I watched the second episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones earlier in the week and am only now getting around to writing about it. Beware, for spoilers lie ahead.
Overall, I was less wildly enthusiastic about this episode than I was the first one. I’m not sure why, because the second was actually better-paced than the first, and more focused around the main action. For why, wait until after the vid – and again, be wary of spoliers.
My issue with the episode has to do with Martin’s story itself rather than anything in the show. See, in the book, there are three “difficult” scenes – scenes that make a lot of people put it down right there. I got through them, but they were unpalatable to me in varying degrees. The first one is Bran getting thrown off the tower, which occurs early in the first book and at the climax of the first episode. I dealt with this, as early on as it comes, as part of the scene-setting and an illustration of Lannister villainy. The second is Lady’s death, which I find extraordinarily hard to take. It’s what’s kept me from reading the book more than twice, to be honest. This scene happens in episode 2. The show does it very well, but it was still hard to watch.
(The third “difficult scene”? Well, I won’t tell you that yet. But those who have read the book will surely know to what I refer.)
Far from handling these scenes with a velvet glove or skipping them entirely, the show portrays them faithfully – and in fact, it adds two more scenes that I think people will find similarly “difficult.” One is the rape scene in the first episode – which is not a rape scene in the book, although Drogo does essentially rape Dany later. In the second, there’s Cersei’s conversation with Catelyn over Bran. This is completely different from the book, because the writers are looking ahead to the more complex portrayal Cersei gets in the later books – in the first book, both she and Jamie are irredeemable villains, but both get much more complex later on. In the show, Cersei (by her account) loses her first child, while in the book (she says) she has it aborted, so as not to give birth to Robert’s progeny.
Show-Cersei also clearly has at least some bad feelings about Bran getting tossed off the tower. In both situations, she’s written and acted so well that I think she’s the breakout character in the show so far. We all knew Tyrion was going to be awesome, and he is, and Episode 2 gives him two fine opportunities to show it off. But then, Tyrion is widely considered the best character in the book as well. Cersei, here, is a surprise. And I think Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Jamie is showing signs of this as well, although the show has not yet given him much opportunity to be more than a dick.
In other GoT news today, George R. R. Martin has finally finished A Dance With Dragons, which is book five in the series. Looks like he’ll be able to make that July publication date after all.