The wait is finally over, and if the premiere is any indication of what's to come, then Season Two of HBO's Game Of Thrones is going to be well worth the ten-month hiatus. As if there was any way it wouldn't be, right? The season opener, "The North Remembers," is in large part a table-setting episode that services all of the many various factions plotting after the Iron Throne. Yes, war is definitely coming.
Robb And Bran Stark Man Up
Last season's most memorable moment was definitely the beheading of up-until-then protagonist Ned Stark (Sean Bean), and in the wake of his historically shocking death the time has come for his young sons to step up. Robb (Richard Madden) is leading the Northern army and attempting to declare their secession from the seven kingdoms. In between debating alliances with Renly Baratheon (late King Robert's younger brother, played by Gethin Anthony) and the rebellious Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide), he stops to assert his newfound leadership over the captive Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Despite his battle strategy and political savvy, Robb's self-consciousness about his age may end up resulting in some very poor decision-making.
Meanwhile, the task of settling the day-to-day affairs of Winterfell falls with young Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), who's still experiencing prophetic visions while he sleeps. Just what are we supposed to make of that recurring comet, anyway? Is it truly to herald the return of the dragons, like Bran's handmaiden predicts?
Daenerys Targaryen And Jon Snow Hit Bumps In Their Respective Journeys
Speaking of dragons, things aren't going so well for Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). Her three aces in the hole are still powerless infants, her people and horses are dying of thirst, and they're surrounded by desert and more desert. In her only scene of the episode, Dany sends three scouts off in search of shelter, while Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) continues to have a blatant old man crush on her (oh, and he gives really good advice, too).
Jon Snow's (Kit Harington) search for his missing uncle beyond the wall is in similar, stagnant shape. The trail leads the Night Watch to a particularly nasty fellow who runs a small village where each of his daughters are also his wives, and he's of utterly no help in the search for Benjen. He does, however, mention a mysterious man referring to himself as King of all lands beyond the wall. Is the game of thrones about to have yet another player?
Stannis Sends A Chain Letter
Our introduction to Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is an enticing one. His chief advisor is Melisandre (Carice van Houten), a new-age priestess who blasphemes against the original religion and preaches of one singular god. She's hyping Stannis up to go against his younger brother, Renly, and take the throne, even though his numbers are minuscule, a decision the rest of his team silently opposes. The one public voice of dissent is so desperate that he tries to take Melisandre out on some murder-suicide ish. He succeeds at the suicide part, while Melisandre laughs in his face and chugs a goblet full of poison-laced wine like it's ambrosia. We like her already.
Stannis's first step in overtaking the Lannisters is to not make the same foolish mistakes as Ned did when he kept vital information close to the vest. Thus he sends out a (carefully edited) Westeros style chain letter to everyone of importance, exposing Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime's incestuous love thing, and, by extension, the bastardly nature of Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). As if we needed confirmation that that kid is a bastard.
"What is it they say about Lannisters and debts?"
The Lannisters have the whole world aiming at their heads these days, in addition to internal family strife. You didn't think the most ruthless family in the seven kingdoms would back down, though, did you? All of "The North Remembers" featured the top Lannister schemers making bold power plays, lest anyone forget who runs this shit.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) the imp, who in Ned's stark absence is the only person really worth rooting for, is eager to pass the black sheep torch-of-shame to his sister for her many fuck-ups involving the Stark family, while Joffrey continues his transformation into mad sociopath, to the point of making his own mother shake her head in shame at the monster she's enabled.
The most terrifying display of power comes at the hands of none other than Cersei herself, not to be outdone by Joffrey just yet. First, she lets Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) know that anyone can get it anytime, because her word is law now. And when Stannis sets the streets on fire with his scarlet letter, Cersei has every Baratheon bastard, technically of more right to the the throne than Joffrey, murdered in cold blood. Yes, even the infant whore-child we met last year.
This power move also puts a very public hit out on the bastard child who's traveling with the young, incognito Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), currently en route to The Wall. The Lannisters may have many enemies, but when they're on the defensive, they are more dangerous and brutal than ever.