Category Archives: Season 2

Final Thoughts: Game of Thrones Season Two

After the resounding success of season one, Weiss and Benioff had to have felt some serious trepidation heading into season two.  While the source material is undeniably stronger, it also turns the challenges of adapting the first book up to eleven.  The sprawling cast sprawls farther, the geography gets bigger, and the fantasy elements grow even more fantastic; all without Ned Stark’s presence to tie things together.  To be fair, nearly all of the second season’s problems can be traced back to the increased scope, but these pale in comparison to its successes.  The ambition of this season yielded one astonishing piece of television, one that can stand alongside the best of HBO in redefining what the medium is capable of. Continue reading

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We’re all liars here

Hit Me!

“Valar Morghulis,” much like last year’s “Fire and Blood,” is more about lining the ducks up season next year than it is about paying off what we’ve seen in this one.  Compared to a newborn dragon’s roar, it’s a far quieter promise of things to come but, given the spectacle of the penultimate episode, that’s the right decision.  After a season characterized by the inevitability of great events, the denouement let the characters be defined by their choices and these more personal moments are enough to carry us through the episode and into next season. Continue reading

The world is built by killers

Does this look badass enough?

Let’s not mince words here, “Blackwater” is a masterpiece.  Even if, by some truly sorrowful case of ADHD, you didn’t find yourself glued to the screen for the entire hour, you still need to acknowledge what a singular achievement this is for the medium.  The Battle of Blackwater Bay is A Clash of King’s tour de force and I’ll admit to some skepticism about any TV production, including this one, being able to pull off this level of spectacle.  This is another triumph for HBO, all the more so because it didn’t just let the carnage stand on its own.  With so much riding on delivering an epic battle sequence, it would’ve been all too easy to lose sight of the characters in the glare of dragon fire.  That wasn’t the case here, as the episode was expertly paced between dread, humour, drama, and violence with Tyrion’s arc tying it all together. Continue reading

One game at a time

Seems knowing isn’t actually half the battle

“The Prince of Winterfell” is about as far from doing one thing at a time as Game of Thrones gets.  I’m beginning to feel like a broken record, but this series is well served by its incredible scope… except when it’s not.  There’s still a lot of fun to be had along the way, but efforts to fit virtually every single character into a single episode mean we can’t really invest in anything that’s going on.  Episodes like this one are a bit inevitable on this series and while it was by no means bad, it did feel a lot like housekeeping; we’re caught up on all the major plot points and the pieces are placed just where they need to be for the season’s end game. Continue reading

Dragons Happened

Where are we supposed to be looking?

Can Tywin and Arya get their own spinoff?  Not really… but really?  I guess that by this point I shouldn’t be surprised by how much juice this series is able squeeze out of the various character dynamics.  Most shows are lucky to get one or two pairings that really work, but Game of Thrones seems to strike gold every time it shuffles the deck.  Beyond the awesome of Tywin and Arya, “A Man Without Honor” has Cersei and Tyrion prove they can be just as fun commiserating as they can sniping, and Jon Snow finally finds someone to make him interesting. Continue reading

And now I’ve struck a king! Did my hand wither and fall off?

… only a mother could love

Didn’t I just talk about the joys of watching Tyrion slap Joffrey?  “The Old Gods and The New” proves that some gags never get old… now if only he’d head up to Winterfell.  In truth, I don’t particularly want to see Theon get slapped; drawn and quartered would be far more preferable.  No… that’s not right either.  Theon needs someone to save him from himself –err, no… Once again, we’re into the sheer genius of Game of Thrones’ character development.  What Theon’s done is unforgivable, and seeing him pay for his crimes is high on everyone’s list… but I can’t help feel like he’s already paying. Continue reading

Anyone can be killed

I know something you don't know

Never ever suggest that things going to work out just fine, you’ll invariably be killed moments later by a smoke monster that looks like your brother.  Renly learns Eko’s lesson the hard way in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and I couldn’t be happier.  Not that I wished Renly ill, but his death is much like Ned Stark’s in that it propels the story into unexpected territory.  Much of the strength of Game of Thrones is its willingness to sacrifice potential stories in favour of the story.  Enough care was put into developing Renly’s, Loras, and co. that this series could’ve gone on being just as entertaining with them in it.  Killing a likable character can be a bold move, but killing and interesting story is far bolder.  It really helps make this feel like the experience of a world rather than of a plot. Continue reading

That was a threat, see the difference

Not compensating for anything

Tyrion!  The laws of cyber-physics dictate that opening will get this post at least a 10% bump from the web’s crappier search engines.  There’s so much awesome here that I can pander with complete sincerity.  Speaking of which, Joffrey such a little shit, isn’t he?  It really is tough to take a critical perspective when I’m having this much fun, but “Garden of Bones” really was the best episode yet this season, and it gets there by… well… being fun.  I’ve long dismissed the absurd notion that great art can’t also be great entertainment, but Game of Thrones makes for a perfect illustration. Continue reading

The Knights of Summer

It's good to be the king... or so they tell me

Once more, I’m faced with the difficult task of finding some element of Game of Thrones to focus on.  I said of the premiere that this is the most serialized show on television, and “What Is Dead May Never Die” provides yet another perfect illustration.  It’s incredibly difficult to pinpoint the story of this episode; we can clearly see the larger narrative its advancing but, as an hour of television, I might be inclined to say that it’s deeply flawed… except that it’s just so damned good.  Game of Thrones has so many balls in the air that it’s often impossible to find the unifying element within a given episode, but we don’t really need to.  This series keeps us engaged through the strength of its characters and setting and it’s our experience of these that ties those disparate threads together. Continue reading

Friends are such an important part of life

Can you feel sorry for a douche?

Well, that was certainly a lot of tits.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy some skin as much as the next man, but “The Night Lands” strayed from relevant, world-building Sopranos-style nudity into gratuitous, illusion-breaking True Blood-style nudity.  I don’t even begrudge HBO the gratuitous part; “sex sells” (I just made that up) and it doesn’t hurt me if HBO adds a few viewers by showcasing a few breasts.  What does hurt me is when those breasts push me out of the story.  The True Blood comparisons are actually unfair, as this episode was still pretty good all-round and each sex scene, in itself, added to the story in some way but, by the end, the graphic sex had been reduced to mere noise and what should’ve been a very powerful scene fell a bit flat. Continue reading