Game of Thrones season 2 Episode 1: “The North Remembers”

HAVE YOU SEEN THE EPISODE?

NO?

THIS POST IS DARK AND FULL OF SPOILERS, OLD MAN, BUT WATCHING IT BURNS THEM ALL AWAY.

I.E., come back later. I will save all the juicy bits for you, I swears.

*

The problem with Game of Thrones in a tv series format is that, unlike the books, your doses of it are rationed, wrapped up in adverts and divided into chunks that are delivered to you on a schedule you can’t change. I’m re-reading A Feast For Crows and last night, at 2am, I was having incredible difficulty putting the book down and going to sleep because I just didn’t want to stop reading no matter how tired I was – and now I’m on the verge of re-watching the first episode of Game of Thrones season 2 (or episode 11 as it is) having only watched it a couple of hours ago. It’s so moreish and addictive you just want to immerse yourself in it, but you CAN’T, because you have to WAIT.

And oh GOD I don’t want to wait. I want the entire series put before my eyes right now. You’d expect season 2 of a returning big-hitter show like Game of Thrones to have a few pacing issues, seeing as returning characters have to be juggled with new ones and new settings join the old, but at no point does it misstep or feel uneven or off, not even a bit. It’s so finely tuned that I was shocked when the credits rolled, not just because of the shocking events (truly, this series knows when to hold back and hint, and when to just bludgeon you over the head with the nasty) but because I thought it was barely halfway through. How does it do that? It’s annoying. I’m desperate for next week now, desperate!

What do we get for our hotly-anticipated first hour in Westeros since the events at the end of the first series? Well. WELL.

We see Sansa in the lion’s den, practising the only self-defence she has, using it to save a drunken old fool; we see the dark and delightful Melisandre vamping around the new setting of the storm-blasted Dragonstone, a shadowy castle steeped in the history of Westeros, in a brilliant atmospheric scene of the Seven Gods being burned on the beach. For the night is dark and full of terrors.” We see how Cersei deals with her revolting son Joffrey and how Cat deals with her far more noble son Robb, and the differences between them, and the similarities as each mother tries to control her son and in turn is controlled by them. We see Tyrion vs. Cersei, a bout of verbal sparring that made me love Tyrion even more (how this could be I do not know, I thought I loved him too much already), and we see Littlefinger vs Cersei, in a bout of verbal sparring that causes her to lash out with actual violence. “Knowledge is power.” “Power is power.” We see Jaime in chains, Robb standing tall, and the huge CGI direwolf Grey Wind who runs at his side.

For a re-introduction to the world, the characters and the plot, it’s meaty and layered and rich, like the very best pie. Most pies don’t come laced with death, however.

Who orders the deaths of Robert’s bastards? We’re led to think it’s Joffrey, but I think it’s different in A Clash of Kings. They’re brutal scenes, absolutely gut-wrenching in a way that completely evaded me in the books. In hindsight it’s all there – I remember it as just a few throw-away remarks – but the ramifications of the order aren’t gone into in the text. On screen it’s horrendous, a fitting way to begin a series that’s going to be all about the brutality that men do one another. Let’s face it, the whole of Game of Thrones has always been about that, with Sansa (and, later, Brienne) filled with dreamy idealism about the goodness of man, while the steady ruination of it all makes it clear the world’s a nasty place and she needs to be strong to survive it. But those children aren’t, and it’s a hard, harsh world, and it’s a stunning way to reiterate that point after the drama of the first season.

And there, at the end, the little ray of hope – Arya, who Cersei’s spent the episode looking for, and Gendry, who is being hunted down like the rest of Robert’s bastards to be slaughtered. There they are, trekking up the Kingsroad towards the Wall, away from the rat’s nest that is King’s Landing, away from all the politics and danger and bloodshed–

–oh, wait. We know better than to assume that, don’t we?

Damnit, I don’t want to wait for next week!

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One thought on “Game of Thrones season 2 Episode 1: “The North Remembers”

  1. Mary @ Book Swarm

    I’m about half-way through the fourth book and Arya is still one of my very favorite characters. I was blown away by this first episode of the second season (though slightly disappointed with the ending…mostly because I wanted MORE. A lot MORE). The nuances are astounding and I’m completely amazed that they’re coming across on screen. I want it to be Sunday NOW so I can see the next installment. I want to gobble it up in one massive gulp and then do it all over again!

    Awesome review.

    Reply

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