HBO’s Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Ep. 1: “The North Remembers”

My how those direwolves have grown.

I won’t say it’s good to be the king, but it’s good to be watching a new episode of Game of Thrones. The premiere episode did a fantastic job of taking stock of the large cast of characters and introducing a few new ones. Some people are much as we left them (which in Joffrey’s case is a sadistic little jerk) and some find themselves in precarious new positions (Tyrion) but this episode seemed to belong to Robb Stark and it’s his actions that will set in motion the events to come.

Be warned: episode and book spoilers ahead.

Did you miss Joffrey? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Were you expecting Ser Dontos’ armor to look so… patriotic? Me neither. I don’t know who the actor is, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for him. He seemed more of a drunk in the books, here he just seemed unlucky. Or very lucky, I suppose, since he could’ve been executed. Poor Sansa. I know it’s easy to call her stupid and even a traitor for her unwitting hand in her father’s imprisonment and subsequent execution, but you’ve got to feel sympathy for her. It takes a quiet strength to suffer Joffrey’s torment.

Tyrion has the least enviable job in the Seven Kingdoms as Joffrey’s Hand. I missed Peter Dinklage’s Emmy-winning portrayal of the most clever Lannister. His first appearance at the Small Council was hilarious. I can’t wait to see him and his sister Cersei butt heads. He at least has some empathy. That twinge of sadness in his voice when he told Cersei how it wasn’t easy being “the disappointing one” was just so perfectly delivered.

I can’t entirely hate Cersei in this episode. She slapped Joffery. I hope that becomes a thing each season. When Cersei had her little run-in with Littlefinger, it was different from the events of the books, but that’s what I love about the show. Mostly these new scenes work. “Power is power,” she said and in that moment I thought, “Now here’s the Sarah Connor I knew and loved.” But I wouldn’t be so smug if I were here. She can barely control her son and controlling Tyrion is impossible. But at least she has those cheekbones.

Another moment that played differently in the show was the culling of Robert’s bastards. First: Ros is the madam of Littlefinger’s brothel now? Good on her. Not bad for a Northern whore. Second: it’s one thing to read about the culling of Robert Baratheon’s bastards, but it’s quite another to see babies snatched from their mothers’ arms. Wow. That’s an extreme way to tie up loose ends.

Most of the new characters we met were at Dragonstone. Stannis was very much as I pictured him. Severe, unyielding, definitely not likable at first glance. (He doesn’t ever become likable.) He has no time for niceties. By the way he composes letters, you can at least say that he’s direct. Silly Stannis, you don’t win the game of thrones by being direct. We got the barest glimpse of his wife, but his daughter and her jester Patchface seem to have been left on the cutting room floor. At least for this episode.

One wonders if Stannis and his red priestess Melisandre will be moving on to face Renly straight away. It’s what Catelyn’s off to do next, as per King Robb’s orders. In an episode titled “The North Remembers,” Robb seemed to get the most scenes. Like more than one. I loved, loved loved his Good Cop/Bad Cop routine with the captive Jamie. I admit, I didn’t really catch much of what Jamie said in that scene, possibly because some of the people I was watching with were more distracted by the notion of a handcuffed Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. But, much like the Kingslayer, seeing the fully grown Grey Wind made us quiet down. Wow, that wolf got humongous.

I also didn’t notice Ghost with Jon Snow beyond the Wall. I was too busy being grossed out by Craster and his daughter-wives. Just typing that made me feel a bit queasy. Craster is about as unpleasant as I imagined and he really hates pretty boys like Jon Snow. Sorry, but I’m siding with Jon on this one and saying it’s totally cool to judge Craster as a disgusting human being who’s clearly killing his sons in a pact to keep his… keep.

Across the Narrow Sea, in a very brief scene, Dany and the ragged remnants of her khalasar wandered the desert looking for shelter. She sent her most foppish bloodrider off to find a nearby city. Dany doesn’t really get much to do in A Clash of Kings, so I hope they don’t have too many episodes of her wandering in a row. But this is Game of Thrones, not The Walking Dead.

Bran has the boring job of keeping Winterfell afloat. Rickon is… not in this episode. Maybe he just never left the crypt.

Lastly, we finally got a peek at Arya, heading north along the Kingsroad with Gendry, Robert’s sole remaining bastard. I was impatient to see my favorite character again, but with so much to set up in this episode, I get why they couldn’t spend time with her.

All in all, a tight start, great for easing viewers back into the world, refreshing our memories, and hinting at where things will go next. (Like Cat meeting Renly.) I loved how the red comet tied all of the locations together.

Was Melisandre as sultry as you might have imagined? Will Robb keep Jamie tied up for another few episodes? Was Davos as you imagined him? Please sound off with your thoughts in the comments below

 

Game of Thrones airs 9pm E/PT on HBO.


Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com. She covers True Blood, Game of Thrones, and is also an avid gamer. Follower her on Twitter @tdelucci

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