‘Power is power’, proclaims Cersei Lannister. ‘Epic is epic’, says I. Game of Thrones, the wonderful and mesmerizing show, is finally back on our screens after too long an absence, and it has never been better.
The season two premiere kicks off pretty much straight after we left off. Our current roster of characters are all off doing their own thing; Jon Snow is beyond the wall, fighting blisteringly cold winds and witnessing vile acts of incest. Daeneyrs Targaryen is leading her own khalasar across the red wastes, whilst struggling to find ways to make starvation scream and mothering three baby dragons (awww, so cute!). Tyrion Lannister has been appointed hand of the king in his father’s stead and is tasked with the monumental mission of bringing his sister, Cersei, and his nephew, Joffrey (aka the embodiment of evil) to heel. Robb Stark is leading an army to war against the Lannisters for beheading his father and taking his sisters, Arya and Sansa, hostage. Sansa remains a prisoner of the King (Joffrey) whilst Arya has assumed the identity of orphan boy Arry and is on the journey to the wall.
Phew. Is there anyone I’ve missed out? I hope not, because there’s even more to come. Stannis Baratheon, the late King Robert’s brother, is preparing to destroy anybody who would deny him the throne he is entitled to sit upon. Aiding him is the red priestess, Lady Melissandre, whose sorcery and flaming red hair are enough to captivate your eyes upon first glance. Renly Baratheon, Robert’s other, and younger, brother has also taken to calling himself King and has amassed an army of his own, prepared to go against the Lannisters and his own brother. Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer and resident incest participant, has been taken hostage by Robb Stark and currently resides in chains at the mercy of his captors, and the direwolves that ride alongside them (they may be huge beasts that can rip your intestines out without breaking a sweat, but they’re insanely adorable at the same time).
For people who have avidly watched the first season, picking up where you left off is an almost seamless transition. However, for the inevitable newcomers to the show, having all of these characters thrust upon you and each one involved in various stories can be somewhat of an intimidating experience. I know that when I started watching this show last year, I almost gave up on it because of the very same thing. It’s extremely worthwhile to get properly acquainted with these people and the realm in which they reside, but it’s not a process that’ll happen straight away.
Regardless, the season two premiere didn’t manage to be anything less than fantastic. It’s what we’ve come to expect from this show and it never disappoints when it comes to delivering the goods. They had a lot of material to fit into one episode, and that won’t change for the remaining nine, but they did well with what they had and the time constraints they were working against. Season one felt like each episode was a movie condensed into a 55 minute chunk and season two will undoubtedly be the same.
As most fans of Game of Thrones will proudly inform you, the cast of this show is a massive part of what makes each episode what it is. You can have a fantastic story like GoT has but it won’t mean anything if the characters journeying through it are lifeless and unbelievable. It’s lucky that that isn’t the case here. Once again, Peter Dinklage is an absolute joy to watch as Tyrion Lannister. The part requires an extraordinary degree of wit and charm and he delivers just that by the wagon-load. It’s not hard to see why he’s so critically acclaimed in the role. Elsewhere, we have Lena Headey returning as Cersei Lannister. For me, she is always a highlight of any episode. Cersei is, by default, a very wicked and manipulative woman who cares for very little else other than her children and some of her family and Lena Headey plays that part exquisitely. Her scene, in this episode, with Littlefinger was made so much more convincing and tense by her acting in the role.
Also making a wonderful impact is Jack Gleeson, who plays Joffrey (hawk, spit). Joffrey is one of the most vile, nasty and downright despicable characters that I’ve seen depicted on TV, or in books, for a long time. It’s certainly not an easy feat to be able to play that role so well that your face becomes synonymous with the character but Jack Gleeson does that effortlessly. Joffrey is beyond odious and I want nothing more than to see his head mounted on a spike (or slapped, that’ll do for now) and it’s a testament to Gleeson’s acting that I am made to feel that way. We’re not supposed to like Joffrey (and if you do, you too must be evil) and we aren’t going to be changed from that direction with him in the role.
There are too many excellently skilled actors and actresses in this show to mention them all but those, above, stand out for me. This season, however, we have several new faces making an appearance and two of those occurred during the premiere. Stannis Baratheon is being played by Stephen Dillane and Lady Melissandre by Carice Van Houten. Stannis is a hardened, prickly and often emotion-less character and Dillane, from the first episode, appears to have already got those characteristics nailed down. However, Carice Van Houten was something of an inspired casting for me. I have had many images of Melissandre in my head from reading the book and she is easily better than all of them. The flowing, and gorgeous, red hair. The majestic red robes. The slight twinge of an accent in her voice. The glimmer of villainy that lies underneath her exterior. Even the jewels she wears around her neck are how I would’ve pictured them from the book. I know what’s coming up for Melissandre and I cannot wait to see how Van Houten portrays her.
As usual, ‘The North Remembers’ served up several scenes and moments that are surely going to make the list of ‘Best of…’. For a start, the confrontation between Cersei and Littlefinger. The failed assassination attempt on Melissandre and that subtle hint of evil emerging as she taunts her would-be killer. Robb menacing Jaime and then Grey Wind almost scaring the poor guy to death. The very brutal end scene with the city guards slaughtering Robert’s bastard children (some are babies). Also, once again, Cersei slapping Joffrey. It will never get tedious to see somebody giving the evil git a good whack across the mouth.
When you watch Game of Thrones, you don’t expect greatness; you expect brilliance. It gives you just that every single week and as far as premiere episodes go, ‘The North Remembers’ is a fine example of how to continue onwards from the last point. The next nine weeks are going to be excruciating, due to having to wait between each episode, but boy will they be satisfying.
Westeros, it is good to be back.