Jul 3, 2014

[TV] Game of Thrones: Season 2

So I was mapping out what shows I might have missed out on in terms of posting reviews and was surprised to find that the only review I've written for the Game of Thrones TV series was for the first season. Weird, but it happens. So now I guess I'm going to play catch-up over the course of the next few weeks. It's nice to have a plan!

Given the show just recently concluded its fourth season, it goes without saying that the TV adaptation of the Song of Ice and Fire novels are doing pretty well. And this second season continues the epic struggle for control of Westeros. And with how the first season ended with the rather shocking death of Ned Stark, this pretty much set the tone for the rest of the series and how no character is ever safe.

If anything, the show just continued to take things to new heights in terms of drama and perhaps increasingly complex plots. And yet if you stay focused long enough, you'll still be able to keep track of all the new characters added into the mix of things.

Synopsis: Game of Thrones is a fantasy drama TV series created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss for HBO. This second season roughly covers the events in A Clash of Kings of the Song of Ice and Fire series of novels by George R.R. Martin.

The season begins with Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his forces riding the wave of several victories, so much so that they try to bargain with the Lannisters and declare the North's independence from their rule. He sends Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) back to his father in the hopes of gaining the support of House Greyjoy while Catelyn Stark hopes to sway Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) in a similar fashion. But the Lannister children, Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), are doing their best to solidify their hold on King's Landing given their father Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) has taken the bulk of their forces North to deal with the Starks.

Beyond the Wall, the members of the Night Watch continue to search for their missing brothers. Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clark) struggles to hold her small Dothraki band together and find a way to survive the Red Waste. And Arya Stark (Maise Williams) travels together with Gendry (Joe Dempsie), and Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) with a group dispatched to the Wall and does her best to keep her identity secret from the roving bands of Lannisters patrolling the land. And did I remember to mention Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) has sworn faith and loyalty to R'hllor and thus has allied himself with the priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten).

At first it seems like there's far too much going on to properly keep track of things as the show drags us back and forth across Westeros. But this season has its natural points of interest that really draw you in while other plots (take for example John Snow in the North) sort of don't merit much interest and attention. Heck, as much as I enjoy the harsher philosophy that defines House Greyjoy, their scenes in this season weren't much to speak about.

Front and center, Game of Thrones has made Peter Dinklage quite the star. And he truly shines in this season as he fulfills the role of the Hand of the King and makes sure that King's Landing remains secure and that his petulant nephew Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) knows his place in things. And even with Joffrey bound to be king, Tyrion isn't having any of his bratty nonsense all throughout this season. And I really appreciated how he did his best to overcome his physical challenges in order to continue to execute his duties as the Hand.

For the Starks, we can pretty much ignore Sansa (Sophie Turner), since she pretty much lives in fear of Joffrey. And as much as Robb is off winning battles, the real drama in this season has to do more with Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), Ned Stark's widow and of course Robb's mother. She goes on a journey of her own to try and secure alliances of her own on behalf of her son. But she also crosses paths with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who is one of the more complex characters in the show as a whole.

But the highlight of this season (both by design and in terms of fan appreciation), has to be the Battle of Blackwater. Sure, we were all shocked with what had happened to Renly given Melisandre's occult manipulations, but that one battle is both a visual spectacle and a master stroke of strategy for both sides of the conflict. It pitted the superior naval power of Stannis' forces against the defenses laid out by Tyrion at King's Landing. If you like big battles, it's a great episode. If you like high drama, then it's still a good episode.

Game of Thrones is a brilliant adaptation of an already memorable series of books. Sure, there are some liberties taken, but they still make sense in terms of television sensibilities. And on the whole it's quite brilliant. Thus this second season still gets a full 5 pots of wild fire out of 5 despite Daenerys wandering around the desert for so long.

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