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Game of Thrones Episode 201, “The North Remembers”

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game of thrones season 2 the north remembers

The second season of Game of Thrones has finally arrived. The first episode prepares us for the Clash of Kings to come, setting all the major players in their corners and drawing the lines of battle, soon to be crossed. Imagine a ring announcer shouting, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” in an overwrought British accent.

Why are there so many kings in the Seven Kingdoms right now? Last season revolved around Eddard Stark acting as the King’s hand for his old friend, Robert Baratheon, and uncovering the truth about Baratheon’s children and the incestuous relationship between Robert’s wife, Cersei, and her brother, Jaime. Robert died and Cersei put her horrible, horrible son Joffrey on the throne, sidestepping the rules of succession even if you don’t count that he’s a bastard via incest. Eddard was betrayed and beheaded, so his son Robb formed an army and went to war, his bannermen declaring him the King in the North, independent of Joffrey’s rule.

This season we find that Robert’s two brothers, Stannis (the elder) and Renly have claimed the throne. That gives us Joffrey, the sitting king in King’s Landing; Robb Stark, the King in the North; Stannis, who has both the most legitimate claim to the throne and the weakest military; and Renly, who has a big army. Robb seeks to join forces with Renly, while Stannis figures the crazy new religion of the red priestess Melisandre will be enough to see him through.

In a series that’s made up entirely of moral grey areas, there is one character so utterly despicable that no one feels any sympathy for him, ever. Joffrey is such a heinous little monster that it’s pure catharsis every time he gets slapped. Let us all hope he gets slapped once per week, if only for his blustering, girlish shrieks whenever it happens. In this episode, we see not only what a cruel little brat he is, but how pathetically easy he is to manipulate. Sansa, not exactly the brightest torch in the sconce herself, saves a man’s life with her simpering. “He is a fool, you’re wise to see it. A quick death would be too kind, make him the court fool instead.”

Into the stewing pot of betrayal and paranoia that is King’s Landing strides Tyrion Lannister, appointed as the new King’s Hand by his father to temper Joffrey’s idiocy and his sister Cercei’s ambitions. Tyrion doesn’t really do much this episode other than lounge around with his new whore/girlfriend Shae, but Peter Dinklage surely steals the scene when he arrives. I’m about six feet, and I wish I could walk that tall.

With all the Big Important Things going on, it was nice to see one of my favorite characters from season one return. Ros, the red-headed whore! Last season she was working in Littlefinger’s brothel, being trained in the art of seduction via making out with another girl. She seems to have been promoted to manager of the establishment, as now she’s the one in charge of training the new girls. There was something strangely erotic about her giving tips on technique to a screwing couple – they have boy and girl whores, very progressive. When Lannister guards burst in as part of a pogrom against all of Robert Baratheon’s bastard children, it doesn’t really propel the plot (that storyline is pretty much played out), but it further demonstrates the barbarity of Lannister rule. Their disdain for the common people was frequently displayed this episode. Do you suppose all those refugees will get tired of being ground beneath the Lannisters’ boots eventually?

Take a deep breath, the episode is not done blasting you with the exposition firehose just yet. When we meet Stannis Baratheon, we learn that he isn’t just Robert’s brother, but part of a larger storyline about this new fire and sun-based religion that has come to Westeros. Stannis always has the priestess Melisandre at his side, a red-headed woman always dressed in red. Here is the one area where this episode let me down. For one thing, the casting didn’t quite match the characters as I pictured them in the novels. Melisandre always seemed a bit more matronly to me, which made her somewhat seductive control over Stannis feel more mysterious. I also imagined Stannis as rather more…pinched. His wife is barely seen in this episode – her presence in the novel adds some taboo to the Stannis/Melisandre relationship. We do get to meet Davros Seaworth, the Onion Knight, however. My favorite characters always end up being these pragmatic survivors, like Davros and Bronn, grizzled guys who play the straight man against the backdrop of all the lunacy around them.

With so much else going on, Jon Snow did little of import. We see that he’s north of the Wall with the other black brothers, trying to figure out what’s going on up there. He meets a redneck, they find out the Wildlings are forming up under yet another king (this one a former black brother, no less), and we find time for a fat joke at Samwell’s expense. Meanwhile Brandon Stark is learning to be a king and dreaming through the eyes of his wolf back at Winterfell.

What of the one storyline almost entirely disconnected from the rest? Daenerys Targaryen is off in the desert with a ragtag group following her. Her husband died and his Dothraki minions mostly took off, but some saw her emerge from his funeral pyre naked, alive and with a dragon on her shoulder. The FX work on the dragon in this episode was amazing. It was utterly convincing, from its birdlike movements to the translucence of the wings. I can’t wait for them to grow up. We see here that the few Dothraki still with Daenerys are utterly loyal to her. Loyalty was, in fact, the overriding theme of this episode, but nowhere did we see loyalty as pure as that between Ser Jorah and Daenerys. Too bad they’re probably all going to starve to death in the Red Wastes.

With a ten episode season and a lot of ground to cover, there will probably be very few dull moments over the next nine weeks. All the horses have left the gate. Maybe a few of them will get eaten by dragons.

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Posted by on Sunday, April 1st, 2012. Filed under Dark TV, Headline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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