As the second episode of the second season of Game of Thrones begins, elements of full-blown dynastic wars come into view. The hunt continues for the late King Robert's illegitimate sons. Along the way one of them makes an alliance of sorts with Arya Stark. The Queen Regent and King's Hand--a sister and brother who hate one another--fence with each other, using humiliation as a tool. Stannis Barantheon, brother of the late King, struggles to find a way to press his claim without violating his sense of honor. Refusing to make common cause with either Robb or his own younger brother, he makes a further commitment to the sorcerous priestess Melisandre. She promises to give him a son, the fact their efforts to do precisely that take place on a map of Westeros, knocking models of soldiers and ships and castles off said map--well, let us just say it seems a pointed metaphor.
Meanwhile Theon Greyjoy returns to the land of his fathers, the Iron Islands. He expects a welcome, an appreciative ear to the idea he put into Robb Stark's head--help free the North from the South, and the North helps the Iron Islands to its own independence. But Lord Balon, Theon's father, sees a soft foreigner not one of his own men. He has his own plans.
So, for anyone keeping score, there are now four people claiming a crown: Robb Stark, Stannis Barantheon, Renly Barantheon and of course Joffrey Barantheon. Looks like a four-sided civil war is in the offing, while a long winter approaches.
And I think both of them are out of their depth.
Beyond the Wall more problems brew. A former member of the Night's Watch is gathering wildlings to him. Dubbed The King Beyond The Wall (oops, make that FIVE kings) he's making plans. In the midst of all this Samwell does something kind and brave and stupid and dangerous. Maybe even right. He seeks to rescue a girl who fears her father/husband will kill her baby if it turns out to be a boy. After all, that is what he always does.
A small detail that bears mentioning. Westeros is huge. George R.R.Martin describes it as roughly the size of South America. So travel between the different parts remains slow. A disadvantage for storytelling? I don't think so. Rather, it gives each episode a chance to focus upon a certain set of circumstances -- which is why we saw nothing really of Catelyn or Renly this week.
Having read the books, I can tell you my favorite character of them all should appear next week!