The Seven Kingdoms are in a bloody civil war: with King In The North Robb Stark (Richard Madden) fighting to make The North an independent country allied with the Riverlands. He sees that he must gain the allegiance of Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) on the Iron Islands, so he sends his friend Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) to parlay with his father, who is concocting a scheme of his own. In Kings Landing, Joffery Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) sits the Iron Throne with the support of his grandfather Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) and the rest of House Lannister.
Meanwhile at Storm’s End, his uncle Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) is hatching a plan with the support of The Reach’s House Tyrell. Stannis ‘The Mannis’ Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is making his own play for throne against the Crown and the younger treasonous brother Renly. As Westeros caves on itself, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) arrives in the Capital to bring things to order, only to find an enemy in his consistently plotting sister, Cersei (Lena Headey), now Queen Regent.
Now onto season two. It’s a welcomed factor that the majority of the characters are established. Now the creatives can throw us right into the thick of it. While season one started with whole families together, season two begins with a very scattered cast. They’re scattered up and down The Seven Kingdoms and a couple across the Narrow Sea in Essos. New locations and more characters have come to join the game, including Natalie Dormer’s Margaery Tyrell. Adding more characters on top of the already established characters was a bold move. There isn’t a television show out there with a cast as huge as Game Of Thrones, but it works.
It took us a few episodes to really get a grasp of what the story was in season one. We sort of know from the start what is happening in season two. And many of the season’s events came to loggerheads in episode nine “Blackwater.” Season two may start with a scattered cast but they all have their own stories such as Robb Stark (Richard Madden) gathering the North, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) at The Wall with Sansa (Sophie Turner) a hostage in Kings Landing while the Targaryen girl, Daenerys Stormborn (Emilia Clarke) is still wondering in the East. And that’s just a few of the many goings on of the second season, all while King Joffery (Gleeson) continues to reign with a sadistic regime in the Capital.
“Blackwater” is the episode that ties the season together. Ned becoming Hand (and off-screen shenanigans) were the event that initiated the events of season one’s entirety. “Blackwater” was the brutal and bloody battle where Stannis The Mannis (Stephen Dillane) led an inspiring attack on Kings Landing from Blackwater Bay. Newly appointed Hand Of The King, Tyrion Lannister, (Dinklage) thwarted Stannis’ attack with wildfire. The thing about Game Of Thrones is that it’s one of those high budget shows that has the production value of epic films. The Battle Of Blackwater was the Helms Deep of this series.
With Jaime (Nickolaj Coster-Waldau) captured in the North, it was down to Tyrion to defend the city from the revered religious fanatic and rightful heir to the throne, Stannis Baratheon. Joffery is a Lannister bastard of Jamie and Cersei’s making. Renly is Stannis’ younger brother. “The iron throne is mine by right. All who deny that are my foes” is a quote we here Stannis say. It’s his by the laws of the lands but as we watch more, we see how little people care for laws and morality.
After the credits rolled in episode nine, many non-book readers thought Tyrion had followed in the footsteps of Ned Stark. It must be said, Peter Dinklage owns every scene he is in. That can be from Tyrion making threats to Cersei or telling Janos Slynt “I’m not questioning your honor, Lord Janos. I’m denying its existence.” and figuratively dropping his mic. Tyrion can be your friend, as he has been to Sansa or a thorn in your side, as he was to Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover). The Lannisters are a powerhouse of acting talent. Charles Dance, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage and Nickolaj Coster-Waldau are sensational.
Looking to the East, Dany (Emilia Clarke) is struggling for the first few episodes of season two. We finished season one with the iconic image of Dany standing naked with three dragons. Let’s all be honest, we avoided Dany chapters like the plague in the books and especially ‘A Clash Of Kings’. They were deadweight. They were as dry as Essos’ Red Waste and that’s putting it politely. Dany’s arc in the books are really so boring. When she gets to Quarth things do get interesting and the writers jazzed it up a little bit with dragon theft and the massacre of the council. To depict Dany’s true arc from the books would be torture reincarnate.
One of the greatest parts of this series are side quests and the dynamic duos, such as Jaime and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) or Tyrion and Bronn (Jerome Flynn). There are many instances where this series has gone off-book but I’ve found that it’s the things that aren’t written in stone that make for the best television. Arya’s storyline is one of the best. She was Lord Tywin Lannister’s cupbearer at Harrenhal. The scenes between Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) helped shed some light on both characters’ personalities. It shows Tywin isn’t completely cold as ice and Arya is stronger than she looks.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) beyond the wall was an interesting turn of events, from killing The Halfhand to meeting Ygritte (Rose Leslie). Much of his time spent in “The Real North” was being talked at and threatened by Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) and Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju). This is all good and well, but there was rarely a time when The Bastard Of Winterfell made an independent choice other than choosing not to kill Ygritte. Choosing not to kill her and killing his fellow Nights Watch brother was the catalyst that helped to mould the backend of season two.
Season two is twice the season of its predecessor. It’s bigger, better and it has more of everything. With excellent production design, acting performances and a theme song that won’t remove itself from your head, the second season of Game Of Thrones is truly masterclass.