The other day I spent the best part of an hour mindlessly browsing through the TV box sets at HMV before I remembered why I had gone there in the first place; to ascertain the release date of HBO’s Game of Thrones Season 1 on Blu-ray. According to the girl at the counter their computers said 2013, which basically means, “We have no bloody idea.”
My searches on the Internet have proved equally as fruitless. I’m a little disappointed at this, because I’ve been hanging out to re-watch the series as it was meant to be seen – in crisp 1080p. The best estimate I’ve found comes from http://www.westeros.org, an invaluable resource for all things A Song of Ice and Fire, who are suggesting the 19th March as a viable date (UK). I was hoping that this article would coincide with the blu-ray release but since that doesn’t look like happening anytime soon I’ll write it anyway. As a side note, if anybody has the inside scoop on the release date, please leave a comment below.
So here we go… I’m counting down my top 10 reasons to look forward to the highly anticipated second season of this award winning fantasy drama. Season 2 is set to premier on the 15th of April next year according to IMDb and in keeping with the ‘one book per season’ mantra, we can assume that Season 2 will be based on book two of the series, A Clash of Kings.
A first look promo for the second series was released a few days ago and can be seen below;
Having read the books, I was extremely impressed by the series faith to the source material, and I’m anxiously hoping they keep up that trend. The following talking points are based on things that happen in book two of A Song of Ice and Fire, which may or may not, but most likely will, feature in Season 2 of Game of Thrones. That being said, this article contains some minor spoilers from the books.
With that in mind, here are my top 10 reasons to set the date in your calendar…
10. A Cast of Thousands
Season 1 favourite Sean Bean may have left the show after his character suffered a serious case of head detachment, but where some characters are departing, many, many will be appearing for the first time. There are well over twenty new characters both major and minor debuting at some point in Season 2. Most of them appear in the book but some will be unique to the show, or are at least slightly altered versions of the their book counterparts. Here a just a few of the major castings:
- Stephen Dillane as Stannis Baratheon – the late King Robert’s younger brother and true heir to the Iron Throne
- Carice van Houten as Lady Melisandre – Stannis’ closest advisor and Priestess of R’hllor the Lord of Light
- Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth – the Onion Knight. Ex-smuggler and now a knight in the service of Stannis
- Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell – noble born of the powerful Tyrell family, engaged in a political marriage to Renly Baratheon
- Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth – known as Brienne the Beauty because of her ugliness, although she could cut any man to pieces. Wants to join Renly’s “Rainbow Guard”
- Karl Davies as Alton Lannister – a new character for the show, many fans are guessing he will replace Cleos Frey from the books – Jaime’s cousin and fellow prisoner of the Starks
- Nonso Anozie as Xaro Xhoan Daxos – a merchant prince of the city of Qarth. He will offer to aid Daenerys in her quest to return to Westeros – although not without a price
- Tom Wlaschiha as Jaqen H’ghar – a mysterious assassin who helps Ayra in her quest to return home this season
- Gemma Whelan as Yara Greyjoy – named Asha in the books, she is Theon’s elder sister and a formidable warrior
- Patrick Malahide as Balon Greyjoy – Theon’s aging father, self styled King of the Iron Islands
- Oona Chaplin as Jeyne Westerling – the love interest of Robb Stark, despite his political betrothal to one of the Freys
- John Stahl as Rickard Karstark – a powerful northern lord and one of Robb’s bannermen
- Michael McElhatton as Roose Bolton – another of Robb’s bannerman, a particularly nasty fellow
- Robert Pugh as Craster – a nasty wildling from beyond the wall. He has nineteen wives, most of whom are also his daughters. Mysteriously has no sons…
- Hannah Murray as Gilly – one of Craster’s wives/daughters – pregnant with his child and fearful because it may be a boy.
- Rose Leslie as Ygritte – a wildling who plays a big part in John Snow’s story in books two and three
- Simon Armstrong as Qhorin Halfhand – a legendary warrior of the Nightswatch
9. Winter is coming… no seriously…
The Stark words served as the tagline for Season 1 but by and large it’s still summer in Westeros. If you want to get technical the season doesn’t officially change until the end of book 5, A Dance with Dragons, released earlier this year. If you’ve got a craving for those chilly nights and blood glazed snow however, you’ll be finely rewarded when the Nightswatch march in force beyond the wall. They’re journeying to the Fist of the First Men, an ancient ringfort, with the hopes of locating the wildling masses and stopping them before they descend on the wall. They’re in for a much fiercer fight however, as a ghostly enemy emerges from the deathly cold…
8. New Sights and Sounds
After the death of her sun and stars Khal Drogo, Daenerys journey will take her east to the merchant city of Qarth, an illustrious and vastly rich trading city home to warlocks and merchant princes. Producer D.B. Wiess said in an interview with HBO that there are “approximately six or seven new worlds” appearing in Season 2, Qarth being one of them. Qarth is famous for its extravagance and architecture, and being one of the largest port cities around, it will surely be littered with a plethora of cultural oddities. It should make for some interesting viewing. This exotic locale will be a strong juxtaposition to the somewhat bleak, rat infested gutters of Kings Landing. Qarth is ruled by the Pureborn, the descendants of its’ ancient kings, however there are several merchant guilds vying for power within the city.
7. Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell
The stunning Natalie Dormer is lined up to play the noble-born Margaery Tyrell. Margaery is wed to Renly Baratheon as part of the Renly/Tyrell alliance against Stannis and Joffrey. Fans of Showtime’s sexed up period drama The Tudors will know her for her raunchy take on the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, but hold your horses lads, Margaery is known throughout the Seven Kingdoms as an icon of maiden purity, despite some harsh gossip from Cersei Lannister. Then again, what we can’t have just makes us want it more…
Curiously, Dormer was the first casting announcement made for Season 2 and is arguably one of the more recognisable faces of the new cast, despite the fact that Margaery has virtually no involvement in book two of the series, the book on which this season will be based. Mentioned a few times in passing and appearing briefly in only one chapter, Margaery really only comes into play in books three and four. I think we can assume that this will be an instance where the show veers off from the source material a bit and hopefully she will get some decent screen time.
6. Life’s Not Like it is in the Songs
Sansa Stark always dreamed that one day she would grow up to marry a handsome prince and eventually become a Queen. Some day people would write songs about her beauty and the fairytale life she led. Towards the end of Season 1, it seemed liked all of Sansa’s dreams were about to come true, only to have them ripped away from her at the last minute. In Season 2, Sansa will have to endure life as a hostage in King’s Landing. With Jaime Lannister held captive by the Starks, Sansa is the only thing saving his execution. She is still betrothed to Joffrey, only now she sees past the veil of idealism that clouded her impression of him before. Now she sees him as he truly is; a cruel, spoilt little shit. Sansa’s story is a harsh lesson in the realities of idealism and having too much expectation of the future. It’s a grim lesson I know, but it makes for great storytelling, and great TV.
5. Arry, Weasel, the Ghost of Harrenhal, or Nan?
When I first read A Clash of Kings I would often find myself peeking ahead to see when the next Ayra chapter was coming up. She’s clearly one of the best characters in the entire series and now thanks to a near perfect portrayal by Maisie Williams in Game of Thrones she’s one of my favourite characters in the show. Now lacking the protection of her father and the safety of King’s Landing, Arya will have to put her resourcefulness and cunning to the test as she ventures north with a band of ragged prisoners destined for the wall. And boy does it get put to the test. I won’t give too much away, but we can certainly look forward to a few brushes with death, a few last minute escapes, and a whole lot of attitude.
4. War, War, and More War
Some viewers of the show may have felt a little disappointed at the lack of action in Season 1. For a story about a war for the Iron Throne, there’s been a substantial lack of battles so far. I give credit to the shows producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, who may have felt pressured to appease viewers with some action eye candy but instead held firm to nature of the first book, which is more about personal conflicts, political intrigue and character exposition. But now Robert is dead, and Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne and they’re a few would-be-Kings who aren’t too happy about that. Robert’s younger brothers Stannis and Renly are both making claims. With Stannis being the elder he has the more legitimate claim but his military strength isn’t one to brag about. Renly on the other hand has secured the power of Highgarden through a marriage pact with the wealthy Tyrell family.
While Stannis and Renly dog it out, the Lannisters’ will have to contend with the new King in the North, Robb Stark. With the North already secure, Robb’s war is more about revenge than anything else, but he’s going to have a go at conquering the Riverlands just for fun. He’ll also have to keep an eye on the Viking-like Iron Islanders, who have a taste for carving out their own piece of the North. For anyone still confused by the geography, the Riverlands occupy the territory that divides the North from the South. It’s most famous locales include the Twins, home to the notoriously numerous Freys, and Riverrun, the childhood home of Catelyn Stark. It’s also the land of the Trident, the largest river in Westeros, and the place where Robert Baratheon smashed Prince Rhaegar to a bloody pulp, a feat that all but secured him the Iron Throne. HBO poured an estimated $50-60 million into Season 1 and I’m hoping they put the same effort into Season 2, delivering some much-needed high quality battle sequences. Keep your eyes peeled for Episode 9, which is George R. R. Martin’s own script for the season, and will depict the epic Battle of the Blackwater.
3. A Fetish for Fire
“Were you listening to me Neo, or were you looking at the woman in the red dress? Look again.” Season 2 will debut with some enticing new characters, not the least of which will be the Lady Melisandre of Asshai. Playing the role will be Dutch actress Carice van Houten, best known for her breakthrough role in the WWII film Black Book. Melisandre is a priestess in the service of the Lord of Light, R’hllor, a monotheistic religion devoted to prophetic visions seen in fires by R’hllor’s servants. One such servant known commonly as the Red Priestess, due to her limited wardrobe palette, is Melisandre, a beautiful woman with a heart shaped face and red eyes.
Outwardly friendly but with an intimidating demeanour and mysterious powers to boot, men both lust for her and fear her. She will set your heart on fire. Literally. She’s got a thing for burning people at the stake. Melisandre is introduced as a close advisor to Stannis Baratheon, Robert’s true heir and claimant to the Iron Throne. She has seen him in her fire visions as the warrior who will defeat the coming darkness, although some would say that it is indeed Stannis who is serving her.
2. Robb Stark, the People’s Hero
A lot of viewers may have noticed the lack of a discernable ‘hero character’ in Season 1. Arguably this was meant to be either Eddard Stark or Daenerys Targaryen but with Ned now dead and Dany having only just emerged from her shell as the timid young victim, we were left slightly wanting for someone with that classical heroes reluctance and bravado. Stepping up to the plate is Ned’s firstborn son, the new lord of Winterfell and self-styled King in the North, Robb Stark. Fuelled by the injustice of his father’s murder at the hands of the Lannisters, Robb will spend this season waging a war against his southern enemies, who will quickly discover that despite his youth and inexperience, he is actually a military tactical genius. Fondly referred to by his fiercely loyal bannermen as ‘the Young Wolf’ (basically the coolest nickname ever), Robb Stark fills the role of the dashing young hero. For the romantics out there, there’s even a forbidden love affair with new character Jeyne Westerling. After suffering a grievous injury in battle, Jeyne ‘nurses’ him back to health. I think you get the picture… Once again I figure this will be an instance where the show develops its’ own path from the source material, as the love affair doesn’t really feature until book three and most of Robb’s adventures take place ‘elsewhere’ from the POV characters. Show runners Benioff and Weiss have stated though that Season 2 will be a love story, and I can guess with confidence that this is what they were referring too.
1. Tyrion Lannister: King’s Hand Like a Boss
Oh yes. Everybody’s favourite dwarf is back, bigger (couldn’t be helped) and better than ever before and now he’s practically running the show. Whilst father Tywin is off fighting Northmen in the Riverlands, Tyrion is serving as his replacement as Hand of the King. He’s basically the top dog under Joffrey and since Joffrey isn’t old enough to rule himself, Tyrion takes the opportunity to set up his own power base, much to the spite of his sister and Queen Reagent Cersei, who has her own designs for the throne. The two siblings will clash constantly this season to the delight of every viewer, with a myriad of sneaky plots and secret betrayals. Tyrion is initially reluctant to assume any kind of authority, having lived his life on the outside avoiding responsibility, but gradually he will come to revel in his newfound position of power. On top of all this Tyrion’s shining moment will surely come in Episode 9, during the fabled Battle of the Blackwater, in which he masterminds the defence of King’s Landing from the invading forces. At one point he even leads a sortie himself; kicking ass and taking names with an oversized battle-axe. Peter Dinklage took home the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Season 1 and you can expect that he will be in top form once again as the highly intelligent, sharp-tongued fan favourite.
So there you have it, those are my top 10 reasons to look forward to Game of Thrones Season 2. Obviously there are many more reasons I haven’t mentioned, so feel free to comment on what you are most looking forward to, and before anybody complains loudly that I haven’t mentioned the dragons it’s because based on the books, they don’t really do a lot until much later on.
So start counting down the day’s folks, Game of Thrones returns with Season 2 on April 15th 2012 on HBO, following hopefully a few days later on Sky Atlantic in the UK.