Game of Thrones: The North Remembers

Where we left off:

Eddard Stark learned the truth about Joffrey’s parentage and lost his head for it. Robb Stark and his Northern bannermen rose up against the South and struck fear into the hearts of the cocky Lannister clan. Jon Snow and the Nights Watchmen set off north of the wall to uncover the truth about strange wildling activity. Daenerys Targaryen lost her beloved husband and unborn son, but rose from the ashes of the funeral pyre a transformed woman – with 3 baby dragons clinging to her naked skin.

Where we are now:

The Game of Thrones is in full swing and no less than four men have declared themselves the true king:

1. Stannis Baratheon, Robert’s eldest brother, has laid claim to the throne by birth, but few friends have rallied to his side. He is holed up in his seat at Dragonstone, brooding over his next move. A stern, unsmiling man, he inspires loyalty in some but isn’t exactly a loveable figure for the masses. But Stannis doesn’t care about being liked. He only cares about right and wrong and truth at all costs. He writes a letter to be distributed throughout the kingdom revealing the Cersei and Jamie Lannister’s incest and Joffrey’s fraudulent claim to the Iron Throne. Stannis calls upon all true men to stand behind him simply because it is the right thing to do. The man is such a stickler for fact that he refuses to include a line in the letter about his ‘beloved’ brother Robert. “I didn’t love him!” Yikes. There will be no baby kissing on this man’s campaign!

But Stannis does have one very disturbing thing going for him. He has joined forces with the captivating red priestess, Melisandre, who speaks for the Lord of Light, the one true god who pierces through the darkness and banishes all evil with flame … or so her story goes. She has convinced Stannis to turn his back on ‘The Seven’ – the traditional Gods worshipped by the Southern people of the Seven Kingdoms. Everyone in Stannis’ court does not share her fervor, but most are too frightened to speak out. One old priest keeps shouting ignored warnings and taking desperate measures to stop her. But he only ends up poisoning himself with a glass of wine while she somehow slurps it back unharmed and watches impassively as he gags and bleeds to death. Wow, for someone warmed by the flames of light, she is one cold bitch!

2. Renly Baratheon, Robert’s youngest brother, has also declared himself king. He may not be next in line, but unlike Stannis he actually has fervent fans and massive support. People actually LIKE him! When last we saw Renly in the Season 1 episode “You Win or You Die”, he failed to convince Ned Stark that HE was the Baratheon brother best suited to rule the Seven Kingdoms and fled the capital with his supporters. We don’t actually see Renly in the Season 2 Premiere, but all the major players are well aware that he is out there with his growing army. Stannis naturally refuses to deal with him. In his mind his baby brother is just as much a traitor as Cersei and Joffrey.

3. Joffrey Baratheon … er … cough, cough … Lannister, actually gets to sit on the Iron Throne, but that’s about all he’s managed to accomplish. While his grandfather fights his battles in the field, Joffrey is huffing and puffing around King’s Landing, throwing his laughable weight around. He keeps poor Sansa Stark quivering in fear, forces knights to fight to the death for his amusement, and decides to redecorate the throne room. Yeah, way to rule a kingdom there, little dude. Joffrey is a stubborn child with the bravado of a seven-foot giant and none of the courage to back it up, but that doesn’t stop him from being a completely abhorrent little shit. He confronts his mother about rumours of her incest as well as Robert’s numerous bastards, “I’m asking if he fucked other women when he grew tired of you.” Cersei slaps him hard across the face for that one and for once I’m on her side. Striking a king is punishable by death but Joffrey lets her off with a warning … this time.

Of course Joffrey is still only a lion cub, so his mommy has taken his spot on the council; ruling in his stead until he’s old enough to take over. Despite all the men beating their chests and angling for the throne, NOBODY basks in power like Cersei Lannister does. The woman would bathe in it every night if she could. She rules over the small council meetings like a majestic bird, beautiful and deadly. So you can imagine her horror when her half-sized brother strolls into a meeting, hops up into a chair and declares himself Hand of the King on orders from Tywin Lannister. And she had so hoped Tyrion was lying dead on a battlefield somewhere! Cersei throws the council members out of the room in a tizzy and has it out with her upstart brother, but Tyrion is not frazzled by the outburst and manages to convince his sister that he can help facilitate her beloved Jamie’s release.

4. So that just leaves Robb Stark, the King in the North. To be fair, I don’t think Robb has the slightest interest in the Iron Throne so he’s not really a candidate for King of the Seven Kingdoms. The Northmen just want to be independent; a new nation under their king. They’ll leave the Southerners to fight amongst themselves. But nobody will make peace on those terms and so they fight on. Robb writes to King’s Landing and offers peace if they release Sansa and Arya, return Ned’s bones, and agree to cede the North and never set foot upon the land again. But nobody really believes that an agreement will be reached.

Robb has won every battle he’s fought against the Lannisters, but knows he will never defeat them without more support. Theon Greyjoy, his long-time foster-brother, offers to return home to the Iron Island and convince his father Balon to become an ally. With his fleet of ships, they might actually be able to take King’s Landing. For anyone who doesn’t remember the backstory there (and honestly I’m not sure they explained it that well in Season 1), Theon became Ned Stark’s prisoner as a child, after Balon rose up against King Robert and the South. Robert, Ned and the other houses quelled the rebellion, but they kept his only living son as collateral. But we’re all too aware that Ned was an unfailingly moral man and he raised Theon as if he were his own son. There was no hardship for him at Winterfell!

Robb agrees to the proposal, despite his mother Catelyn’s strong objections. She insists that Balon Greyjoy can never be trusted. Robb ignores her misgivings and has a specific job in mind for HER. He’s sending her south to treat with Renly Baratheon and convince him to join forces with the North. If Renly agrees to allow an independent Northern Kingdom, they have a great shot at defeating the Lannisters together.

Elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms:

-Jon Snow and his brothers in the Night’s Watch are still travelling through the frozen wilderness. They stop at the household of a cantankerous wildling, Craster. He is an old bastard with at least a dozen wives … who also happen to be his daughters. He weds his daughters, spawns more daughters and then marries them as well. Ickity, ick ick. As Jon put it, “What does he do with the boys?” GULP. Craster warns everyone not to lay a hand on his daughters. He takes a particular disliking to Jon, who speaks up against him when he calls them all Southerners because they live South of the wall. He hilariously tells Jon he’s “prettier than half my wives.” Is he ever! And that’s just how we like him!

-At Winterfell, really boring things continue to happen. It’s the one weak point of the Game of Thrones universe to me … I just don’t care about Bran and his magical wolf dreams.

-Across the Narrow Sea, in the middle the Red Wastelands, Daenerys and her rag-tag followers are desperate and suffering through starvation. She’s angry and feels helpless to protect the people who have put their faith in her. She’s also worried about the health of her newborn dragons, who need nourishment. With no end to the Red Waste in sight, she finally commands her blood riders to ride out in all directions and report back with news of any town or city they can head towards.

Sex and Violence

And how graphic did things get in the first episode of the season? I’d say surprisingly tame! The episode ended with a horrible bout of violence when Cersei ordered the King’s Guard to kill all the bastard children of her late husband. They stabbed teenagers, drowned little boys in the river, and slit the throat of a newborn baby in a brothel, but thankfully they spared us the up-close visuals of those scenes. Even HBO can’t show graphic baby deaths! There was only one sex scene, although as usual it was completely pointless. Bouncing boobies were everywhere as a prostitute rode some guy, while her madam yelled at her for making ridiculous sex noises and instructed her to ‘ease into it’. An establishing brothel scene? Totally unnecessary. I think we can figure out we’re in a brothel without screaming orgasm noises.

Favourite Scenes

-There was a fabulous exchange between Robb and Jaime Lannister, who is still tied up and being dragged from camp to camp in a wooden cage. Jaime was doing everything he could to rattle Robb – insinuating he was gay, calling him ‘boy’, but Robb turned the tables by bringing in his massive direwolf Grey Wind. They’ve done a great job at turning those cute little wolf puppies into huge, fearful creatures. Robb walks away and leave Jaime alone in his cage with Grey Wind who snaps his jaws inches from Jaime’s face before padding away. AWESOME.

– There was another great scene between Littlefinger and Cersei. He dares to throw the rumours of incest in her face: “Prominent families often forget a simple truth … knowledge is power.” Cersei has her guards seize him and orders them to cut his throat. Then, with a flick of her hand, she changes her mind and he’s free. She backs her guards off and preens to him, “Power is power.” Loved it!

There are fantastic power dynamics on this show because people are constantly proving their strength and dominance in one aspect of their lives, while reduced to bitter helplessness in another. Take Cersei for example, who illustrated her absolute power to Littlefinger, but then quivered before her teenaged son. After slapping Joffrey in the throne room, she realized the incredible faux pas she had committed when everyone turned to stare at them. There was a moment, as she bowed her head before her spoiled King son, where you could see her wondering whether he actually might be cruel enough to kill her for her insolence. Then you have someone like Tyrion, who often finds himself on the bottom of the power totem pole, relishing his newfound position on the council. But it’s obvious he’s still putty in the hands of his mouthy whore Shae.

Favourite Lines

Tyrion to Cersei: “We had three Starks to trade. You chopped one’s head off and let another escape. Father will be furious. Must be odd for you, to be the disappointing child.”

Robb: “Give Lord Renly my regards.”
Catelyn: “King Renly. There’s a king in every corner now.”

Overall, it was a fabulous start to the new season. It felt a little bit like a tease because there were so many characters and locations to re-introduce. Everyone got just a little screen time but they didn’t really delve deeply into the plotlines yet. But that’s a perfect way to get both new and loyal viewers excited for what’s to come! I was disappointed that we only got one shot of Arya at the end, riding with Gendry (the one bastard who escaped the slaughter in King’s Landing) on the back of a wagon. But it was a beautifully executed reveal and I guess I’ll just have to be patient for scenes with my favourite character.

Photo Courtesy of HBO

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