And so the Clash of Kings begins with a literal bang. The bang of steel on steel, with a violent confrontation kicking off the second season of Game of Thrones as Sandor Clegane, the Hound, knocks a challenger to a bloody death in honor of the fantastically evil King Joffrey. And how evil the incestuous lovechild Joffrey Lannister is in this return to the world of Westeros. The series wastes no time in demonizing him in every way possible. This first episode of the second season was surprisingly Joffrey-centric. From his outburst towards the drunkard Ser Dontos in the opening scene to his confrontation with his mother in the under-construction throne room, Joffrey continually showed his increased confidence as king and his characteristic lack of moral values. Combined with actor Jack Gleeson’s perfect shit-eating grin, Joffrey still fills the “love to hate” role well. Yet the amount of attention paid to his horrific personality might become problematic as the series continues. Joffrey is one of the few characters in the books whose motivations are in no way relatable. How long can the series maintain his almost inhuman cruelty before his lack of depth sticks out like a sore thumb?
Joffrey’s rival kings and queen also made their presence and character known over the hour long premier. Robb Stark‘s character continues to develop into more and more of a badass and less of a child, as seen by his witty, heated confrontation with the Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister. Stannis Baratheon was introduced for the first time, along with a host of supporting characters. The actors for Stannis, his prophetic witch Melisandre, and his trusted companion Davos were all well cast. Davos in particular has the world-weary look that greatly compliments his character. Daenerys Targaryen is back as well, and in a far more dire situation than she was in the finale of the first season. In her scenes, Daenerys seemed to cultivate a strange sexual tension that didn’t seem present in the last season. With her dreamy-eyed talk with Jorah Mormont and an awkward moment with one of her trusted riders, the romantic leanings of her character threaten to undermine the strong, independent vibe that makes the character so interesting.
Although not a king, Tyrion Lannister sure acted the part in the premier. Peter Dinklage shines just as he did in the first season, clever as always and now with a new-found confidence. With some real political power to back his sharp wit, he steals scenes with an authoritative swagger that makes his character all the more enjoyable. His storyline will certainly be a pleasure to watch unfold on the screen. His scenes in the capitol allowed the Game of Thrones crew to show off some impressive landscapes. The budget increases are immediately noticeable, making the anticipation for impending action scenes all that much better.
More great landscapes were seen in the over-the wall scenes. Craster’s keep was a great set piece, and the tension with that situation was already made palpable. Jon Snow‘s role in the first episode was rather small and unimportant, but in the coming episodes it will surely become more of a focus. Another character whose role has yet to be explored is Renly Baratheon. The rival king’s camp has been spoken of but not seen, so expect his character to emerge more in the second or third episode. Next week Jon and Renly will most likely see a fair amount of screen time. The power triangle in King’s Landing between Cersei, Joffrey, and Tyrion will continue to become more complex and dangerous. And the war will be brought to the forefront. Episode two airs this Sunday, be sure to catch it on HBO or online through HBO Go.