The first season of Game of Thrones was about introducing viewers to the rich fantasy world created by George R.R. Martin, creating a level of comfort to the universe of Westerios. And then taking that rug and pulling it firmly out from under the viewers.
As season two gets underway, we’re familiar with most of the players in the game, but there are new rules and new faces coming into the power struggle going on all across Westerios.
As with the novel, A Clash of Kings, the first episode of season two begins with the appearance of a strange red comet in the skies above the kingdom. What the red comet means is a source of some debate among the various parties involved in the on-going power struggle. The episodes uses the comet as a way to move in and out of the various settings in the Thrones universe to great effect and impact, quickly allowing us to catch up with familiar faces and introducing a variety of new ones.
As season two starts, there are multiple kings all vying for the throne of Westerios. Early on, Robb Stark would seem to have an advantage in terms of military victories but there’s also Stannis Bartheon who could have the best claim in terms of lineage to the throne. As the brother of dead king Robert, Stannis may have the best case but as we see here, he’s not quite the leader his brother was. And he’s got the added baggage of a Melisandre, a priestess who seems to have Stannis’ ear and is advising himself to distance himself from the old ways–even to the point of burning statues of the old gods on the beach.
Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion relishes his new role as the Hand of the King. Among the highlights of the episode is the scene with Tyrion unsettling his sister Caersi with the proclamation from their father, giving Tyrion the title of Hand. Of course, both of them could quickly face issues when it comes to trying to keep Joffrey in line in the coming weeks if early scenes are any indication. Joffrey is clearly enjoying the power of being king but he isn’t showing much interest in actually ruling the kingdom beyond telling everyone what they can and cannot do. Tyrion may have his hands full in the coming weeks, which can only be good news for fans of Peter Dinklage. He’s going to have a lot of great scenery to chew in the coming weeks.
And while the peace is shattered in Westerios, there are still bigger threats on the horizon. Across the sea, Dany has her dragons which could give her a claim to power. However, she’ll first have to lead her people out of the desert and despair before she can begin pondering taking the throne back. In the north, the Night Watch is beyond the wall, looking for evidence of a greater supernatural threat that could threaten the South before all is said and done.
While not quite as exposition heavy as the first season premiere, “The North Remembers” does have some heavy lifting to do in order to set up things for season two. If you’ve read the books, you know not all the pieces are in play just yet, but a lot of them are here.
Using the comet as a unifying factor, the story quickly establishes where things are and begins to set some things into motion. This is not an episode for fans coming late to the series. While there was a nice montage of highlights from season one before the episode aired, to truly understand all of what’s happening you have to watched the first season. There’s no moment where characters stop and summarize all that’s come before now. As a fan of the first season and the show, I appreciate that the show assumes I’m paying attention and can follow things. Of course, the cynical side of me also says, “Yes, and it helps sell DVDs to those who dropped in based on the buzz for the show.”
A solid season premiere with some fascinating scenes. As we move through the rest of season two, I look forward to seeing how this complex, fascinating world continues to play out.