Last year, all I wanted was for people to shut the eff up about Game of Thrones. I don't have HBO, and for some reason I'm morally opposed to tacking on that extra 10 bucks to my cable bill. Last week, I got some advanced looks at Game of Thrones Season 2 episodes, and after knocking out the first season over the weekend... I can't shut the eff up about Game of Thrones. Yes, I am hooked, no doubt about it, but thankfully I'll be ingesting these episodes early every week, starting with the Game of Thrones Season 2 premiere, Episode 2.01: The North Remembers, which debuts Sunday, April 1 at 9 PM ET on HBO.
The tagline for Game of Thrones Season 1 last year (and also the title of the pilot episode) was "Winter is Coming," even though it really never, you know, came. Apparently that frosty season is still coming, for real this time, which we can see early on in this episode as the Night's Watch heads north of the wall in search of the missing ranger Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle), where there is actually snow on the ground. The end of Westeros' longest summer on record is also noted during a small council meeting with Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), Pycelle (Julian Glover), Jonas Slynt (Dominic Carter), and one of my favorite characters, Varys (Conleth Hill). Since seasons apparently last for a few years at a time in the land of Westeros, it will be curious to see how this affects the look of the show, since I presume (perhaps incorrectly) that winter means almost constant darkness.
The episode opens on the bratty young king Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), who is celebrating his "name day" by watching armored brutes battle it out, with Sandor Clegane a.k.a The Hound (Rory McCann) emerging victorious. When one of the next combatants is late, Joffrey contemplates killing him, by forcing a keg of wine down his throat, but lets him go when The Hound delivers a compelling line that speaks volumes about the world they live in: "What a man sows on his name day, he reaps all year." Thankfully, that notion isn't entirely true in modern day...
While it's a minor and somewhat unimportant part in the grand scheme of this episode, I rather enjoyed a scene with young Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Maester of Winterfell Luwin (Donald Sumpter) hearing the concerns of their fellow Winterfellians. As the only Stark in Winterfell, Bran is the ruling Lord, and we can see already that this once-innocent boy is capable of tempestuous rants with his newfound "power," although not quite to the extreme of Joffrey. It is interesting to see what positions of leadership can do to boys so young.
In the first season, whoever sits on the Iron Throne rules all of Westeros. This season, the nation is fractured, with new factions sprouting up from all sides. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) rose up to be "King of the North" at the end of Season 1, and this season, he is leading his army south towards Kings Landing, winning every battle, seeking vengeance for his murdered father. He also seeks the North to be free of the Iron Throne's rule as its own sovereign nation. We also finally get to meet Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), the actual true heir to the throne, who is amassing a following alongside the priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten) and the strong-silent-type Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham). This group has sent a message throughout the Seven Kingdoms about the Lannister's incestuous ways, and that Stannis should be king. There is even mention of Mance Rayder, who is building a massive army north of the wall to invade the "southerners." There is a little throwaway line by Stark matriarch Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) that illustrates this point perfectly: "There's a king in every corner now." But will each of these "kings" rule over their respected lands, or will one ruler be able to put Westeros back together again? That seems to be the main question that will linger throughout Season 2
And, what would a Game of Thrones episode be without The Imp himself, Tyrion Lannister (the fantastic, Emmy-winning Peter Dinklage), who seems to be in higher spirits than usual, reveling in his new interim role as Hand of the King. I know this is a huge show with a monstrous cast, but I really hope we get more Tyrion this season. We also get a glimpse at khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her three new "babies," as they journey through a wretched desert known as The Red Waste, to avoid anyone who might steal her precious creatures, which may change the fate of all Westeros.
This episode ends with an explosive chain of events that shows just how ruthless Joffrey is at a young age. Winter is still coming, but an all-out war in Westeros may arrive quicker than the snowfall.
If you agree, disagree, or just want to talk about this fantastic land of Westeros, you can find me on Twitter @GallagherMW.