Revisiting Game of Thrones Season 2: A World Expanded

If the first season was our introduction to Westeros, the second was the expansion of it.

Every couple of weeks here on my First Time Writing blog I look back over a past season of Game of Thrones after re-watching it and give it an informal review/ share some spoilery thoughts now that we have the benefit of hindsight. This time I’m looking back over Season 2 of the acclaimed fantasy drama.

‘The difficult second album’. A phrase tossed around the entertainment industry pinpointing the difficulty of keeping or excelling the quality of the first. Game of Thrones got off to a brilliant start with its first season and for the most part the show flourished into a much deeper second season. At first glance the season can be seen as a bit of a lull in the story and while a couple of episodes do drag around the mid season mark, it begins and ends wonderfully and dramatically. If the first season was our introduction to Westeros, the second was the expansion of it. But enough of this generalisation, it’s time to deal with specifics.

One of season 2’s most notable additions, after being mentioned a couple of times in season 1, is the inclusion of Stannis and the people rallying behind his (rightful) claim to the throne. Melisandre brings a brand new angle to the supernatural and religion on the show with the introduction of The Lord of Light, the legend of Azor Ahai and the demon baby that kills Renly. Also introduced with Stannis is Davos Seaworth who is one of the few ‘good guys’, depending on how you look at it, on the show. Upon re-watch it seems that Davos is the new Ned Stark in terms of his nobility, loyalty to a King, his family and his near instant likability which helps viewers also get behind Stannis’s claim to the throne. Throughout the season we are not sure whether to see Stannis and a good guy or a bad guy which is the introduction to the character/faction ambiguity that becomes a major part of the show.

In King’s Landing it was great to see Tyrion get involved in the politics of the show where his wit and silver tongue thrive. After his time at The Wall in season 1 it’s interesting to hear he is the only one in King’s Landing who believes the reports of the supernatural White Walkers, it will be interesting to see the repercussions of the others not believing in the future of the show (season 6 onwards) if the White Walkers ever become a threat to all of the Seven Kingdoms and not just The North. On re-watch it was interesting to see Janos Slint have a big role in early season 2 after he was a character I foolishly ignored on my first watch (and reading of the books) after he becomes more important in the future at Castle Black to which he gets sent to in episode 2. The scenes between Tyrion and Varys, two master manipulators, are some of my favourite scenes of the first 5 seasons; the two have a great dynamic which, thankfully, we will see more of in future seasons.

Throughout Game of Thrones the things I have enjoyed the most are the more political and, on face value, quiet moments of the show in which everyone is playing each other for the throne but I can’t not acknowledge the sheer awesomeness of the epic Battle of Blackwater Bay in episode 9. The Stannis and King’s Landing story-lines smash together in an hour of surprises and explosive action; it’s a master class in direction, writing (by George RR Martin himself) and visual effects. Without a doubt it is one of the best episodes Game of Thrones has ever produced and upon re-watch it still holds up and is as tense and exciting as it was on first viewing. To this day it is only rivaled in scale to the battle of Castle Black in season 4.

Robb Stark has little to do this season with his storyline more to do with character development than plot. He meets and marries Talisa this season which is a romance that works and sets up his plotline next season which will lead to the red wedding. Upon re-watch you really do pick up on all the ‘this wedding will anger Walder Frey’ lines which I made very little of when I first watched the show. This was a strong season for Arya who spends the first few episodes under the guise of ‘Arry while in the company of Yoren. I really like Yoren as a character, it’s a shame he gets forgotten about, and he goes out in style with an amazingly well acted last scene and a death reminiscent to Boromir’s. Arya’s scenes with Tywin are great giving them ample characterisation before their storylines gear up before the season’s end. Jaqen H’ghar is a cool addition and his mentioning of Valar Morghulis and the faceless men set up Arya’s storyline in season 5 and beyond.

Season 2 gives us our first proper look behind The Wall with locations such as Craster’s Keep and the Fist of the First Men. This change in location brings with it epic scale which reinforces the importance of the Night’s Watch scenes which could get lost in the mix. Gilly is introduced at Craster’s and her instant chemistry with Sam almost makes it a shame she isn’t in more of the season but thankfully it won’t be long until she returns. The ‘behind The Wall’ storyline sets up a lot of future events including Jon mentioning he wants to lead the Night’s Watch in the first episode and the final shot of the season giving us our first proper look at the creepy White Walkers. Jon’s storyline final heats up a bit near the season’s end as his ‘turn’ to the Wildlings leaves his future uncertain and leads into one of season 3’s best plots. Ygritte also, by proxy, brings some more personality to Jon when she persuades him, and the audience, that the Wildlings are not all as bad as the tales suggest. And let’s not forget that horn that Grenn finds hidden in the snow with the Dragonglass, could it be the Horn of Joramun? It would be nice to see the discovery finally pay off in season 6.

Renly is sharply killed off this season and while I think it was the right time for his character to leave the show, his death was badly done. The dramatic moment seemed rushed and incoherent through some poor direction and would have been better suited as a final scene of an episode instead of the first. The return of Renly’s storyline does however introduce us to Brienne and Margery Tyrell for the first time. Margery’s introduction firmly plants the seed that she wants to become Queen no matter what and therefore her political manuerings in future seasons. We are not sure of what to think about Brienne at first other than that she’s a badass but by the season’s end, when paired with Jaime, her personality begins to shine through and it’s not long before we discover how likable she is.

It’s still surprising that Theon becomes this season’s main antagonist but his change of allegiance works due to the set up in early episodes and his background having been thoroughly explored in season 1. Through Theon’s eyes we see the Iron Islands, other Greyjoys and their culture/religion for the first time. Hopefully we will see more of it in season 6 when they finally adapt the Kingsmoot storyline from A Feast for Crows. Bran gets dragged into his story when he attacks Winterfell which finally gives him something to do this season; although he did introduce the audience to the concept of Wargs which will play a big role moving forward. On the Bran front we still have yet to find out the truth about his visions and the Three Eyed Raven. I would have preferred an earlier explanation instead of waiting until the Reeds show up in season 3.

Season 2 is probably my least favourite Daenarys season with her time wandering the Red Waste boring and her trying to persuade the businessmen in Qarth to invest in her and give her ships was like watching Dragon’s Den. Her character didn’t seem to progress as much and she didn’t even bump into Quaithe which is the best bit of her story in the book. The final episode did redeem her story a little however; her visions were interesting like seeing Khal Drogo again and having a vision of ‘snow’ on the Iron Throne (I wonder what that’s hinting at). By the season’s end she finally has money for a ship and so thankfully we can get out of Qarth and move on with her storyline.

To finish up I think I will just throw some random thoughts your way which I couldn’t cram in anywhere else. Myrcella gets sent off to Dorne which will set up the season 5 plotline, it was cool seeing new locations such as Dragonstone, Qarth and Harrenhal this season and Roose Bolton is introduced with his scenes having an extra edge to them for obvious reasons on the second viewing. Also Hot Pie.

What’s your favourite Season 2 moment? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about Game of Thrones on Twitter @kylebrrtt. Like, Subscribe and why not have a look at all the awesome stuff on the site like the many podcasts and blogs. I’ll be back next week so come back then for some more First Time Writing.

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