There’s no mercy in the medieval hell of Game of Thrones, for residents or viewers. With only a few cursory info-dumps, we’re thrown back among the population of Westeros as they get on with their lives, albeit with some changes after the clangy events of last season.
Can this show live up to two smash-hit years? Will Joffrey finally get that much-deserved sword in the face? How much incest this time? Let’s find out!
Who Dat King?
There really isn’t any pity for the lapsed viewer here – to be honest, I’d recommend watching the latter episodes of last year first, just to avoid constantly pausing and asking your friends/Wikipedia who the hell everyone is.
But once you’ve gotten over your confusion between all those rugged bearded men, this episode throws us back into the fray – although there’s so much to get through, progress is often slow. Jon Snow does finally meet the King Beyond The Wall – because another King was the missing ingredient from this show – and he’s played by the excellent Ciaran Hinds, as a refreshingly down to earth leader compared to all those poncey Southerners.
Elsewhere, Tyrion and Cersei squabble like nothing happened – except Tyrion’s smug position of power from last year has been stripped away, and his pet warrior Bronn is clearly starting to wonder whether it’s time to ditch the dwarf. Basically, it’s all the King’s Landing infighting you love, with a few new storylines.
Giants! Dragons! Rock & Roll!
If you miss the days when this show had a single ongoing storyline, rather than about six, then you probably had enough by the end of season two. The splintering only gets worse here – several key cast members (Bran, Arya, Jaime Lannister) haven’t even appeared yet. Who are those guys talking to Robb? I’ve read the book this is based on, and I still barely know. (One of them is probably Roose Bolton.)
They’re throwing this together with impressive confidence, though. Giants! Dragons! A surprising amount of humour, with Joffrey’s embarrassed attempts to woo Margaery Tyrell and the slavers heckling Danerys. Speaking of which, an exciting cliffhanger in which Dany meets a character you may remember from his handful of lines in season one – I think they’re just mocking people who aren’t paying total attention.
As someone who has recently both read the books and rewatched the whole TV run, though, I loved this return for Game of Thrones. It’s warming to see some of the poor bastard characters relaxed and enjoying life, before the inevitable misery and grim mutilation begins. Great to have it back- next episode, please.