And so it’s back with a slash (or clash as it were) of swords – Game of Thrones. The opening episode of the second season had a lot to cram in, as we caught up with old friends and enemies, and met new ones. Not a lot happened until right at the very end, but trust me, from someone who’s read the book, there is plenty to come in the rest of the series.
Still the most horrid family in existence, still holding on to the Iron Throne and still getting the best lines, it’s the Lannisters.
This week the most cunning, and the funniest, Lannister – Tyrion – was reunited with his sister Cersei and his awful nephew Joffrey, who takes the crown for most vile character in a television programme ever. Find me someone worse and I’ll make you a paper crown.
Now the Hand of the King and essentially in charge at King’s Landing, Tyrion’s first job is to put Cersei in her place with his usual way with words.
Poor Cersei also gets a telling off from Joffrey, who confronts her with the rumour that his father is in fact his uncle Jamie, and now the former King Robert. Still, Cersei gets her own back with a well-placed slap to Joffrey’s smug little face, although it doesn’t seem to make much difference. It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for her. Almost.
Still, it shows Cersei knows how to be kick-ass, as demonstrated when she orders her guards to kill the slimy Littlefinger and then stops them at the last minute. He might think knowledge is power, but as Cersei points out: “Power is power.”
While the Lannisters are slowly gathering at King’s Landing, the Starks are spread far and wide.
With his father Ned dead, Robb has been declared King in the North, and is fighting battles with the Lannisters and their bannermen on all fronts. Luckily, he has Jaime Lannister as his prisoner, and in a great confrontation we get to see Robb show his strength – and his direwolf Grey Wind – prompting the first time we’ve seen Jaime truly afraid. It’s good to see a different side to both characters, as Robb is usually more diplomatic and Jaime is confident and cocky.
However confident he is, the King in the North has his mother along for guidance, and he shows some Joffrey-like stubbornness when he forbids her to go home and see her two really, really young sons. It may seem for a moment that Robb is channelling Joffrey, but actually the relationship between Robb and Catelyn is a great contrast to that of Joffrey and Cersei. While the former argue, they settle their differences because of love and honour and family, while the latter are only out for themselves.
As Robb rules out on the battlefield (currently with Theon Greyjoy at his side although keep an eye on that one), it’s left to Bran and the even younger Rickon to rule at the Stark family seat Winterfell.
We only see the youngest Stark boys briefly, but they are featured in important scenes, as Bran’s strange dreams from season one continue, and the boys follow a mysterious red comet in the sky.
Back in King’s Landing Sansa is subject to the whims of Joffrey, and holding up mightily well considering what a toad he is, and Arya is sporting a horrid haircut and pretending to be a boy on the King’s Road, alongside one of King Robert’s bastard sons.
The most significant of our new characters is Stannis Baratheon, the oft-mentioned but before now never seen third brother in the Baratheon clan. He has laid claim to his dead brother’s throne, currently occupied by Joffrey.
Also facing competition from his youngest brother Renly and aware that Robb Stark has half the kingdom under his control, Stannis has turned to Melisandre, a mysterious, magical and slightly sinister representative of a new religion.
The flame-haired priestess manages in the first episode to convert Stannis and his men to the religion of R’hllor, and to kill Stannis’ former priest by poisoning him. This is not a woman to mess with.
Our first glimpses of Stannis show him as tough and uncompromising, but it’s his knight Davos Seaworth who shows true grit by standing up to Stannis.
Season one ended with Daenerys Targaryen emerging triumphant from the fire holding three baby dragons, the first to be seen in the land for years.
Things are not going so well as we see her in season two. The dragons are growing, but her people – loyal to her because they were loyal to her dead husband Drogo – and her horses are dying as they wonder through a vast desert.
Still, Daenerys shows her tough side, not stopping to cry and instead taking the brave decision to send out riders to see what they can find, leaving the group short of four of their best men.
Daenerys is likely to go through some tough times this season (read the book, not telling), but for the moment it looks like one of her worries will be of the romantic sort. The ever-loyal Jorah Marmont has always had a thing for Daenerys, and this episode I definitely caught a vibe between Daenerys and Rakharo as she sent him off to scout out the terrain. Her people may be suffering, but Daenerys is clearly still loved.
Yes, he gets his own category because he’s my favourite character, and there’s no way Catelyn would ever see him as a Stark.
Jon is Beyond The Wall (it needs to go in caps) meeting the loathesome Craster, whose wives are his daughters. He’s despicable and makes everyone’s skin crawl, but the Night’s Watch need to stay on his right side if they’re ever to find out and conquer the danger beyond The Wall.
Honourable as he is, Jon is unable to keep his disdain for Craster a secret, prompting a confrontation with Craster, who is grooming Jon to take over the Night’s Watch one day.
Kit Harrington, as always, plays Jon with a perfect mix of moodiness and honour, and always manages to show both his strength and his sensitivity, making him easily one of the best characters in Game of Thrones (even if he doesn’t get the good lines like the Lannisters).
Violence and (gratuitous) nudity tally
It took 47 minutes, 47 MINUTES, before Game of Thrones threw in some gratuitous nudity, in a brothel. This would have been unheard of in season one. While we could quite easily have done without the naked prostitute, the scene in the brothel was played out so it could then contrast with the horror of what came next – the brutal slaughter of a baby.
Game of Thrones has a reputation for pulling no punches with its violence, but this episode takes the lead, by miles, for horrible, horrible killings. As Cersei’s guards went round the city killing every child they suspected of being King Robert’s bastard, I sat with my hand over my mouth staring in disbelief. It was a really difficult to watch few minutes of television, but very, very effective, and a demonstration of just how tough life in Game of Thrones is, and how far the Lannisters will go to keep a hold on power.
When you play the Game of Thrones…
This week’s episode was a brilliant start to the second series, with Game of Thrones picking straight up where it left off at the end of season one, and losing none of its momentum despite the huge amount of exposition needed in this first episode. We’re now set up well for the rest of the season, so things can really get going. What, you thought there was enough killing and confrontation in this episode? Please, we’re only just getting started.