The wait is over and the Game of Thrones has finally returned after a near 10-month hiatus. While the last thing we saw was the long awaited debut of the Whitewalker’s, the show picks up right where it left off in 2012. Samwell Tarley has made it through the snowy battle at the Fist of the First with the Whitewalker’s. Unfortunately we do not get to see the battle despite waiting almost a year for it. However sometimes showing less is more and it leaves us to our own devices thinking how brutal and visually cool it must have been. The Night’s Watch head honcho Lord Mormont gives Samwell a comeuppance for not sending the ravens to warn the people of the battle with the frozen zombie icicle people known as the Whitewalkers. Still, even the GoT episodes that are filled with exposition pack a punch.
Jon Snow is escorted by the warrior Ygritte and shown what life is like at the Wilding camp. We get our first look at a giant and man was it cool looking. Easily three times the size of a fully grown male, the giant pounds a post into the ground with his closed fist. Snow looks at the giant for a little too long and I was really hoping that the towering CGI monstrosity would swipe his hand at him. Hopefully we’ll see more giants down the line this season as it was a nice surprise. Snow is introduced to Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds), the designated King of the Wildlings who wants to know why exactly he wants to join the Wildlings. Mance thinks that he may have lost his required need for celibacy in the Night’s Watch and has the hots for Ygritte. However the truth is that Snow is disgusted at his ilk for not doing anything after he witnessed the slaying of infant boys while taking shelter at Cratcher’s home last season. That really freaked me out last year. I was surprised to see that and it appears that Snow is ready to throw his Night’s Watch ID card out the window and join up with the Wildlings.
Last year’s brilliant attack of wildfire during Stannis Baratheon’s siege on King’s Landing lay waste to many but somehow Davos has survived the onslaught. Thankfully Davos is able to hail a ship that happens to be the pirate ship of Salladhor Saan, the veteran pirate. Davos is adamant about going back to Dragonstone to put the kibosh on Stannis and the spell that the witch Melisandre has him under. However the seasoned pirate Saan wants nothing to do with it after providing ships to the cause and not receiving squat in return. Sadly Davos gets to Dragonstone only to be usurped by the priestess and thrown in the clink by Stannis. I didn’t see that coming but man was that a wasted trip for the loyal Davos.
Everyone’s favorite Halfling Tyrion Lassiter is licking his wounds after the Battle of Blackwater. He has spent the duration since last season recovering and has the battle scar to prove it. Thankfully he is not as disfigured as we once thought. His meeting with his father Tywin goes about as well as John F. Kennedy’s visit to Dallas. Tywin is now Hand of the King and does not want to hear excuses from the child that killed his wife upon delivery. He laces into Tyrion telling him that “men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors since I cannot prove that you are not mine.” Ouch. Plus his request to station at Casterly Rock is reneged as Tywin assures Tyrion that “neither Gods nor men will ever compel me to allow you to turn Casterly Rock into your whorehouse.” Not to be outdone, Cersei also gives her two cents to Tyrion as she does what she does best; toying with her younger brothers mind. Tyrion was merely looking for a little pat on the back from his father but he instead endures insults about all of the things he has done. No matter the time period, we all seek approval from our parents and elders. The usual fire in Tyrion’s belly has gone out for the time being as he recovers.
It is difficult to see Catelyn Stark imprisoned for aiding and abetting Kingslayer Jaime Lannister. Robb is itching for a fight but the Lannister’s are nowhere to be found. His internal struggle of keeping his mother prisoner seems to be chipping away at him and he would like nothing more than to release his mother. But his battlefield prowess and loyalty to his men force him to make any rash decisions of releasing her. Everyone’s favorite pimp, Littlefinger, assures the very grownup Sansa that he can get her out and away from Joffrey for good. Maiden Shae is keeping a close eye on the young Stark woman and is streetwise enough to know that Littlefinger’s intentions may not be genuine.
Daenerys Targaryen and Jorah are delightfully watching the now almost fully grown dragons fly around the water and breathe fire. Daenerys is glowing with pride as she watches her beautiful creatures soar through the air. It is the equivalent of a Dad watching their son up at bat in little league for the first time. Daenerys makes the bold decision to have Jorah help her assemble an army and who better than the unsullied, the elite warrior-eunuchs? The two visit a slaver by the name of Karznys mo Nakloz (say that ten times fast) and his interpreter Missandei who present the group of well-trained slaves to them. Immediately I thought of Ra’s Al Ghul’s League of Shadows in the way they uniformly moved. It was funny to see Missandei only translate polite talk and not what he is actually saying. It was a fun and light scene to watch as Daenerys thinks she is translating everything but does not realize he is calling her a whore to her face. Karznys shows the soldier’s resolve by cutting off one of their nipples while making the deal.
Angling for the title of Queen is Margaery Tyrell as she tries to manipulate her way onto the throne. Cersei sees her younger self in the eyes of Margaery and I really think that deep down she fears the young woman. She is a threat and is trying to woo Joffrey and that would mean mother is no longer the number one woman in his life. When she stops to visit orphaned children, I was not sure whether she was showing genuine maternal concern or she was just there for the equivalent of a medieval photo op. Margaery is most definitely a character that I am keeping an eye on as I believe her machinations will cause disruption amongst the house of Lannister.
Finally we get a chance to see Daenerys amongst the people in the market section of Astopor. Innocently enough, she starts playing with a young girl and when the kid motions to her to open the ball she is playing with, a CGI scorpion-like bug appears set to strike her. The demon lizard girl with “vamp speed” gets away with lightning fast quickness and thankfully the cloaked figure that saved her was Barriston Selmy who you may remember from the first season. Joffrey kicked him to the curb some time ago and now he is angling to be the Dragon Queen’s Guard. I would say he is an instant hire; no need for a resume and interview.
While we did not get to see a lot of the characters that I was hoping to see (Bran, Arya, Jaime Lannister, etc.), the episode was jam packed with exposition setting the tone for the super-high standards that the HBO drama is accustomed. I would have liked to see a two-hour premiere but I realized that with GoT, the best thing to do is to wait patiently as the payoff always comes but we just don’t know when and that is the fun of the show. I watched the episode three times just to catch some of the small nuances and foreshadowing that the show does so well. In the end I am just happy that the Game has finally returned.