With Mark Addy and Sean Bean having their characters going with the gods last season, when the opening credits for Game of Thrones roll this time around, it’s Peter Dinklage, playing Tyrion Lannister, whose name comes up first, and it’s only appropriate as he is the strongest part of the first two episodes of the highly anticipated second season. But that’s not to say the rest of the premiere is weak; far from it. In fact, the second season is merely more of the same in the best way possible as it picks up almost immediately after the end of the first season as war begins between the Lannisters and the Starks and the stakes and drama have never been higher. And along with all the familiar faces fighting for their families honor and respect amongst the rest of the kingdoms, there’s plenty of new characters to keep things interesting. Read my full take on the second season premiere of Game of Thrones after the jump.
There’s not much bloodshed in the same vein that brought many sword battles and throat slitting in the first season, but that’s not to say that death isn’t still the driving force of a lot of drama, especially in the case of one particular action by the sniveling, weasel of a king that is Joffrey Lannister (Jack Gleeson). This season further proves that while the entire Lannister clan is full of conniving, deceptive, excuses for human beings, at a young age, Joffrey might very well be the worst of them all. Even Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) seems a little less villainous by comparison after the first couple episodes.
Meanwhile, Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau)is still in the custody of the Starks with Robb (Richard Madden) now leading his army as best he can, with the still present influence of his father still on his mind. A worried Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) does her best to help guide, but the war is inevitable, and the Stark clan must be bold in their moves from now on. However, with the Stark daughters Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya (Maisie Williams) each in their own risky prisons, they must also be careful. In these dealings it is clear that the politics of this world will very much be at play here, perhaps more than the sword even, though a big battle is certainly on the horizon.
Back at King’s Landing, Tyrion Lannister is at his best. Ruling with a sharp tongue in his father’s absence at war, his dwarf stature doesn’t stop him from standing as tall as any other king in the land. Dinklage is clearly the top performer in the entire series. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the cast is phenomenal, but Dinklage is in a league all his own. Following close behind is Kit Harrington as Jon Snow, who now finds himself stuck on the Night’s Watch when he would rather be fighting alongside his family, bastard or not. Harrington is subtle, serious and always great. Of course, Emilia Clarke also continues to hold her own as Daenerys Targaryen, despite the fact that she’s merely wandering the desert, with three small dragons at her disposal. Clarke has the ability to feel so young and innocent with a strange darkness and danger under her piercing eyes and soft face.
So that’s what’s happening with most of the major players from last season, but now we also have Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), brother of the late King Robert, in the mix from Dragonstone, leading his own people, with the assistance of a mysterious sorcereress named Melisandre (Carice van Houten). And Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) helps expand our character roster as he goes to visit his father Lord Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) and his strong-willed, warrior-worthy sister Yara (Gemma Whelan). The most interesting characters out of this batch are the two new women in Melisandre, a sexual, older sorceress whose motivations aren’t clear, and the spunky Greyjoy sister who has quite a hilarious introduction.
Yes, the characters that all perished last year are being replaced by new ones, so if following all these different houses and family lines was difficult then, it’s not going to be easier now. But that’s part of the appeal of this show. Game of Thrones doesn’t lay everything out for you in simplest terms. It lets you figure out who certain characters are in the same way that a stranger would. You’re along for the ride and not having obvious exposition spoon fed to you every minute. For fans looking for all the goodness that the first season of Game of Thrones delivered, this will continue to be one of the best epic fantasy adaptations you’ve ever seen. With sharp writing that makes the medieval tongue sound as contemporary as it can, and a tone and style that makes Lord of the Rings look like kiddie fare, this series is one of the best on television. The action may be a little stagnant to start off, but winter is coming, and it will bring more blood shed with it.
The second season of Games of Thrones premieres Sunday, April 1st at 9/8c on HBO.