Twitch will be reviewing Game Of Thrones - in my opinion the best thing currently on television - on an episode by episode basis throughout the current season. The goal was to start with the season premiere, of course, but an intercontinental flight and subsequent jet lag conspired to keep that from happening. Please note first that these posts will include plot details from the episode in question, so avoid them if you don't want to know. And note second that they are being written from the perspective of someone who has not read the books and chosen specifically not to because I don't want to know. If you want to compare / contrast events on the show to events in the books please feel free to do so but please also limit yourself to the timeline covered in the television series out of consideration for those who don't know what's coming.
With Season Two of Game Of Thrones kicking off with a sort of catch up / reminder of where all the key characters stood in the season premiere, Episode Two - the Alan Taylor directed The Night Lands - is a transition piece, serving to establish the key conflicts that will likely drive the rest of the season. And while some were entirely expected others took on some surprising wrinkles.
Front and center - as I suspect he will be through the rest of the season - is Tyrion Lannister. Fresh off his Emmy win, Peter Dinklage continues to demonstrate that The Imp is the most interesting and complex character on television. Freshly ensconced as Hand Of The King, Tyrion is moving to secure his own power base, issuing direct threats to spy master Lord Varys in the process while also clashing directly with his sister - Queen Regent Cersei - whose dislike for her diminutive brother and disdain for everyone else is abundantly clear. A power struggle within the Lannister clan appears imminent as Tyrion applies himself increasingly to something other than whoring.
Meanwhile, on the King's Road the dead king's bastard son Gendry - apparently still unaware of his birth, though I suspect Arya Stark will figure it out soon - suddenly becomes an interesting character as he both discovers Arya's true identity and is hunted himself by Joffrey's forces. Gendry has only been interesting to this point because of his parentage but his role in the show is clearly about to expand and - thankfully - actor Joe Dempsie appears to be up to the task. Arya remains boring, however.
The third major storyline this week takes us north of the wall. Forces from Castle Black continue to bunk down with a local Wildling family ruled over by a cruel man who marries his own daughters while banishing his sons to some unknown fate. The rumors of a renegade former member of the Night's Watch amassing an Wildling army continue to grow, Jon Snow's direwolf Ghost also continues to grow, while Snow and his friends are appealed to for help by one of their hosts daughter-wives. White Walker sighting? Damn straight.
As to the ongoing war between the Lannisters and the various splinter groups, it's spoken of but not seen. Cersei - of course - refuses Robb Stark's written declaration of secession and demands for the return of his father's bones while Stannis Baratheon enlists the help of a pirate lord to attack King's Landing by sea. Daenerys Targaryen is nothing but a throw in, sitting in the desert thirsty and getting angry when someone sends her one of her rider's heads in a bag. More significant is Theon Greyjoy returning to his homeland in an attempt to recruit his father's ships to Robb Stark's aid. It doesn't go well, though Theon does at least get laid on the way. There are many breasts in this episode.
Completely absent from this episode: No Robb Stark, no Joffrey, no Catelyn Stark, no Jaime Lannister, no Bran or any Winterfell at all. The surprise element was what appears to be the start of a new storyline involving the former Winterfell whore Ros, now employed in Lord Baelish's pleasure houses. Expect to see something brewing there.
Overall, Alan Taylor - soon to be directing Thor 2 - delivers a serviceable episode. Outside of Tyrion it lacks any great personality or big moments - I begin to fear that Stannis is going to eat up far too much time in this season for someone who has been dull as dishwater so far - but at this point it's all about getting the plates spinning and establishing the new rules of order in this new world of civil war. And it does that well enough.
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