Has there ever before been a greater need for pirating and filesharing than with the Game of Thrones TV mini-series? I can’t think of a single time when nerds with computers were more necessary. Right now, as far as I know, the only legal way to watch Game of Thrones is to subscribe to HBO. If Game of Thrones Season 2 were On Demand through Comcast cable, I wouldn’t mind paying $5 or 6 at all to watch a single episode. However, I don’t want to spend $50 a month for the three or so months the season is on the air for a network where the only other good show is Curb Your Enthusiasm (thanks again file sharers!). The thing is, I love the Song of Ice and Fire series so much that I want to support the writer George R. R. Martin in any way I can. At least I purchased 4 out of the 5 books (haven’t read A Dance of Dragons yet).
Now that my kvetching is out of the way, let me review the season itself. In my opinion, Game of Thrones Season 2 is one of the few times when the adaptation has been better than the source material. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the book A Clash of Kings. I thought for one thing, despite what the blurbs on the book jacket had me believe, A Clash of Kings did not live up to the quality of the promising debut novel Game of Thrones. I found the book to be simply overwritten (and not just because it was 1,000+ pages long). The book follows the Shakespearean idea that any large rebellion, whether it’s justified or not, will cause a tremor of violence and a shadow of gloom to pass over the entire kingdom. A Clash of Kings takes place entirely under such a shadow.
Much of the story revolves around the aftermath and fallout of the rebellion that occured at King’s Landing at the end of the first book. Our beloved Stark family are scattered across the continent: Catelyn, the mother, is forever on the move, trying to re-establish diplomacy in a time when it’s no longer valid; Jon Snow, the eldest of the Stark children, is in the North, pledging his life to the Night’s Watch; Sansa, the eldest daughter, is stuck in King’s Landing, a ward of the Lannisters who use her as a pawn; Arya, the youngest daughter, is traveling incognito, first dressing as a boy to elude her captors, then working as a humble cupbearer; finally, Bran and Rickon, two young boys, are left in Winterfell where it’s up to them to hold down the fort, so to speak.
If you’re new to the series, this seems like an awful lot to keep track of, but this is only a small portion of the much larger interlacing of plots and subplots. Here’s one of the greatest strengths of the TV series vs. the book: it becomes much easier to keep track of the important characters. In the book, there are hundreds of characters, and as you’re reading it, if you’re like me, you’re going to have a hard time figuring out who is an important character and who is merely incidental. For example, one mistake I made while reading it was not paying much attention to the character of Brienne, a female knight who is introduced in the second book only to take a much larger role in the rest of the series. In the television series, it makes it perfectly clear she is going to be a major player. Also, having a face to attach to each name will help a lot of people understand the story better, even if they have read the books.
Thanks to the success of Game of Thrones season 1, season 2 has the added bonus of being more lavish than the first. Oftentimes, the greatest joy of the series isn’t in watching the battles but in staring mystified at the settings. There’s so many fascinating locations in the series, from the tundras beyond the wall in the north to the docks of the Iron Islands to the ruins that young Arya passes through and to the exotic world of bazaars and temples that Daenerys visits on her quest.
Game of Thrones TV series is known for its gruesomeness and explicit nature, so if that’s your thing, then season 2 won’t disappoint. Unfortunately, I think the sex and violence are likely going to turn away away a lot of casual viewers, which is a shame because so much of the show is actually quite beautiful.
Game of Thrones Season 2 airs Sunday nights at 9pm on HBO, or two hours or so later online (or two hours earlier on the West Coast!).
*On a side note, I did love the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Storm of Swords. Now that will make for some excellent television!
What’s your opinion of Game of Thrones Season 2?