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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Game of Thrones wrestles season two to a close

HBO's Game of Thrones ended its sophomore run this past Sunday. In the dramatic final two hours, the series proves that one can never get enough Game of Thrones, each season being far too short, and that the show has some of the best writing and acting on television. Those hooked back in season one are handsomely rewarded for going this far, as the stakes are raised even higher, and every fan should be left with much anticipation for the third go-round, coming next year.

That being said, this review will not cover every character and every plot. There are just too many to to do so.  If I miss your favorite, I apologize, and will try to get to them next season, when I review more episodes.

First, because I didn't review it separately, some comments on the penultimate installment, "Blackwater:" Game of Thrones is often compared to The Lord of The Rings, albeit with a longer, more complex story, and a lot more characters. For quite awhile, GoT seemed better than the films for those reasons. But I didn't even realize I was missing the fight scenes until now. TLotR has epic battle sequences. GoT tackles their first truly great one in "Blackwater." From the swords and axes, to the exploding fleet, this episode really captures something that wasn't even obviously missing. GoT does an amazing job, really bringing the series to new heights in what must have been a very costly episode.

Even better, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) makes the viewers feel the cost of war. While many characters and viewers are rejoicing at the stunning blow Tyrion strikes against Stannis' boats, Tyrion stares on in shocked horror. Only he realizes how many lives are being taken, and what that will mean to thousands of families. Only he feels bad about the death and destruction he has wrought. And it's not that he wouldn't do it again, as he very well might, but that he truly understands what he has done, in a way few people ever would. What a brilliant character, and an awesome performance by Dinklage! Hand him another Emmy, stat!

Moving onto the season finale, "Valar Morghulis," Tyrion refuses to flee King's Landing. He is offered the opportunity to peacefully live out his days with a beautiful woman whom he loves, Shae (Sibel Kekilli), and he passes. This is just as revealing about his character as the expression from the previous week. He really does love the political game that he plays so well. Even after a setback, being replaced as Hand, despite the fantastic job he has done, he wants to stay. It's a pivotal moment for him.

When will others begin giving his character the due he deserves? Surely the common folk, at minimum, the army he leads into battle, have respect for him. Even if his family dismisses him, as they have always done, that should help. And it does feel that Tyrion has struck a real friendship and understanding with Varys (Conleth Hill), a man that seemed impossible to get to know before Tyrion came along. But no one will be satisfied if Tyrion doesn't rise in stature over the course of the show. Where will Tyrion go from here?

Staying in the capital, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) dismisses Sansa (Sophie Turner) as his betrothed. It's a great victory for her, and the joy she briefly lets slip out as she leaves the chamber is gratifying. What will happen to her now? It's understandable that she doesn't want to leave with the Hound (Rory McCann), as he is scary and unpredictable. He has also proven himself a protector of Sansa, and he's a lot less scary that the king. On the other hand, the woman Sana has become, who can inspire the people and stand up to queens, does not belong in Winterfell, either. Unfortunately, "Valar Morghulis" doesn't make clear her decision.

One cannot help but feel sorry for Joffrey's new bride, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). She may be overly, selfishly ambitious, and willing to join her forces to the despicable Lannisters to serve her purposes, but that doesn't mean that she deserves what Joffrey will do to her. She has no idea what a sadistic little bastard he is. With luck, she will control him better than others have, perhaps through sexual means. But, more likely, she may go the way of Dormer's previous character, Anne Boleyn, and lose her head.

Another king makes a mistake in choosing who to wed. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) picks love over commitment. He has shown what kind of king he is during his battles, but his marriage actually proves he is still too green, or doesn't have the temperament, to really rule. A great king would put country before himself. By marrying the woman he loves, rather than the woman he is promised to, he makes a grave mistake that will have unpredictable repercussions for many of his subjects. It seems it's the beginning of the end of his reign.

What is it with young men making bad decisions? Robb's almost-brother, Theon (Alfie Allen), also allows personal satisfaction to override good sense in his sacking of Winterfell. Now, he has been defeated, his own men turned against him. Robb will almost certainly murder the lad, especially if he thinks that Theon has killed the younger Starks, as many believe to be true. Is Theon's story over so quickly? He has had a complete arc, so it wouldn't be a total disappointment, but he's come to be an interesting character this season, so there is no eagerness to lose him, either.

The younger Starks are just fine, by the way. Well, as fine as they can be, with their home burning, and their lives destroyed. At least they are still alive. Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) shares a touching moment with Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter), who has done a great job helping Bran mature. Too bad Luwin won't be around to see what comes next for Bran. Of course, Bran being as young as he is, Luwin may never have lived to see Bran be a real leader anyway. But rest assured, there are big things in Bran's future. Thank goodness he has the resourceful Osha (Natalia Tena) and the strong Hodor (Kristian Nairn) to keep him safe until then.

Speaking of younger Starks who will be great, Arya (Maisie Williams) makes it away from her captors in the season finale. On her own, away from her family, the girl has proven her mettle. She may make mistakes, like letting too much of her intelligence and breeding slip out in front of  Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance). However, she seems to have luck on her side, too, making a powerful ally in Jaqen (Tom Wlaschiha). It's unclear what role Arya will play in the larger picture yet, but there is little doubt, she will be important.

Moving North, who will protect Jon Snow (Kit Harington)? Will it be Ygritte (Rose Leslie)? She's definitely interested in him, and the two have a palpable chemistry. But is Jon just playing along, intent on keeping his Night's Watch vows? Or is he actually falling in love with her? It's extremely hard to tell, especially with the impassive way that Harington plays the character. Not yet sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Samwell (John Bradley) gets a bit of a shock in "Valar Morghulis" when he sees an undead army heading towards the Wall. Thankfully, they spare him. Is Game of Thrones competing with The Walking Dead now for zombie fans? If so, TWD, as awesome as it is, had better watch out! This sequence is amazing, and foreshadows another fantastic battle that surely must come to pass.

Across the sea, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) continues to face greater and greater challenges. Her newest obstacle is magical in nature, and yet, she comes through triumphant again! Is there anything that this girl can't do? She even resists the arms of her deceased love, Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), to defeat her enemy. Following the path she has been on, overcoming every problem that comes her way, it seems certain that Daenerys is poised to eventually rule Westeros. And she'll be a much better monarch than any of the other contenders. But considering who she is, is there any chance that the others will bow down to her? Game of Thrones is masterful at setting things up so that no one can have a happy ending.

The thing with Game of Thrones is, looking back over the large number of plots and characters covered in this review, there is still so much more going on! It's a series that bears repeat viewings, and practically needs an interactive viewer's guide to keep straight. Still, with barely anything to complain about, it's well worth the effort, really providing some of the best hours of television ever made, and certainly some of the most ambitious. I can't wait to see what's in store next season!

If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter. To buy the Game of Thrones books on which the show is based, and DVDs, please click here. Article first posted as Game of Thrones wrestles season two to a close at TheTVKing.com

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