This weekend HBO Watch was given the unprecedented opportunity to view the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones a bit early this year! The early premier took place at a local theater where 150 A Song of Ice and Fire fans feasted on complimentary pizza and beer and wine before the big show. Many were in costume and prizes flowed like wine but you dont care about all of that, you want to know about Season 2 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, right? As someone who’s read the series I was extremely excited to see how the novels played out on the big screen. Here’s our review of the first episode of the new season.
Warning: minor spoilers may be found within this review. I’ll try to confine them to book two and prior. If you’d rather not read any spoilers for season 2 and you’re just wondering whether or not this year’s episodes kick ass I can put your mind at ease right now– it appears as though they do.
Dinklage shines – As if you needed more reasons to love Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister season 2 gives you several right off the bat. In the first few scenes he’s returning to King’s Landing to tell Joffrey and Cersei that his father has appointed him Hand of The King in his stead. He manages to clown both of them in a pair of scenes and drops a bomb on Cersei’s world when he informs her that she is now the ‘disappointing child’ in her father’s eyes.
Some of the wittier things Tyrion thinks in the novels are actually distilled into actual lines on screen and it’s great to see the half-man shine in what readers know will surely be a major season for him. If last year’s performance won him a Golden Globe he’s on track to win another even more decisively this year!
Cersei and Petyr have words – The novels are broken up into chapters that each are confined to the perspective of one character at a time. Because of this you’re not often able to overhear conversations between non-perspective characters unless that character happens to be hiding behind a tree or some such nonsense. Luckily, HBO’s Game of Thrones series is not troubled by this limitation.
There is a new scene in this first episode where Cersei Lannister and Petyr Baelish are walking down a hallway in King’s Landing discussing mundane buacracy when Petyr tries to take a dig at Cersei by implying he knows about she and jaime’s relationship. Mid-sentence Cersei calls for the four Lannister guards walking with them to seize Petyr and slit his throat. Just as the guard is about to draw the knife she yells “Stop!” and they halt. “Power is power” she says cooly and releases Petyr. He seems shaken and takes the point. I wasn’t exactly rooting for Cersei in that scene but she definetely shows that she is not to be messed with by the likes of the mockingbird. Great scene and I think it added to the depth of both characters. It’s like a mini bonus chapter that we’d all never read until now!
Dragonstone & Co. – There are two scenes that take place at Dragonstone, a new location in Game of Thrones. One on a beach where Melisandre is burning wooden statues of “The Seven” while the local maester attempts to object (with no help from Davos or Stannis who we see for the first time here). A second scene takes place in the castle where the same maester makes an attempt at Melisandre’s life. I’ll let you watch the episode to find out how that turns works out if you’re not a reader.
Melisandre mostly preaches in this episode but she certainly gives off a convicing ‘red witch’ vibe as far as I’m concerned. Stannis’ character seemed similar to how I pictured him in the novels. Perhaps he’s a bit more independent and clear-headed than the novel portrays but we’ll probably see that slowly decline as Melisandre’s grasp tightens on him this season. Davos looked great and it looks like the actor is setting him up to be a a very strong character in this series. It’s hard to say for sure how these three major characters will be portrayed ultimately from just two short, early scenes but what I saw, I liked. I’m sure the actors will become more comfortable and deft with their characters as the season and series progress.
I wonder how viewers who haven’t read the novels will react to having these three major characters all in a new location introduced in such a short period of time. To be fair, as I read Clash of Kings I felt the same way as these scenes played out in my head. If you’re not feeling these characters just yet and you’re looking at your watch to see when Jon of Dany will be back on screen– give them some time. I’m confident you’ll come to enjoy their scenes as you get to know and care about them. Subsequent viewings will also help solidify their identity as well.
Robb, Grey Wind and jaime – Another scene you’re probably wondering about is the one they’ve included in every trailer thus far with Grey Wind creeping slowly towards a jaime Lannister in captivity, snarling. Needless to say this was one of my favorite scenes from the episode and it’s only partly because of Grey Wind’s badassishness. Robb really comes into his own in this scene ably turning Lannister’s smart-ass remarks with grace. I think jaime is genuinely impressed with the ‘boy’ as he tries to insult him, intimidate him and mock the King in the North but ultimately fails. Grey Wind adds insult to injury as he snaps at jaime and causes the knight to flinch visibly. The crowd actually cheered Robb (or maybe they were cheering for the direwolf?) so it was fairly exciting for Stark fans and enemies of Casterly Rock everywhere.
No Renly or Brienne Yet – One returning character and one totally new character were visibly absent from the second season premiere of Game of Thrones. Would-be-King and younger brother of Robert Baratheon, Renly. And his massive, female rainbow-guard from Tarth, Brienne. Both are important characters but won’t make an appearance until next episode when Catlyen is sent to Renly’s camp to treat. I know you’ll be dissapointed, Brienne of Tarth fans but the way the story is lining up I’m confident you’ll see her next episode!
Ice and Fire (Jon and Daneryes) – These days you’ll find Jon on the north side of the wall with the Lord Commander and a crew of his Night’s Watch brothers. In this episode they arrive at Craster’s place and find it a disturbing place. Essentially this is a small hut north of the wall where an old man has several daughters that he’s “married”. There’s a line from Jon where he asks about what Craster does with his sons… I’ll let you try and figure that one out yourself if you haven’t been keeping up on your reading but needless to say the entire place is a creep-fest and Jon is visibly disturbed much to the Old Bear’s dismay. He wants Jon to become a leader after all!
The Queen of Dragons is wandering through the Red Waste trying to find a place to safely grow her dragons. We get some great scenes with Dany nursing her babies and trying to decide what to feed them in terms of meat. She sends a few riders to figure out what they’ll do next but you get the sense that she’s going to need a lot more time to get her dragons to maturity before she can consider taking back the Iron Throne.
Robert’s Bastards – There is another scene that is only mentioned in the novels and it involves the rounding up and execution of the late King’s many bastards. In an effort to qwell any potential claims to Joffrey’s throne guards are sent to find and kill all of Robert’s base-born children (he had alot of them, okay?) Some of these scenes are quite disturbing with one in particular depicting a small baby being ripped from it’s mother’s arms and having it’s throat slit. Yeah, it’s HBO. I actually enjoyed the inclusion of this scene as it took an important plot point from Clash of Kings that couldn’t be fully shown as written and HBO portrayed it with the magnitude it deserves.
The Other Starks – Bran and Hodor are shown pondering the meaning of the red comet that can be seen throughout the realm while Osha insists it means ‘dragons’. We also get a scene where Bran hears grievances from the people of Winterfell as “the one Stark in Winterfell”. He daydreams in and out of Summer to pass the time.
Sansa is seen with Joffrey in the opening scene with Tyrion. She manages to save the life of a knight who shows up drunk to a duel by suggesting he become the King’s fool in lieu of her betrothed’s preferred method of punishment.
Unfortunately Arya is only seen at the end of the episode shortly after the aforementioned bastard-killing-montage when the shot flips to she and Gendry (one of Robert’s bastards who survives the purge) on the back of a cart heading down the King’s Road.
The episode was a treat and the entire audience cried ‘awwwww’ when they saw the credits and realized they’d have to wait until next month to see more. I honestly think this is looking to be a great season, picking right up where season 1 left off and threatening to surpass it in terms of action, intrigue and… dare I say– romance? If you haven’t read the novels I highly suggest you give them a shot. I felt as though I got so much more out of this viewing than some of my friends who hadn’t read (but still absolutely loved the show). Pick them all up on Amazon for $21, read them and pass them on to your children some day! I’ve never met someone who’s read the novels and subsequently told me- “Gosh, I sure regret reading those!” Well, they might have said something to that effect towards the end of Storm of Swords… but they eventually recovered and read on too!
For those of you looking for a numerical value or a letter grade I have to say this single episode really did it for me. I’d give it an ‘A’ for a great start to what looks to be a very interesting spring.
If you ever get the chance to watch Game of Thrones in a full theater setting I strongly urge you to attend! It seems like a series this grand was just meant to be watched on a large screen with incredible sound. It makes me want to try and convince my wife we need to upgrade our home theater system before April 1st!
If you have any questions about the episode please ask in the comments below as I’m sure I’ve missed something important.