Jun 16, 2012
Posted by Simeon
I didn't blog about Season 2 of Game of Thrones nearly as much as I did about Season 1. Some of the reasons are personal - shifts in priorities and interests - but mostly it has to do with my lack of real excitement about the second year of the show. It was unquestionably still great television, but I find myself not entirely thrilled with the direction it took.
One problem that Season 2 has is its source material. While Game of Thrones needed only marginal trimming and simplifying, A Clash of Kings is a much broader epic with a bigger cast of characters, more events and generally just not really a ten episode book. Entire storylines are cut or completely redone in order to fit the story into the small frame, and the simplifying has gone beyond anything in Season 1.
The other disappointment is the budget. This isn't really HBO's fault, considering how expensive the show already is, but the fact remains, that Game of Thrones Season 2 feels cheap. The production values are still great, the setting, costumes, special effects... everything is top notch. Except... the show does back flips in order to avoid having to show us the big guns. Daenerys' dragons are constantly caged, the cages covered with flaps. The direwolves are barely seen, and when they are, they almost never stand next to a human so that there would be no need to magnify them. Battles between armies are just as scarce as in Season 1, and honestly, by this point of the story the entire realm is at war. To show no battles is absurd, and makes the War of the Five Kings seem like a backyard brawl since you only ever see pompous pricks yelling at each other and talking about battles that happened "somewhere else".
And last but not least Season 2 suffers from the late True Blood syndrome in which every episode follows all storylines simultaneously, thus giving each no more than a few minutes. That means that no storyline progresses visibly in a single episode, and poorly hides the fact that many of them don't really progress throughout the entire season. An except to that rule is the fantastic Episode 9, written by Martin and focusing exclusively on the events at King's Landing.
However, the show is still amazingly well done in most every other aspect, and those are many and important. The acting is on a great level, with the fan favorites Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Conleth Hill (Lord Varis) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) once again stealing the spotlight whenever they appear. Other great performances are those of Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister, Stephen Dillane as Stanis Baratheon, Carice van Hauten as Melisandre, and Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth. Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon is brilliant in his horridness, but I am not sure this isn't just the kid looking like an evil sleaze by default. Even Lena Headey has made the role Cersei Lannister her own and gives us much more than in the previous season, though still nowhere near what the character should have been.
All in all, so far HBO delivers, but I am happy that Season 3 will only cover half of A Storm of Swords, because this series deserves better, and the first year of Game of Thrones showed us that it can deliver when there is enough room to work in. Meanwhile, Season 2 is great but flawed, and it definitely didn't get me nearly as happy as I hoped I would be.