Game of Thrones - Episode 2.01 - The North Remembers - Review

Hello fellow SpoilerTVtonians! It has been an incredibly long time since I posted much of anything to the site (be it content or comment), but the return Game of Thrones has gotten me enormously excited about writing again (despite no time at all for anything ever). As such, without further fanfare, here are my initial thoughts about Sunday's season premiere entitled "The North Remembers".

Sadly, while the majority of the individual scenes were excellent, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the episode overall.

Not to suggest that it wasn't impressive in scope, well acted/written/directed, or entertaining. More that, while I understand the need to re-introduce all of the characters and their respective plot lines at the beginning of a new season, I was hoping for less of a television-specific storytelling mechanism. Having to remind viewers about all of the characters, while important and probably unavoidable in TV, is the worst when dealing in episodes and not novels. In a show with fewer cast members, this wouldn't be a problem; however, trying to fit all 23 series regulars and several featured players besides into the episode left us without much forward momentum. It's unfortunate that so much setup had to be present since the strongest episodes last season chose to focus on only a few of the storylines.

So, although I understand the need for any season premiere to get bogged down in all of the stories at once, I also hope that this season will be able to handle the huge number of disparate plot threads as it progresses.

This line of thinking leads me to my issue with the final scene. The end of the episode was certainly gripping, what with the murdering of babies and all, but to end with Arya in a caravan wasn't much of a cliffhanger or a hook. We *know* that she's marching North with a Night's Watch caravan. This scene effectively serves to remind us that she exists, or, more importantly, that Gendry is Robert's bastard and is being hunted. This scene is also something that the writers had been building towards all episode long with most of the main characters fretting over Arya's possible location. Why was this non-reveal treated as if it were a reveal? Furthermore, it just didn't have the same kind of impact as "A 10 YEAR OLD BOY JUST GOT THROWN OUT OF A FUCKING TOWER WINDOW AFTER WITNESSING TWINCEST!?!?!? or "NOW HE'S CRIPPLED AND YOU JUST MURDERED A HELPLESS BABY WOLF!?!?!?!?"

Obviously, I don't need every episode of all shows ever to end with some sort of major revelation, but I was hoping that an episode filled with this much setup would pay off within the context of the episode itself. I would imagine that the entire purpose of that last sequence was to remind the viewers that Gendry is Robert's bastard. Sure, if you had forgotten that fact, you get to revel in the notion that the Lannisters are after Gendry and that, should they find him, they'll also find Arya. I just didn't think it was a hugely necessary display within the context of everything else we know. Maybe that's just the book reader in me talking, I don't know. I'm sure that watching all 10 episodes of this season in a row will make it appear much stronger in the context of the whole season, but on an episodic and even whole series level, it wasn't all that it could have been.

All of those negative things having been said, the episode was still absolutely brilliant and is far better than basically everything else on television.

The strength of the cast and the writers shone through in a number of different scenes. Robb and Catelyn arguing simultaneously as King/Subject and Son/Mother was just so subtle. The burning of the Seven on Dragonstone was intensely disturbing. Tyrion's arrogance in the Small Council chambers as he simply gloated at Cersei while producing the letter proving that he is the Acting Hand of the King was hilarious. Finally, direction-wise, the imagery of the red comet connected all of the many plot lines and locations beautifully. I have more thoughts, but this is getting wordy. As such, here is a list of other stuff!

Stray Thoughts:
  • Tyrion/Peter Dinklage was the episode's MVP proving that (for once) the Academy chose wisely Emmywise.  Dinklage just gives off a huge range of emotions at once.
  • I love how they've written Stannis. The scene in which he nitpicks certain details of his letter shows us exactly who he is. Honest, but tactless and stubborn to a fault.
  • I also particularly loved Cersei's scene with Littlefinger. Littlefinger isn't wrong... knowledge IS power... but Cersei also has a great point. There is only so much knowledge can do without the ability to act on said knowledge.
  • Melisandre was a kind of a letdown. As pointed out to me by Darque, she was underplaying the part to the extent that it came off as slightly bland. I was particular disappointed by her would be poisoning. I don't know if that was due to the acting or because of the sudden/fast development of the Dragonstone plot, so I'm going to reserve judgement until I see more of her. The whole glowing amulet thing was also somewhat unclear, which might have an directorial issue.
  • Bran is a huge boss. He's all BITCH PLEASE, DON'T GO DISRESPECTING MY BROTHER *verbally skewers men decades older than him and has wolf dreams*.
  • Speaking of wolf dreams, MOAR DIREWOLVES!
  • Speaking of people the direwolves might want to eat, less Ros: The Whore.
  • Speaking of sexual deviants, is it just me, or was Cersei suddenly a LOT more compelling than in Season 1? At first, I thought that she just had a prettier wig on... but methinks that the character has been slightly retooled at both the level of acting AND writing. She's less cold and calculating and more of a kettle about to boil over with all of the subtlety of MY USE OF THE CAPS LOCK BUTTON!
As such, on the empirically proven "things-people-should-be-okay-with-in-the-world" scale ranging from "Murdering Babies in Brothels" to "GAME OF THRONES GOT 4 MILLION VIEWERS :D," I'm going to have to give this episode a "functionally important but less impressive than hoped". Or a 7.50. Whichever.

You can follow me on Twitter @LostCadence and listen to me rant about television shows and culture or else check out my Blog: cadencegtv.

Season 01:
Episode 1: Initial Thoughts
Episode 1: Full Review - 7.75/10.0
Episode 2: (Darq's) Recap/Review - 8.25/10.0
Episode 3: 8.75/10.0
Episode 4: 8.50/10.0
Episode 5: 9.00/10.0 
Episode 6: 9.25/10.0
Episode 7: 9.00/10.0
Episode 8: 8.75/10.0

- John


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