The night is dark and full of terrors
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Alan Taylor
One of the most frustrating problems for a first-timer with Game of Thrones is the plethora of characters to keep track of, where they are, and who they are related to. So when I say that the start of season two introduces a couple of new faces, anyone who has just figured out the major Houses and the Night's Watch by the end of season one might throw up their hands and consider giving up on the show right then and there. If that's the case, may I consider a guide book or a Game of Thrones wiki site to help get you up to speed. "The North Remembers" continues ongoing plot lines from season one, while bringing in new characters who jump right in without any trivial buildup. Most notable among the new faces is Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), whose name was mentioned a few times during season one, though we never physically saw him.
Stannis declares himself to be the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, as the word has been getting around about Joffrey having no claim to the Throne because Joffrey is an incestuous product of Jaime and Cersei. Stannis also refuses to align himself with Robb Stark or his brother Renly, claiming both to be usurpers. If Joffrey is Satan and Robb Stark is a heavenly angel, then Stannis is some weird hybrid of the two: he is an honorable soldier who knows how to lead, yet he has a cold, unforgiving personality that kills fun and humor with one menacing glare. The lack of charm from Stannis does make me wonder what exactly the inspiration was behind the popular "Stannis the Mannis" internet memes. The most likely explanation to me is that "Stannis the Mannis" is the internet's way of making Stannis a lot more fun to root for, because why would anyone want to support a man who is about as much fun as a dish rag? Plus, this is a golden opportunity for a lame attempt at a "Dennis the Menace" rhyme, so...why not?
We also get introduced to the Red Priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten), who is influencing Stannis with her religion that denounces the Seven Gods of Westeros, instead proclaiming a single God- the Lord of Light- and that Stannis is prophesied to be Azor Ahai, a legendary figure in Melisandre's religion that is said to come and save the world from an eternal darkness. Though Game of Thrones tries to be limited with its high fantasy, Melisandre proves to be an exception, being about as close as the series gets to having a character that resembles a Gandalf or a Saruman. It is interesting to think about what exactly is it that she sees in Stannis, and that's something we'll look into further down the road.
My claim that Game of Thrones doesn't contain much high fantasy should be taken with a grain of salt, I admit, because not only do we have a character that's practically a witch, we also have three baby dragons to keep an eye on. Sadly, the birth of the three dragons did not put Daenerys and her entourage on top of the world, as they must now search for new shelter by trudging through the barren Red Waste. Horses are dying of exhaustion, and the dragons refuse to eat. Daenerys sends three riders off into different directions in hopes of finding a place for them to go, and for the time being, that's the best she can do. These are hard times where Daenerys must truly prove herself to be a leader worth following, because the dragons are not going to save her and her followers from dying of starvation/dehydration.
So it's exciting to get a handful of new characters (granted that it shouldn't take too long to get fully acquainted with them), but "The North Remembers" also establishes beloved Tyrion as one of the most pivotal characters going forward. Tyrion arrives in King's Landing to begin serving as the substitute Hand of the King, and Cersei is NOT happy about this. The last thing she wants is her brother playing adviser to her son, and we can already tell there is going to be some bad blood between her and Tyrion, with Tyrion mocking Cersei for the blunders she and Joffrey have committed already. What Tyrion lacks in physicality, he makes up for with his smarts and his words, as D&D are able to string together a series of quotable lines in the script that Peter Dinklage delivers with joyous aplomb. I don't think it's going to be at all difficult for Tyrion to become our favorite character in King's Landing. Not only is he the funny man who will make us laugh time and time again, he will always know when to say the right thing. This will serve him well, being one of just a few members of King's Landing's royalty who we can say is kind-hearted and trustworthy. Too bad his king is an unstable boy who probably doesn't know how to spell the word king.
"The North Remembers" combines a lot of what is already familiar to us from season one with some fresh new faces. We can already see the direction that this season will be taking: it will be, as George R.R. Martin has titled his second A Song of Ice and Fire novel, a clash of kings. Joffrey currently holds the throne, but Stannis Baratheon and Renly Baratheon want the Throne as well. Meanwhile the King in the North, Robb Stark, wants to rid the Throne of Joffrey and avenge his father's death. It's a suspenseful struggle that promises more violence and more death, and knowing the ruthless nature of Game of Thrones' world, it's hard to imagine that anyone will get out of this fight unscathed. On top of this kingly clash, there's plenty going on with Daenerys and her new journey of survival, as well as with the adventures beyond the Wall for the men of the Night's Watch. We've only just begun, and yet, we can already tell Game of Thrones' sophomore season is going to be a monumental one.
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