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Game of Thrones Review: Sons of Monarchy

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On the Game of Thrones season two premiere last Sunday, Cersei famously said knowledge is not power. Power is power.

But, following what she learned about her son on "The Night Lands," this queen regent would have to admit: knowledge can certainly have the power to make one think: OMFG, what the heck have I created?!?

Gendry Photo

Of all the great scenes and developments on the second episode of season two - from Tyrion confronting Varys to Theon and his father stepping into the spotlight - the reaction of Cersei to the news that Joffrey actually ordered the execution of all Robert's bastards stands apart for me because it symbolized this week's theme:

Family. Or better yet, how effed up the families across Westeros can be.

We have Cersei finally coming to the realization that she's responsible for a monster, although it's unclear what she can possibly do about it. I doubt Joffrey would respond to a grounding. Maybe dock his allowance for a week? Nay, two weeks!

We have Theon and the introduction of his father, Lord Balon Greyjoy, a parent who would seemingly give Tywin Lannister a run for his strict, bitter money. But whereas Tywin is disappointed in almost all his offspring, and worried about the family's legacy, Balon is simply... hurt.

He puts on a strong front and he makes a reasonable point about family ties and traditions and loyalty - scoffing at Theon's clothing, mocking his appearance - but it's really his pride that's at stake here. And it will clearly result in Theon having to choose between his real family and his adopted family.

We have Daenerys, who once again doesn't receive a great deal of screen time, but who does receive a major blow to her Dothraki family when Ricardo's horse only returns with one body part of its rider. Who is out there? What, exactly, is Daenerys leading her troupe in to?

(Now seems like a good time to once again say I have NOT read the novels on which Game of Thrones is based. I am writing these season two reviews as someone merely following along each week on television. For the point of view of an expert in all things George R.R. Martin, read Carissa Pavlica's take on "The Night Lands".)

We have Tyrion, of course, who family connections aren't strong, yet have resulted in landing him smack dab in the middle of the action. But, unlike the honorable Ned Stark, it's action with which he's familiar: scheming, manipulating, making threats, striking deals. Remember when Ned asked Varys to whom he was loyal last season? He seemed legitimately baffled by this eunuch.

But not Tyrion. A couple questions for Shae were all Tyrion needed to hear in order to make it as clear as possible: I see what you're doing. And, trust me, I can do it, too. He later made that even more evident in his dealing with the City Watch Commander. I loved that scene. Quick, efficient, humorous. Classic Tyrion all around.

We have Stannis, who actually wanted to be a good family man. He tried to be, at least, for all of five seconds, until Melisandre played the "son" card. Legacy is also a major theme of GoT - as outlined previously with Tywin and Balon - and, while we don't know a great deal about Stannis still, we're now keenly aware of his desire to both rule and for his child to one day do the same.

But can Melisandre really be trusted?

We have Arya, who is leaving her family way behind on the road north, but who is making a new connection with Gendry, someone whose family tie (about which he has no idea) might soon get him killed. Something that also holds true for Arya, of course, giving these two an unfortunate bond. But also a funny one. Game of Thrones isn't exactly known for its humor, but Gendry seems like a more light-hearted lad than most. At least until he learns of his father's identity, perhaps.

And, finally, we have Jon Snow. That stubborn, courageous-to-a-fault Jon Snow. You could see how it pained him to turn down Sam's kind request that they take/save Gilly, but it seemed to be his only choice at the time. There's a bigger goal at stake here for the Night's Watch, although one can reasonably ask: if you can't protect an innocent young woman, who exactly are you fighting for?

Maybe for the sons who are getting... sacrificed by Craster? Handed over and turned into other creatures? It's times such as this cliffhanger when I'm glad I haven't read the books. I have no earthly idea what's going on beyond The Wall. But few, if any, father/son relationships are healthy on Game of Thrones. And on an episode that depicted just how deep family ties can cut, simply put, I can't wait to see what happens next.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (122 Votes)

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

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Excellent television yet a tad bit boring at the same time. Perhaps scattered is a better word, but when you're trying to write for so many characters, kings and families, it's quite difficult to get it all in in one hour. Little Finger is an interesting character - far more sinister in the television series. He'd better watch his back. I agree that aside from Tyrion, there is no central character so the viewer tends to get a little lost.

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The only thing I have trouble with is that ever since ned stark's death we lack a central character to hold things together. It really didnt bother me until I watched borgias right after thrones and was impressed by how everything revolved around jeremy irons. I know these are completely different shows but right now the series seems like a series of vignettes. The closest to a new ned stark might be tyrian. He dominates all the scenes he is in. This is still my favorite show and hope it follows true blood and does not follow the books. Especially when it comes to certain characters like robb stark.

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I am about to buy the book set, but as for season 1 and so far season 2, this show skyrocketed to my number 1. Followed closely by Walking Dead, the Borgias, and yes I still love the Killing. I think of all the persons destined for the throne, Danny will end up with the best hand after she finds her oasis and her dragons eat and mature answering to her as steadfast as the Stark's wolves. I do think Tob and especially Bran will be the 2nd most formidable persons in time, mostly because of their upbringing, their courage, and most importantly, Bran seems to have some kind of supernatural element in him. Whoever, whatever, this series rocks and I know there will be lots of twists and turns shockwaves and great storytelling filled with heroes and antagonists, with my only regret that there is only 8 episodes left now. Man I love this show!

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@Ed No Stannis is married to Lady Selyse of House Florent and they have a facially scarred daughter named Shireen (who they may have left out of the show). The reason why the men called her the "Red Queen" is because of the prevailing belief that Melisandre was Stannis' true Queen and that he was having sex with her. His actual wife was seen as sick and unattractive and Stannis hadn't really touched her since their daughter was born. So, no, HBO did not change this, although they verified the fact that Stannis had had sex with Melisandre which was merely speculated in the book.

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Stannis is not married to Melisandra in the books. You see his wife for a split second in the first episode. How long ago did you read the books? The books make it more clear than the show does that he has a wife... Especially considering he has the ugly daughter with the scabies face begotten by her. The Asha name change is because the Wildling woman who is with Bran all the time... her name is Osha. If you just hear them it can become confusing... ESPECIALLY considering the coming events. Hence the name change.

Fortyseven

Nothing really happened but it was entertaining. How many troops does Joffrey have?

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The secondary characters really make this show great. I thought the pirate was hilarious, him wanting to 'take' the queen as well as the gold. And Bron becoming the city guard commander was awesome. He is a mercenary in every way. And Theon going home expecting to be the big man while his father firmly put him in his place (below his sister) was classic. Can't get enough of this. I wish every episode was 2 hours long.

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some of the humerous lines: Tyrion (to Varys): You should try her fish pies.
Shae: Oh, he doesn't like fish pie.
Tyrion: How do you know?
Shae: Oh, I can tell.

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In the books I thought that Stannis was married to Mellisandra, hence her title of The Red Queen. I don't mind the difference just don't get the reasoning behind it. Also the changing of Theon's sisters name seems silly. Its Asha in the novels and I forget her name on the show. The rest of the Greyjoy story is spot-on so far. I liked the Arya/Gendry arc the best of this episode. Stannis needs to be a bit more grim and dour. I dont feel the show is totally capturing the essence of Stannis.

Jcrv

I'm liking the changes so far from the books, but I am also worried of how they will tell the rest of the story with only 8 episodes left.
Really liking the Arya-Gendry friendship, its rare to see simple and clear relationships in this show.