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Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 1 (Review)

Game of Thrones

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HBO’S Game of Thrones returned to Sky Atlantic on Monday night in typically emphatic fashion.

The first 60 minutes included the usual mix of intrigue, sex and death and continued to unfold on an epic scale, taking in scorching hot deserts, icy cold Northern territories, lush seaside backdrops and bustling cityscapes. There truly are fewer series on TV right now that unfold on such an epic scale.

Yet while there was much to impress on a visual level, it was the intelligence of the script that continued to impress the most as new characters were slowly introduced and old faces returned bearing the scars and resentments of season one’s round of games.

Primary among everyone’s concerns is the continuing fallout from the death of Ned Stark and the legitimacy of young King Joffrey’s throne.

But while Joffrey continues to show casual disdain for life by holding blood-drenched gladiator-style games in his honour, and is played to maximum hissable contempt by Jack Gleeson, the innumerable threats to his reign are amassing.

First, there’s Robb Stark (Richard Madden), whose army is gaining ground on the battlefield having won three important victories, and then there’s Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and the new threat posed by the people of Dragonstone (who include Carice van Houten’s sorceress Melisandre and Liam Cunningham’s brooding Ser Davos Seaworth). They seem ready to strike.

And, of course, there’s Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), the owner of the dragons, who may be in a difficult position right now in the middle of the desert facing starvation, but whose growing threat has been marked by the arrival of a comet in the sky above Westeros.

Circling around all this, meanwhile, are the likes of Peter Dinklage’s playful Tyrion Lannister, revelling in his new position as hand of the king; Lena Headey’s Cersei Lannister, struggling to keep news of her incest and thereby Joffrey’s illegitimacy under wraps; Kit Harington’s Jon Snow, simmering with growing resentment north of the wall, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Jaime Lannister, the increasingly desperate captive of Robb Stark.

David Benioff and D B Weiss’ joint script is a marvellously complex affair yet, crucially, never impenetrable. The characters continue to be richly drawn individuals whose capacity to surprise remains intact. As does their vulnerability. For no one is safe.

And therein lies this series’ biggest attraction. You can take nothing for granted and even in its early days of scene-setting and gathering fresh momentum, Game of Thrones continues to shock and inspire awe.

For all its character building and pace-setting, this first hour still included provocative sequences such as the slaying of an infant child (thankfully only heard, not seen), the near-execution of a key cast member (Aidan Gillen’s Petyr Baelish regretting his own wisdom) and a raising of the stakes for almost every central character (most of whom seem to be facing impending battles).

It’s for all this and more that Game of Thrones continues to remain one of the very best shows on TV right now and one that shouldn’t be missed.

Game of Thrones, Sky Atlantic, Mondays, 9pm.