Games of Thrones: “The North Remembers” Review: Ned’s Dead Baby, Ned’s Dead

Games of Thrones: “The North Remembers” Review: Ned’s Dead Baby, Ned’s Dead



From learning how to fake orgasms to killing babies and children in cold blood, the ‘Game of Thrones’ season 2 series opener felt like a mixtape of what made the first season a huge success      

The second season starts off reminding viewers just how much of a crazy little brat Joffrey still is. He hosts a brutal melee that further proves how deadly falling while wearing plate armor can be (just like World of Warcraft’s lack of safe-falling for plate wearers showed) and right away we were satisfied since Full Metal Jousting was a poor substitute to getting our medieval carnage fix. Throughout the episode Joffrey’s leadership becomes questioned and he responds by becoming even crueler, even to his own conniving mother Cersei who has begun to realize the monster she has groomed.

In fact nearly every character’s power becomes tested in one way or another in this season opener that definitely puts the game in Game of Thrones.  Joffrey begrudgingly spares the life of the Captain America breastplate wearing wine-o, Cersei goes on a power trip against Littlefinger who is usually Mr. One-Sidestep-Ahead-of-Everyone, only to get slapped in the face by her boy king, and the Lannisters’ claim to the throne is weakened by the spreading rumors of incest and bastard children roaming around.  Shifting to the Starks, their peace terms are anything but and will only further fan the flames of war.  New characters are quickly thrust into the game of power struggles as old gods are replaced by new ones along with Stannis Baratheon’s claim to the throne, and his witch-lady Melisandre survives a poisoned drink in the process.

The season opener also flaunts its bigger budget.  We are treated with epic landscapes from battle camps littered with tents to crowded cities lighting up the night.  The special effects that were criticized from last season like the CGI baby dragon and direwolves that liked to hide off camera, were put proudly on display in this episode.  The size of the direwolf made the Stark’s best friend much more intimidating, and almost made you feel sorry for the imprisoned Jamie Lannister.  The special effects no longer look like they were made for a straight-to-DVD movie, these graphical improvements now rank with Hollywood feature films although they were only on screen for less than a couple of minutes.

From learning how to fake orgasms to killing babies and children in cold blood, this show felt like a mixtape of what made Game of Thrones a huge success.  The immersive settings ranging from scorching deserts to unforgiving tundras, the high quality acting, the ongoing entangling web of power struggles, the shock value entertainment found in the brutal and open nature of scenes filled with violence and nudity, are all features that fans of the first season will welcome.

Unfortunately there is a key ingredient missing from what made the show so appealing in its first season, and that is the absence of Sean Bean and his portrayal of the honorable Ned Stark.  He was the closest character that could be described as the central star of the series, but now the show has taken on a feel more akin to The Wire or even the Steve Carell-less The Office, where the foundations are being laid for a myriad of character plotlines instead of focusing on one man and his family.  That gladly still hasn’t stopped everyone’s favorite short Lannister from stealing the show, and Tyrion’s screen presence has become the fan favorite.

What kept this season opener from reaching a higher grade?  The season opener had moments where it felt slow, confusing, and disjointed.  Meeting the red haired witch Melisandre and her warrior of light in Stannis Baratheon seemed out of place and clumsily edited.  The lack of a central character like Ned Stark contributes to the disjointed impression.  This episode jumped across the map that is featured in the opening credits, and pushed forward the pieces that will lead to an epic clash previewed in the sneak peak for things to come in the new season.  As a result, the season opener bombarded the viewers with plot details worthy of making sparknotes for.

As the scope of the epic widens and the budget and special effects increased along with it, hopefully the quality of the characters and stories don’t fall in between the chasms.  There are so many plotlines from the first season and even more introduced in the second season’s opener that it makes the plot web in the Lord of the Rings movies look like a children’s book.  Game of Thrones aims to be an ambitious project that has set up plenty of roads it can travel on, as long as HBO can keep the project alive (RIP Deadwood and Luck). Ned may be dead, but the keys to the Games of Thrones chopper and the future of the show are as limitless as Bruce Willis’ was from Pulp Fiction.

Arbitraty Review Rating Number: 85% out of 100

Note on these reviews: We here at Comical Absurdity are huge fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones. While we shamefully haven’t read the George R. R. Martin’s novels they are based on, we will stand ready each week to give you our thoughts on the television series that made Sean Bean’s head roll.