Watching the Throne: The North Remembers
This recap will be dark and full of terrors….and really, how could it not be? The North Remembers was full of incest, blood sport, Shae’s way too accurate sense of smell, and of course, dead babies. The types of things writers who recap NCIS or Dancing with the Stars never, ever, have to deal with. Game of Thrones kicks off its second season with gruesome style to spare, wasting zero time reintroducing the viewing audience to all 10,000 characters. We’re dropped right into the middle of the action, almost exactly where last season left off, with only an ominous red comet streaking across the sky serving as the connective tissue between many different characters that are separated by vast distances, both emotional and geographical.
In the South:
Tyrion returns from the battle fields to King’s Landing where he will serve as Hand of the King in his father’s absence. He knows no one wants him there, least of all his sister Cersei, and takes great pleasure in strolling into the council meeting whistling an undeniably sarcastic tune. Here we see the chilling emotional distance between Cersei and Tyrion as she surveys all his cocky and boastful aplomb with a predatory gaze. Tyrion, unimpressed by his sister’s posturing, begins to break her down slowly, calling her to task for failing to prevent Ned Stark’s death and for not controlling Joffery. He ends his rant by reminding Cersei that she has now replaced him as the disappointment to their father. Tyrion has another wonderful (albeit kind of gross) scene, with his mistress Shae, in which she lists all the different odors her nose detects in King’s landing, and discusses how the smell of fornication makes her want to fornicate as well…which Tyrion has no problem with whatsoever. Peter Dinklage, playing of George R R Martin’s text, and David Benioff’ and Dan Weiss’ scripts, had made Tyrion his own while reinforcing everything that was already great about him on the page. Tyrion Lannister can proudly take his place along Tony Soprano, Al Swearengen, and Omar Little in the pantheon of great characters on HBO shows.
While Tyrion’s antics in the capital are a pleasure to behold, the other scenes set in the south focus intensely on Cersei and Joffery. We see both characters wielding their considerable power in very different ways; Joffery spends the episode being the sadistic little tyrant we all know and hate, even sardonically calming that “the king can do as he wants!” He forces lowly knights to fight to the death against his fierce body guard The Hound, he terrorizes poor Sansa every chance he gets, and he even gets in touch with his inner decorator, by commissioning a full overhaul of the throne room. Cersei uses her power much more effectively, but no less cruelly. After Littlefinger slightly taunts her with the fact he knows that Joffery is the product of incest between her and Jamie, she terrorizes him with her royal guardsman, reminding him that power is power, and all his secret knowledge means very little when she can have his life snuffed out at any moment. She does something that everyone watching the show wants to do: slap the taste out of Joffery’s mouth! Joffery, feeling a bit down after getting the taste slapped out of his mouth by Cersei, decides to grow up and do the right thing. He has soldiers go out into the capital and round up all of his father’s bastards…and then has them slaughtered mercilessly. EVEN THE BABIES!!!
We are also introduced to Stannis Baratheon, King Robert’s younger brother and true heir to the Iron Throne. As well as his most trusted knight and advisor Ser Davos, and the mysterious priestess Melisandre; this scene suffered a slight bit from exposition overload, but was still pretty effective in setting up these new characters and their backstories for viewers unfamiliar with the books.
In the North
Robb Stark continues to kick ass and take names in season 2, using his dire wolf Greywind to put some much needed fear into Jamie Lannister’s heart. Robb has won a few more battles since we last saw him. However, it might turn out to be that Robb, like his father before him, doesn’t always consider the overarching political ramifications of his military decisions. When his second in command Theon Gravejoy offers to return to his homeland, The Iron Islands, to ask his father Balon Gravejoy to help aid in Robb’s rebellion against King Joffery, his mother Caitlyn urges against it, saying the Gravejoy’s are not to be trusted….
Bran is ruling in Winterfell, while his Robb is waging War on the south. But unlike Joffery he is being instructed how to be a kind and attentive ruler, who actually cares about his subjects. Also, he turns into his dire wolf in his dreams…so…he’s got that going for him…
Beyond the Wall
Jon Snow continues to march with The Nights Watch to find out about the mysterious goings-on in beyond the wall in the “true north”. Jon and other members of The Night’s Watch are making camp in Craster’s Keep before heading ever further north. The very progressive(sarcasm) and forward-thinking (sarcasm) Craster, has a habit of marrying his daughters and getting them pregnant with more daughters…which he will in turn marry someday. Oh Game of Thrones…you’re so icky sometimes.
Across the Narrow Sea
Daenerys and crew are lost in the dessert. The Horse Khal Drogo gave her as a wedding present dies. There is a Dragon…and that’s…pretty much it.
Which brings me to my critical assessment of the episode: while I loved every single minute that was on the screen, I wanted more, and the episode needed more. With so much going on in the narrative, and so many characters’ eating up screen time, the episode would have benefited greatly from an extended running time. Personally, I wish HBO would extend the running time of all the episodes up to 75 minutes. This world is so dense…50 minutes is simply not enough time to get it all in.
There were some very interesting examinations of power this week. We saw how power can change people, and how people allow themselves to be changed by power. Every character on the show is vying for said power in some way, each one of them believing their claim is more just than the next person’s. Yet, as we learned in season 1 there is no black and white in the world of Westeros, possessing honor and virtuous intentions won’t stop an axe from taking your head clean off; conversely, being endless treacherous and manipulative won’t always save you either. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Welcome back GOT. You have been missed.
Here’s a preview for next week’s episode: