Game of Thrones Season Two

“The world is built by killers” – The Hound

I’ve been thinking all season that Game of Thrones isn’t really a show about war. It’s a show about what war does to people, which believe it or not is actually something different. But the war can’t be ignored. This show has managed to keep me hooked through hours packed with far more intrigue and character-based drama than violence, but sooner or later this war we’ve been hearing about would have to be front and center. That time is now. Welcome to “Blackwater,” an episode that might be the most ambitious hour of television ever committed to film.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

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“The Ghost of Harrenhal” marks the midway point of Game of Thrones season two, and it rises to the occasion as perhaps the most plot-heavy episode of the season so far. We’re reaching a kind of precipice in this year’s story, a tipping point. Pieces are locking into place for something big, the blade of change is cutting its way through the characters, hard choices lie ahead, and someday soon we’re going to see it all come together in a wash of fire and blood. At least, we hope so.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
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 Make no mistake, war is coming. The pieces are still moving into place, but there’s no doubting by the end of Game of Thronessecond season we’ll have seen more than a little blood spilled. There’s ample evidence of this in “Garden of Bones,” but it’s not an episode about war. This episode might be the most character-driven of season two so far, centering on the personal struggles of a select group of characters as they each battle to get what they want, while something much bigger bubbles under the surface.

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One of the key challenges of Game of Thrones is that seems to be almost constantly expanding. We’ve now reached the third episode of the season, and we’re still without any real stability in the storytelling. It’s impossible. There are too many characters we haven’t met, too many places we haven’t seen, too many threads from last season we haven’t picked up yet. This show has no choice but to juggle all those threads and weave them into place on the fly, and something like that could result in colossal failure. “What Is Dead May Never Die” is the strongest episode of the season so far, in no small part because – this time at least – the show makes that juggling act look easy.

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Last week Game of Thrones managed to both seduce us back into its bloody little world and give us a few brand new shocks to contemplate, but as brilliant as the season premiere was, there were times when it felt like it was barely moving at all. We flitted between characters faster than ever before in a panoramic overview that often proved frustrating because it was so gripping and so brief at the same time. This week the show has to move forward. This week the wheels have to turn a bit faster. With “The Night Lands,” Game of Thrones ceases with the introductions (mostly) and goes right for the throat.

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