Game of Thrones Revisited: 2.01 The North Remembers
Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed TV series by David Benioff and DB Weiss and developed from the best-selling series of novels by George RR Martin, has become a cultural icon. The tentpole of HBO's programming with a stellar cast and mix of medieval-style political drama and war with a healthy dash of fantasy, Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences worldwide. And in 2019, the show will come to a dramatic end in its final run of feature length episodes. In the lead up to season eight, I explore every episode leading up to the final battle for Westeros and the rest of the world and this time we kick off the second season of the show...
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven...
The season two opener of Game of Thrones is a plate spinner, juggling numerous stories without ever really settling in one central plot. That's not a bad thing at all; it's another dizzying series of moments, from the frozen north at Craster's Keep to King's Landing and all the way to the grim Red Waste. The red comet is the one thing that links each story, visible as a grim omen in the sky, but the real theme is power and who really has it now that the dust has settled on the events of season one.
For the first time, Aidan Gillen's Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish is not the man with all the cards as Cersei proves by taking control of Janos Slynt and the city guard and ordering the brutal execution of all of Robert's bastards. The murders of young boys and babies is particularly grim, though we're saved the visuals of these gruesome acts, but it starts to show the madness of the future queen and just how far she will go.
Of course, she pales in comparison to the loathsome King Joffrey and Jack Gleeson exudes psychopathic confidence in every moment he is on screen; he is a petulant child and monster in equal measure and you can feel the fear of Sansa and the rest of the royal court oozing off the screen. Fortunately we have the always fantastic Tyrion to brighten things up and Peter Dinklage relishes every moment as his character outwits, out charms and generally leaves a stunned populace in his wake. Cersei's face as he arrives at the small council and announces he is the new Hand is a delight; it's no wonder she takes matters so shockingly into her own hands come the episode's end.
Over in the Red Waste, Daenerys Targaryen's story is just as desperate as he remaining Khalessar wanders the desert without shelter, food or water. After her growth from frightened child to Dothraki Queen last season, this year is all about a trial by fire for her and her people. Not much of note happens here as she sends off her three remaining Dothraki warriors in search of sanctuary. It is the last time we see Elyes Gabel's Rakharo as he bid farewell to his queen and rides off into the distance. But hey, the baby dragons are rather cute at this point.
There are more power plays between newly crowned King Robb Stark, facing off against his mother's suggestions that he send Theon off to bring the Ironborn to his side (he should have listened, but this isn't the first mistake he'll make). But he does redeem himself decently in a confrontation with a caged Jamie Lannister as he introduces his prisoner to his rather large Direwolf Grey Wind.
Meanwhile, north of the wall, we're introduced to the rather odious Craster (Robert Pugh delivering a vile but effective performance), the wildling with his house full of wives, many the daughters of his earlier captives. It's interesting to see someone as noble as Jeor Mormont willing to break bread with such an odious man, but it adds to the desperation of their journey. It is certainly an eye opener for Jon Snow and brings us the first appearance of Hannah Murray's timid Gilly.
Of course, what The North Remembers is most notable for is the debut of three major new characters as the long-mentioned Stannis Baratheon makes his appearance. In those few brief scenes, Stephen Dillane distills a cold, ruthless performance, utterly unlike Stannis' brothers Robert and Renly. Liam Cunningham is a largely silent figure as loyal servant Davos Seaworth but brings with him an extra dose of class to the series.
And Carice Van Houten is exotic and dangerous as Red Priestess Melisandre. Already it is hard to picture her as anything other than a villain; she never commits any action other than burning the statues of the seven gods and proclaiming Stannis Lord of Light, but the manner in which she calmly drinks the poisoned wine and watches as Maester Cressen (an all too brief appearance on the show by Oliver Ford Davies) collapses and dies, is as cold as ice.
Not a lot happens this episode, but it still has a confident tone and continues to flesh out every character. It is a little harsher in tone and more epic than season one and that sets the pace for the rest of the season to come.