Building on the absolutely epic amount of scene-setting and character introduction of the first episode, this episode brought new characters and locales to the series in the form of the Iron Islands and Baylon Greyjoy. Patrick Malahide was excellent as Balon, bringing a harsh northern tone that couldn’t contrast more with Sean Bean’s considered and withdrawn Ned Stark from the first series.
After the airing of the second episode of this series, the million-dollar question for most people is “is it as good as the first series?” and the answer is… I don’t know. Honestly it’s too early to tell, both episodes have exhibited plenty of what made the original series so great, but maybe the lack of a de facto protagonist in this series is making it harder to tie all the plot strands together and give the plot its moral centre.
Arya is growing as a character, and Maisie Williams is a very charismatic choice for what could potentially be a fairly obnoxious character. This Williams kid will hopefully go on to have a good career, an example of her moxie is evident in the fact that despite being right-handed, she learnt to sword-fight left-handed because Arya is left-handed in the books. Her budding unconventional brother-sister relationship with Gendry is a pleasure to watch, and has the potential to have great influence on events further down the road.
Peter Dinklage continues to be the star turn in this series, even though he has a low-key start in this episode, he has some great character moments which showcase what make him so compelling as a character. His wry humour, intelligence and sensitivity are all on show, as is his finely-honed survival instinct in his tete-a-tete with his sister.
The only problems I have so far are that the plot is building on such an epic scale at such a rapid pace, it makes me wonder where they can go from here. Having seen how they dealt with the first series, I trust D.B. Weiss and David Benioff , though. My other slight concern is Lord Baelish AKA Littlefinger. It’s something that’s a hangover from the first series, and maybe he’s a character who works better on the page than on the screen, but someone who uses his brain and strategic behind the scenes manoeuvring isn’t always as easy to realise in a visual medium. The end result of this problem is that there are lots of scenes of exposition, as he tells his life story to one or two whores who are usually being gratuitously sexy at the time. It’s not terrible or anything (I’m only human, after all), but it may wear thin as a narrative device.
Those (minor) concerns aside, the plot is very nicely poised, and the various factions jostling for position is compelling viewing. I advise you to tune in and get involved with all the opinionated shouting!