The second season of Game of Thrones expands well upon the foundations made by the successful first season, as we see more of the big players of the war for the throne come into focus.
After the demise of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) towards the end of the first season, this run sees Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) appointed as Hand of the King to the spoiled yet psychotic King Joffrey. I really liked Tyrion’s characterisation from the off and Tyrion’s effective promotion to main protagonist does make for some interesting sub-plots and development of the whole Lannister family. As well as this, there are the first signs of dissent against the new rulers of the kingdom as the late King’s brothers, Renly (Gethin Antony) and Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) start building the forces that will culminate in an attempted invasion against King’s Landing and the Lannisters.
If the first season was the viewer’s introduction to the Game of Thrones universe through the eyes of the Stark family, then watching this season was like the universe was expanding and starting to show its potential. Viewers were taken to many different cities, each with their own unique flavour and group of characters. I think that is due to the George R. R. Martin books, which I am yet to read but have heard that the way the world has been created is with enough detail to make places stand out. On the other hand, a special mention should be made to the directors and those behind the camerawork for bringing each of these places into vivid life.
This season also sees the first true battle of Game of Thrones and I think a great job was done on conveying the sense of dread prior to and during the onslaught by the various non-fighting characters. It was those little snippets into the characters’ thoughts, along with the twist in the battle that I should have seen coming, that made this moment so memorable in the season. The fight scenes themselves had crisp cinematography, yet were chaotic at the same time, perfect when conveying the confusion of a battlefield. However, I would not be telling the truth if I said that the portrayal of this battle on screen wasn’t perfect; if anything, the matter in which it concluded did feel anti-climatic when the focus was on characters that the audience would have preferred to have perished. Once again the final episode plays out as more of an epilogue to set up characters’ narratives in the next season and I did not mind that, if the battle didn’t feel anti-climatic.
Away from the major narrative arc of this season, Game of Thrones is continuing to develop its younger stars by having more of them under the microscope with their individual storylines. Like the first season, some work much better than others. The transformation of Iron Islands heir Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) from brotherly figure of Robb Stark to a crazed, desperate individual who will resort to child murder to prove himself, was done very well and felt like a natural progression. Robb Stark himself is getting used to being seen as The King of the North, yet the expected battle between his forces and the ruling Lannister family did not occur this season, so I expect more of him will be seen in Season 3. Away from the Seven Kingdoms, not a great deal happens. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) faces capture at the hands of the wildlings north of the wall and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) stumbles across a city, loses her dragons and finds them again. These storylines feel like such slow burners that it almost feels pointless returning to these characters in every episode.
Generally, the acting is very good once again. As well as Dinklage’s brilliant portrayal of Tyrion, two characters really stand out in my mind. Lena Headey is magnetic in her role as Joffrey’s mother and the late King’s wife, Cersei. The audience know to hate her straight away but the way she is portrayed almost makes her action and her attitudes understandable. The scene where she is telling Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) what will happen should the invading force win King’s Landing was so brilliant on her part and her best scene to date. I also feel like Michelle Fairley was simply outstanding in every scene that she was in as Catelyn Stark, Ned’s widow, showing a wide range of emotions and inviting the viewers to accept her struggle to keep all of her family safe.
The second season of HBO’s Game of Thrones builds upon the foundations of what made the first so successful, bringing in more detail about the upcoming war brewing for the throne and the first true battle in the history of the show. It is slightly weaker than the first as some individual narratives feel like a distraction from the central plot and not worthy of that much screen time. However, season three is definitely on the agenda for me and you should expect to see my review of that coming out very soon!