Kings were wild this week on the second-season premiere of GAME OF THRONES, because every time a character turned around, someone was declaring himself king — or khaleesi/queen. And there was a red comet in the sky, but no one could agree on what it portends.
Perhaps the show should be renamed “Game of Kings,” because it’s almost easier to enumerate which characters are not laying claim to the iron throne than those who are. Doesn’t anyone want to be just a noble knight anymore?
Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is the only claimant who actually sits on the iron throne — that is, when he’s not redecorating the throne room or needling his mother, Cersei (Lena Heady). But, thanks to Stannis Baratheon, the whole of Westeros knows that he is not the son of the former king, Robert Baratheon, but rather is the incestuous result of Jamie and Cersei hooking up. Joffrey orders all of Robert’s bastards murdered (including that baby in the brothel), but the blacksmith’s assistant, Gendry (Joe Dempsie), gets away. He hops on a cart leaving town with the disguised Arya (Maisie Williams). Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) returns to King’s Landing as the King’s Hand, but what are the chances that the pint-sized punk will listen to his uncle?
The King of the North, Robb Stark (Richard Madden), has decided to limit himself to the northlands — provided Joffrey renounce all claims to the snowy regions and return the bodies of his father and his supporters. Robb is further willing to trade the captive Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) for the Stark sisters, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Arya. Too bad the Lannisters don’t have Arya….
And then there’s Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), the brother of the late Robert, who has set up shop on the island of Dragonstone and come under the spell of Melisandra (Carice Van Houten), priestess of the Lord of Light, who appears to be a witch and performed a ceremony with fire to renounce the old gods and welcome the new one true god. Oh, and the woman cannot be poisoned, so something is definitely up.
Out in the Red Waste desert on the other side of the sea, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is wandering with the thirsty and starving Dothraki, as well as her three baby dragons, swearing vengeance and railing against fate.
There’s some dude north of the Wall, called Mance Rayder, who has gathered an army and declared himself king. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and the Night Watch heard of him from Craster (Robert Pugh), the head wildling and a weird old guy who marries all of his own daughters. Which means the show now has its second incestuous family. South of the Wall, young Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is running Winterfell, but has yet to declare himself king of anything.
Bran discounts the theory that the comet means “dragons,” but I think we know different, since we’re privy to Daenerys’ naked fire experience with the baby dragons from last season’s finale. If all else fails, we can go with DOCTOR WHO’s interpretation of the color red: “Red means dancing,” said the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston).
The large cast may be difficult for some folks to follow, but I think allows the story to be larger, and fill a bigger canvas. We viewers get the sense of a large world, with all sorts of environs populated by many kinds of people. There is a central thread tying the characters all together — who will be king? — but each person is headed toward that goal in his/her own fashion. Further, we get to see the effects of the struggle for the crown on many different layers of society, from a number of perspectives. I wouldn’t trade the large cast and expansive storytelling for anything.
And the most valuable player on this show? Without a doubt, Peter Dinklage. I love the way he makes Tyrion swagger everywhere he goes, and now, after “so many adventures,” he has a sense of world-weary ennui to go along with his insouciance, making him the most fun to watch. Tyrion is equally at home in royal council chambers or brothel bed chambers. No wonder Dinklage won the Golden Globe and Emmy as supporting actor. Even if he isn’t a king, Tyrion rules!