by Joel Hanek
A brief preamble: While I can’t claim that I was there from the beginning and have devoured all of George R. R. Martin’s fantastic series in literary form, I have been claiming my right to the throne ever since marathoning the first season of “Game of Thrones” over a weekend. In other words: I’m not an expert, I’m just a fan who now annoys all of his friends by constantly asking them if they’ve watched the show yet and gets frustrated when Auto-Correct messes up all of my texts in Dothraki.
By some miracle divined by the Internet Gods the shocking reveal of Ned Stark’s beheading at the end of season one remained unspoiled for me – so I approached season two not with the question of how would the death of the Stark patriarch effect the characters in the realm but rather how would it effect the show as a whole? To the Westeros virgin, Eddard seemed to be the glue of the show, and without him I was curious to see whether “Game of Thrones” would thrive or languish. Thrive it does.
Warning: spoilers are coming.
Let me just start by saying that if ending the opening episode of the first season with a soft-core incest sex scene is too subtle for your palette, “Game of Thrones” has got you covered in season two by seeing your sibling ribaldry, matching it with paternal incest, and then upping the ante with baby murder. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Opening the episode in King’s Landing we pick right up where we left off with the Lannister family: Joffrey is still King Douche, Cersei has mastered the smile-cry face that she does, and Tyrion continues to be the Chandler of the group. I love Tyrion because he is one of the few characters that forces the viewer to step back and take a look at the larger picture in the world of Westeros: his quips offer levity by shining a light of self-awareness on the absurdity of it all while simultaneously cutting to the underlying raw emotion of characters motivations (e.g. his “bastards and broken things” speech to Jon Snow to this week’s brilliant “redeeming qualities” speech to Cersei about her cheekbones and her love of family).
Meanwhile in Winterfell, I am proud that Bran has aspired to bigger dreams and has swapped Blinky the Raven for direwolves.
The first new central characters of the season we see are the Fire Priestess Melisandre and Stannis Baratheon. One thing I’ve learned from "Game of Thrones" is that if you have awesome sideburns your days are numbered. So when Melisandre pulls a Vizzini on ol’ Maester Cressen, she quickly becomes one of the few characters that is portrayed as untrustworthy from her very introduction. Stannis, meanwhile, barely has any screen time here, so perhaps it’s too soon to judge, but I find myself already missing Robert. The slain King Baratheon was such a large presence on-screen. Stannis has yet to make a single joke about his love of drinking and whores, yet it seems he’ll play a larger part in influencing the fate of the realm than his scene stealing brother.
Speaking of dead kings, somewhere in Robb Stark’s roving camp we find the Kingslayer Jamie Lannister in captivity sporting a Williamsburg hipster beard. It’s great to see the first stages of metamorphosis for Robb as he went from hesitant heir in season one on to full-fledged leader of men. The stage for the Stark power players has been set as Theon finds a purpose and sets off to the Iron Islands to recruit support from his estranged family, while bereaved Catelyn heads off to seek alliance with Renly Baratheon.
For the big finish, “Game of Thrones” decided to pull all of the stops. While Jon Snow infers the sinister act of infanticide up north Beyond the Wall, the show actually shows more child abuse than a “Toddlers & Tiaras” episode when King Joffrey, still reelin’ from slappin’ Cersei’s action chop and those nasty incest rumors, orders all of Robert Baratheon’s bastards be slain. Joffrey is the super villain that the other Lannisters could never be.
All in all this was a pretty awesome way to start the season and shed any doubts about the series being great without Ned Stark. Can they put Dany on Westeros now, please?