You’ve read all the critic reviews and they are great, but what do the hardcore fans think of the first few episodes of season two? To answer that question we have two lucky WiCnet readers who were able to attend screenings of the first two episodes and have written up their thoughts.
First up is Ivan Popić (@ipopic), who managed to attend an HBO Adria advance screening for the second year in a row, thanks to The Rabbit. Here are his spoiler-free thoughts:
The number of friends and relatives who are hating me right now is huge and I suspect even Rabbit could be plotting my demise. The reason is that they couldn’t go to the advanced screening of first two episodes of second season which I did as a representative of House Gatewatch. Thankfully, I managed to get 2 tickets so at least my girlfriend is happy with me.
HBO Adria did a great job for season 1 premiere so they decided to more or less repeat what they did last year – knights from Order of the Silver Dragon were patrolling the cinema, ladies in medieval garbs were handing out tickets and a lot of Daenerys cosplayers were seen in the cinema as well. The crowd was bigger than last year which shows that even in our small country Game of Thrones has gained popularity. The members of production company were in the audience as well which was a nice gesture to thank them for all the hard work they did at shooting in Dubrovnik.
But enough with the introduction, let’s talk about the first two episodes we have seen. I’ll write without spoilers but I presume everybody who is reading this has seen the first season and knows there are dragons and direwolves in it and that Ned Stark was beheaded in the first season.
Last year there was always a tiny voice of doubt in the back of my head which doubted will HBO manage to do justice to A Song of Ice and Fire. That voice was forever silenced long before I saw the end of the first episode and I was much more relaxed when the familiar opening theme started. The series picks up right where it left but it took me some time to adapt to slower rhythm compared to the last episodes of first season. Of course, I have been watching a DVD to prepare for second season so that doesn’t mean everybody will get that feeling. The action skips a lot in first 2 episodes and some plotlines get really small screentime but with only 10 hours the producers have it is the only way to show every major storyline without axing even more characters from the show. I’m not sure how a viewer who hasn’t read the books will follow who is who in Westeros but I had the same doubt in first season. We saw that once the audience got excited about the show they quickly caught up with the characters so I don’t think neophytes will have much of a problem with new additions to the cast.
The new plotline with Stannis Baratheon gets a decent amount of screen time in first two episodes which is only logical as this is the first time we meet Stannis in the series and we need an introduction to him and the people he leads. Some actors from this group are good and some are amazing. Personally, I never cared much about Davos Seaworth in the books – I always thought he has viewpoint chapters only because Martin needed somebody to observe what Stannis is doing from the front row. However, performance by Liam Cunningham is so great that Davos is now one of the characters who I can’t wait to see more of and has certainly showed many layers Knight of Onions has. Another new area are the Iron Islands but we have seen little of it in first two episodes and I’ll reserve judgement about them until I see more of the Ironborn. Balon is yet another great casting but others didn’t really get much screen time.
I’m not even going to mention actors that we have already seen before who are all generally on the level from first season or even better. However, I must mention Tyrion and his take on the court politics, it is one of the highlights of the Clash of Kings for me and so far his performance is amazing. Nina Gold again did a great job and several of the new characters are really great (I especially enjoyed Lucian Msamati as Salladhor Saan).
CGI looks amazing – they haven’t ruined direwolves, dragons look realistic enough and all locations are amazing, especially Pyke. In fact, if I wasn’t familiar with Dubrovnik’s architecture I wouldn’t even notice some CGI work they did in the background.
Don’t think that everything in the episodes is great and amazing. I’m confident some gates will emerge and book purists won’t be happy with the adaptation. There are changes from the source material and in my opinion one scene in particular which I loved in the book fell flat. Ros is still very much present (she has more screen time then Daenerys in episodes I saw) so if you are among those who hated her you will have opportunity to resent her appearances even more.
I’ll stop myself now as I don’t want to write any spoilers and ruin the viewing pleasure to others and it is getting harder and harder not to spoil anything. I can’t wait for the official premiere so I can freely discuss, cheer, moan and nitpick about every little detail of the show with the rest of you.
Next up is Knurk (@Nagil_K), a frequent poster on WiCnet, who was lucky enough to get into an advance screening. I asked him to send us spoiler-free thoughts on the first two episodes and here is what he has to say:
The first two episodes of the new season are simply amazing. I cannot stress enough how much I freakin’ loved every single second of it. I recently rewatched the first 2 episodes of season 1 and the difference is night and day. I was very pleased with what I got in season 1 and it exceeded my expectations, but my inner geek was always telling me that the show could be better, and the little devil on my shoulder was asking me why it wasn’t the bloody perfection I always had in mind when reading the books. That little devil didn’t show up once during the two hours I sat in the theater today. I’ll put in a disclaimer that upon rewatching season 1 I noticed more flaws than the first time around, so maybe my uber-excitement always sits in the way the first time I watch Game of Thrones, but for now I’m just savoring this awesome experience. Another disclaimer I’ll put in is that I’m not affected by deviations from the book at all, all I expect is good tv and when D&D drastically change the story of the book I’m not questioning their motivations or fear for what this means for future events, I just go with the flow (because mind you, there will be changes some fans just won’t like).
What pleased me the most was how fluent(ly?) everything went: all the scenes clicked very well together, there was room for comic relief, the pacing was in the right gear every time and the transitions of scenes didn’t feel forced but came natural. The creators seem to have perfected their juggling of all the storylines without dropping one ball. Sure, there were a few characters who got very little screentime, and I really wanted to see more of them but I couldn’t think of any wasted minutes with other characters so that was just the side-effect of a one hour show.
The new actors are all great, I had doubts about Yara but she really nailed it in my eyes (pure Iron attitude). Balon, Davos, Stannis, Melisandre, Salladhor, Matthos, they all rocked. As a Lena Heady critic of the first season I’m pleasantly surprised by her this year, the evil smirk is gone and she has a more ‘commanding’ presence that I was missing from her last season (still that eyebrow formation always remains this ^-). And boy, if there is one stand-out it must be Jack Gleeson, absolutely phenomenal work.
I’ll end this gushing review with another gripe I had last year, the stale use of the camera. This improved with Alan Taylor in the last episodes of season 1 and it has improved even more this season. Lots of camera-usage and tricks that give you the impression you’re watching a feature film, one particular ‘dream’ scene made all the hairs on my body stand straight. The moving cameras and beautiful cinematography gave the whole just an extra ‘oomph’ I was missing last year. And the CGI is great, though I do worry a bit how the Direwolves will look when they are running (based on how slow the Direwolves were walking around when fully on camera). But why am I ending with my one quibble? My grade so far is 9.8 out of 10, gotte give the guys some room to blow me even harder away of course.
Lastly, Westeros.org published their review of the first four episodes. There’s is a bit more spoiler-filled than most, so only check it out if you aren’t spoiler averse. Here is a spoiler-free snippet:
As always, we’re die-hard fans of the novels and everything, inevitably, is touched by that perspective… but sometimes, reasonable and even necessary decisions for the sake of adaptation don’t necessarily lead to the very best storytelling. It’s a difficult beast, adapting a mammoth series such as A Song of Ice and Fire, and it can’t fire on all cylinder all the time. But most of the time? It gets there, for the most part, and there are some sections of the story which should please even the most hardcore purists. Other areas… perhaps not so much, especially as sometimes the changes seem gratuitous, change for the sake of change.
Winter Is Coming: Thanks to Ivan and Knurk for providing their thoughts!