Who's army is that?
Sunday night, after a nine month hiatus, HBO premiered the second season of its hit fantasy series Game of Thrones, and I don’t know about other viewers, but I could use some Dramamine.
A dilemma for creators and writers of television series with a huge cast and an abundance of plot lines is how to pace that first episode of a new season. Should they ease the audience back into the story water, letting them dip a toe in to get acclimated? Or should they just shove the viewer in to sink or swim? Game of Thrones chose the latter route and then proceeded to throw a bunch of brightly-colored new plot and character noodles at us and hoped we would hang on.
Game of Thrones is based on the George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, and the show does an interesting balancing act trying to entertain fans of the books, fans of the show who haven’t read the books, and any new viewers brave enough to wade in to Season Two.
In this season’s first episode, the show attempted to visit all the main plot lines and characters from season one while introducing even more conflicts in the game.
The first season ended with the character Ned Stark, who appeared to be the protagonist to those who haven’t read the books, dead, and most of the other main characters scattered to the coming winter winds and separated by seas or continents. The majority of those characters are both players and pieces in this game of thrones.
In this season’s first episode, the show attempted to visit all the main plot lines and characters from season one while introducing even more conflicts in the game. Though they are separated by vast distances, episode one linked them all with the stunning image of a red comet streaking high above every scene, an omen of either triumph, woe, dragons or all three for the game’s players.
So let’s take a big breath and dive back in for a overview of the main players/pieces.
Kings and Queens
While usually it’s Emmy winner, Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister who gets the most astute lines in the show, for episode one Catelyn Stark, widow of Ned Stark, gets the prize for: “There’s a king in every corner now.”
Five characters have openly proclaimed themselves king of something or other. Catelyn and Ned’s oldest son, Robb, has declared himself king of the North and would like to gather up all his stray siblings and his father’s body, and go back home to rule his northern kingdom.
Five characters have openly proclaimed themselves king of something or other.
Dead King Robert Baratheon’s two brothers, Stannis and Renly, both think they should be resting their asses on the Iron Throne. Renly was introduced in Season One and Stannis only receives about 10 minutes of air time in the first episode, but both already seem smarter than Robert.
Stannis also proves significantly better at PR than poor dead Ned. Stannis sends out Westeros’s version of a press release with the truth Ned discovered playing genetic detective in season one. The father of Queen Cersei’s royal spawn, King Joffery, is not King Robert but her twin brother, Jaime Lannister.
Joffery Baratheon current sits on the Iron Throne and is both an idiot and probably a psychopath. His hobbies are having people executed and interior throne room design.
Daenery Targaryen’s claim to the Iron Throne is that she is the daughter of Mad King Aerys, the last of the Targaryen kings. Under the “special skills” section of her resume she lists her ability to withstand fire and mothering her three adorable, infant dragons.
For every want-to-be king there’s an army. Joffery’s only grandfather, Tywin has a big one which allows him to be the absent power behind the throne. Both Baratheon brothers have their own and neither wants to share.
Robb won three battles so far with his northern army, and managed to capture Jaime Lannister who he keeps locked up in cage, and allows his loose dire wolf to rattle that cage.
Also floating around is a wild card navy owned by Balon Greyjoy.
The one throne contender who doesn’t have an army is Daenery who spent her 10 minutes of the episode wandering the Red Waste desert playing Moses, looking for manna for her followers and dragon formula for her babies. Though lacking her own army, her followers worship her, and in an adult dragon vs. human army battle, my money’s on the dragon.
Episode one also brought word that up north beyond the great wall, an ex-member of the Night’s Watch is amassing his own army of Wilding men, because what this series so desperately needs is another army.
Also floating around is a wild card navy owned by Balon Greyjoy. His son Theon Greyjoy was raised as a foster brother to the Stark children and Theon, one of Robb’s advisors, has volunteered to go ask daddy for some ships. I’m sure that will go well.
If a character is not a king contender then he or she is very likely standing behind one advising. One influential type is the willowy advisor. Robb, Joffery, and Stannis all subscribe to the adage, behind every great man there’s a great woman, though “great” is a relative term.
Besides an army, the throne contenders should own a big table for their advisors to sit around and bicker about everyone else’s armies and advisors
Robb and Joffery both rely on mom for advice. Meanwhile, Stannis is guided by new girl, and Red priestess Melisandre. She worships the Lord of Light, enjoys competitive poison drinking, and has beautiful red hair so viewers can tell her apart from her blond and brunette willowy counterparts.
Besides an army, the throne contenders should own a big table for their advisors to sit around and bicker about everyone else’s armies and advisors. Even little Brandon Stark, holding down the fort back at Winterfell, has his own table and advisors.
Finally, king of the king-advisors is Tyrion Lannister, who swaggers into King’s Landing to take the job of King’s Hand, pausing only to insult Joffery and Cersei, and to recap season 1 from his perspective.
There are lots of nobodies playing the game as guards, soldiers, followers, whores, and peasants. Sometimes nobodies are a threat to somebodies, as the slaughter of King Robert’s bastards at the end of the episode proved. Sometimes nobodies are disguised somebodies like Arya Stark who escaped King’s Landing disguised as a boy. Sometimes they’ve agreed to become nobodies for a purpose and greater good, like Ned’s bastard, Jon Snow, member of the Night’s Watch.
So can any character actually win the Game of Thrones? Probably not in this year. So hold tight to your favorite floaty noodle. We’ll need them to ride the turbulent waves of season two.