Winter is behind us in real life, but in the brutal realm of Westeros, it's just days away.
When "Game of Thrones" returns Sunday for its second season, the days of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell will be behind us, with the reign of Tyrion Lannister (and another Emmy-worthy performance from Peter Dinklage) in our future. Based on the second novel in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, "A Clash of Kings," season two of "Thrones" promises even more political intrigue, warfare, sex and violence than ever before — and given the show in question, that's certainly saying something!
Several critics have already seen the first episode of the new season of "Thrones," and with very few exceptions, their reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. Here's a taste of the reviews:
"It's a pleasure to see that 'Game of Thrones' hasn't lost a grip on its ability to tell a vast, interconnected story without slowing down the pace. What's truly impressive is that as life is breathed into these storylines, 'Game of Thrones' just gets better and more fulfilling as a top-tier television series. The intrigue of the plot and the keenly drawn characters — plus the sense instilled in Season 1 that absolutely anything can happen and no one is safe — makes the show all the more compelling." — Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter
Accessibility for Non-Readers
"I had read the first volume of George R.R. Martin's saga 'A Song of Ice and Fire' (the source material for this series) before I watched the first season of 'GoT' so I would be familiar with the vast array of characters and plots that would develop. But I intentionally did not read the epic's second volume, 'A Clash of Kings,' before watching the start of 'GoT' season 2, because I wanted to see if I'd have trouble following the new intricacies. And I'm here to report that my lack of homework in no way prevented me from becoming enthralled with this series all over again. That's a testament to what adapters David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have accomplished in whittling down and reshaping Martin's novels for weekly TV. It's difficult enough to hook a viewer like me, who resists sprawling, noncontemporary narratives; it's another level of pop culture wizardry to make such storytelling seem so vivid, so vital, and just plain fun." — Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
Blood and Boobs
" 'Thrones' creates such a rich visual feast — replete with plenty of gratuitous nudity and blood-letting — as to almost obscure its fundamental storytelling pleasures, which are as much a mob drama as anything else, having traded bullets for broadswords. By that measure, this really might [be] the closest spiritual heir to 'The Sopranos' HBO has delivered since the show's notorious whiteout." — Brian Lowry, Variety
The New Guys in Town
"Even though I'm a fan of Martin's novels, I must confess that I always found the Stannis retainer Davos Seaworth fairly bland and boring, but Liam Cunningham, like Emilia Clarke, ably brings to life a character who could seem rather remote on the page. Several other smaller roles have been filled with lively specificity, but I have to wonder if we'll get enough time with each of these people. Will the plight of Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), a stoic warrior who nurtures an unrequited love for royal contender Renly Baratheon, be as sadly evocative as it was in the books? Will there be time for the show to do more than lightly sketch the dilemmas of minor but interesting characters like her?" — Maureen Ryan, Huffington Post
The Bottom Line
"As with the novels, this 'Game of Thrones' is breathtakingly ambitious, an ever-unfurling tapestry that threatens, at times, to overwhelm its frame. That it does not is a testament to the power of piecework — art is not defined by the space it occupies but by its details, the truth it captures. Many heads bend over this adaptation, each belonging to a master of his or her craft, and what emerges is a truly new, and miraculously accurate, definition of epic television." — Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times
Are you excited for more "Thrones" action? Tell us in the comments section or hit me up on Twitter @roundhoward!