‘Game of Thrones: The North Remembers’ (Season 2 Premiere) Review

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You know, for a while I was plagued by a fear that the April 1st return of Game of Thrones was a ruse, a prank, that audiences tuning in would be treated to 55 minutes of Tyrion sitting and staring at the camera, laughing like a loon.

Thank heavens, though, that this wasn’t the case – that, instead, we were treated to HBO’s impeccable setpieces, fine acting, and excellent writing.

Things are getting contentious in the land of Westeros, and this episode sets the stage for new contenders to the Iron Throne. It seems that Stannis Baratheon, the eldest brother of the murdered King Robert, has amassed an army and has eyes for the crown. He’s accompanied by a priestess/adviser named Melisandre, who appears to worship light and have supernatural powers, though this remains to be seen for certain.

The show has always suffered the one drawback that it’s borderline impossible to be a casual viewer – the complex, intertwined storylines and the cornucopia of characters make it almost necessary to obsessively research people and places. HBO’s retelling of the story does its level best to hold the audience’s hand, but it can’t defeat the fact that the basis of the series is an inordinately complex epic – masterful, yet difficult to comprehend.

Even still, the episode eased the audience back into the series with finesse. After a comprehensive pre-episode recap, we’re greeted with a celebration of King Joffrey’s name day. The scene underlines the dynamics of the Joffrey/Sansa relationship – Joffrey’s still a brat and Sansa is trapped in a subservient, hateful relationship with the boy-king who murdered her father. Tyrion – now placed as the Hand of the King – gets a nice chunk of screen time at the beginning, where he looks set to shake up the Lannister reign. Daenerys is struggling with the burdens of rule, and Robb Stark is being forced to make questionable alliances.

Most of the major characters are given roughly the same amount of screen time – enough time to get reacquainted, but not enough for too much to happen. However, as the episode ends, it spirals into a thrilling denouement that concludes with one of the most brutal scenes I have ever seen. I’m talking snuff film brutal, surpassing Eddard’s execution by far. It really snaps you out of the character puppet-show and back into the sex, murder, and politics that make the episode so enthralling. I can’t wait to see more. (8.5/10)

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