"Game Of Thrones" Plays Hard In Its Second Season Review

Season Two of Game of Thrones found its expansive cast of characters spread across the equally expansive lands of Westeros after the death of series centerpiece and Hand of the King Ned Stark, played by Sean Bean. As soon as Ned’s head hit the ground, the main figure of nobility and justice in Westeros was gone. In his place, chaos reigns--fascinating, fascinating chaos.

So, where to begin? Well, exiled teen queen Daenerys Targaryen has lost her husband and her unborn child, but gained three dragons--the first to been seen living in the world in years. Ned Stark’s children are scattered from the Wall in the far North down to King’s Landing, leaving Bran Stark to rule as the Stark in Winterfell despite his youth, his paralysis and his frequent dreams that he is a wolf. Stark ward Theon Greyjoy returns home to the Iron Islands to be given a less-than-enthusiastic welcome by his father and sister, and to question where his familial loyalties truly lie. Tyrion Lannister, portrayed by the incomparably witty Peter Dinklage, arrives in King’s Landing to serve as Hand of the King to his violent and spoiled nephew Joffrey, much to the dismay of Queen Regent Cersei, who drowns her sorrows in endless glasses of wine and the hope that her twin brother and lover, Jaime, will eventually be returned to her. Stannis and Renly Baratheon both lay claim to their deceased brother Robert’s throne, with Stannis being aided by the mysterious red priestess Melisandre, played by series newcomer Carice van Houten with maximum mystery and sensuality.

Believe it or not, that is only a tiny sampling of what goes on during season two of Game of Thrones, adapted from the second book in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings. The entire saga culminates in the bombastic Battle of Blackwater Bay, which is by far the most impressive sequence I have ever seen created for series television. 

Houten stands alongside Dinklage as the two standouts in the very talented ensemble cast that includes great performances from Lena Headey, oozing a combination of power-hungry malice and maternal devotion as Cersei, and Maisie Williams, as the spunky youngest Stark, Arya. Both Tyrion and Melisandre seem to be genuinely having as much fun manipulating everyone around them as the characters they are portraying. Dinklage and Houton possess so much magnetism that one would miss them when they aren’t onscreen, if it weren’t for the fact that one great strength of Game of Thrones is that each storyline is nearly as compelling as the next. There are a few misses; I’d say that Daenerys whining and tarrying in Qarth was definitely the weakest link this season, despite the presence of dragons. However, this is merely proof that Game of Thrones is so much more than a fantasy series; it does not need to rely on magic and mythical creatures to be enthralling. The political intrigue--the titular game to decide who shall rule the Seven Kingdoms--creates enough drama to fill several television programs for multiple seasons.

There is so much happening in Season Two of Game of Thrones that one wishes that each of this season’s ten episodes were much more longer than a mere one hour long. Yet because the show keeps the viewer wanting more, it maintains the quality of its first seasons and nearly exceeds it. However, one does sometimes feel that George R.R. Martin’s carefully constructed web of plotlines, so subtle and brilliant in the books, is about to collapse under the weight of the various bare and heaving bosoms that get shoehorned into nearly every episode. The books are rife with sex, and sex that is important to the plot, this is true. Sex is a valuable tool for gaining power as utilized by many of the citizens of Westeros, whether it be Petyr Baelish amassing his fortune via brothels, or Yara Greyjoy allowing her brother to unknowing flirt with her so she can glean his true nature. Sex can also be a person’s undoing, as seen in Robb Stark’s impulsive union with a nurse he meets upon the battlefield, or Bran Stark’s paralysis at the hands of Jamie Lannister after witnessing his incest with the queen. However, there is a fine line between using sex as a legitimate plot device and sex as a scene filler, and HBO seems a bit too keen on the latter during much of season two. Baelish’s brothel is an important setting in King’s Landing, but it does not need to be a centerpiece in every single episode. When one is adapting a television program from such dense books as A Song of Ice and Fire, one has more than enough information to suffice, and more than enough nudity to titillate viewers, without adding any more into the mix.

Game of Thrones is one of the most remarkable dramas on television today. Its buzzworthy nature has successfully pushed fantasy as a genre fully into the pop culture mainstream, something that I for one am very grateful for. Those who do dismiss the program as a mere swords-and-sandals (and dragons) epic are missing out on a well-written, well-acted saga that anyone who appreciates the art of storytelling should greatly appreciate. If you haven’t tuned in yet, now is the time--season three, starting March 31, is adapted from the most beloved volume of the series, and promises to be the most epic and entertaining yet.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

The gorgeous Blu-ray box set of Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season most definitely gives viewers their money’s worth. Not only is the packaging a delight to look at, it contains six Blu-ray discs, two standard definition discs, and a digital download of the film. Those six Blu-ray discs contain enough special features to make the viewer feel as wealthy as the Lannisters. It’s ideal for any fan that has never actually read the doorstop-sized books the series is based on, or those that find the wide world of Westeros just a little too...well, wide, and full of characters and cultures that are hard to keep track of. If this sounds like you, then you’ll love the bonus features like “Histories and Lore,” as well as the interactive “War of the Five Kings” and the in-episode guides provided for each of the ten in this season. A particular gem is “The Religions of Westeros,” which features George R.R. Martin alongside the showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, explaining each of the unique religions of Westeros, who follows them and why. There is also a behind-the-scenes feature showcasing how the cast and crew created the epic Battle of Blackwater Bay, along with a cast round table discussion and audio commentaries. Altogether, a treat for any fan who longs to fully experience the world of the series without risking a beheading.

"Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season" is on sale February 19, 2013 and is not rated. Drama. Directed by Alan Taylor, David Nutter, Tim Van Patten. Written by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, George R. R. Martin. Starring Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage.

Feb
18
2013
Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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