The divisions of Game of Thrones

The second season of Game of Thrones, based on the Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin, recently began on HBO. If you’re not watching it, you should be.

The story of the Seven Kingdoms picked up from where it left off at the end of the first season. Fortunately, the showrunners chose not to divide the seasons based solely on the breaks between the books.

Parts of book two, at least for certain characters, bled into season one, and vice versa for others. As the story continues, we’ll probably see even less division – while the seasons will steer away from following the precise structure of the novels.

At least we can hope so, especially considering the division Martin chose between the two most recent novels, which was terrible.

Frankly, I think the television show is better written than Martin’s novels. Yes, Martin in an excellent world-builder, something which makes his books fun to read, but he’s never been a particularly good scene writer. Luckily, the show combines Martins’ skillfull world-building with phenomenal writing for each scene, and incredible performances from almost the entire cast.

The first season made the show the best serialized drama on television, and the beginning of the second season brings the show flawlessly back to this excellence. If anything, the writing has matured still further, as the characters are now really starting to gel with one another. Of course, some of this can probably be attributed to our familiarity with them – and thus our lack of need for any further exposition.

Essentially, the show has picked up a great sense of momentum that makes it feel like the story has its own destiny. I’m sure part of that comes from actually knowing what’s going to happen, but I also have to credit the clarity of the characterizations. This is much like game pieces with clear rules, meaning, the way each piece on the board is arranged helps make the game look like something very important is about to happen, even if we don’t know what it is. 

The cast is still dominated by Emilia Clarke, playing Daenerys, and Peter Dinklage, playing Tyrion. These two actors could carry the entire show if they needed to, though luckily they don’t, as very few of the actors are lacking in talent. Really coming into his own this first episode is Jack Gleeson, the young man playing Joffrey. He played well the charmer turned brat last season, but now he must do so much more. He’s not just a brat, but a truly rotten person, and an abhorrent king. The audience needs very badly to hate this young man, and Gleeson has it down, helped by being slightly older than when filming last season. The sneer is down just so, and his ability to convey the coldness, the sheer unmitigated selfishness of the character, while also making it clear just how unsure of himself he really is, is just perfect.

With continued great performances, awesome location shoots, and Hollywood level production values, Game of Thrones more than deserves to be called the best show on television, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it recieves more critical and award-show recognition this year than it even did last year.

Game of Thrones airs Sunday evenings on HBO. Subscribers can catch up on HBO Go, but there is unfortunately no way for non-subscribers to see the show until the DVD is released. Everyone who can find a way to watch this show, however, should do so.