As a big fan of the aforementioned shows, I think its still fair to say that most of them wore out their welcome and missed the payoff while they still had the mindshare of the wider public. For now, people will tune in to Game of Thrones patiently waiting to see Prince Joffrey get his come uppance. Waiting for the snow zombie invasion. Waiting for Daenerys to launch her assault. As a fan of the show but as someone who hasn’t read the books, I have no idea when that time will come or if it will come at all. And as George RR Martin hasn’t finished writing the books, we have no idea if he can deliver a satisfying conclusion to his fantasy epic. But for now, we remain enthralled.
What we do know is that the producers of the show appear to have things well in hand and that things look good. Very good. The second season of Game of Thrones builds nicely on the foundation of the first whilst also introducing some appealling new characters into the mix. The overarching story is that the death of Robert Baratheon has creating a power vaccuum with no less than five kings (!) now laying claim to the Iron Throne. Of course, some don’t end up lasting as long as others in their quest for power. On top of the civil war that is brewing in Westeros, Daenerys Targaryen quietly continues to build an army to regain the throne and in the north, the Night’s Watch enter skirmishes with the wildlings and see signs that the undead army known as The White Walkers are on the move. It’s all getting very messy.
All our favourite characters return from the first season and their character development continues to show purpose and great promise for a satisying conclusion down the road. Prince Joffrey continues to be the greatest antagonist on television today as he carries on his fine form in Season 2 by being an absolute monster to anyone he can control and being an infuriating, cowardly wretch when confronted by someone who has the courage to push back. We patiently await retribution for his acts and they seem likely to come from the likable and plucky Arya who escapes capture and slowly learns to become a self sufficient warrior.
Meanwhile, love is in the air in Westeros. This season it seems like everyone gets a love interest. Tyrion becomes smitten with an exotic concubine, Jon Snow finds love in a cold climate, Robb Stark only has eyes for a sassy commoner and Stannis gets his freak on with the lady in red. It’s a far cry from the loveless, casual fornication of Season One although to be fair, this season still has its famously indulgent scenes in Littlefinger’s bordello.
The best thing about season two of Game of Thrones and about the show in general is that there is a very limited budget and a very large ensemble cast that must come together to tell a wide-spanning story of war mongering and politicking. And that means there is little room for time wasting and filler. Every scene has a purpose. Every line of dialogue must add to the advancement of the overall story if it is to make the cut. And it shows. There is a great sense of purpose and direction in Game of Thrones. By comparison, the second season of Lost was already beginning to show signs of misdirection and uncertainty.
The highlight of the season is easily the nineth episode, “Blackwater”, in which we see a large scale battle take place outside of King’s Landing involving thousands of men. The show had previously hinted at showing military conflicts but never had the budget or the means to do them justice. The Battle of Blackwater shows that the producers have the ability to stage a suitably epic climax to the many ongoing narrative strands that are still to come in the show. Blackwater was an impressive spectacle on a scale we’re not used to seeing in a television production. But once you add an army of snow zombies, dragons and several thousand more soliders into the mix…well. It makes the wait for Season 3 feel that much longer.