NOTE: This review/recap contains spoilers for “Game of Thrones” Season Two, Episode One. I have also added a 20 minute recap for the first season for those looking to get caught up at the bottom of this post.
Season two of “Game of Thrones” begins, appropriately enough, with death. It’s Joffrey’s name-day, and he’s predictably awful in his celebrations. Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) being awful has been a constant, as veterans of Season One can certainly attest. Sansa (Sophie Turner) sits dutifully by his side, stark with terror, until finally we’re rescued by Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage). There’s another hallmark of the series, Tyrion’s wit and wisdom (and don’t forget his vim and vigor) providing maximum entertainment value. Yep, we’re back in King’s Landing, political intrigue abounds, but the dozen or so scenes do contain a few new wrinkles for viewers to savor.
The opening salvo of Season Two is all about setting up the question. Who is the rightful heir to the throne? Does it actually matter? How will The Starks get Ayra (Maisie Williams) and Sansa back, and what coercion can the Lannisters muster to rescue Jaime? Will Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) survive The Red Waste? What do you make of this whole Stannis (Stephen Dillane) fellow, and his red shadow Melisandre (Carice van Houten)? Questions, questions, questions, readers of the books know the answers but love the setup. Non-readers have to be enjoying the endless anticipation and logic problems presented.
The other main theme involves many of the main characters having new gigs. Tyrion has been appointed interim King’s Hand until his dad returns from war. Joffrey is still working on his kingmanship, and Daenerys is doing her best to keep her new found tribe together. I should mention one of the dragons is featured right off the bat, though we only get one scene. The dragon is handled with excellent CGI, offering much hope for future episodes. Lady Stark’s new job involves negotiations on behalf of Rob Stark, the newly minted “King of the North”, though she’s reluctant to do so at first. Sadly missing from the episode are Renly and Twin Lannister, though they are mentioned fondly.
Two great scenes jump out from the first episode of the second season, one involving Cersei (Lena Headey) and Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), the other Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Robb (Richard Madden). In the former, “Littlefinger” attempts to intimidate Cersei with the latest “rumor” sweeping the kingdom, that she and her brother Jaime had a few bastard children, one of whom just happens to inhabit the Iron Throne. He ends his subtle flourish with “knowledge is power,” a delightful little grin on his face. Sadly, he gets a massive comeuppance when Cersei counters with an actual power play. You have to hand it to Cersei, she’s not great at kingdom management over the long haul, but she’s very solid when backed into a corner. The other scene of significance involves a little chat between Rob and Jaime … and a wolf. It’s great television, showing off the best features of both characters.
There are a few newcomers to consider here as well. The most prominent is Stannis, who has now put in his official claim to the throne (based upon the Cersei / Jaime co-mingling). He’s augmented by Melisandre, and hey now, we’ve got a new religion to ponder as well! “For the night is long and full of terrors” joins “Winter is coming” and “A Lannister always pays his debts” as quotables. Along with Stannis and Melisandre, Dragonstone is introduced as a setting in the opening credits, and in the episode as well. It looks like the least comfy place in the world.
All in all, a very solid start for season two. Naturally, it couldn’t be full-on amazing, as everything just became very cloudy, (how many kings are we up to? five?) but the foundation is laid for another outstanding season. It all culminates with, you guessed it, even more death in King’s Landing, but this time it’s largely defenseless kids going under the knife. Why, precisely, is this the case? That I won’t spoil for you. Watch the episode, you know you want to. “Game of Thrones” is back … long live “Game of Thrones”.
20-Minute Season One Recap