The premier of season two of HBO’s hit epic fantasy Game of Thrones, based on “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin, inaugurates the Lannister via Baratheon reign over the Seven Kingdoms with blood and iron. King Jauffrey and his mother Cersei’s brutal rule over the populace coincides with an all-out rebellion in the North for independence under Ned Stark’s son Robb while the Night’s Watch grapples with a looming wildling threat as well as the return of the White Walkers.
Please note: Spoilers ahead.
The season premier of the first episode of Game of Thrones shows the Hound battling another knight to the death for King Jauffrey’s entertainment. A drunk knight, Ser Dontos, is forced to drink wine, presumably until death, as punishment for showing up to the King’s party inebriated but he is spared this fate with Sansa’s quick intervention on his behalf when she suggests that it would be poor luck to kill a man on the King’s birthday. Sansa is backed up by the Hound and she further suggests that Ser Dontos should be made a jester instead of being executed.
If this scene is intended to illustrate how Jauffrey is a complete tyrant then it is a utter success. Sansa is so pitiable in her state as a Lannister hostage and the physical and emotional punching bag for Jauffrey. Tyrion is made Hand of the King in Tywin’s stead while he fights against the rebellion in the North. Cersei is, of course, more than angry about this. Certainly, the disaster that was Ned Stark’s execution could not help but call into question Cersei’s ability to manage her son and the realm as Queen Regent. Tyrion points out this ineptitude is further enforced by Arya’s escape from King’s Landing which limits the Lannister’s bargaining chips with the Starks who now lead a rebellion against the throne.
When next we see the Starks we are treated to Bran and the Maester attending to business in his brother Robb’s absence. Again, the theme of someone acting in another’s capacity appears, with Bran acting in Lord Robb’s stead as master of Winterfell. In a curious interlude, Bran dreams that he is a wolf running through the Godswood at Winterfell and he views a red comet streaking through the sky. When the suggestion creeps up that the comet is a portent of dragons the show takes this opportunity to cut to Daenerys wandering through the desert with her infant dragons on her shoulders. It is a slightly heavy handed way to tie things together but perhaps makes connections between global events more apparent than the novels did.
Daenerys leads her failing Khalasar, avoiding other Dothraki as well as other tribes because they will likely kill them all and take her dragons. Jon Snow is accompanying a group of the Night’s Watch in an excursion beyond the wall. They are going to parlay with a wildling named Raster who interbreeds with his daughters. Raster informs the Night’s Watch that a former brother, Mance Rayder, is gathering wildlings together in an army to march on the south. Raster dislikes Jon Snow upon sight because he fears he is competition for his daughters’ affections.
Melisandre leads a night ritual on the beachfront with bonfires for R’hllor. This is the first introduction of the rival cult in the Seven Kingdoms, as well as that of the fire haired mystic Melisandre who adeptly disarms the one malcontent in the audience. We also meet Stannis, King Robert’s brother, for the first time. The whole scene depicts a ritual during which Stannis draws forth a flaming sword from a burning statue. The malcontent so easily dissuaded from protest by Melisandre warns Davos that she will lead him to war.
A letter is being composed by Stannis in which he names Cersei and Jaime as incestuous lovers and their children as illegitimate bastards. Ned Stark haunts the stage again because it is his letter to Stannis that has given him the impetus to bring down Jauffrey. Stannis’ Maester attempts to poison Lady Melisandre, because she has led Stannis away from the Gods. He ends up sacrificing himself in his attempt to get rid of her. While he dies from drinking his own poison, she does not. Probably one of the best additions this season, Melisandre brings that element of fantasy that has heretofore only lurked in the background.
‘For the night is dark and full of terrors. But the fire burns them all away.’
Jaime is Robb’s captive. The direwolves are gigantic and fully grown this season, as illustrated when Robb uses his to intimidate Jaime. Robb tells Jaime he knows about he and Cersei’s children together and further accuses him of tossing Bran from the tower window because he sutmbled upon Jaime and Cersei in the moment.
Cersei demonstrates a bit of Lannister might when she intimidates Petyr Baelish into finding Arya for her. During their conversation Petyr reveals that he knows about Jaime and her secret, while Cersei reveals to us again Petyr’s likely motivations for betraying Ned Stark. Cersei’s one mistake in having Petyr seized and within moments of having his throat cut is that she did not go through with it. Instead, she has made an enemy who is both resourceful and devious. Excellent work again, Queen Regent.
Robb convinces Catelyn to try to persuade Renly to join his side. If Renly did it would nearly double Robb’s number. The likely outcome of the war would ultimately be the secession of the North from the Seven Kingdoms.
To make matters awkward beyond compare, Jauffrey lets Cersei know that he has heard the rumor about her and his uncle. Then he insults her by speaking of his father’s bastards with other women. Her slap in response is apparently ‘punishable by death.’ Perhaps Cersei is finally realizing what a monster she has created. The show closes with the murder of each and every one of King Robert’s bastards, from cringe-inducing scenes of baby and toddler slaughter to fairly grown men. The inauguration of the Lannister via Baratheon reign is brutal and bloody, as it should be. Hopefully Lannisters aren’t the only people who pay their debts.
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