Now that season two has finished, and we’ve had time to digest these last couple episodes, I’d like to look back on the season as a whole. Just as I did last year, I’m going to evaluate the good and the bad from this season, the pluses and minuses, what worked and what didn’t work.
Let’s start with the good. This season featured an improvement over season one in the area of achieving an epic sense of scale. The world felt real and it felt big. I think the decisions to film in Iceland and Croatia were a huge part of that success. Also the cinematography this season helped provide a more epic and cinematic feel. Not only did they achieve in an area I thought was lacking in season one, but they continued to improve on the amazing production design. All of the new sets and locations looked amazing: Pyke, Harrenhal, Dragonstone, Qarth, etc. The returning locations, like Winterfell and King’s Landing, looked just as good, if not better. Say what you will about the quality of the writing or directing, this is still hands-down one of the best-looking shows on television.
I also felt the show improved on two other complaints I had from last season, those being too much sexposition and a lack of battles. I can only recall one scene of sexposition this year and it is one that occurred in the book. In fact, the delivery of exposition this season was much less overt than last. Some of that is down to this being the second season, so less introduction to the world and its characters is needed. But I also think the writers did a good job of fitting the exposition in naturally and, in some cases, letting viewers fill in some of the details themselves. As to the presence of sex and nudity in non-exposition scenes, I don’t mind it, as it almost always has a reason for being there (despite what the comments from certain pervy producers may lead you to believe).
As far as the battles go, I would have preferred to see at least one battle scene with Robb, just to remind viewers that he is currently engaged in a war… which he is winning. But it is hard to complain about the lack of battles there when this show gave us the single most epic battle in television history. I’m talking, of course, of the Battle of the Blackwater. I had high hopes for this sequence, after all of the hype and build-up, and my expectations were not just matched but exceeded. What we got was exciting, bloody, epic and emotional. And that wildfire explosion — wow.
One area this show has been consistently strong in is acting. The acting last season was superb. This season it was even better. Newcomers like Stephen Dillane, Liam Cunningham and Tom Wlaschiha knocked their roles out of the park. Returning actors stepped up their game, like Gethin Anthony, Lena Headey and Alfie Allen. And old favorites such as Peter Dinklage, Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner continued to impress. Even the small roles are well-acted, like Nicholas Blane as the Spice King or Lucian Msamati as Salladhor Saan. Hats off to the entire cast for some fantastic acting, to the directors for their work in bringing these great performances to the screen and especially to Nina Gold, Robert Sterne and their casting team for finding some amazing actors.
Now to my dislikes from season two. I have gone on record a number of times that I did not like what they did with the Jon and Qhorin storyline. I’m not going to rehash my criticisms here as I want this post to be strictly about the TV series and not a book comparison (that being said, you can read my finale recap or listen to this podcast if you want to hear my thoughts on the Jon/Qhorin situation).
The other main issue I had with this season is the pacing of the overall story. A Clash of Kings is a tough book to adapt. Not only does the story spread out considerably, but there is an imbalance in the storylines. We don’t spend much time with Dany or Jaime or Robb, for instance. For the TV series, the writers tried to inject these storylines with some extra material but with mixed results. I felt the way they handled Jaime was perfect. They added some new stuff, and moved up some stuff, but it was organic. They didn’t draw his storyline out to create more screentime with him. They also didn’t feel the need to check in with his character every episode; they cut to his story only when there was something to say, whether it be plot or character development.
On the flip side, I think too much time was spent with Robb and Dany where not much happened. Arya and Jon’s storylines fell prey to this at times as well. It’s like the writers want us to remember a character still exists, so they give us a scene that is just a rehash of earlier developments. This does not serve the characters or the story well. It slows down the overall pacing and makes the characters seem one-note (how many times did Dany say she was going to take what is hers with fire and blood?). Next season, I would like to see the writers spend more time on the stories where there is more material. And not to be afraid of skipping major characters storylines in some episodes, if there isn’t something new or interesting the audience will learn. In the end, I think this will make for a more exciting and gripping season, as we won’t have multiple scenes depicting stagnant characters that popped up in certain storylines this season.
All in all, I felt season two was a good, sometimes great, season of television. It improved on season one in some key areas, while continuing to deliver some of the series’ hallmarks, such as great acting and superb production design. Some of the pacing problems that cropped up were because of the nature of adapting A Clash of Kings to TV, and hopefully next season this area can be improved upon. I will have to do a rewatch of season two to decide if it was better or worse than season one. But I can safely say that I enjoyed this season a lot and am really looking forward to season three!
What about you? What did you think of season two overall? What did you like and dislike? Sound off in the comments below and then rate the entire season in our new poll.