Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Game of Thrones 2.2: The Night Lands

Game of Thrones 2.2: The Night Lands

The second season of Game of Thrones continues to be like the beginning of a chess game. Just as the chess players make strategic moves to set up their attack on the king so is each of the story lines continuing to build exposition for an upcoming clash of events. Though this episode was a relatively docile story, what it lacked in violence the episode recovered in nudity and sex. It seems like the director, Alan Taylor, deliberately included nudity and pornographic scenes to hold the audience’s attention through the huge amounts of exposition. This was perfectly illustrated in the scene that took place in Lord Baelish’s brothel in which Littlefinger deals with one of his prostitutes who will not stop mourning the murder of the baby of one of his other prostitutes.  Joffrey’s ordering of the death of all King Robert’s bastards is mentioned several times throughout this episode, so this is an unneeded reminder. The only other purpose this scene serves is to remind the audience of Lord Baelish’s evil nature, which is superfluous for his treacherous character has been solidified in the first season. The choice to include this scene is just to increase the sensationalism of the episode by providing an excuse to showcase more nudity and more sex.

Besides the nudity and sex, this episode did begin to lay the groundwork for some interesting story developments. Tyrion, now acting as the Hand of the King, shakes up King’s Landing. He will not fall victim to the same fate as Eddard Stark and knows how to play the political game. Threatening Varys, Tyrion warns him that he is not to be underestimated. Tyrion also replaces the head of the city’s guard, Lord Janos Slynt, with his own man Bronn since it was the head of this guard that slaughtered Eddard’s men in the Throne Room. Tyrion, with the smarts and political savvy to play this deadly game will really be able to shake up the power structure at King’s Landing. Also it is refreshing to see someone with power in the castle who also has a moral conscience. There is a heartening moment for the viewer where Tyrion remarks on the cruelty of murdering babies in their mother’s arms illustrating that not all Lannisters are pure evil.

This episode also marks the introduction of Theon as his own character and not a supporting player to Rob. He returns home to Pyke for the first time since being taken as a ward of Eddard Stark. Though, his homecoming is less than ideal and it exposes Theon’s “daddy issues.” His father does not recognize him as heir to Iron Islands and ridicules him for not being one with the sea. Lord Greyjoy also mocks Theon’s relationship with Rob Stark and refuses to help Rob in his war against the Lannisters. To make matters worse, Lord Greyjoy recognizes Theron’s younger sister Yara as the heir to Pyke and the Iron Islands. Though that would be bad in its own right, Theon has to handle his lost inheritance while grappling with the fact that he fondled his sister on the way up to the castle. Theon’s homecoming lays the groundwork for him trying to do everything in his power to regain his father’s love and his inheritance of Pyke and the Iron Islands.

This episode also follows Arya, Daenerys, Stannis, and Jon Snow; however, very little happens to advance the plot in their stories. Arya does share a heartwarming moment with Gendry, King Robert’s oldest bastard, where she reveals her true identity. This seems to foreshadow an unconventional partnership between these two characters. Daenerys features a setback when one of her blood rider’s heads came back on a horse. Though it is obvious that Daenerys as the mother of dragons will play a big part in the remainder of this series, at this point of the episode her constant ranting about getting revenge on all of those who hurt her and her people is becoming tiresome as she remains helpless in the desert. Though Stannis’ story did not occupy a large amount of time in this episode, he does succumb to the seduction of Melisandre (adding yet another scene of nudity and sex). It will be intriguing to see if her control over Stannis increases after their liaison.

Finally, the least eventful story of the episode seems like it might lead to a hectic episode next week. Jon Snow’s story this episode remains stagnate since The Night’s Watch is still camped out at Craster’s house with all of his daughter wives. Though Sam wants to help one of the pregnant daughter wives escape the captivity of her father husband, Jon wisely refuses to help for fear of losing a hand as well as inability to care for her as they travel further north past The Wall. However, Jon’s hero complex shines through when in the middle of the night, he hears the sound of a baby and awakes to find Craster carrying the child into the woods. Curious, Jon follows wondering where Craster could be taking this baby. To his horror, Jon sees the baby abandoned and carried off by a White Walker, the same type of undead creature that tried to kill him and Lord Mormont last season. Just as he turns to head back to camp, Craster clocks him over the head ending the episode. Though this episode contained a lot of exposition, the season just started and is building towards bigger events. And with the ending of an episode on the cliffhanger of Jon being knocked out, next episode seems to bring the promise of more action.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Game of Thrones 2.1: The North Remembers

Game of Thrones 2.1: The North Remembers

 With the much anticipated third season only two months away, it is time to rewatch and review season two of Game of Thrones in order to prepare for the third installment. Season two had a lot to live up to. The first season of Game of Thrones gave us an assortment of diverse characters, graphic battle scenes, political intrigue and even romance. The most important and shocking development of season one (especially for those who did not previously read the books) was the execution of the main character, Lord Eddard Stark. His death shifted the course of many characters and made certain that wars broke out between the different families with everyone staking a claim to the Iron Throne. Season two starts where season one ended with the main characters scattered all across the lands uncertain of their futures. Rob Stark is leading an army to avenge his father’s death and destroy the Lannisters. He has captured Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, who is Lord Tywin Lannister’s oldest son and uncle to Joffrey Baratheon, King of the Seven Kingdoms. Rob’s mother Catelyn Stark rides with him and serves as his counsel. Bron Stark, Lord Eddard’s second eldest son and crippled by the Kingslayer remains at Winterfell serving as lord while Rob battles in war. Sansa Stark resides at King’s Landing with Cersei Lannister, Queen Regent, who masquerades her as Joffrey’s betrothed while really holding Lord Eddard Stark’s oldest daughter as ransom for Jaime’s safety. Arya Stark has escaped King’s Landing  disguised as a boy making her way north with recruits for The Wall. Jon Snow, Lord Eddard’s Stark’s bastard son and sworn brother of the Night’s Watch is about to embark with his brothers in black on a journey north of The Wall to try and stop whatever evil forces may be heading towards the Seven Kingdoms. Tyrion Lannister, Tywin’s dwarf son rejoined his father on the battlefield only to be commanded to return to King’s Landing and act as Hand of the King while Tywin continues his fight against Rob Stark. Finally Daenerys Targaryen and her dragon eggs survived being burned with her deceased husband on his funeral pyre. She now leads what is left of her people and her newly hatched dragons through the desert looking for a way to build an army and reclaim the Iron Throne.

The first episode of season two, “The North Remembers” basically reacquaints the audience with the characters and their storylines. From Rob being declared King of the North, to Stannis Baratheon in Dragonstone declaring himself as the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms, to Daenerys, even though stranded in the desert, claiming that she is the rightful queen to sit upon the Iron Throne, the theme of this episode is described best by Catelyn Stark when she tells her son Rob, “There’s a king in every corner now.” This theme of everyone declaring themselves king or queen can even be extended outside of the fictional world of the Seven Kingdoms and into the real world set of Game of Thrones. The death of Lord Eddard Stark, who was portrayed by Sean Bean, left an opening for a new lead character. Bean, having come from the highly successful Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, became of the star of the series. All of the other actors, though they excel in their roles, were not as well-known at the start of the show. Now that the series has critical acclaim and a large following, the actors now have recognition and with Sean Bean’s character’s demise, there is an opening for a new leading man or lady but who will ascend the ranks? One could think that Peter Dinklage after receiving the Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy for his performance as Tyrion Lannister would be the frontrunner to take Bean’s leading role place. Though actors who portray other strong characters such as Daenerys or Jon Snow could also lay claim to being the next big star of the show. Or will this series morph this season into what it truly is: an ensemble drama with brilliant actors of equal caliber shining through in their respective roles with no one single star?

Finally, besides reuniting the viewer with the characters they haven’t seen in many months and catching up with their storylines as well as leaving them wondering who, if any, will take Sean Bean’s place, this inaugural episode of the second season introduces the viewer to new lands and new characters they can expect to meet during the remainder of the second season. This starts in the opening credits, where a new land, Dragonstone, is added to the other places on the map that the viewer got to know so well last season. Also new characters such as Stannis Baratheon portrayed by Stephen Dillane, his high priestess, Melisandre portrayed by Carice van Houten and his second in command, Ser Davos Seaworth portrayed by Liam Cunningham are added to the extensive cast. Though little is divulged in this episode about the overarching storyline for these characters, one gets a sense that Melisandre is a femme fatale trying to exert her influence on Stannis, a man of power.

This episode, though not as dramatic or action packed as others during the show’s freshman year, was a good introduction back into the world of Game of Thrones. With so many characters and storylines, this episode was a refresher course since the viewer was away from the show for so many months. With nine more episodes left in the season, there is still plenty of time for action, deception, and plot twists to emerge.