Monday, April 2, 2012

Game of Thrones S2E1 "The North Remembers"

Spoilers ahoy!

It is here.  Season two of the HBO miniseries based on George R.R.Martin's epic fantasy.  The series retains the title of the first book, The Game of Thrones.  A wonderfully evocative one, yes?  In more ways than one.

The very first image gives us at least clear way to take that title.  King Joffrey the First (or Caligula Malfoy as I like to call him) celebrates his naming by having grown men kill each other for his amusement.  He wears a crown and enjoys his sadistic little games--for to him that is what power is.  Alas, he all too clearly embodies exactly how so many in this mythical realm of Westoros look upon their powers and privileges.  Not even as a means to an end, but an end.  The end.  The reason for every word, action, glance.  Whether the rest of his family realize it or not, their young King shows all the signs of the perfect Lannister--ruthless, greedy, cunning but rarely wise, earning enemies as easily as they breathe.  Presently those under his malign control include his mother Cersei (who increasingly cannot control him), his still-betrothed Sansa Stark, and now his new Hand (Prime Minister) the magnificent Tyrion Lannister aka "The Imp."

Meanwhile, we meet three of the series new characters.  Remember these.  They'll become more important as time goes by.  Stannis is the late King's brother, who regards himself as the rightful heir.  Given that all three of Cersei's children have as their father her own brother, Ser Jaime, the man has a point.  We heard about him last season, and now we get a glimpse of this dour, unbending person.  Honorable, though.  And honest.  He sends a note to all the Lords of the Seven Kingdoms, proclaiming himself King.  Yet he refuses to call his brother "beloved" or to omit the title of a man he loathes. 
But Stannis has more than a claim.  He has a Cause.  Melisandre, priestess of a foreign religion, the worship of a God of Light, insists he fulfills a prophecy.  In token of this, he has even changed his sigil.  The Barantheons had used the golden stag.  Now the stag on his armor and banners is within a heart and wrapped in flames.  We see statues of the Seven, the gods of Westeros, aflame.  And we see Melisandre share a cup of deadly poison with a rival, who promptly dies.  This one has power, she does.  And unlike the ones playing the game in capital, King's Landing, she at least realizes there's more at stake than any mere throne.  For the night is indeed full of terrors.

Listening to her and remaining loyal to Stannis, Ser Davos Seaworth makes the third of the important new characters.  For now let us note him as a knight.  Having read the books, I know there's a lot more to him than that.  As we shall see.

But for now, various men vie for the crown.  Stannis, his brother Renly, evil child Joffrey, and of course Robb Stark, the proclaimed King of the North who holds Jaime captive (and who, apart from winning a series of battles, also has a frelling HUGE dire wolf at his side).  Robb sends out two missions--Theon Grayjoy to the Iron Islands to win allies, and his mother Lady Catelyn to Renly.  Hardly anyone notices the red comet in the sky, or how the wildling woman says it means Dragons.

Danaerys Stormborn and her dragons are half a world away, struggling through the Red Wastes  Jon Snow and members of the Nightwatch struggle in dealing with a powerful wildling patriarch.  And it is here the real problems are rising.  For white ravens have been sent out.  The longest summer in living memory comes to an end.  Winter is coming.  Folklore says after a long summer comes an even longer winter.  But no one, alas, pays much attention.  Instead, on Joffrey's orders all of the late King's bastards are sought out and slaughtered.  One has escaped, with the missing Arya Stark.  Soldiers head after him.

And the game of thrones spills more blood every day.

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