Game of Thrones is finally back. I still can barely believe that one of my favorite series of novels was adapted into a big budget HBO series, let alone one that’s received such critical success. Sure, the New York Times still doesn’t get it, but I wouldn’t call the Old Gray Lady a font of pop culture relevance.
Anyway, the first episode of the season opens with a knight falling to his death and ends with some baby murder, with plenty of other stuff squeezed in between. It went by so fast that I had to watch the episode twice. I’d be impressed if any new viewers or non-book readers could get through the hour without their head spinning. So many plot lines and characters are introduced, but I thought the episode did a good job of loosely stringing them all together by panning back and forth to the big red comet in the sky. Despite everything going on in this episode, though, it didn’t feel too rushed. I’m hoping that’s something that can carry forward in the remaining nine episodes, because there’s a lot of ground that needs to be covered if this season is going to try to stay somewhat faithful to book two.
* I know that some book fans aren’t huge fans of some of the original scenes in the series, but I really enjoy them. Yes, in the books Littlefinger is a bit too subtle to reveal as much has he did to Cersei, but I don’t care. The scene where she tells her guardsmen to kill him, then orders them to back off just to assert her point that “power is power” was great. On a similar note, I loved the scene in the throne room when Cersei slapped Joffrey. He looked shocked for a moment, then embarrassed that someone else may have seen it, then finally he puffed up with sociopathic rage.
* Speaking of Joffrey, he plays such a convincing young monster. The fact that he’s a bit older in the series makes him even more terrifying. He was evil in the books for sure, though to me he felt more childishly capricious than anything else. The TV version carries much more implicit menace and malice.
* Tyrion is just awesome. I’m looking forward to him throwing his intellect around the capitol and matching wits with the other schemers. While he’s not perfect, at least he has some moral conscience, so we can root for him and know that he’ll fare better than Ned since he understands how the game is played.
* Because he wasn’t a point of view character in the books, Robb always seemed a little nebulous to me. He’s portrayed wonderfully here, though, with enough charisma to make him convincing as a young hero, but enough vulnerability to make him sometimes look like an anxious young man who feels lost and alone.
* While we didn’t get to see too much of them in this episode, I liked both Davos and Stannis. Stannis is just as prickly and unpleasant as conversations from last season. He’s quite the copyeditor too.
I hope to see a little more of Jon, Dany, and Arya next week. This was a good opening though, and lays out where we’ll be going from here. I wish there were more that nine episodes left. I’d better enjoy them while I can.