This review may contain spoilers.
Having reluctantly stepped into the role of the Hand of the King for the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, Ned Stark (Sean Bean) begins his long journey south to a new life that is already shaping up to be mired in peril.
Unknown to the Stark family, Lannister treachery has already struck. Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), Ned's second youngest son, was pushed from a tower window after witnessing the incestuous relationship of Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and her brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
Bran survives the fall, but is now in a coma. His fall initially looks to be an accident to the Starks, but Cersei and Jaime are left to ponder the ramifications if the boy awakens.
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd) continues to plot his glorious return to the Seven Kingdoms. He has married off his sister Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) to a powerful Dothraki warlord, Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa). Viserys sees Drogo's sizable army as the key to taking his rightful place on the Seven Kingdom's throne.
Using his sister to achieve that goal is hardly a concern for Viserys. Fortunately for Daenerys, however, she is adapting to her new life and begins to focus on how to please her new husband.
Finally, Jon Snow sets off to join the Sworn Brotherhood of the Night's Watch, which patrols a massive wall of ice serving as a barrier between the Seven Kingdoms and the mysterious, icy wilds north of it. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) tags along with Jon, using the opportunity to visit the legendary structure before he returns to King's Landing.
Points Of Interest
1. The episode features another impressive look at the wall. There is big-budget goodness at work here. The remote and desolate region where it is located reinforces Jon Snow's (Kit Harington) suspicions that life with the Night's Watch may not be as glamorous as the tales suggest.
2. The opening title sequence continues to be an impressive aspect of the series. The fact it changes to illustrate a new location across the Narrow Sea this week was a nice surprise that helps keep audiences oriented with the geography of author George R.R. Martin's complex world.
3. Like in the book, the Stark's dire wolves are growing at an accelerated pace. It'll be interesting to see how HBO handles these potential monstrosities once they reach adulthood.
4. Cersei's visit to Bran's bedside and the subsequent tale she gives to Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) about the loss of a child was a skillful display of subterfuge. Like her cunning brother Tyrion, Cersei is a master of intrigue, and the scene deftly adds a dangerous layer to her conflicted personality.
Once again directed by Timothy Van Patten ("Boardwalk Empire," "The Pacific"), the show maintains its polished big-screen vibe without missing a beat. Patten stages a number of effective scenes here, including the assassin's attack on Bran and the dire wolf's ferocious intervention.
Also effective is Tyrion's conversation with Jon while traveling to the wall. Featuring some nice dialogue, the scene does a good job of revealing their personalities and setting up both for the trials to come.
Dinklage continues to shine as Tyrion. It's mesmerizing to see how he has embraced the role with such vigor. Tyrion is the type of part that could easily develop into one of television's great characters. A casting misfire for this role would have been devastating for the series.
Finally, "Game of Thrones" maintains its epic posture with an impressive display of scope, effects and most of all, acting. Ramin Djawadi's ("Ironman," "Clash of the Titans") score is developing into another jewel for this show's crown too.
What Didn't Work
Honestly there is not much that isn't working for me at this point. HBO has done a fantastic job. However, with so many characters in Martin's world demanding attention, some of the scenes do play out with a striking degree of brevity.
There is a lot of material for the show's producers to squeeze into a 10-episode season; so it's only natural that certain events from Martin's book would need compression. Perhaps HBO should consider adding a few more episodes to Season 2.
One things for sure, there is no doubt that an expanded running time will be needed if Season 3 receives a green light. Martin's book "A Storm of Swords" is a monster in many ways!
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Game of Thrones" stars Sean Bean, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Jason Momoa, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Kit Harington, Harry Lloyd. "The Kingsroad" was written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. It was directed by Timothy Van Patten.
"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
See our review of the pilot episode "Winter is Coming" here.
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