On Television: Game of Thrones (HBO)

Season 2 Ep. 1 – ‘The North Remembers’

After a whirlwind first season, this acclaimed television show (and one of my current favorite shows on TV) has returned to HBO for a second season and I could not be more excited about it.

In the days leading up to the premiere, I watched all ten episodes of the first season, viewed every featurette HBO OnDemand had available and finished reading the second book of the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings, from which this second season’s events is based. You can’t imagine how eagerly I anticipated this episode to air! But now that the first episode is over, I am unsure how I feel about the prospects for this sophomore season.

One thing that makes the television show so successful, in my opinion, is the filmmakers level of faithfulness to the original text. The worst thing when transfering a beloved work of literature into a television show or movie is to change things frivolously and therefore alienate the fans. Granted, there always have to be some minor changes to translate written words and internal thoughts/exposition into a screenplay, but so far they have stayed as true as they can be to the novels…and I commend them for it.

‘The North Remembers’ is no exception. Running straight after the events of the first season (and first book), it picks up during the height of the war for the Crown of the Seven Kingdoms: Dany is traversing the Red Wastelands across the Narrow Sea with her newly hatched dragons and her khalasar; Catelyn stands faithfully by her son’s, Rob Stark’s, side as he fights to rescue his sisters, avenge his father’s wrongful death and secede from the rule of the Iron Throne to become the true King of the North; Sansa is being held captive in the Red Keep of King’s Landing by Cersei and the incest-born, child-king Joffrey; Tyrion arrives to King’s Landing to take his interim seat as Hand of the King while the Lannister’s patriarch (and appointed Hand), Tywin, leads his army against the other kings; Stannis Baratheon, the rightful king by succession and a new addition to the show’s cast, is making plans to leave his keep at Dragonstone to claim his seat at King’s Landing; Bran handles life ruling Winterfell as war continues across Westeros; and Jon Snow, moving farther north of the Wall to handle the amassing Wildings, arrives at Craster’s Keep with the other men of the Night’s Watch.

As you can tell by that short synopsis of the episode above, a lot happens in ‘The North Remember’s’ but in actuality nothing really happens. Because each of these storylines and characters are important to the overall story and the continued faithfulness to the books, the filmmakers need to show them, but I fear that the sheer number of these characters and arcs is going to be the downfall of season 2.

In season 1, the cast of characters is similarly HUGE; however, in the start of the first season the events around all these characters are consolidated in a few key locations – King’s Landing, The Wall, Winterfell and Across the Narrow Sea – so even though there are a lot of characters, the events of multiple characters center around larger conflicts and is easy to digest. Now, because every main character is scattered across the four corners of Westeros and beyond, the filmmakers are only able to focus so much on each character within the sixty minutes they have for an episode, and each character has a distinct story arc that needs developing. As a result, I felt, there wasn’t enough time devoted to any one character’s story arc to really get any real investment in what happens to them in the next episode.

I know that with this series, the events that take place compound episode after episode to create a more holistic and captivating end, but with so much going on, I don’t know how effective it will be this time around.

I am still a huge fan of the books and the show and will obviously continue watching, but I definitely am concerned that season 2 will not hold up to the greatness that was the first season. I will just have to continue watching and see.

Rating: B

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