Unfurl the appeal of Thrones
This web of intrigue and relationships is good viewing, writes
FANTASY drama Game of Thrones, based on the book series A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin, grew into a solid hit through its first season, culminating in a shocking turn of events.
It has returned in fantastic form, reconfiguring itself after last season’s denouement – when young, petulant King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) beheaded the show’s nominal lead, Ned Stark (Sean Bean). If the show has a lead any more – and I’m not convinced it does – that role surely belongs to Peter Dinklage as the cunning, often hilarious Tyrion Lannister.
Tyrion returns to King’s Landing where born-of-incest Joffrey rules without strategy. Joffrey’s tyranny is matched only by his carelessness.
‘‘That bit of theatre will haunt our family for a generation,’’ Tyrion scolds Joffrey over Ned’s execution. Later, Tyrion offers faint praise to Joffrey’s mother, the devious Queen Regent Cersei (Lena Headey): ‘‘You love your children; it’s your one redeeming quality – that and your cheekbones.’’
Cersei seems terrified of her son, largely because her brother/lover Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-waldau) is a captive of Robb Stark (Richard Madden), who is waging war against the Lannisters to avenge his father’s death.
There’s no question that Game of Thrones weaves a tangled, intricate web of relationships and intrigue. It probably helps to have someone who’s read the Game of Thrones books sitting on the couch next to you to act as a living, breathing reference guide. Alternatively, the TV show’s actual Wikipedia entry can help viewers detangle the intrigue.
But even without such guidance, the TV series does a pretty good job of setting the stage for viewers, from its opening credits that zoom over all the geographic lands featured in each episode – Dragonstone and Pyke are among the new additions – to on-screen labels when viewers are plopped into a new location in the season premiere.
At Dragonstone, the brother of King Baratheon, who died in season one allowing Joffrey to ascend to the throne, plots to take back what he believes is rightfully his. Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) has heard ever-growing rumours that Joffrey is not of Baratheon blood. (Joffrey takes his own drastic measures to wipe out potential possible heirs.)
Beyond The Wall to the north, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Samwell (John Bradley) encounter a nasty abuser of women.
Across the sea in The Red Waste, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) has a rough go of it as she and adviser Joran Mormont (Iain Glen, who played Sir Richard Carlisle in season two of Downton Abbey) try to escape the desert as Daenerys’ dragons grow in size.
To the uninitiated, this surely all sounds like gibberish. Game of Thrones is easily television’s most ambitious drama for expansive storytelling, but it doesn’t shirk its duty to tell smaller stories about individual characters. That the series manages to excel at both is rewarding and breathtaking in its achievement.
US network HBO has announced the show will be back for series three.
There will be blood.
Peter Dinklage (front) as the cunning Tyrion Lannister.