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‘Game of Thrones’ makes long-awaited return

TV Review | 3.5 out of 5 stars

Published: Monday, April 9, 2012

Updated: Monday, April 9, 2012 07:04


 

After many long months, “Game of Thrones” fans have seen their beloved show return on HBO. Let the memes begin. 

The first episode of the second season primarily set up what was to come and focused more heavily on character development and intrigue than on the action viewers saw in last season’s concluding episodes. For starters, new characters abound in the second season, the most important being Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), brother of the late King. In the period of civil war that Westeros is now plunged into, where every man thinks he’s a king, Stannis is throwing in his lot. Viewers know very little about him aside from his kingly ambitions and his belief in a new god, the Lord of Light.

The audience also has to bear witness to Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), the late King’s “son” and effective monarch, becoming an even more insufferable brat than he was before. Unfortunately, his character remains one-dimensional, shifting only between apparent and hidden rage. He remains one of the least interesting characters in the entire show, though arguably the most powerful.

Fortunately, Joffrey’s lack of emotional range has made Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), his mother and queen, a comparatively deep character. Cersei begins to shift away from her cold and calculating persona and develops much more emotional depth. Without spoiling anything,: Cersei slaps her son after he calls her out on the rumors circulating about his lineage. He responds by threatening to kill her, and you can see for the first time that she has genuine fear in her eyes. It’s moments like this, when the veneer of a tough-as-nails harpy breaks and viewers see the scared woman within, that demonstrate Headey’s acting prowess. 

Another interesting character, and one who has developed more than any other throughout the show, is Daenarys Targaryan (Emilia Clarke), the Khaleesi (queen) of a horde of roving nomads. When Daenarys was traded to her husband Khal Drogo by her brother Viserys in the first season, she was weak, scared and hesitant to step into the role of queen. After the death of her husband, she comes into her own as the leader of her Khalasar (traveling caravan of the Dothraki people). Clarke paints an image of a formidable queen of men who is prepared to fight for her people.

By season  two, Daenarys is fluent in Dothraki, a language she struggled to learn during season one, and she is asserting herself over what remains of her broken Khalasar. Of all the characters in the show, Daenarys has the promise to be the most intriguing. 

Of course, where would we be without the Stark family, the ruling family of Winterfell? The dramatic end of the last season set the Starks on the warpath after the patriarch and hand of the king, Eddard (Ned) Stark (Sean Bean), was put to death by Joffrey. Besides the more active members — the mother Catelyn, son Robb and bastard child Jon Snow — we don’t know much of the family. Robb (Richard Madden) is now struggling with the death of his father and rallying the northern kingdoms to battle the Lannister clan for its murder of Ned. Robb, considered the “king in the North,” is intimidated but effective with his newfound responsibilities.  He is clearly intended to serve as a counter-point to Joffrey. Where Joffrey is ignorant and petulant, Robb is clever and avoids ]becoming drunk on power in the way Joffrey has.

Bran, another member of the Stark family, looks like he will play a substantial role as well. He has started having dreams of being a wolf and has been forced into the position of Lord of Winterfell in Robb’s absence, all at the tender age of 10. 

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