for Ned Stark’s death, Lannister crimson for the lion, and a portent of dragons in the sky to the Wildlings.
Yet, for all of its vast scope, GoT remains firmly entrenched in its characters. Yes, there are dragons and wizards and witches and frozen undead, but it is the characters that drive the story. And, they’re not infallible. And, more so…they know it.
When Robb Stark commands his mother to act as envoy for him, we see the briefest glimpse of a scared young man being asked to do more than he ever expected in place of his slaughtered father.
When Littlefinger threatens the Queen with his awareness of Joffrey’s true parentage, he coyly warns her that “knowledge is power,” before she turns the tables and makes him realize that “Power is power.” But, moments later, she finds herself shaken by that same lesson as she gains the first inkling that the child she has raised to the throne may be a monster she cannot control.
Because that’s where GoT shines best, in its depictions of the shifting scales of power, and the rising of the powerless to high positions, only to learn that power doesn’t exist to serve them, only itself. Jon Snow is the bastard not even worthy of the Stark name, but becomes the steward to the Lord Protector of the Night’s Watch and his unspoken successor. Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf son and joke of House Lannister, finds himself elevated to the position of Hand, second only to the king. Danaerys Targaryan grows from a frightened, homesick girl to the leader of a nation and mother of dragons, only to find it’s not enough to have power, one must also wield it firmly.
In GoT, the ones who survive are the ones who can adapt. Arya adapts different identities to make her way in Westeros. Sansa learns to be a quiet, compliant cipher to avoid Joffrey’s wrath. Tyrion has long since learned to play the fool, because it appears less dangerous to those in power.
And, it is Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion that we look most forward to seeing in this season. From his top billing in the opening credits after his well-deserved Emmy nod, Tyrion (along with Arya and Jon) has been one of the favorites among GoT fans. Seeing him back in Lannister motley has never been more welcome, and he plays the role with devilish aplomb and wit. (To Cersei: “You love your children; it’s your one redeeming quality. That, and your cheekbones.”)
In fact, all the main actors seem to have a graceful comfort in their roles. After the awkwardness of set-up during the first half of Season 1 (in which the story role of exposition whore was actually a whore!), Season 2 takes off without a glance back. Unburdened by the need to introduce the world to viewers, the story takes a front seat now, and the cast is free to truly explore the depths of their characters.
Additionally, HBO seems to have opened up the purse strings on budget, if this episode and the previews are any indication. The direwolves, which are so integral to the book, came off as underfed coyotes in Season 1, but now take on terrifying new CGI dimensions in Season 2 and look to become the characters they were originally written as, and battles scenes that were hinted at previously may now come to bloody fruition in this season, which would make up for Tyrion’s embarrassing introduction to war in the first season.
Overall, if producers Benioff and Weiss can maintain the pace and drive they’ve given us so far (and there’s no reason to believe they can’t), this season should be as successful as the last and continue to pave the way to the eagerly-anticipated Book 3.
Game of Thrones’ ten-episode second season airs weekly on HBO, beginning April 1st.
The Contest of the Five Things – CONTEST DETAILS!
We at FBC are big fans of George R.R. Martin’s epic tale of kings, beheadings, direwolves, and dragons, so The Contest of the Five Things is a prize package fit for royalty. One winner will receive a copy of A Game of Thrones, the first novel in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, an SDCC edition Game of Thrones carrying bag, a ‘Map of Westeros’ mousepad, a ‘House of Baratheon’ t-shirt, and a ‘Daenerys Stormborn’ print featuring the amazing art work of Grant Gould (www.grantgould.com)!
All interested fans should enter by retweeting the following when you see it posted on the Fanboy Comics (@FanboyComix) Twitter account:
Check out FBC’s Game of Thrones Season 2 premiere review and awesome giveaway!!! #contestofthe5things RT to enter!!!
We’ll be tweeting this message all week, so keep your eyes peeled! Multiple entries are permitted, so retweet away!!! The contest will officially close on April 5th, 2012, at 5:00 p.m./PST.
And, remember, readers...Winners are coming.
At the end of the week, the FBC staff will choose one lucky warg to win the coveted booty of The Contest of the Five Things. The winner will be announced on the Fanboy Comics website on Friday, April 6th, 2012, along with being notified through Twitter. (International entries will be accepted for this contest.)
Congratulations to the following winner in The Contest of the Five Things:
@Sylar2792 - Morgane
The winner will be notified by Twitter, as well. Congratulations, and thank you to everyone who entered!