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'Game of Thrones' Season 2 premiere recap: 'The North Remembers'

"Death is so boring -- especially now, with so much excitement in the world." -- Tyrion Lannister 

If there was any doubt as to which character would replace the beheaded Ned Stark as the new star of"Game of Thrones,"the Season 2 premiere erased that. 

Tyrion Lannister is your man. 

The witty imp, played by Emmy-winner Peter Dinklage, has gone from supporting actor to the lead. Now the hand of the king (thanks to a smart appointment by his father, Tywin) Tyrion gets all the best lines of the season-opener and will be in position throughout the season to only expand upon that role. 

He seems to be the only person in King's Landing (which is now appropriately set in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik) unafraid of both Cersei and Joffrey Lannister. 

Within the opening minutes of the show, after Joffrey has had one man killed for his enjoyment, Tyrion openly mocks the boy-king's lack of military prowess ("We looked for you on the battlefield. You were nowhere to be found.") and gives a backhanded compliment to his sister, the queen ("You love your childen. It's your one redeeming quality. That and your cheekbones.").

Tyrion can get away with it, because he's family and has the uncanny ability to talk himself out of almost any situation. The rest of the kingdom isn't as immune to Joffrey's childish temper.  

By episode's end, he's threatened his mother after she slapped him ("What you just did is punishable by death. You will never do it again. Never.") and ordered the murder of all of Robert Baratheon's bastards, including (graciously and nobly) a newborn baby in a whorehouse. He's also tried to drown a man in wine, before he's outmaneuvered by an increasingly savvy Sansa. 

"A king does not ask. He commands," Joffrey declares. (Can a direwolf please rip his throat out already?)

There are a lot of youths in charge of things in Season 2: In addition to Joff, Bran Stark sits in charge of Winterfell; Daenerys Targaryen is leading her pledges through a barren wasteland (baby dragons on her shoulder); and Robb Stark is proving a pretty adept commander of the armies of the north, having won three battles and taken the kingslayer captive. Robb also threatens Jaime with his newly CGI-enhanced direwolf, Grey Wind. (Every episode is better with more direwolves.) As the episode ends, the elder Stark son sends his mother to enlist Renly's troops and Theon Greyjoy to rally his father's ships to the cause. They could form a sort-of super army that would crush the Lannisters, Robb argues. 

We also get to meet the sorceress Mesliandre, self-proclaimed King Stannis Baratheon and the fingerless Davos Seaworth, who will be major characters throughout the season. Melisandre introduces us to the delightful phrase "The night is dark and full of terrors" and has a good, old time burning statues of the old gods. (She has converted Stannis to worship the one true God who apparently only she and her followers worship.) She also has Stannis (Robert's middle brother) pull a sword out of the fire, which she says somehow justifies his legitimacy as ruler. 

Stannis then has letters sent around the seven kingdoms, declaring Joffrey to be Cersei and Jaime Lannister's bastard -- which, by now, is the least best kept secret in Westeros. 

Oh, and there's an ominous red comet hanging over the world, visible to everyone from north to south. There are different theories on the comet's meaning, but the best is offered by the captured wildling in Winterfell. "The comet means one thing, boy: Dragons," she tells Bran. 

But things are increasingly dire for the newborn dragons. Daenerys Targaryen and her followers are running out of food; The horse Khal Drogo gave her just died and she is desperate. She dispatches her riders in hopes of finding a city somewhere, anywhere. 

"No one will take my dragons," she says, before staring up at the comet. 

I have only two complaints about the first episode of Season 2: 1) The writers gave Littefinger a rather awkward and out-of-character exchange with Cersei in which he challenges her and is nearly taken captive. In the books, Littlefinger is the brown-noser-in-chief and would never have done that; and 2) Maester Cressen is killed off before anyone got to know him. Cressen raised the Baratheon children and was particularly close to Stannis, whom he regarded as a son.

But the episode excelled in underscoring Joffrey's cruelty (he does make a truly vile villain, doesn't he?) and Tyrion's humor and growth as a character. And both of the episode's shortcomings can be made up for next week with, say, four additional beheadings. (And if the writers can somehow work in a direwolf threatening Joffrey, I wouldn't complain.) 

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