The first episode of the second season is a transition episode. It's one of those "hey, here's where we've been, and here's what everyone has been up to since we left." That means, more or less, we're inundated with a lot of information, new characters, and so on, just so we'll get a sense of
what is to come. After all, Eddard Stark is dead, and that means a hell of a lot of bad shit is coming our way. What follows, as such, is a somewhat disjointed review.
If that sounds like a lot of stuff, then you understand my apprehension to call this episode anything but a confused mess. GoT is still brilliant, mind, but there is something to be said about the writers biting off way too much in this episode. Who exactly are we to care about here? It's one thing to bring back some of our favorites, crammed together in one space, but to add new ones? There's simply too much going on here. Sadly, the overwhelming number of plotlines impacts the casting, as so many of the new additions get short thrift here. Stanis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) spends most of his scenes glaring at the camera, looking altogether not like I expected him to look. Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) at least gets a few extra lines, with some emotion thrown in, but his character is as undeveloped as the rest of the newcomers (especially Maester Cressen, played by Oliver Ford Davies, who seems to come on the screen just so the writers can kill him off). Simply put, the writers desperately need to break up these story lines to develop the characters more efficiently.
|He's important. Really. He is. Trust me...|
Additionally, HBO has done a fantastic job rendering the small cast of CG characters (in this case, one dragon). The worst thing about TV is that networks make series which need a lot of CG, but they aren't willing to pay for quality material. HBO didn't fall pray to that all-too-common weakness. Instead, the creators have done what smart people do: only use CG when absolutely necessary. And that means that unlike most television, this show forces us to pay attention to characterization, which GoT usually does quite well.
|Yes, I am God. Hear me roar.|
That pretty much sums up what I thought about this episode. Future reviews will likely delve a little deeper into the story. This review doesn't, in part because this episode is less a story than a giant placeholder. Every major plot point opens up here, but there's not much that can be said about those various threads until we've seen where they are going. That said, we're off to an interesting start, even if the first episode isn't the best of the lot.
Adaptation: N/A (haven't read the book yet)