The second season of any television show is always difficult to set right, particularly if the first season has been successful. Shows such as Heroes and Lost fell after strong openers, losing direction, quality and ultimately viewers. Game of Thrones is not one of those shows and is by far one of the best television programmes in recent years.
For those not familiar with HBO’s latest outing, Game of Thrones is a fantasy series, following noble families of the seven kingdoms of Westeros and the lands around it, all of whom are fighting for the Iron Throne, based on the novels by George R. R. Martin. Now, I know what you’re thinking; it sounds like a programme for teenage boys in their bedrooms playing World of Warcraft on a Friday night. However I urge those who have not given the show a chance to watch a minimum of three episodes from the first season. If you are not hooked, then you can walk away with your head held high and say you gave it a go. Many have made a comparison with Lord of the Rings but in this reviewer’s opinion, there is so much more to Game of Thrones (apart from the obvious sex and blood, of which there is a lot). Intelligent, relentless and complex, the show is a success on every level.
The characters are what make the show so special. You could talk until the dragons come home about the beautiful cinematography and choreographed action sequences, but what really matters are the characters and their relentless quest for power. The complicated dialect adopted by the characters is not confusing or lost on an audience, like other HBO series Deadwood, but is powerful and the script allows you to fully immerse yourself in their world. The second season furthers the development of characters from the first season, as well as exploring new ones. Particular favourites are the beautiful Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen and Kit Harington as the endearing Jon Snow, however the star of the second season (the first being the wonderful Sean Bean) is Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. Winning both an Emmy and Golden Globe for his supporting role, Dinklage lights up the show adding both comedy and sentimental values which stand out amongst a brilliant supporting cast. This is how characterisation should be done.
After the first series received critical acclaim, speculation grew as to whether the second season could maintain the momentum and quality and we were not disappointed. With the Throne open for the taking, the kings of the land begin the fight for power. The complex storylines intertwine seamlessly, from the world of ice and snow beyond the northern wall, to the hot desert of the eastern continent. Westeros is a brutal place that has been captured on film magnificently; every scene feels gritty and raw. The explicit violence and sex isn’t gratuitous like in shows such as Starz’s Spartacus, but enriches the show for a powerful effect. Purposeful and artistic yet thrilling all at once.
Not only does the show succeed in aesthetic terms, but it is the perfect example of just great storytelling. The plot twists and turns in a way that doesn’t confuse and alienate its audience but fully engages them with the brutality of Westeros on screen. Even after losing one of the central characters towards the end of season one (I won’t spoil it for those yet to watch the first series), Game of Thrones doesn’t lose its power or pace.
Highlights of the series are the epic battle in the episode ‘Blackwater’ and the season finale ‘Valar Morghulis’, which builds to a climax and a nail-biting cliff-hanger for season three. With the threat of zombie White Walkers from the north, Daenerys Targaryen’s travel west with her dragons, and power struggles in the rest of the kingdom, season three cannot come soon enough.