Waiting for April to arrive was awful. Close to two weeks after the first season finale, I gave in and borrowed my friend’s ratty copy of Game of Thrones. And then I finished it, and then I waited. And waited. And waited.
Thanks (or curses) to Amazon, I succumbed to temptation and bought the four-book paperback set to satiate my sudden and disgustingly ravenous appetite for Westeros mythos. After some Neil Gaiman, obsessing over more Game of Thrones trailers, and some Mindy Kaling, the day finally arrived. Season freakin’ two.
It was good.
Particularly good because I understood everything, and knew what was going on, but not many unsullied viewers had that advantage when the story kept churning its cogs. With a bevy of new characters, storylines, and scenery, you might need a notebook and pen ready to jot down the ever-growing already-giant ensemble cast and track their background-rich stories that may be too subtle for some to catch. Sometimes the character pages from the official HBO website just aren’t enough. Or it could all be “as useless as nipples on a breastplate.”
Well, I’m here to help you out, and I promise there won’t be book spoilers. I’ll let the characters’ stories unfold by themselves and won’t even point out book-TV differences. For the lost and the unattentive, here’s a mini-Game of Thrones (character/location) recap for the season 2 premiere.
Title credits have changed! Peter Dinklage received top billing! Take note: Dragonstone is now on the map. The architectural renders are as awesome as I imagine.
In King’s Landing:
The key situation here is the capital’s recovery from the political upheaval of last season, following the beheading of Ned Stark, the capture of Jamie Lannister by Robb Stark’s men, and the cruel, heavy-handed rule of the boy-king Joffrey.
The Hound (or Sandor Clegane) kicks a knight’s ass from the rampart to his death wearing his crazy vicious dog helmet. Yup, he’s still got angst problems. It’s understandable. If Joffrey ruled my country I’d be pissed off all the time too. Plus, that jerk brother of his (Gregor Clegane, The Mountain) is always spoiling the market for despicable knights. But a dog’s got to do what he has to survive, and where better to be than on the good side of the king? The last we saw him, he was saving Sansa from becoming a decorative piece on the castle’s wall.
As usual, Joffrey Baratheon is still being a c88t, even more so on his birthday. How a crown fits on a head that big, I have no idea (nice Baratheon touches on the design, though). The little psycho’s quite the study – on one hand, his sadistic tendencies are blatantly obvious, but it seems to be accompanied by a desire to impress Sansa. I’d imagine that his idea of getting fresh would be wringing a raven’s head off and suggesting that she eat it. And should she somehow practice obedience, he’d jump her bones, never kiss her, and still end up thinking that she would see him as the best lover in the world. He seems to heed her council when she offers it. It’s not exactly a mark of approval, but I suppose he takes what he can get.
Joff also shows that he isn’t entirely stupid or deaf to the goings on around him even when he’s being completely reckless in his rule. With the way Jack Gleeson plays it, I’m not sure if they’re implying that Joff believes that Jamie’s his daddy-uncle (or that he even cares if it’s true). He knows when to flaunt his power and put people in their place. I don’t know who was more slimy in the scene between he and Cersei, but it was a favourite moment in the episode that showcased the perfect measure of complexity of Lannister family dynamics. Super twisted. Jack Gleeson has learnt how to be a scene-stealer.
At this point, Sansa‘s as enthusiastic as dead fish about her place in the castle. Can’t blame her, after visiting Ned and Septa Mordane’s heads. As a witness to Joff’s everyday cruelty, she still manages to one-up him through a sweet, carefully-worded type of manipulation and saves Ser Dontos Hollard from death by drinking. Not much is known about him, except that he’s a bumbling drunkard who’s now Joffrey’s personal Fool. Didn’t even get to spar with Ser Lothor Brune, loyalist to Petyr Baelish.
Sitting beside Joff and looking on the whole scene without much say are Lannister siblings Myrcella and Tommen, who are actually quite lovely, well-behaved children, despite the fact that they’re surrounded by a bunch of bloodthirsty loons.
The only one successfully taking the king down a peg is sneaky uncle Tyrion (lovingly referred to by almost everyone as The Imp or The Halfman), still bathing in the luxury of life after leading some angry mountainmen to the Battle of the Green Fork. How Joff hasn’t thought of lopping his uncle’s head off is a mystery, but we all enjoy it when someone skin-crawlingly mean is left speechless after being insulted to his face. Following him around is the sellsword Bronn, who after risking his life to be the dwarf’s champion, still likes Tyrion very much.
Secretly kept in his personal chambers is Shae, who didn’t get much time onscreen last season, but we just know that she’s a whore. No, really.
Now as the interim King’s Hand (Prime Minister, to you), Tyrion sits on the Small Council and hands out smartass quips to anyone who’ll take it. He’s got special ones just for Cersei.
On the Small Council of slimy bastardy weasels with Tyrion:
Lord Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch/Gold Cloaks, betrayer of Ned Stark, and Lord of Harrenhal
Petyr Baelish, or Littlefinger, Master of Coin and owner of ‘that whorehouse you always see in King’s Landing’. Thing for Catelyn Stark
Lord Varys, eunuch and Master of Whisperers (spymaster)
Grandmaester Pycelle, that old scraggly healing guy
Cersei Lannister, Queen Regent and scheming face-slapper of men
Lena Heady is so good as Cersei. She’s so screwed up and you know that her desire for power can eat people alive. Her smackdown with Petyr in the courtyard was epic, and juxtaposed with her scene with Joffrey, you can see how she’s struggling and desperate to climb to the top. Everyone’s underestimating her, and she’s out to prove everyone wrong. Delicious. We know which parent Joff takes after most.
I can’t figure out who commanded the super taboo infanticide scene. It seems to be implied in Cersei and Joffery’s conversation, like a throwaway, veiled suggestion. I suspect it might be Joff who planted the seed and Cersei who watered and cared for the plan. I’m not sure. They’re both equally capable of that level of monstrosity. Very King Herod of them to seek out all possible Baratheon children who could possibly inherit the throne.
On the sideline, Ros is suddenly the mamasan of Petyr’s whorehouse. She seems to be the key trigger for sexpositions in this show. I’m not sure of her real significance, but that’s all I see her as for now.
Bran Stark and Maester Luwin are fielding the townsfolk’s complaints and concerns. He’s the only Stark left to guard Winterfell and its seemingly trivial daily activities. It’s obvious how much Bran idolizes Robb, but he needs to be the man of the house now. Hodor, Bran’s main mode of transport and hostage-turned caretaker Osha are with him in the forest. We first see the streak of red comet in the sky in Bran’s dream.
In the East, beyond the Narrow Sea:
Daenerys Targaryen is presumably taking her baby dragons and her tiny khalasar to a hospitable place. They all look dreadful crossing the Red Waste.
Doreah, one of her handmaids (to teach her in the “womanly art of love), is the one who asks about dragons. Her silver, Drogo’s first gift to her dies, and Jorah Mormont makes googly eyes at her and she responds positively. To me, it’s really creepy, but to others, it might be endearing.
Out of the three dudes that are supposed to help Dany scout the land, Rakharo seems the most important. He has more lines than the others! Also, I wonder if Dany’s bloodriders have softened. They no longer seem to be savage or miscreant, but somewhat compassionate and loyal.
Beyond the Wall:
Samwell Tarly, Grenn and Jon Snow check into Craster’s Keep, where Dolorous Edd, the Lord Commander’s squire, informs its namesake can shake hands with the Targaryens if they still populated the land. First, daddy uncles, now uncle grandpa. Gross!
Sitting around the fire are Jeor Mormont (the Lord Commander, also called the Old Bear, father of the exiled Jorah Mormont with Dany), the infinitely gross and disturbing Craster, toxic friend to the Night’s Watch, and some other unidentified men from Castle Black. They talk about the infamous wildling Mance Rayder, a deserter who calls himself “King Beyond the Wall” and was once the Old Bear’s old friend. Craster introduces one of his daughter wives, who meekly says something vaguely encouraging about their living conditions. After the discussion, Mormont gives Jon a good round for being a punk in the house. He flexes his muscle of infinite badassery, and puts his steward in his place.
This may be confusing to people who haven’t read the books. What’s going on onshore is a razing ceremony of the Seven (the main religion of Westeros introduced by the invading Andals in the past). In modern times, it would be equivalent to flinging a molotov cocktail on a statue of Mother Mary in Mexico. The disapproving red-shirt Maester Cressen is being mocked by a red priestess worshipping the Lord of Light. You’ll learn her name soon enough. Davos Seaworth assures the skeptical maester that he serves Stannis and only Stannis, whether it drags him through a shit-laden path or not.
The priestess presents Stannis Baratheon, brother to late Robert and rightful heir to the throne, with Lightbringer, a flaming sword. As they sit at the painted table listening to Stannis’ steward recite his letter of claim to the throne, we learn that Stannis hates everyone. He wants the throne because it’s his right. He knows that the Lannisters are doing each other everyday because of the letter Ned Stark sent him. He hates that his younger brother Renly Baratheon has somehow rallied the great numbers of Highgarden and House Tarly and to kiss his ass collectively. He’s so serious and stubborn. It’s kind of cartoonish.
Davos sees Cressen put something in his own drink. He commits suicide in hopes of taking down the red woman with him, but it turns out that she’s immune to poison.
In the North:
Robb Stark is being taunted by Jamie Lannister, who suggests that maybe the boy has a funny thing for him (“I’ve never seen you with a girl”, /eyebrow waggle). They go back and forth, trying to prove whose metaphorical battle penis is bigger, until Robb’s direwolf Grey Wolf comes by and shuts Jamie up. Great moment because even the most arrogant and skilled of knights is afraid of getting his face chewed off by a beast as large and magnificent as that. Grey Wolf is epic, and he’s still a puppy.
We catch a glimpse of Rodrick Cassel with his silver mutton chop braids, and Theon Greyjoy talks about how Balon, his father, can help him. Robb discusses this with his mum Catelyn, but she brings up the Greyjoy Rebellion and how untrustworthy that squidface is. It turns out that Ned helped to quell that Rebellion. And Robb counters by bring up the fact that Ned was a driving force of another rebellion as well. It’s a rebel party. But Catelyn is mostly tired, because her focus is on her other children. But Robb convinces her to go to Renly to offer an alliance so their entire family can all go home in one piece.
Gendry, with his bull helmet, and Arya Stark are on a wagon on the way to The Wall, led by Yoren, who probably has some loyalty to the Starks.