Sundays 10:00 PM on HBO
Game-of-thrones

Game of Thrones Review: A King in Every Corner

by at . Comments

Last week, I enjoyed the kind of fortune that peasants residing in a Joffrey-led King's Landing will never possess: I watched the first four episodes of Game of Thrones, writing an advanced season two review in which I marveled at how this sweeping epic has incorporated new characters, while still upping the ante for our returning favorites.

Now, let's dig in specifically to "The North Remembers, an episode that reminded us that the night is dark and full of terrors...

The New Hand of The King

Often, when a series kills off a major character, it does so for the sake of shock value. The Internet explodes in outrage, water cooler discussions grow heated, many fans decree they are never watching again... and then life pretty much returns to normal.

But Ned Stark would be proud to know he did not die in vain. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the most startling development from season one informs every move and every decision we see on the premiere of season two.

The fallout of Stark's beheading is made clear both in action and in words, with Tyrion laying into his sister (what is it like to be the disappointing child?) for allowing Joffrey to rule out of emotion rather than reason. The kingdom is now in danger not so much due to Cersei's sordid, naked deeds (foul, Sam might call them) with Jaime, but due to the childish decisions of her son.

What can the Lannisters even offer the Starks now to quiet this revolution? Ned is dead. Arya is missing. Joffrey would kill his mother before he'd give up Sansa.

Indeed, when that axe came down across Ned's neck, it served as the opening whistle to the true game of thrones. And players from across the seven kingdoms heard its blow.

Robb - sorry, the King of the North!!! - is more confident than ever, taunting his enemy, ordering around his mother, making the sort of strategic decisions that, as Catelyn so rightfully says, would make his dad proud.

Stannis, who we meet here, is as gruff and as straightforward as they come, insisting that he never loved his brother and that Jaime be held responsible as the "King Slayer," but also acknowledging the respect his title affords him in the letter sent to all corners of Westeros. It doesn't seem like a man of his nature would rely so heavily on the Lord of Light, as brought forward by another new character, Melisandre. Stannis comes across as all business. Melisandre comes across as all... mysterious. It's far too early to judge, but the two make for an odd alliance after one episode.

(* It's important for me to stop here and say: I have not read the George R.R. Martin novels on which Game of Thrones is based. I will be writing these reviews simply as a fan of great television, meaning I may make comments or suggestions at which book readers will scoff. I ask that you do not spoil the story for others who simply know it on HBO.)

GoT Characters

While there are plenty of new characters on the way, Game of Thrones makes the keen decision on the season opener to merely introduce these two, one of whom has been referenced before, making the addition a natural one. The bulk of "The North Remembers" is spent with the deeply-developed individuals we got to know over 10 episodes last year, and they are each in very different places.

Tyrion may not be from King's Landing, as he's quick to point out, but he's in the perfect position, both for viewers and for those around him. Peter Dinklage is more entertaining than ever here, reciting his "remarkable journey" of pissing over edge of the Wall and fighting with the hill tribes, while still doling out actual useful advice to his sister. Tyrion may be the best source of Game of Thrones quotes, but it would be a mistake not to take him seriously. This is someone who "understands people" and also - unlike the previous, late Hand of the King - understands how the game is played behind the Landing walls.

He has the potential to get a lot more done than Ned ever did. And he won't even need to put down his glass of wine to do it.

Daenerys, conversely, is not in the prime position she thought she would be in via the birth of her dragons. They are just babies. Her people are tired and weak. There appears to be no end in sight to the desert. That's all we get of her journey on the premiere, though it's important to note the Khaleesi's strength is not yet broken.

Jon Snow, meanwhile, must learn to control his strength. He's tough and he's stubborn and he believes in doing what's right, but those traits can be a weakness if they are never reigned in. Yes, in order to lead, Jon must first learn how to follow, but he also must learn how to look ahead. He and the Night's Watch have scarcely started their trek beyond The Wall, yet another self-appointed king (Mance Rayder) is way up north and who knows what creatures lie in between.

Snow must sometimes consider the bigger picture before acting, even if that means ignoring the horrible actions of a man who marries and enslaves his daughters.

How to properly lead. It's one of the ongoing themes on Game of Thrones and it's a major focus of this episode, sometimes overly - the Master Commander giving Snow this speech - and other times subtly: viewers watching as Bran receives a rational lesson in ruling, which stands in stark contrast to the petulant Joffrey, someone who wasn't exactly reared by Cersei or Robert to listen patiently to the complaints of those below him.

We also see Petyr Baelish try to exert power, thinking it's all based on knowledge, before Cersei corrects him and makes it clear that being a self-made man can only get you so far. Connections do matter. So does one's standing. And, more often than not, power is power.

And that's what everyone is seeking on Game of Thrones: the ultimate sign of power, that iron throne. It's a saga that will take us to different lands and to many different characters before the battle even truly begins. But Ned Stark is dead, the pieces are moving into place and, thankfully, the game isn't simply back. It's finally on.

NOTE: TV Fanatic will be publishing two Game of Thrones review each week, one written by yours truly, from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with the source material. And one written by Carissa Pavlica, who takes a different approach to each episode, comparing events and characters to the book on which they are based. Read her take on the season two premiere now.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
  • 4.8 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (230 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

Tags: ,
Like Us On Facebook

Want more Game of Thrones?

Sign up for our daily newsletter and receive the latest tv news delivered to your inbox for free!

More From TV Fanatic

Calling-a-summit

Tyrant Review: Turning Point

On Tyrant, Bassam attempts to find a peaceful resolution instead of a revolution. Will he succeed?
Emotional-history

Covert Affairs Review: Honesty

On tonight's Covert Affairs, Annie and Auggie switch jobs and head to Paris. Will Auggie succeed in the field with Annie as his handler?
Avivas-leg-toss

The Real Housewives of New York City Review: Leg-endary Finale

A leg went flying on The Real Housewives of New York City this week. You must read this review.
A-kidnapped-infant

Perception Review: Gone Baby Gone

On Perception, Daniel and Kate try to track down a missing baby. Kate also must deal with Donnie's talks about their own future children.

Avatar

HATE HATE HATE that Ned Stark was killed off. Sick, disgusting Queen & her brain-dead son left in charge. May not continue watching. Just done for shock value. Yes, of course, if it's in the book, it has to be in the film. But "Game of Thrones" is Nothing without Ned Stark. Am furious he was killed off this quickly. Director could have worked the story around so that Ned was in for a longer period of time.

Avatar

I haven't yet read the book when I first saw Game of thrones season 1. After enjoying GOT season 1 and still hungry for more, I started reading book 1. To my surprise and delight the TV show is very faithful to the book. Very well done indeed. I really enjoyed reading the book after watching the show that I decided that I would not read book 2 until after watching season 2. I am hanging at the end of my seat watching last night's episode 3. Very well done indeed.

Loralee

...I think I wany Danny & Joh Snow to be a couple!!! And rule together!!! OMG SOO GOOD!

Avatar

WE SO NEED A GAME OF THRONES CAPTION CONTEST!! PLEEEEEASE MATT!!!

Avatar

I just watched Season 2 Episode 2, and it's so much better than this episode was... With the 1st episode, everything seemed so rushed, like, "okay, we've got a schedule to keep, so here's Daenery's, and here's Robb Stark..." In the first season, when they switched between characters it felt so natural, but in this episode it felt forced, like, "we've got to have Robb talk, but we're in a hurry". They should've just made it an hour and a half, becuz the whole being-in-a-hurry thing resulted in bad writing. The writing may not have been bad compared to other tv shows, but I'm holding the 1st episode to the standards of the first season... For example: with Tyrion it felt like, "okay, people love your sarcasm, and we only have a few seconds, so lets make every word sarcastic"; and then the drunk guy in the beginning... it seemed so fake and forced, it seemed like they could've done a much better job at conveying him as a drunk loser if they put in an extra minute... And then Sansa's reaction and the Dog's reaction to Sansa seemed like bad acting, but I believe that's becuz the overall writing suffered as a result of trying to cram everything into a 1 hour episode. Anyway, the 2nd episode was much, much better; it was much more in line with the standards of the first season. It begins with Arya, and we get to see Jaqen, Biter, and Rorge!! And then we get to see Gilly! And Balon Greyjoy! And then Sallador Saan! And Tyrion man-handles Janos Slynt... But there are 2 MAJOR things that happen in the 2nd episode that don't happen in the book; one thing happens with Bronn (which I think the fans will love), but the other thing is with Stannis, and I don't think the book fans will like it (I thought Stannis had a son in the book, but he doesn't on the tv show). There's a lot of sex in the 2nd episode. OH and I forgot: we get to see Asha! (but I think Theon called her Yara); I think the actress is okay, could've been better, but she also could've been worse.

Avatar

@Sander All that was covered during the last episode of Series 1.

Avatar

I am dissapointed about the first episode of season 2.
Why didnt we see Arya's escape from Kinslanding?
Did I miss the part where Drogo got cremated and the eggs hatched???
Conclusion: I feel like I have missed a big part of information, which makes the episodes quite unclear and unpleasant to see.

Avatar

This series is so beautiful!! It supports the books so well. My best friend and I started reading the series ten years ago, and so a lot of the details are very foggy, but then I see a scene or a charcter and it brings it all back to life. The actors chosen are all flawless, I agree with Ed, that Robb's character in the series has a lot more charisma and life then he did in the book, where as Arya seems to have faded to the background a lot more then in the book... still that may change. Stunnning cinematography... HBO knows how to impress...

Avatar

Okay I couldn't help myself I read all 5 books so I'll be careful, no spoilers. One area that was disappointing in the first season but was accepted as a cinematic limitation, and could be compensated for with some imagination from the viewer, was the presentation of the dire wolves. While these wolves were supposed to be unbelievably huge and utterly terrifying we were going to have to get by with German Shepherd dogs. There were battle reports of Rob's wolf killing a half dozen horses and men but that was hard to believe when you saw the pettable dogs. I was absolutely pleased by the introduction of the immense CGI wolf that confronted Jamie Lannister, up to then not afraid of anything. Add in Bran's strange dream and it looks like we are going to see the full potential of the wolves. I, for one, am thrilled.

Avatar

Best show on tv. Much better than the dull melodramatic true blood or psycho porn spartacus. Jofrey and tyrian remind me of claudius and caligula from I claudius. The only thing better than the great characters and acting is the imaginative settings. The frozen world beyond the wall, the desert nomads, the decadant kings landing. More imagination than anything on tv which sad to say is a farely low bar.