Friday, March 29, 2013

HBO Game of Thrones: Season Two Recap and Season Three Anticipation

HBO Game of Thrones Recap-Season Two
Another year has come and gone. Hopefully you're a little bit wiser, a little bit wealthier and ready to watch the 9 PM Sunday premiere of HBO's Season 3 of Game of ThronesIf you don't watch the show and are curious all I can say is that the show combines a feeling of The Sopranos meets The Wire in Middle Earth with a very strong Shakespearean/Dickensian/Dune overlay. There are scores of characters. The good guys don't always win and your view of who the good guys are may change dramatically over time. There are fantastical elements (walking dead, clairvoyance, ice demons, dragons, scarily intelligent and huge guardian direwolves which reflect and anticipate their human partner's emotions) but the magical elements don't dominate the story though they will become more important later. No this story is really about the ugliness and glory of humanity. 

A war of succession, called the War of Five Kings, has broken out on a continent quite similar to Europe at the Middle Ages and Renaissance level of development. A Lannister King unjustly executed the head of House Stark so Houses Stark and Tully (they're in-laws) have risen in revolt. House Baratheon claims (correctly) that the Lannister king is a product of incest and thus has no right to the throne. It also launched a war against the Lannisters. House Tyrell once supported the younger rebel Renly Baratheon but when the elder Baratheon brother Stannis had his brother Renly murdered, the Tyrells threw in with the Lannisters. The Arryns and Martells are staying out of the war. House Greyjoy spurned an alliance from House Stark and attacked House Stark, for whom it holds a special disdain. Across the sea, House Targaryen, recently deposed and thought virtually powerless is reconstituting itself around the leadership of a teen girl, the last Targaryen. She has dragons. She thinks herself the rightful Queen. Unknown to everyone, powers in the North are stirring. Both the wildling hordes and the more dangerous White Walkers intend to invade the realms of Westeros. They are opposed only by a ragtag bunch of outcasts, criminals and disinherited sons known as the Night Watch.

As of the end of Season Two this is where some of the major characters found themselves.

Robb and Catelyn Stark
As the eldest son and wife of murdered Ned Stark, it's safe to say that these two took Ned's death as hard as anyone, maybe harder. Both had thoughts that immediately turned to bloody vengeance. Robb gathered an army, challenged any doubters to come and have a go if they thought they were hard enough, and proceeded to kick Lannister behind up and down Westeros. He's known as The Young Wolf, which is a pretty cool nickname if you think about it. Despite usually being greatly outnumbered, Robb has defeated every Lannister army he's faced. He's made Tywin Lannister, the top general and leader of House Lannister, look like a tired old man. Rumble young man rumble!!!  But no one's perfect. Robb thought that Theon Greyjoy was his friend and sent him to parley with his father Balon Greyjoy. But Balon Greyjoy had already decided to attack the North. Feeling threatened by his father's preference for his sister Yara, Theon decided to prove himself to his family by attacking and taking Winterfell, the Stark home. He also killed two children and claimed that he had killed Robb's younger brothers. Winterfell could not be held though and Theon's men turned on him. Winterfell was burned and its people slaughtered.

Catelyn gave Robb advice and tried to broker a peace between the feuding Baratheon brothers. This didn't work and Catelyn had to escape with Brienne, a supporter of the late Renly Baratheon and Westeros' only female knight. Brienne swore loyalty to Catelyn Stark, and NOT the Starks in general. This came in handy when Catelyn, worried about the safety of her daughters, Sansa and Arya, in Lannister captivity, released Jaime Lannister, Tywin's favorite son, into Brienne's custody with orders to trade Jaime for her daughters. This didn't go over very well with Robb or his followers.  Catelyn fretted about Robb's marriage to Talisa, a foreign nurse he met. Robb was supposed to marry the daughter of Walder Frey, a bannerman to Catelyn's father. Frey has been supporting Robb's war. Robb put Catelyn under house arrest and sent men to retrieve Jaime and Brienne. But Brienne showed she's no slouch in the warrior department, killing three Stark soldiers with ease. Jaime Lannister is likely the realm's most dangerous swordsman. He can't believe that a woman, especially one as ugly as Brienne, can do the things he does. He spends his days thinking up new insults to call Brienne. 

Arya Stark
Everyone's favorite left-handed action girl, Arya Stark avoided the bloodbath in King's Landing when her father Ned was captured and executed. She left with Yoren, a rough Night's Watch recruiter who swore to take her home. But Yoren's group was attacked by Lannister troops looking for Gendry, King Robert's illegitimate son. Yoren was killed. Arya and her friends were taken into custody. Arya was taken to Harrenhal (for obvious reasons she did not disclose her identity). At Harrenhal Arya ran into the mysterious man named Jaqen H'ghar, whom she had previously saved from a burning wagon. The strange man with the odd diction told Arya that he owed her three lives. She used him to kill two of the people who hurt her or her friends but before she could use him on Tywin Lannister and possibly change the war's outcome, Twyin left for King's Landing. Arya convinced H'ghar to help her, Gendry and Hot Pie to escape. He did this by somehow killing a multitude of guards simultaneously and silently. He then altered his features and told Arya that if she wanted to learn his skills, come with him to Braavos. For now, Arya declined, being eager to rejoin her family. Arya witnessed a fair deal of torture, murder and brutality and believe it or not this was actually toned down somewhat from the books. She also got to match wits with Tywin Lannister.

Bran and Rickon Stark
They have hidden in the crypts with loyalists Hodor, Osha and their two wolves. They have thus survived the burning of Winterfell and are heading North. Bran is still having strange dreams that seem to hint at future events and make it seem as if he is seeing things through the eyes of his wolf, Summer. Both of the younger Stark boys are having to grow up much faster than they should. 

Tyrion Lannister, Cersei Lannister and Stannis Baratheon 
Reluctantly given Hand authority by his father Twyin with orders not to let Cersei or Joffrey muck things up any worse than they already had, Tyrion saw highs and lows in Season Two. Despised and mocked by everyone for being a dwarf, Tyrion showed real leadership ability and even fearlessness in limiting Joffrey's abuses, publicly correcting Joffrey, trying to eliminate the more openly venal administrators around him and successfully defending King's Landing against the Stannis Baratheon onslaught. Unfortunately someone on his own side tried to have him murdered during battle. Although his squire saved his life, Tyrion awoke from his recovery to find that his authority was gone. Tywin was in charge now. Tyrion was once again out of favor.

Cersei Lannister kidnapped and abused the woman who she thought was Tyrion's paramour. She may or may not have given the order to kill her brother. She was on the verge of murdering her son Tommen, believing all was lost, when her father saved the day. Cersei had a strange relationship with Sansa Stark, despising her and bullying her but occasionally giving her what she saw as useful or realistic advice about being a woman.

Stannis Baratheon, despite seeing much of his fleet destroyed by Tyrion's ingenious use of wildfire (napalm) was in the front lines serving up butt-kickings, Baratheon style, to the Lannister soldiers. He was on the verge of victory when he was attacked from behind by the combined Lannister/Tyrell soldiery and forced to retreat. Back at Dragonstone the depressed Stannis demanded to know why he had lost but was shown a vision in fire by his sexy and profoundly weird religious advisor Melisandre which seems to have mollified him somewhat. If there's one thing we know about Stannis though, it's that he does not quit. Ever. 

Sansa Stark and Joffrey Lannister
Sansa Stark spent most of Season Two being Joffrey's outlet for frustration over the fact that Robb Stark was beating Lannister armies like rented mules. Joffrey is more interested in hurting and humiliating women than in having sex with them and regularly had the teenage Sansa beaten and stripped by grown men. Tyrion Lannister was the only man who stopped this. But the fearsome Lannister bodyguard The Hound, never beat Sansa, subtly attempted to protect her from Joffrey and rescued her from a would be gang-rape. Sansa is on the verge of womanhood. She might have been able to tell that the Hound didn't do those things because he's a nice guy. The Hound is most emphatically NOT a nice guy. Despite this, Sansa refused to leave with the Hound when he quit Lannister service and offered to take her home. This decision looked wise when Joffrey renounced his betrothal to Sansa in favor of Margaery Tyrell. But as the shifty Littlefinger explained to Sansa, this doesn't mean that Joffrey has given up interest in Sansa. Without the title of wife to protect her she may be in even worse danger.

Joffrey Lannister continued to be the Lannister we hate the most. When he wasn't mutilating bards for fun, murdering his putative half-siblings, or ordering massacres because peasants laughed at him, he was beating and insulting Sansa Stark. When that outlet was temporarily denied him he transferred his psychosis to prostitutes. When war came he talked a good game but when stuff got real he ran home to his mother and left the leadership to Tyrion. Season Two saw a realization on both Joffrey's and Cersei's parts that Joffrey was truly dangerous and had no qualms about hurting anyone. Varys and Littlefinger continue to plot from the shadows.

Daenerys Targaryen 
The would be queen of Westeros didn't have much of an arc in Season Two. That will likely change in Season Three. In Season Two her dragons were small and more exotic playthings than dangerous pets. Danerys and her retinue spent all season in Quarth, a democratic city run by a council of merchants. Those merchants were intrigued by the dragons but had zero interest in backing Danerys' longshot to retake the Iron Throne. One merchant, Xaro pretended romantic interest in Danerys and claimed wealth. But he, along with the wizard Pyat Pree really just wanted the dragons. Pyat Pree made the critical mistake of forgetting that any dragon is more loyal to its owner/trainer than to the weird looking guy who dragon-napped it. After Danerys had Pree burned alive she discovered the treachery (and penury) of Xaro and had her remaining loyalists lock Xaro and his lover in his empty vault. And her friend who would be more, Jorah Mormont still hasn't made his move. Better go for it in Season Three, Jorah. Faint heart, fair lady, you know the rest.

Jon Snow
Jon Snow joined the Night Watch because he thought it was an honorable thing to do and because he wanted to get away from Catelyn Stark, who hated him. Well he jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Not only has Jon learned that many of the Night Watch men are hoodlums, thieves, exiles and all around bad guys but that Night Watch leaders must make deals with even worse people for information. One such man is Craster, a man who gives information and food to Night Watch members. In return they turn a blind eye to Craster's rape of his daughters and granddaughters and sacrificing of male relatives to the White Walkers. Jon spoke out of school about this and gets the Night Watch team kicked out of Craster's home. He also got a beatdown from Craster. Heading further north Jon joined with a small group of Night Watch rangers who intended to infiltrate the wildling army and assassinate the wildling king Mance Rayder. But the mission went wrong when Jon gets lost and confused by his raunchy redheaded wildling captive, the beautiful and loud mouthed Ygritte who leads him into a trap. Trying to save the mission, Qhorin Halfhand, the ranger leader manipulated Jon into killing him. Now slightly trusted, Jon is taken to meet the wilding king. Jon's best bud Sam, witnessed what looked like a full scale southern march of White Walkers and the walking dead.
I was just recently part of an E! Entertainment circle discussion and interview about Season Three. Spoilers were avoided as much as possible and you know my policy about spoilers here. I can say that the creators have publicly stated that this is the season they were hoping to reach. I can also say that Season Three will continue deviations from the books. In any event I'm really looking forward to this season. There will be tons of new characters introduced. Blink and you'll miss something important. This is HBO's flagship show and in my opinion one of the better shows on television. Of course I don't watch much television so take that with a ROCK of salt. Enjoy the trailers below.



ENEMIES TRAILER  Game of Thrones Pickup Lines (Mildly adult humor)


*This post is written for discussion of season two and unspoiled anticipation of season three.  If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea. Don't be THAT guy.
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