Game of Thrones is back, bigger and better than ever and I’m back to recap all the action for everyone, with the same drill as last season: I won’t be posting any spoilers for anything that happens later in the series, but I will tell you the names of the new characters and their relationships to the old ones.
At the end of last season (Game of Thrones Episode Ten), we left many of our characters in precarious situations. My husband was really confused about what was going on with everyone, so here’s the update I gave him:
Dead: Ned Stark (beheaded); assorted horses (beheaded); Robert Baratheon (gored by a boar); Viserys Targaryen (received a golden crown); Khal Drogo (turned into a vegetable); assorted members of Ned Stark’s household (stabbed with spears, knives, etc.); Mirri Maaz Duur, witch (burned alive.)
On the road headed north: Arya Stark, traveling as “Arry” after a haircut by Yoren the Night’s Watch recruiter. Also in her group, assorted scary criminals, and Gendry, Robert Baratheon’s bastard son.
Also on the road, headed even farther north: The Night’s Watch, including Lord Commander Mormont, Ned Stark’s bastard son Jon Snow, clever cowardly Samwell Tarly, a couple of decent lads (Grenn and Pip) and assorted former scary criminals. Also one albino direwolf. Not included in the party: any appropriate headgear for the snowy climes.
In the Riverlands: Robb Stark, newly crowned King in the North; his mother, Catelyn Tully Stark, Theon Greyjoy, Ned Stark’s ward/hostage, various loudmouthed Northern Lords. Also, one direwolf. And Jaime Lannister, incestuous defenestrating Kingslayer, now Robb’s prisoner.
Also in the Riverlands: Tywin Lannister, scariest (and richest man) in Westeros along with his armies.
King’s Landing: Cersei Lannister, Tywin’s daughter, not-at-all grieving widow of the late King Robert. Her son, Joffrey Lannister, now King and resident sociopath. Sansa Stark, now the Lannisters’ prisoner. Headed to King’s Landing at his father’s behest is Cersei’s brother, Tyrion. Also in King’s Landing: the Very Small Council (now reduced to three—Varys the Spider, “Littlefinger” Baelish, and Grand Maester Pycelle, along with Janos Slynt, commander of the City Watch) as well as Sandor “the Hound” Clegane, Joffrey’s bodyguard.
Across the Narrow Sea and the Dothraki sea of grass: Danaerys Targaryen, Jorah Mormont, three dragons, assorted handmaidens, bloodriders and horses.
Location to be determined later: Renly Baratheon, youngest brother of the late King Robert.
And now onto tonight’s fabulous season 2 premiere, “The North Remembers."
In King’s Landing, Joffrey Lannister celebrates his Name Day by holding a tournament on the battlements of the Red Keep. Joffrey is the only one celebrating. The first knight unlucky enough to fight Sandor Clegane plummets down to his bloody demise. Then Joffrey decides to drown poor grubby Ser Dontos in a barrel of wine for kicks. Thanks to Sansa Stark’s quick wit and kind heart, Dontos survives, even though he’s demoted down to court jester. Still, better a live fool than a dead knight.
Meanwhile, Tyrion arrives to take up his duties as Hand of the King, much to his sister Cersei’s dismay. Tyrion learns that, from having had three Starks to trade for his brother Jaime, the Lannisters are now reduced to just one—poor cowed Sansa. Arya has vanished and Ned, alas, lacks a head. “It must be hard for you, to be the disappointing child,” Tyrion tells Cersei. He and Cersei are going to be awesome together!
In Winterfell, Bran learns that being the lord of the manor is terribly dull, even with Maester Luwin to help out. If real life is boring, Bran’s dreams, in which he’s a wolf roaming in Winterfell’s godswood, are not. Awake, Bran retraces his dream journey on Hodor’s back, with Osha the Wildling to provide commentary. “Red comet means one thing, boy. Dragons!” Osha says, though Bran scoffs that the dragons have all been dead for centuries.
Not so fast, young man! Across the sea and most of a continent, in the middle of the Red Waste, Danaerys Targaryen has three dragons and not much else in the way of food, water or followers. It’s hard out there for an equine (especially on this show!): when Dany’s white horse, her wedding gift from Khal Drogo, collapses, Dany despairs over her leadership. Jorah tells her that her followers are counting on her; she has to be their strength. “As you are mine,” Dany tells him, causing Jorah to fall even deeper in love with her.
Dany orders her three bloodriders to ride in every direction looking for cities or water or a sense that this wasteland will ever end. Rakharo, who’s found time to put on his eyeliner, tells Dany he will not fail her. Awwww! I think he loves her too.
The red comet segues north of the Wall, where things look terribly chilly. The Night’s Watch, led by Lord Mormont, arrive the rustic home of the charming Mr. Craster, who espouses unconventional views on marriage. I didn’t think anyone could make Jaime’s and Cersei’s twincestuous relationship look wholesome, but Craster does, because he has many wives, who are also his daughters. I really don’t want to think about that, or about what happens to his sons.
Even Craster appreciates how pretty Jon Snow is, although he doesn’t appreciate Jon (or any other man of the Night’s Watch) checking out his daughter-wives. I think I’m not alone in wanting to take a shower every time Craster opens his mouth.
Unfortunately for the Night’s Watch, because Craster is the first (nominal) human they’ve seen since they left the Wall, Lord Mormont is forced to trade axes and wine for information. Craster claims that he hasn’t seen Benjen Stark in three years, and that all the wildlings are massing a huge army under Mance Rayder, formerly a member of the Night’s Watch, now calling himself King-Beyond-the Wall. As Catelyn Stark says later, “there’s a King in every corner.”
And sure enough, in another corner of Westeros, the island of Dragonstone, there’s another contender: Stannis “Personality of a Lobster” Baratheon, the middle brother between Dead King Bob and Young King Renly.
On the beach at Dragonstone, the priestess Melisandre is holding a clambake/bonfire to honor the Lord of Light. Among those watching her burn the images of the Seven Gods of Westeros are Stannis the Lobster King (cleanshaven, sourfaced) and his buddy Davos Seaworth (bearded, sourfaced). Stannis’s Maester, Cressen, arrives late, and and tries to stop the effigy burning but to no avail. This crowd really wants its S’mores.
Melisandre claims that Stannis is destined to defeat all the creepy crawly night things, and that he will now draw a sword called Lightbringer from the fire. Stannis completes this piece of theater by pulling a burning sword out of one of the gods’ effigies and plunging it into the sand of the beach where it smolders for a bit. Everyone kneels, chanting that “the night is dark and full of terrors.”
Only Cressen is unconvinced. He tells Davos that Melisandre is dragging Stannis into a war he can’t win. He and Davos both serve Stannis, and “loyal service means telling hard truths.”
“What’s the truth?” Davos asks, a question that has plagued philosophers for centuries.
After the clambake, Melisandre, Stannis, Davos, Cressen and others go indoors for a conference and also so we can see the amazing table-map that Stannis has. If the throne went to the guy with the best office furniture, Stannis would definitely win. Sadly for Stannis, he really does have the personality of a lobster, as we see with his corrections of the poor scribe who’s writing a propaganda missive on behalf of Stannis’s claim to the throne. I did laugh when Stannis corrected “beloved” brother Robert because he didn’t love Robert at all.
Apparently the messenger Ned Stark sent to Dragonstone got through (that messenger is that rarest of individuals, a Stark retainer who survived King’s Landing.) Stannis now knows what Ned discovered, that Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen Baratheon are all the children of Cersei and Jaime Lannister. And he didn’t even have to read that boring old genealogy book to find that out!
Stannis is intent on spreading that truth far and wide, convinced that it was Ned’s keeping the secret that got him killed. I would say it was Joffrey’s being a psychopath that got Ned killed, but still, Stannis does have a point.
Davos tries to convince Stannis that he should ally with Renly or Robb Stark to destroy the Lannisters, but Melisandre says that the only ally Stannis needs is the Lord of Light. Davos, like Napoleon, believes that God is on the side of the big battalions and asks how many ships the Lord of Light has.
Meanwhile, poor Maester Cressen has decided to act to destroy the woman he believes will destroy Stannis. He fakes an apology to Melisandre and Stannis for interrupting their bonfire and tries to seal the deal with a poisoned glass of wine, willing to risk his own life to take Melisandre’s as well. Poor Cressen collapses in a pool of blood, Melisandre chugs the the rest of the wine, completely unharmed. Here’s some truth for Davos: Melisandre is scary.
Yet another King, Robb Stark, pays a visit to his captive, Jaime Lannister. As excellent as it is to see two handsome men in one small cage, I’m not entirely sure why this scene was included other than as an explanation of why Jaime isn’t chained up in a dungeon somewhere. Jaime and Robb have a Taunt-Off. Robb, who’s evidently received his copy of Stannis’s letter by Express Raven, mentions the twincest. “You have proof?” Jaime asks. “Or do you want to trade gossip like a couple of fishwives?”
Grey Wind, Robb’s now-enormous direwolf, is tired of fishwives, so he snarls in Jaime’s face. Jaime flinches, but props to him for not actually screaming.
In King’s Landing, Jaime’s brother Tyrion is entertaining Shae in his new bedroom. Shae says she loves the stink and the noise of the city, and I know she’s my kind of gal, although I do note she’s enjoying the stink and noise from inside a palace. Tyrion reminds her that “you can’t trust anyone in King’s Landing.” Truer words, my friend, were never spoken. If Ned had remembered that, maybe he’d still have a head.
Also in King’s Landing, Cersei asks Littlefinger to do her a favor and find Arya Stark. Like Melisandre, Cersei knows that red is a power color. She’s in a glorious crimson gown as she teaches Petyr Baelish a lesson about power “Knowledge is power,” Baelish tells the Queen Regent, taunting her with the twincest rumors. Cersei orders her guardsmen to cut Petyr’s throat, and then, just as I’m about to mourn the late Lord Baelish, she says “April Fool!” and lets Petyr go. “Power is power,” she tells him.
After his meeting with Jaime, Robb summons another Lannister, Ser Alton (who looks confusingly like Gendry the smith) and gives his peace terms. He wants his sisters back, his father’s bones and independence for the North. Both Ser Alton and Robb and all his northern lords know Robb’s not looking for peace with the last condition.
After the conference, Theon points out to Robb that he can’t win the war without taking King’s Landing. And he can’t take King’s Landing without ships. (Davos’s point too!) Theon volunteers to ask his father, Balon Greyjoy, to help Robb out.
Catelyn Stark is completely opposed to this idea, reminding Robb that Balon Greyjoy led a rebellion against the crown. She then reminds Robb of his sisters and their precarious position, lamenting the fact that she’s had no news of Arya. Robb tells her he can’t trade Jaime for his sisters because his bannermen wouldn’t like it. “What are we fighting for, if not for them?” Catelyn asks in anguish. Robb tells her “it’s more complicated than that.” (Well, certainly acquiescing to being King in the North made things more complicated for Robb!)
Catelyn tells her son that it’s time for her to go home, but Robb has other plans for her. He wants her to negotiate with Renly, who has 100,000 troops and the backing of the Tyrells and the Tarlys (aka Samwise the Awesome’s horrific dad.) Poor Catelyn just wants to go back to her kids at Winterfell, and asks why someone else can’t be Robb’s envoy. Robb trusts no one as much as he trusts his mother (what a good boy!) promising that if his mother does this, they’ll all be able to go home for good.
In the throne room at King’s Landing, we see that Joffrey’s relationship with his mother is a lot more fractious than Robb’s and Catelyn’s. Like everyone else in the Seven Kingdoms, Joffrey has heard the rumors about his true parentage. He asks Cersei about Robert’s other children, by the women Robert had when he got tired of Cersei. Cersei slaps her son, perhaps for the first time in his life. Joffrey reminds her that the penalty for striking the King is death, while all the workmen wonder whether merely witnessing the slap qualifies them for the death penalty too.
It’s almost the end of the episode and we haven’t seen a single bare breast (or beheading) yet. Can it really be true? Alas, no, because the next scene takes place in a brothel with Ros. Surprisingly, though, it’s not Ros’s breasts on display; apparently, she’s now the manager of Petyr Baelish’s brothel, and now I’m wondering if she was a spy for Baelish all along, because otherwise her rapid promotion is a bit startling.
Before I can ponder this too deeply, the Gold Cloaks, led by Janos Slime—I mean Slynt—burst into the brothel. Despite Ros’s reminder that Baelish pays protection to the City Watch, the Gold Cloaks drag a screaming woman with a baby out of one of the rooms in the back of the brothel. I remember that the woman was the sweet girl Ned went to see before his duel with Jaime Lannister. Which makes her baby Barra, one of King Robert’s many extra-marital children. The Gold Cloaks are here, on Joffrey’s orders, I assume, to kill the evidence of the Baratheons’ dominant black-hair genes.
Alas, Robert was a busy man, because the Gold Cloaks proceed to kill a whole bunch of children. Finally, they visit the smith to whom Gendry was apprenticed, but luckily, as we know, Gendry is already on the road with Yoren and Arya. Unluckily, now the Gold Cloaks know that too.
Compared to the series premiere last April, this episode featured fewer decapitations, defenestrations and bare breasts, but there were still several shocking moments and plenty of wonderful dialogue and gorgeous locations. I’m giving it an A- (I thought the introduction of Stannis and Dragonstone could have been a little less confusing for people who hadn’t read the books.)
Favorite lines of the night:
Tyrion to Cersei: “You love your children, it’s your one redeeming quality. That and your cheekbones.”
Cersei to Petyr Baelish: “Power is power.”
Best costumes: Cersei and Melisandre’s red gowns of power
Most surprising moment: A tie between Cressen’s demise and the fact that Ros was fully clothed
Death count (equine): One
Death count (human): Six (unnamed knight, Maester Cressen, at least four children)
Times I wished Joffrey would be one of the dead: At least a dozen
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.