Saturday, March 31, 2012

Television-Game of Thrones S1 Recap and S2 Anticipation

HBO's Game of Thrones FINALLY returns for Season Two tomorrow!!! 
Why did I like Game of Thrones? Because it's adult fantasy. It presents real characters with recognizable motivations and frailties. Few characters are one moral shade. Everyone has their own interests and limited information. Imagine The Wire or The Sopranos meets Middle Earth.
Season One started with the "hero" Ned Stark agreeing to work for the King. It ended with both the King and Ned murdered and Ned's family scattered. I hope you enjoy the Season One Recap below. Season Two Trailers are included within. There are no Season Two spoilers but Season One is detailed.

This is a series with a lot of moral complexity, backstabbing, double dealing, religious extremists, and examinations of the glory and horror that goes on when wars start. It breaks down the costs of honor and how difficult it can be to always do the right thing.
There was an asinine NYT review of Season Two that complained that Ned was dead, things weren't moving fast enough and there were too many characters. NEWS FLASH: Season Two does not complete the story. Season Two is primarily based on the second book of a series which is currently planned for seven. If you want simplistic heroes, quick results and feeble-minded plot lines, go watch a cartoon at the kiddies' table. If you have some patience for Dickensian complexity and appreciate good writing and great production values, check this out.

Season One Recap
Ned Stark, the Warden of the North, was invited by his oldest and closest friend, King Robert Barratheon, to become King Robert's Hand (Prime Minister). King Robert wants Ned's oldest daughter Sansa to marry Robert's son Joffrey. This will unite their families. Ned will be the father-in-law of one king and the grandfather of another. King Robert's wife, Queen Cersei Lannister, is committing adultery with her twin brother, Jaime. Ned's son Bran saw them. Jaime threw Bran from a window. Bran survived but was crippled and comatose. Someone made a second murder attempt. Based on her sister's information, Ned's wife Catelyn tells Ned that the Lannisters murdered the previous Hand, her brother-in-law.

Arya makes a point to big sis

Disturbed, nonetheless Ned goes south with the royals, his feuding daughters Sansa (a very traditional girl) and Arya (a tomboy), and some Northern soldiers. Ned left his castle Winterfell under Catelyn's authority. She and eldest son Robb will watch after Bran and the youngest son Rickon. Catelyn dislikes Ned's illegitimate son Jon Snow. Jon Snow is exiled to the Wall. Although, like most nobles, Ned and Catelyn have an arranged marriage, quite unusually they love, trust and respect each other.

Ned is shocked to discover that the Robert he remembers as a decisive leader and great warrior has become a brutish, lazy drunk who is simultaneously browbeaten by Cersei and regularly abuses and cheats on her. Ned finds that the Kingdom's true power is held not by the King but by (1) his Lannister in-laws, the king's creditors who have entirely too many soldiers around, and (2) the enigmatic royal advisers Varys (a spymaster) and Littlefinger (Treasury head who still carries a torch for Catelyn).

Lady Catelyn Stark
Catelyn Stark finds evidence that the Queen was present where Bran "fell". She thinks the second attempt proves Bran knows something dangerous. Incognito, she travels south to see Ned. Littlefinger tells both Starks that the Lannisters, specifically the dwarf Tyrion Lannister, were behind the murder attempts. Ned asks Catelyn to do nothing rash and sends her back to Winterfell. Ned will investigate. Ned's daughters see that Robert's teen son Joffrey is a mean and vindictive little brat.
King Robert learns that a previous regime princess, Daenerys Targaryen, still lives. Danerys is married to a Eastern king. She is pregnant. Robert wants to murder her. The moralistic and honest Ned disagrees. Ned resigns as Hand, greatly embarrassing and angering Robert.
Returning home Catelyn Stark (nee Tully) runs into Tyrion Lannister. As Catelyn is on her father's lands and close to her sister's domain, in one of Season One's greatest scenes she orders Tyrion's arrest. (This scene was also echoed in Boardwalk Empire)

This proves to be a very bad idea. Although he dislikes his sarcastic, prostitute patronizing son, Tyrion's father, Tywin Lannister is outraged by Tyrion's arrest. Tywin sends his most monstrous soldiers to rape, kill and pillage on Tully lands. Jaime Lannister attacks Ned Stark. Ned is crippled. His bodyguards are killed. The King remakes Ned the Hand.  Ned orders away more of his dwindling troop to defend his wife's lands.

Ned finally realizes that not only is Cersei having an incestuous affair but also all of her children are Jaime's. This is a capital crime. Rather foolishly, but in accordance with his morals, Ned tells Cersei that he knows everything. He gives her 48 hrs to leave town before he informs Robert. Cersei laughs, offers herself to Ned and when that fails, tells Ned she's not going anywhere and if he wants to get in the ring against her he better come heavy.

Cersei has arranged for Robert to be mortally injured in a hunting "accident". Cersei seduced her own cousin to set Robert up. The too compassionate Ned is unwilling to tell his dying friend of Cersei's crimes. Robert's brother Renly urges Ned to seize Cersei and her children and recognize Renly as King. Renly's soldiers will protect Ned and his family. Ned believes that Renly's older brother Stannis is the lawful heir and scornfully declines Renly's offer. Ned sends word to Stannis. Renly flees.
Increasingly desperate for manpower and advice, Ned turns to Littlefinger, who suggests Ned submit and play ball until such time as he can profitably reveal the incest. Ned rejects that idea as dishonorable. Out of options, Ned requests that Littlefinger pay the City Guard to support Ned until Stannis' arrival. Littlefinger agrees.

Robert makes Ned regent and dies. Thus armed with the law, his few remaining soldiers and the City Guard, Ned goes before Cersei, Joffrey and Lannister troops to claim his rights as regent.  Cersei says she doesn't give a flying f*** what Robert said. The only question now is if Ned will bend the knee to Joffrey. Ned says Joffrey is not the true king and orders Joffrey's arrest. But Littlefinger betrayed Ned. The City Guard supports the Lannisters. Ned is captured. His final loyalists are killed. Across the palace, Lannisters butcher Stark people. Arya escapes but Sansa is captured.

Ghost: Jon Snow's Direwolf
 Across the ocean Danerys Targaryen is now the last Targaryen. Her pervy older brother Viserys was upset that his sister's authority had eclipsed his own. Viserys wanted his brother-in-law Khal Drogo to invade Westeros immediately. Viserys threatens to kill Danerys but is killed by Drogo. Drogo and Danerys grow even closer together when the assassination attempt on Daneys fails. Mess with a man's woman and unborn child and you're going to get handled. Drogo promises Old Testament level retribution. 

But some of Drogo's men aren't supportive. They don't wish to go to war overseas for a foreigner. They are vociferously opposed to Danerys ordering them about.
One fool insults Danerys. Khal Drogo must make an example. They duel. Drogo is contemptuous of his adversary's weapon. In an example of "You may get yours but brother don't let me get mine", Drogo fights weaponless and leans into the other man's sword to get close enough to rip out his opponent's throat with his bare hands.

M-A-N indeed. But this Alpha Male Big Dog display costs Drogo. He is now either infected or poisoned and falls from his horse. A Khal who can not ride is no Khal at all in Dothraki culture. Danerys tries to save Drogo's life. She begs help from a witch. The witch "saves" Drogo's life by making him virtually comatose, which is no life for any Dothraki. The witch's sorcery also kills Danerys' unborn child and leaves her barren. Danerys mercy kills Drogo. The Dothraki horde deserts Danerys. She is left with a small core of women, children and Dothraki men who are either poor warriors or liberal/loyal enough not to mind taking orders from a foreign girl. In her first official act as Khaleesei (Queen) she creates a funeral pyre for Drogo and burns the witch alive upon it. Impulsively, she places dragon eggs on the pyre. She walks into the fire and the eggs hatch. Unharmed by the flames she is now the literal mother of dragons-three newborn dragons suckle upon her.

Sansa begs for her father's life
Hearing of his father's arrest, Robb Stark summons the Stark bannermen. As Robb is only 17 or so, some Northerners question his wisdom or authority but after Robb's Direwolf Grey Wind bites off a few fingers, they get with the program. Catelyn reminds Robb that the Lannisters still have his sisters. The Lannisters demand Robb's allegiance. Sansa Stark begs (now King) Joffrey to show her father mercy. Joffrey says he will do so provided Ned retracts his claim that Joffrey is not King and admits to treason.
Locked in a dungeon and in a VERY bad mood, Ned has no intention of doing any such thing. He's been in worse situations. For Ned, truth and honor are more important than his life. Varys, who refuses to help Ned escape, asks if Ned feels the same way about his daughters' lives.

Ned goes before the crowd including King Joffrey and recants his claim that Joffrey is not king. He falsely admits to treasonous acts. Varys has led him to believe that Ned will be exiled. This is Cersei's desire. Joffrey, however, has different plans. From pure spite Joffrey orders Ned's execution. Ned is beheaded while Sansa screams in horror. In a touching scene Ned sees Arya in the crowd and is able to tell a Night Watch man to save her. Bran Stark (who has awoken from his coma with no memory of Jaime and Cersei) and Rickon Stark see their father's murder in dreams. Bran is developing some form of ESP.
Ned's death means war. Good GAWD Y'all!!!

Robb "The Young Wolf" Stark

The North secedes and recognizes Robb Stark as their "King In The North". Robb Stark leads the Northern forces to initial victory against the Lannisters. He captures Jaime Lannister. Jon Snow hears the news. He wants to desert the Night Watch to fight alongside his brother but is convinced to keep his oath. There are strange happenings in the north. The Night Watch intends to ride in force to defeat the wild tribes and any undead creatures. Jon isn't the first prince forced to put Wall duty above family duty.
The sadistic Joffrey makes Sansa look upon her father's severed head and promises her that soon he'll put Robb's head next to it. Sansa responds that maybe Robb will make her a gift of Joffrey's head instead. In response Joffrey has his bodyguards beat Sansa for his enjoyment. They all do this except for The Hound, a brutal killer who murdered Arya's friend, but who evidently likes Sansa.

Daenerys Reborn
Got all that? Good because it will be on the test. Ned's dead. Robb Stark calls himself King but will Catelyn Stark take orders from someone whose bottom she used to wipe? The Starks will seek new allies. Jon Snow is riding North where his loyalty and honor will be tested. Arya Stark is going thru hell trying to get home. Sansa Stark is going thru hell being Joffrey's plaything. Bran Stark has strange dreams. Tyrion Lannister will become his nephew Joffrey's Hand, at Tywin Lannister's command. This puts Tyrion on a collision course with Cersei, who despises him. Cersei rages against the patriarchy but dare not disobey her Daddy. Both Stannis and Renly claim the throne. Daenerys Targaryen has dragons. Season Two will introduce several new characters. Harsh, austere and battle tested Stannis makes common cause with a religious redheaded strange seductive seer from the East while charismatic and militarily inexperienced Renly has Westeros' only female knight watching his back.

Other Houses must decide who to support. Some are just happy to see rivals wasting manpower and money.
Season Two New Character
There will be oodles of violence, sex, love and hate. In Season One HBO used dogs for the Stark Direwolves. Per books the wolves are large/dangerous enough even as pups to worry Stark enemies. As adults -and they grow quickly - they are supposed to be almost as large as small ponies. In Season Two the Stark Direwolves will be represented by a mixture of dogs, CGI and animatronics. I'm looking forward to this. Wow you read all this??? I would have quit a long time ago. =)  Well in reward for your patience here are some trailers for Season Two and a feature from Season One.
Season Two Trailers
The Cold Winds are Rising Trailer  
The More You Love Trailer   Price for our Sins Trailer 
Nowhere to Hide Trailer  Seven Devils Trailer
Arya Stark Feature
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