Season two is here! Those who were here last year may remember that we have two recaps: this one, for those who have read A Clash of Kings and then one from We Do Not Sow, by a non-book reader and for non-book readers. If you fall into the latter category, head on over to the new viewer thread. But if you’ve read the books the show is based on, click on through for our season two premiere recap!
The episode opens in King’s Landing, the Hound fighting some dude, a scene that appeared in a bunch of the trailers. Oh look, he knocked him over the ledge. What a shock! Seriously though, that was a nice action set piece to open the season with. Immediately we are thrust back into this world. And immediately we are reminded that Joffrey is a dick. Poor Sansa.
And here we get our first good look at a new character that didn’t show up in any of the previews, Ser Dontos Hollard. He looks like a good Dontos, but I imagined him even more bumbling and pathetic. And is the drowning him with wine in the book? I don’t recall. I intentionally did not re-read ACoK, so I wouldn’t be comparing the books and the show all season long. Pretty horrific stuff, either way. Sansa with some quick thinking saves his life and that part I do remember from the book.
Tyrion! And Peter Dinklage just picks up right where he left off last season, completely nailing it. I love how Joffrey is intimated by his uncle, clear from the way he says, “I’ve been here, ruling the kingdoms.” No one else can elicit that sort of defensiveness from Joffrey. Next, Tyrion owns Cersei in front of the whole Small Council. Pretty fabulous acting from both Dinklage and Lena Headey here, as we get to see some of Cersei’s firey side. The two of them should have some great scenes together this season.
To Winterfell now, where Bran learns how boring being the Lord of a castle really is. I love that he is picking at the table, something he did in the season one scene where he gets lessons from Maester Luwin. It is a minor detail, but it is really nice to see that consistency across seasons. Next, we get a wolf dream! Glad they have included them this season. And our first glimpse at the new direwolves. Badass! So much better looking than the dogs from season one. And the comet serves as our transition from Winterfell to…
…The Red Waste, with a panoramic establishing shot, something we didn’t get enough of last season, in my opinion. We see Daenerys attempting to feed Drogon. The CGI looks amazing, better than some big-budget movies. The Silver dies and Dany sends out her bloodriders. We get a sentimental goodbye scene between Rakharo and Dany, which makes me think Rakharo won’t be making it back to the khalasar. And again the red comet serves as a transition, from the Red Waste to…
…The Lands beyond the Wall. Another epic establishing shot and then we are down on the ground with Jon, Sam and Grenn, arriving at Craster’s Keep. “I was born in a place like this, later I fell on hard times.” Dolorous Edd! Sam notices all the girls and Jon wonders where all the boys are. We go inside the keep and meet Craster. He’s not as wild and crazy looking as I expected, but he is a nasty and ornery old git. To be fair though, Jon does speak out of turn here. We meet Gilly for the first time. Hannah Murray makes a good Gilly. Mormont rightfully scolds Jon. Can I just take a moment and say how perfect James Cosmo is as the Old Bear? I was reminded of that while watching this episode. Certainly one of the best castings of the show.
And now to Dragonstone. The cinematography is, again, beautiful. They’ve really upped their game in that department this season. In one of the first major changes from the book, Maester Cressen is present at the burning of the Seven. Melisandre taunts him and we see already how Carice van Houten is going to play the Red Woman. It’s a role that could easily veer into camp and Van Houten does a good job of staying away from that. Inside the castle now, as Stannis and his men draw up Stannis’ declaration. Stannis dictating what to include and exclude from the letter is the perfect introduction to his character. Now we get Cressen attempting to poison Melisandre and failing miserably. I like how she waited until Cressen was already dying before drinking. Really drives home the confidence she has in her supernatural abilities.
Next we head to Robb Stark’s camp, where Robb confronts his prized prisoner, Jaime Lannister. I like Jaime’s line about dragging him with them everywhere as well as Robb’s response. A way to explain the change from the book, where Jaime spent his time in the Riverrun dungeons. Wow, Grey Wind is huge! I’m really liking the decision to film real wolves against a green screen and then compositing them into the shot. Hopefully all the shots turn out this good.
Back to King’s Landing, for a short and intimate scene between Tyrion and Shae. Seems they have cut having Shae stay outside of the Red Keep, where Tyrion has to sneak off to be with her? Now to a scene between Littlefinger and Cersei, which obviously wasn’t from the book. I’ve seen some early reviews complain about this scene, but I didn’t mind it. It establishes what looks to be an important theme this season: the exploration of power.
Back to Robb’s camp, where he is dictating peace terms to Alton Lannister. The character Alton is taking the place of Cleos Frey, presumably so they wouldn’t have to waste some valuable screen time on explaining why a Frey is a prisoner of Robb’s. And here is my favorite exchange in this episode: “King Joffrey is a Baratheon, Your Grace.” “Oh, is he?” I love that we are getting to see the Young Wolf’s campaign in the show. It was always something I wanted to read about in the book. Before we leave Robb’s camp, we see him dispatch Theon to the Iron Islands and Catelyn to Renly.
From one bossy son to another, although Joffrey is a LOT more of a dick about it. In a change from the book, it looks like Joffrey is the one who orders Robert’s bastards killed. Not sure how I feel about that. It seems they are attempting to soften Cersei a bit, while making Joffrey into even more of a monster. Jack Gleeson is really great at being a monster though, isn’t he? Lena does well with this scene also, the look on her face after slapping Joff is perfect. I’ve been very impressed with Lena this episode.
To the brothel now, where we see Ros has been promoted to manager. She has learned well from Littlefinger too, as she gives the exact same instruction he gave her back in season one. The Gold Cloaks arrive and Slynt is the one to do the dirty deed. We then get a montage of Gold Cloaks being violent. Finally, it ends on them torturing Tobho Mott to find out where Gendry went. Cut to Gendry and Arya, riding through the Dark Hedges, on their way north. End credits.
So what did everyone think? I thought it was a great first episode, that establishes many of the main players in this season. Leave your thoughts in the comments below!