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TV review: Game Of Thrones
Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones
After the ratings and critical heights scaled by the first season of HBO's Game of Thrones, expectations were dangerously high for the launch of season two on Sky Atlantic.
Based on the second volume (A Clash of Kings) in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, Game of Thrones has a lot to prove to fans of both the books and of the award-winning HBO drama. Can it top the addictive thrill of the first season? Will it prove to be both loyal to the source material and still work for television?
Writer/executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss superbly manage almost a baker's dozen of separate storylines. In addition, Peter Dinklage's Tyrion steals every scene.
Welcome back to the brutal world of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, a land where no one is to be trusted and where the thirst for power fuels the twin fires of greed and corruption. The two men who were able to maintain a tenuous peace - Sean Bean's Ned Stark and Mark Addy's King Robert Baratheon - are both dead, victims of betrayal, and their murders plunge the entire continent into chaos.
The rush to fill the void left by Robert's death sets up much of the conflict for the second season. The boy-king Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) sits perilously atop the Iron Throne, a Caligula-in-the-making whose penchant for perversity and cruelty is only just beginning to come to the surface.
His mother, Cersei (Lena Headey), now serving as the realm's Queen Regent, learns to her disappointment that her headstrong son is more difficult to control than she believed; Ned Stark's daughter Sansa (Sophie Turner) is subject to Joffrey's every horrifying whim.
"The boy-king Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) sits perilously atop the Iron Throne"
Her sister, Arya (Maisie Williams), disguised as a boy, is headed toward The Wall and, she hopes, out of harm's way.
Elsewhere, their brother Robb (Richard Madden) has crowned himself King-of-the-North and prepares to bring war to King's Landing and enact vengeance for his dead father, with their mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) by his side.
The grief-stricken Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), the last remaining offspring of the Mad King deposed years earlier by Robert, has hatched three dragons, the first of their kind in centuries. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and his companions in the Night's Watch cross beyond The Wall to investigate mysterious goings-on while ancient evils awaken from their slumber in the icy north, and a fiery comet overhead augers more blood, destruction, and fire.
Devout readers of Martin's novels will quickly realise that there are clear instances of the plot of the television series diverging from that of the books, but it's a good sign that the choices here both strengthen the narrative and streamline it - it's only a 10-episode season, after all.
The approach to the source material - reverence for the world created by Martin as well as a willingness to play loose with elements while remaining true to the spirit of the words - pays off spectacularly.
Peter Dinklage steals the show
Game of Thrones fuses together the taut narrative framework of the novels with a momentous and swift pace that drives the action forward.
While the first season focused significant time on world building, season two fleshes out the characters further and builds on the already strong foundations of the story.
"The action shuttles back and forth"
The action shuttles back and forth between these and multiple other new storylines - including one involving Robert's brother Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and the "Red Woman" Melisandre (Carice van Houten), and another dealing with Robert's upstart youngest brother Renly (Gethin Anthony), his new bride (Natalie Dormer), and an imposing female knight, fan-favorite Brienne of Tarth (Gwendolyn Christie).
However, the true star of season two is Peter Dinklage's Tyrion, the small-framed but intellectually gigantic Lannister scion who truly comes into his own here. Quick-witted and cunning, Tyrion might just be the most dangerous man in the Seven Kingdoms, fathoms ahead of everyone.
Peter Dinklage once again shines in the role that earned him an Emmy and a Golden Globe, and it's only to be expected that he'll pick up another trophy later this year for a performance that grows ever more deep and subtle, even as he walks off with some of the show's very best lines of dialogue.
With war approaching on multiple fronts, treacherous double-crosses now de rigueur, and the possible return of long-dead magic to the land, season two of Game of Thrones is already fantastic, overflowing with majesty and mystery. The night, we're told, is dark and full of terror, and so is this provocative and enthralling show. Miss an episode - or even a minute - at your own peril.
- Rating: Game of Thrones thrills on all levels; the show is a profound achievement.
- This is an abridged version. Visit The Daily Beast to read the article in full.
Jace Lacob is The Daily Beast's TV Columnist. As a freelance writer, he has written for the Los Angeles Times, TV Week, and others. Jace is the founder of television criticism and analysis website Televisionary and can be found on Twitter. He is a member of the Television Critics Association.
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