If you’ve been living under a castle for the past few months you may not be aware that Game of Thrones is returning imminently for its second season on April 1st. After a phenomenally successful first season, HBO’s best new show is back and ready to show you what this series is really about. I’ve said this before at Shadowlocked, but it bears saying again – season one is just prologue, an introduction to Westeros and our chief characters. The bulk of the series really focuses on the continued battle for dominance between the various warring factions, not the safeguarding of peace throughout the kingdom. Now that King Robert is dead and King Joffrey, product of Queen Cersei and brother Jamie’s twincest sits the throne, everything is up for grabs.
There’s a whole bunch of things to look forward to in the coming season, but we don’t want to spoil things for those who haven’t read the books. That said, there are a few minor spoilers listed below, but nothing major and certainly no characters deaths are revealed. If, however, you’re as excited as us and want a few hints as to what you can expect to look forward to in season two, feast your eyes on these top ten most anticipated moments, from bottom to top.
A lot of people have spent season one hating Jaime Lannister for stabbing Jory Cassel through the eye and generally being a bit mean to Ned. Currently held captive by Robb and Catelyn Stark, the Kingslayer has some time to reflect on his bad behavior. In the books, Jaime spends an entire book held as a prisoner of the Starks, and the exchange between he and Catelyn Stark that occurred in season one of A Game of Thronesdoesn’t come until the end of the second book. Obviously it isn’t the most exciting plot-line for a character to be kept prisoner for an entire season, so Jaime’s story is being put on fast-track. Expect this to mean copious usage of the word “wench”, quite a bit of swordplay and a thoroughly unexpected character arc. Jaime is one of the many characters that undergoes a large personal change throughout the events of the series, but few are as sharp as the Kingslayer’s. Along the way we’ll get to meet the Brave Companions led by slobber-mouth Vargo Hoat and his merry band of rapers and pillagers.
Brienne of Tarth is described mockingly as “a beauty” throughout the series, as she’s generally considered ugly and man-ish in every way. Full of idealistic notions about knighthood and honour despite the brutal world she lives in, Brienne is a tough-as-nails fighter who could hold her own against veteran knights, but possess a naivete that often makes her seem out of her depth. She’s head-over-heels for Renly Baratheon, but is wise enough to know nothing will ever come of it. Throughout the series Brienne’s importance grows and fans can certainly expect to see her have some great interaction with a few unlikely characters throughout the second season.
The end of season one saw the game change-event that solidified the fantasy setting that Game of Thrones inhabits. Up until that point, there had been no magic, no genre staples that you might be able to call clichés, beyond some character archetypes. When Dany set herself upon Khal Drogo’s pyre with her three dragon eggs and rose the next morning unburnt, three dragons in hand, it was an undeniable point of no return both for the narrative and the series’ direction. Mercifully, the dragons never talk in the books, so we’ll be spared that particular brand of nonsense. What they do do in abundance though, is breathe fire. As the series progresses so will the significance of the Dany’s dragons, and needless to say they’ll play an enormous role in how Dany manages to hold the power she has.
Having recently been inducted into the latest batch of recruits for the Night’s Watch by Yoren, her savior and the only one aware of her true identity, Arya is heading North to rendezvous with her bastard brother Jon Snow. But along the way she meets one of Game of Thrones’ most enigmatic and intriguing characters, an assassin by the name of Jaqen H’ghar. Syrio Forel was Arya’s first teacher and Jaqen H’ghar is certainly a worthy follow up. Arya’s journey takes a few unexpected turns, but the ones involving Jaqen are some of the most compelling moments in the books. After saving his life, Jaqen promises Arya three deaths – she needs only give him the names of those she wants dead and sure enough, those names started dropping like flies. Just who Arya chooses may come as a surprise, and this will certainly make for some of the most compelling parts of the forthcoming season.
A lot of people spent a lot of time in season one wondering who the hell Theon Greyjoy was. The show did a fair job of pointing out, on numerous occasions, (by way of a hammer to the head) that THIS GUY ISN’T A STARK – but somehow people were still confused. Theon comes from a group of battle-hardened warriors living on the Iron Isles. The reason Theon lives in Winterfell with the Starks is that he was taken hostage as a “ward” after his father rebelled against King Robert nine years prior to the first season. Though you may not think it to look at him, Theon has brutal, Viking-like blood flowing through his veins. Theon is a black sheep in his family, considered weak as he was raised in the North and believed to be “soft”. Seeing as most Southerners in Game of Thrones consider the North to be a breeding-ground of savage and fierce warriors, that should give you some indication of how tough the Iron Islanders are. The Stark words are “Winter is Coming”, the words of House Greyjoy are “We Do Not Sow.” The Greyjoys will have a significant role to play this season and in coming seasons, but this time around we get to meet Theon’ s father and sister, Balon and Yara Greyjoy. Yara, originally Asha in the books (they changed her name because apparently it sounds too much like Osha, another character) is far from your typical daughter of Westeros. She’s a proven warrior herself, far more at home with an axe in hand than a sewing needle and she shares her family’s view of Theon as a weakling. The Greyjoys are a colorful, no-nonsense bunch who will certainly shake up the current political alliances within the Seven Kingdoms.
There are quite a few new characters entering the fray in season two, but none are as integral to the story as these three; Stannis Baratheon, Melisandre of Asshai and Ser Davos Seaworth. The younger brother of the now dead King Robert Baratheon, Stannis has claimed his right to the Iron Throne, aware of Joffrey’s bastardom born of Cersei and Jaime’s incest. Stannis is a tough, merciless battle commander with an incorruptible sense of justice. One character says of Stannis “he’ll break before he bends” – perhaps the best description to date. The others are his two chief advisers. Melisandre of Asshai is a Red Priestess, ardent believer in the God and Lord of Light, R’hllor. She has already exerted a vast influence on Stannis’ court, his wife and though he has not converted to her religion himself, the King nonetheless takes great stock in her counsel. Standing opposite Melisandre is Ser Davos Seaworth, a humble ex-pirate who came to Stannis with a plethora of onions at a time when Stannis’ castle was under siege. Stannis rewarded Davos with lands and title but not before chopping off half of Davos’ fingers as punishment for his years of piracy and crime. That’s Stannis’ sense of justice. Davos is loyal to Stannis beyond all others and is often the voice of reason that tells Stannis the hard truths he doesn’t want to hear. In many ways Davos picks up the mantle of honorable hero that Ned Stark lost along with his head and may become something of a fan favorite – book fans often refer to Davos as Ned 2.0.
With Stannis’ younger brother Renly Baratheon also claiming the Iron Throne as his own and backed by the mighty House Tyrell, it’s going to be interesting to see he and Stannis go head to head. Between them Renly is clearly the more popular choice – he’s young, well-liked and charismatic, very much the way elder Robert Baratheon was at his age. Stannis on the other hand has never been well-loved and few are rushing to his cause when Renly clearly seems the better candidate. One of the most memorable scenes of A Clash of Kings is an exchange between Stannis and Renly before they launch their armies against each other. Stannis, perhaps uncharacteristically, offers Renly a chance to lay down his arms and acknowledge Stannis’ more valid claim to the throne. Renly casually declines whilst biting into a peach. Written like that it doesn’t read like much to get excited about, but what follows and the regret Stannis expresses later is one of the few times we get under Stannis’ iron exterior.
For fans of the books, this is a line loaded with meaning, one that takes us straight back into the moment it’s first spoken by Qhorin Halfhand, commander of the Shadow Tower of the Night’s Watch. Strong and silent, Qhorin is an awesome character with little screen time but stacks of presence and this question directed to Lord Snow proves to be one that takes Jon to a place he never expected, and a place he may never be able to fully come back from. As far as character development and plot exceeding expectations goes, few moments are as strong as this one in A Song of Ice and Fire. It will also have people going crazy to see what happens next.
One of the more frequent complaints about the books and the TV series is that it lacks action and is sometimes more about the politics of court. To an extent this is true, but if viewers were inundated with nothing more than hack-and-slash forays, they’d quickly grow tired of it. Pacing and drama is what makes the action more involving and engaging when it does occur. However, few will be able to complain about a lack of action when it comes to the end of the second season, as Stannis’ ships clash against Lannister’s defenses in what promises to be a visual treat. Martin has expressed concern that the series would struggle to accurately portray this particular battle due to budget constraints, and rightly so. The battle of the Blackwater involves an enormous metal chain that eviscerates half of Stannis’ fleet, not to mention there’s also the alchemist’s deadly green wildfire that engulfs the entire bay. Each season one episode is scripted by George R R Martin himself, and this time around it’s Blackwater. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also scheduled to be directed by the acclaimed Neil Marshall. This promises to be an episode to remember.
Much in the same way that season one was Ned Stark’s season, this is undoubtedly Tyrion Lannister’s. Already a fan favorite and now an Emmy-winner for this role, Peter Dinklage is going to step up to be the lead role for the second season and despite belonging to what you might typically label the “villains” side of things, Tyrion is perhaps the character fans root for more than any other. This season Tyrion steps into Ned’s shoes as the next Hand of The King while his father and Lannister patriarch Tywin takes the war to the Starks and Stannis. Tyrion is finally given a chance to show what an excellent schemer he is and frequently clashes with his sister Cersei along with court sycophants Varys, Littlefinger and Grand Maester Pycelle. As the recent “Shadow” promo said “a very small man can cast a very large shadow.” This season we’re going to see just how large.