‘Thrones’ premiere rebuilds heavy tension

by John Anderson

Tyrion Lannister is out of the battles and deep in the political game, for now. | MCT Campus
Tyrion Lannister is out of the battles and deep in the political game, for now. | MCT Campus

Despite a graphic scene involving the murder of children and plenty of nudity, season two of Game of Thrones didn’t exactly kick off with a bang.

Arguably the most exciting part of the premiere was the decision to lead the opening credits with Peter Dinklage’s name. A good portrayal of the razor-sharp Tyrion Lannister is essential to the success of the story, and Dinklage has risen to the task. His efforts were not lost on many, earning him a Golden Globe and catapulting him into the hearts of GoT fans everywhere.

Writers and producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss spent a good portion of the latest episode, “The North Remembers,” reminding viewers that important characters have lost their heads, in more ways than one, and resetting the considerable tension built up last season. This led to a frosty, arthritic start to the season, though perhaps for good reason.

“A Song of Ice and Fire,” the book series upon which the show is based, is complicated. George R.R. Martin has used multiple concurrent story lines to weave mystery, war and intrigue into a complicated political arena with a plethora of players, magic and an intricate and detailed history. Explaining his world, let alone advancing anything resembling a plot, in 1,600 pages with cramped font is a feat. Explaining Westeros in an hour-long HBO special is a truly daunting task.

Benioff and Weiss respond to this challenge by greatly simplifying or omitting some of the nitty-gritty details. While this creates a shallower experience, they do a good job keeping the new audience – those who haven’t read the books – entertained while bringing them up to speed. Impressively, they have done this without dramatically altering the source material; Martin is even billed to write an episode per season himself.

While refreshing viewers’ memories, the writers brought in some exciting new settings and characters – Dragonstone, Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) – and dropped wink-wink, nudge-nudge-style hints about events yet to unfold into the dialogue. This kept those familiar with the story at least superficially engaged, even if they started fiddling with their iPhones during extended dialogue.

Not that fans with serious opinions about the proper height of Crastor’s roof will be put off by a few slow sequences. Part of the fun in HBO’s series is seeing how they will portray certain towns or cities, or whom the crew will cast for certain roles.

Those frustrated with the plot-rate will soon get a reprieve. Indeed, the pace will very likely pick up significantly this season. While the first season was very similar to the first episode of season two, setup, things are about to go truly bananas.

Rumors that HBO broke the bank for the Battle of the Blackwater and the impending development of Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) storyline, are sparking a storm of excitement.

Next week’s episode has allegedly been leaked onto the Web. Those wanting to prolong the magic can watch episode two, “The Night Lands,” at 9 p.m. Sunday on HBO.

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