"The North Remembers"
After Binge-Viewing "Game of Thrones" last year, Season 2 wastes no time revisiting the cruelty of King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), reminding us how much it affected the end of Season 1. Freshly blooded and with his sire's blessing, Lord Tyrion Lannister (Emmy winner, Peter Dinklage) confidently arrives to set the boy king to heel and enrage the Queen Mother, Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady). When the wee Lord reminds his sister that his presence is a direct result of her own failures ("We had three Starks to trade. You chopped one's head off and let another one escape."), she is visibly shaken by the revelation.
"It must be hard for you. To be the disappointing child." offers her brother in a knowing tone.
Up north, Bran Stark (Issac Hempstead Wright) is Lord of Winterfell with Robb Stark (Richard Madden) still out waging war in the field. He is hearing grievances and getting schooled in royal administration by loyal Maester Luwin. He's as bored as we would expect him to be with the process but Bran still shows more aptitude for leadership than Joffrey ever has.
After a dream, he goes to the woods aboard loyal Hodor with Osha, the wildling in tow. He sees the red comet from his dream streaking across the sky and they debate it's meaning. Bran hopes it means Robb is winning the war and will soon be home, Osha is sure it portends the return of the dragons.
North of the Wall, the Nights Watch stop at an outpost for rest and re-supply. Craster, the wildling in charge is an incestuous lecher but life on this side of the Wall is harsh and Jeor Mormont is loath to judge. Especially before he gets information on Benjen Stark, White Walkers and any other goings on this side of the wall. Craster tells him that Mance Rayder is gathering an army and points out that being that far north, Rayder only has one direction to go with it. Jon Snow speaks out of turn and Jeor has to remind him that "If you want to lead, you have to learn how to follow first."
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is also getting a hard lesson in leadership. Her band of Dothraki are adrift in the Red Waste with little food and water when her horse dies. A wedding gift from Khal Drogo, she sounds weary and defeated at the sight.
"I promised to protect them. I promised them their enemies would die screaming. How do I make starvation scream?" she pleads to the loyal Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). He counsels that unfriendly Dothraki tribes lay ahead and her dragons are still too weak to lend aid in a fight. With danger ahead, she sends her last three horses and her best riders in the other three directions. She hopes one will find a safe way through the desert and looks up hopefully at the red streak across the sky.
Segue from the light in the sky to a fiery night time display put on by Melisandre, mistress of the Lord of Light. She is the new spiritual adviser to Stannis Baratheon and his previous SA isn't happy about it. After a brief and fatal power struggle, Melisandre is rid of the old Maester and seems to have Stannis' full attention now. He dictates a letter to the leaders of the Seven Kingdoms and outs Joffrey as the bastard of Cersei and Jamie. Stannis demands they recognize him as rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Upon receipt of his copy, Robb pays a late night visit to Jaime's cell. When Jamie derides him as a boy, Robb points out how demeaning it must be to have been captured and imprisoned by a boy. He explains that Jaime only lives as a token to be traded for Arya and Sansa, with no more value beyond that. His Direwolf, Grey Wind, emphasizes the point.
Cersei is stunned when Joffrey confronts her about Stannis' letter and without thinking she slaps him. Realizing how far she'd stepped over the line, it's almost scarier that Joffrey just calmly informs her that would be the last time she ever did that. Spurred by Joffrey, Cersei finds Littlefinger and tries to enlist his aid in finding Arya Stark. After absorbing Cersei's unsubtle insult about his failed love of Catelyn Stark, Littlefinger hints he knows of Stannis' letter and proclaims "Knowledge is power."
Cersei gives a hilariously succinct and palpable lesson that Littlefinger won't soon forget (it reminded me of this) and corrected him with "Power is power." Meanwhile, an active hunt for all of Robert's bastard children has begun and not for vaccinations. Guards bust into Littlefinger's brothel and relieve a mother of her child. Even off screen what happens next isn't pretty. The blacksmith is being tortured about where his apprentice, Gendry, is. He spills that he's on the King's Road on the way to the Wall to join the Night's Watch. The episode ends with a shot of Arya and Gendry on the back of a wagon. "Game of Thrones" starts out hot (we cover a lot of ground in the first 15 minutes) in Season 2 and touches everything I wanted to know from Season 1. It also sets the table with many different courses and what appears to be a sumptuous viewing feast for its viewers. I, for one, can't wait.