The North Remembers

Ladies and gentlemen, back to Westeros, as HBO brings us the second season of Game Of Thrones, their big smash hit of last year based on a series of epic fantasy novels. Between this and True Blood, the days when HBO were known for realistic cop/undertaker/gangster shows are definitely behind us.

So, difficult second season syndrome? Or, since they’ve got a novel to work off, another day on the job? (Yes, I said “on the job”, there’s a lot of that.)

I haven’t read the novels beyond the first one, but I know the second is called “A Clash Of Kings”, so I’m imagining big fighting. And, yes, this season of the show was nearly entitled “Game Of Thrones: Clash Of Kings”, presumably until someone at HBO noticed the “GoT CoK” jokes on Twitter.

But this is the first episode of ten, so no mega-battles yet. Mostly, this is a refresher course, touring the sprawling cast and locations, sprinkling in a new lot on the way, and nudging their stories forward slightly. And that task by itself is so epic that it basically takes up the entire episode.

I suppose it could feel redundant if you’ve seen season 1 recently, but most of the segments are compelling enough to hold interest. I will admit the Daenerys section didn’t add much beyond “yup, she’s still there”, but aside from that, smoothly done.

The best segments are probably the ones set in King’s Landing, where Joffrey (the most horrendous character on this show) and his uncle Tyrion (the most entertaining) begin a major inter-family pissing match. If this were a regular TV show, I’d suggest such a central role for Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion could be a result of his recent popularity with both fans and major award judges, but I assume it was in the novel.

Basically, though, it’s everything you want from a new Game Of Thrones season. Here we see the show taking a run around the track as it emerges, waving to the fans and saying “Yes, thanks, we’re back, nothing’s changed, Tyrion’s still cool, nudity still arbitrary, still at least one moment of senseless gasping violence”.

If the season stays this good once it gets going, everything will be fine.

Game Of Thrones airs on Mondays at 9PM on Sky Atlantic. More details on their official site.

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