Recurring Cast: Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, Michelle Fairley, Iain Glen, Kit Harrington, Jack Gleeson, Aiden Gillian, Maisie Williams and Charles Dance
Picking up from where we left off, the action hasn’t slowed down in the slightest. After the death of Eddard Stark, the Lannisters find themselves fighting for the throne, as other regiments announce their own King. While Robb Stark takes on Tywin Lannister in the battlefields, the actual kingdom struggles under the unstable rule of child king, Joffrey. Tyrion Lannister becomes Hand of the King and struggles to create order, so they can successfully take on Stannis Baratheon, who lost his right to the throne to Joffrey. Robb Stark has his own problems too. While away from his kingdom, a traitor in his own ranks lays siege to Winterfell, putting his crippled brother at risk. Meanwhile, Jon Snow wanders out into the treacherous lands of the North, beyond the wall and Princess Daenerys finds herself without an army and dying of thirst in the desert, forcing her to take her remaining people to a kingdom, where no one is to be trusted.
The second season of Game of Thrones is much better than the last. Nothing much has changed and still keeps to the same style of story-telling. However, this time, because there are so many characters already set up and able to carry the story, the show jumps from character to character. In order to stop the show from being too bloated, the dialogue is stripped to the essentials, so we never get the pointless monologues that the first season threw in. Each episode almost feels like it only really has time to check in on each kingdom. Therefore, the first episode, for example, spends its running time, introducing the new characters and then skipping between the older cast, letting us know what they have been up to, since the break. While certain plot-lines are neglected (Emilia Clarke’s character could have done with a bit more development), this is a welcome pace, keeping each episode fresh and stopping the story from ever getting stale.
This also helps the cast handle the material better. After the shock twist at the end of Season One, Sean Bean’s character is no longer able to lead the show. I had my fair few problems with Ned Stark, but I felt that, at the very least, Sean Bean kept the show grounded. He was the main character and the rest of the cast gravitated around him. Now Stark is dead, there is a sense that there is no longer an obvious main character. Man of the match last time around, Peter Dinklage, steps up to the challenge of lead character. While he doesn’t have the same ‘centre of attention’ power as Sean Bean, he does the job well enough. We have a great selection of villains this time around. Jack Gleeson’s portrayal of Joffrey is so horrible, it is impossible to not love him. Lena Headey is probably the nastiest character on the show, but it is fascinating watching her little plots unfold, and, at some points, unravel. New regiment on the block, Stannis, played by Stephen Dillane, is meant to act as a nasty bloke, but the show stands back and lets the audience judge him. He never truly feels like a villain, especially when his enemy are really the Lannisters, which allows the audience to get behind him and care about his character more. Sadly, he seems to get swallowed up by more impressive characters.
One interesting thing about this season is that the characters most at risk this time around are the Lannisters. Last time around, we were clearly meant to hate them, but as everyone tries to overthrow them and we see them at their weakest, we begin to side with them more. As I said before, Lena Headey’s Cersei is one of the evillest characters in the show, coming across as a spider, catching her victims in her web of lies. However, in a thrilling penultimate episode, we see her contemplating the death of her family and it is interesting watching her character fall back and what resorts she falls to. Joffrey too, is a fun character to watch, as we see that his malice and bravado are all an act. It makes everything so much more exciting to watch. Yes, we want to see Joffrey removed from the throne and Sanza saved, yet at the same time, that means that other characters, like Tyrion, would be killed off, something we do not want to happen. We see all of these events, yet do not want any of them to come to fruition. It will be particularly painful, when Daernarys catches up with the rest of the cast.
And we finally got a big battle. I like that Episode Nine decided to break away from this trend of checking in on every storyline and just left us focused on that battle between the Lannisters and Stannis. It meant that the final fight wasn’t broken up by Robb Stark’s blossoming romance or Daernarys’ search for a ship. Sure, this was hardly as thrilling as an epic showdown in Lord of the Rings, and it still struggled with the fact that most of the combatants weren’t on the battlefield, but it was nice to see some actual fighting. It felt more like a climax, which Season One also struggled with. On the downside, this meant that the true ending, the final episode, seemed lacklustre in comparison. Even with an extra ten minutes thrown onto the running time, there isn’t enough time to cover all of the plotlines. Jon Snow hardly features and Daernarys battle with her enemies gets wrapped up far too quickly, although what we get is good. Game of Thrones seems to have a habit of making the penultimate episode much more exciting than the true finale. On the other hand, that final shot was chillingly great and has the audience unable to bear the wait until Season Three.
Final Verdict: A much smoother season that builds up to a great finale. The character feel better, more storylines keep the show running at a decent pace and Game of Thrones remains must-see TV.