SEASON 2 EPISODE 1: THE NORTH REMEMBERS. Well its been almost 24 hours since the second season of Game of Thrones premiered in America and that has been more than ample time for a number of recaps to be written and published on the world wide interweb. Since we cater for the UK audience however I hope that this will be one of the first recaps you’ll be able to read from this side of the pond.
From the very beginning the sense of joy is immediately rekindled when you sit down to watch season two thanks to the opening credits and the stringed orchestra playing the theme tune (although there is a little sadness not to see Sean Bean and Mark Addy’s names displayed first in the cast list, however I approve of them being replaced with Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey). The clockwork map of the Seven Kingdoms is pretty much the same as for season one with the exception of a small stop-off at Dragonstone, seat of Stannis Baratheon, on the way to Winterfell. When the music subsides and the action commences we are in Kings Landing with King Joffrey presiding over a tourney to celebrate his nameday. The hound bests an unnamed knight and King Joffrey stands to applaud him turning to Sansa who sits by his side, asking her if she liked what she saw. Sansa responds like an automoton, repeating the words Joffrey himself has already spoken “It was well struck, your Grace” There is no emotion in her voice and it is clear she is simply saying what she thinks Joffrey wants to hear. Its equally clear that Joffrey notices this too, but he is more interested in the next competitor in the tourney who happens to be Ser Dontos the Red, of house Hollard. He staggers centre stage struggling to get his armor fitted properly and Joffrey is not impressed.
Demanding to know if the man is drunk he orders his guards to pour a whole casket of wine down his throat with the intention of killing Ser Dontos for disrespecting his king. Sansa speaks up then telling him that it is bad luck to have someone killed on one’s nameday. Joffrey sneers at her peasant superstition, only to have it backed up by Sandor Clegane – his personal guard. Uncharacteristically Joffrey backs down calling the man a fool, but he will kill him tomorrow instead. Sansa again speaks up – the man is indeed a fool and Joffrey is wise to see that, perhaps he doesn’t deserve the mercy of a quick death and Joffrey should take him into his service as his new fool.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) arrives in Kings Landing, sent by Tywin Lannister to act as Hand of the King in his father’s absense. Charming as ever Tyrion greets all the Lannister children and expresses his sympathy’s with Sansa for her loss. Joffrey sneers at him. Her father was a confessed traitor; but still her father, counters Tyrion, surely having just lost your own beloved father you can sympathise. Joffrey cares little for his uncle’s words and instead looks to Sansa to put the imp straight. Sansa obliges by reeling of a rehearsed statement proclaiming her family to be traitors. Its clear that Joffrey is still a little shit.
Cersei is not happy that her father has seen fit to appoint her brother Lord Tyrion to serve as Hand of the King. But she brought it on herself by not preventing the execution of Ned Stark. The Lannisters now face a battle against the whole of the North because of it. But they do have leverage in the form of the two Stark girls – Sansa & Arya – they could use them to barter for the return of Jaime Lannister, currently imprisoned at Riverrun. In a delightful moment Cersei is forced to admit that they only have one Stark girl. As it stands she has let Arya escape – a piece of news which make Tyrion do a cartoonish double take when he hears it. Father will not be impressed.
In Winterfell young Brandon Stark is Lord in the absense of his Brother Robb, new King of the North. Its dull work listening to the problems of Stark bannermen all day, but he manages with the guidance of Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter). Overhead a red comet blazes a path across the sky, visible from all around; everyone who sees it believe it to be an omen of everything from victory for Robb Stark, or victory for the Lannisters, or the return of Dragons to the realm.
Which takes us across the narrow sea to catch up with Daenerys. Her embattled Khalasar are struggling through the red waste, she has baby dragons on her shoulders, but she is strugglng to feed them. Around her horses are dying and its obvious that Dany and her people are too weak. Ser Jorah paints a bleak picture; they have no option but to travel through the red waste until they find sanctuary, anywhere else and it is likely they would all be killed and the dragons stolen. Daenerys resolves that they should not travel blindly though the red waste and instructs three of her blood riders to ride out in different directions searching for cities; rivers or caravans, salvation. When they find something they are to report back quickly.
The Blazing comet is also visible North of the wall. Jon Snow is ranging with Commander Mormont and the other men of the nights watch looking for evidence of white walkers and wildlings. They find a single community of wildlings in the snowy forest headed up by Craster a man who keeps his bloodline pure by marrying his own daughters. He hasn’t seen anything of Benjen Stark and everyone is a southerner as far as he is concerned. A crafty man who takes a dislike to Jon Snow, he barters with Mormont for information. In exchange for wine and a fresh forged axe he tells them that the other wildings have joined up with Mance Raider, the king beyond the wall. He is amassing an army ready to march south.
In the ancient citadel of Dragonstone we get our first sight of Melisandre(Caren Von Houten) and Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane). She is burning the old gods and bringing forth the new. She believes Stannis Baratheon to be a warrior prophesised to raise a burning sword from the fire; she has the sword in place and all Stannis has to do is reach into the flames and draw it out. Which he does and is proclaimed the Warrior of Light and his followers kneel before him. As the the old gods burn Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) and Maester Cressen seek grimly to turn him from this path of blasphemy.
Later Stannis, in the presence of his own small council drafts an open letter laying claim to the Iron Throne of Westeros and revealing the truth about Joffrey’s lineage. He would not make the same mistake as Eddard Stark however, and this letter is to be sent to all corners of the land to make sure everyone learns of his claim on the throne. Davos beseeches him to make truce with his younger brother Renly, worried that they do not have a big enough army to take on the Lannisters. Stannis however will not side with his brother; Renly has made his own claim on the throne and as far as Stannis is concerned he is a thief – Joffrey, Renly, Robb Stark; they are all theives who they will bend their knee or Stannis will destroy them. Bold claims indeed. Realising the futility of discussion Maester Cressen makes his move in a scene that left me wondering about its execution. I knew what was happening because I have read the Clash of Kings, but here the was no indication beforehand that Cressen was planning anything or that he had placed something into his cup of wine. However he stands and offers to pledge his allegiance to Stannis and Melisandre’s one true God. The wine is poisoned and he knows it will end his own life by drinking it, but that is a sacrifive he is prepared to make it means the end of Melisandre as well. However the poison has no effect on the preistess and Cressen dies needlessly.
At Riverrun Robb Stark confronts and imprisoned Jaime Lannister. Even though Jaime is in a dire position he still taunts his captor, calling him a boy. Robb returns the taunt by telling him he insults himself; after all he has been beaten by a boy, imprisoned by a boy and, who knows, maybe killed by a boy. Robb tells him he is sending one of Lannisters cousins down to Kings Landing with his peace terms – but Jaime tells him his father will never negotiate with him. The new Grey Wind makes an appearance here. CGI’d and looking bigger and more intimidating than the Northern Innuit dogs that were used for the Direwolves in season 1. Robb uses the wolf to good effect and Jaime shows a tiny amount of fear for the first time when confronted by it.
Back in Kings Landing Tyrion has smuggled his whore, Shae, into the Tower of the Hand, and Cersei is attempting to right a wrong by soliciting the help of Lord Petyr Baelish, Littlefinger, to find out where Arya might have run to. A power play emerges when Baelish thinks he can control Cersei with his knowledge of Joffrey’s lineage. Smirking he utters the line “Knowledge is Power”, to which Cersei ably responds with a demonstration that “Power is Power” after commanding her personal guard to seize him, and kill him before changing her mind, telling them to let him go and then turn and face the other way. Littlefinger is left in know doubt where the power lies.
Robb Stark sends the Lannister cousin off to Kings Landing with his demands, knowing full well that the Lannisters will never agree to them. Theon Greyjoy formerly Ned Starks ward taken from his home as a boy to serve as a hostage and keep his father Balon Greyjoy from rising up against Robert, tells Robb that now would be a good time to go back to his father to see if he can make use of his fleet of ships. Robb thinks this is a good idea, however his mother is not so sure. She doesn’t trust Balon Greyjoy at all and in reality is more concerned about getting back her two daughter Sansa and Arya. Robb tells her that to trade Jaime Lannister for for two girls, even if they are his sisters, would be a mistake. In a double blow Robb tells her that she cannot go to Winterfell to be with her other sons. He needs her to go to meet and negotiate with Renly Baratheon.
Another mother son chat occurs in Kings Landing with Joffrey asking is mother if the disgusting rumours he is hearing about uncle Jaimie and his mother are true. Cersei denies it and tells him no-one believes it, but Joffrey insists someone does and then how many bastards did his father have. He has a delightful turn of phrase does young Joffrey. “I’m asking did he fuck other women when he grew tired of you”. Cersei slaps him at this – a dangerous move. Joffrey must be getting fed up with being slapped by his family, Tyrion gave him a good going over in Winterfell in season 1, but this time he is King. He tells his mother that what she has done is punishable by death. She must never do it again.
The next sequence is somewhat disturbing. The kings guard are charged with seeking out all the old King Robert’s Bastards and slaughering them all. This includes Janos Slynt, the Lord Commander, slaughtering a babe in arms in a whorehouse. One of the bastards eludes them however, Gendry, already packed off to the wall to join the Nights Watch heading north up the Kings Road. With Arya.
And that was how it ended with Slynt preparing to take his men up the Kings Road in pursuit of Gendry, little knowing that he would also be getting closer to Kings Landings most wanted Arya Stark. She was grabbed by Yoren the nights watch recuiter last time we saw her, taken out of the city disguised as boy. Now there is a distinct possibility that it will have all be for naught and the kings guard will capture her after all.