Game of Thrones is back, baby. The Season 2 premiere jumped right into the thick of things, with all the dragons, direwolves, and brutal violence you could possibly want. And, yeah, okay, this episode also involved a whole lot of exposition and moving pieces into place, but it was exposition cloaked in enough interpersonal tensions, snappy dialogue, and magnificent acting that we weren't really bothered. We could watch these characters make veiled (and not-so-veiled) threats at each other all day.
Read on for our in-depth recap of Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 1: “The North Remembers”
Last season on Game of Thrones: All the things happened.
We start with the most hilariously long "previously on" montage ever. To be fair, they had a lot to cover.
King's Landing: Where Liars Lie and Joffrey Sucks
It's Joffrey's name day, and you know what that means: He's acting like even more of a sociopathic monster than normal. We open on The Hound knocking some dude to his death, which Joffrey of course thinks is great, and which Joffrey forces poor Sansa to pretend she thinks is great, too. Why? Because why the heck not. He's Joffrey, the Literal Worst.
Joff then proceeds to almost drown a knight named Sir Dontos in wine, because Dontos showed up to the event drunk. Sansa proves she still has some fight, convincing Joffrey that a) killing someone on your name day is terrible luck (The Hound backs her up on this one), and b) instead of killing Dontos at all, Joffrey should make him into his new fool. Appealing to Joff's sadistic side to save a man's life? Sansa's already better at this politics thing than her father ever was.
The scene takes a turn for the more pleasant when Tyrion shows up, snarkily puts Joffrey in his place, charms Joff's younger siblings, and even has the guts to condole Sansa for her loss before sweeping away. Yep, still the biggest baller in Westeros.
Next, Tyrion bursts into the small council meeting — where they are discussing that Winter Is Still Coming (and might bring starvation) — and announces that he's the acting Hand of the King. Cersei clears the room, fails to out-snark Tyrion, gets inappropriately excited when he mentions Jaime, and then has to admit that she hasn't seen Arya since Ned's death. Round 1 of Tyrion vs. Cersei goes to the Imp.
Later, Tyrion and the prostitute he's kinda in love with, Shae, hang out in Tyrion's fancy new digs. Tyrion advises her not to trust anyone in King's Landing, because literally every single person in the city is a liar. Sounds about right.
Cersei, meanwhile, has an excellent standoff with Littlefinger, who tries to intimidate her with hints about her incestuous sexy times. “Knowledge is power,” he says. Cersei responds by having her guards seize him and almost slit his throat: “Power is power.” She commands him to help her find Arya.
Cersei also has a standoff with her odious son, which goes poorly. Joff notes that he has heard the rumors about her relations with Jaime, and — more importantly to him — the ones about the million and a half Baratheon bastards Robert left lying around King's Landing. Cersei slaps Joff (which: AWESOME) for asking her if Robert fucked around because she was boring, but far from shutting him up, that just makes him mad. "What you just did is punishable by death," he threatens. "You'll never do it again. Never." Let us remember that this kid isn't even old enough to drive.
Then we get a montage of the King's Guard going around and killing all of Robert's bastards. You know, in case you thought this episode just didn't have enough violence. Joffrey manages to dispose of all of them but one: Gendry the blacksmith's apprentice, who we know is currently on his way to The Wall along with Arya. Unfortunately for both of them, Gendry's former caretaker gives up this info.
And, heading north...
Arya, dressed as a boy is, in fact, still headed north towards The Wall along with Gendry. The biggest problem with this episode is that we only get this one, wordless scene with her. More of everyone's favorite murderous tomboy, please.
Robb's Camp: Family Values
Also to the north, Robb is still King in the North, camping out, preparing to fight more battles, needlessly taunting the Kingslayer...You know, the usual.
We learn that Robb has dragged Jaime — now sporting a grungy, bearded, long-haired look that would make Johnny Depp proud — from camp to camp with him in a cage, apparently because he doesn't trust any of his bannermen not to either kill him or hand him over for a reward. Jaime helpfully points out that not trusting your men to follow your orders is probably not a great sign, but Robb's not worried. He's won three battles, he's totally got this covered. Jaime is delightfully snarky and defiant throughout this whole confrontation, even when Robb reveals that he knows about the incest and has realized that Jaime pushed Bran out of a window to cover it up. Robb, meanwhile, threatens Jaime with his direwolf, like a boss.
Later, Robb sends a random Lannister cousin south with his demands: He wants his sisters back, he wants his father's bones and those of all of the men who served him, and, oh yeah, he wants the North recognized as an independent kingdom. In return he'll hand back Jaime and end the war. As if.
Robb is smart enough to know the Lannisters won't actually give up the North without a fight. Fortunately, his trusty sidekick, Theon (the Stark's ward), has a plan. See, to get the Lannisters to listen, Robb needs to take King's Landing. To take King's Landing, he needs ships. You know who has ships? Theon's dad, Balon Greyjoy. Sure, the man rebelled and caused a bloody war not that long ago, but whatever. Theon's his only son! Of course he'll help! Because most Westeros dads are totally warm and fuzzy and full of sentimental attachment. Robb okays this plan.
Catelyn confronts Robb in his kingly tent, very unamused by a number of things. First, she thinks this whole asking Balon Greyjoy for help thing is really dumb, because, again, he rebelled and caused a bloody war. Second, she's a bit offended that Robb won't trade Jaime for Sansa and Arya, because she cares more about her kids than the intricacies of war. Finally, she's decided she's going home to Winterfell.
Except, surprise: No she's not! Instead, Robb's sending her south to negotiate with Robert's youngest brother, Renly, who has raised himself a 100,000 person army (!). Robb's logic is that if they team up with Renly, the two forces together can take down the Lannisters. "We will all be together again soon, I promise,” he tells his mom, apparently unaware that he's in one of the most epic, never-ending book/TV series around.
Winterfell: Land of Odd Dreams
Speaking of Winterfell, Bran is stuck acting as the Lord there, which, given that he's 10, is not really the greatest plan ever. Fortunately, Maester Luwin is around to actually make decisions and respond to complaints while Bran is busy sulking, demanding everyone respect Robb's kingship, and having crazy dreams where he sees the world through direwolf-cam.
Bran is still crippled, but he has Hodor to carry him around and the Wildling Osha to entertain him with wise and cryptic ramblings about this red comet that has shown up in the sky. Bran thinks the comet means Robb is totes gonna win (it's pretty adorable how proud he is of his big bro), but Osha is convinced comets don't care about the affairs of men. She thinks it means one thing: Dragons.
The Red Waste: How Not to Train Your Dragons
And hey, look at that, there are dragons! And they're currently headed...east. Away from Westeros, along with Daenerys Targaryen and her ragtag group of Dothraki and former slaves, who are wandering aimlessly through a seemingly endless desert called the Red Waste. It turns out, hatching dragons is not an instant key to winning at life. Very disappointing, we know. It's like learning Santa isn't real.
So, why are they trekking away from their end goal? According to Jorah, Dany has to go east because every other direction is full of people who want to kill her and take her dragons. He promises that the Red Waste does end. Eventually. At some point. You know, probably soon enough that they won't all starve before they get there.
Dany sends the few Dothraki warriors she has left riding out in different directions, in the hope that one of them will come back with news of a city, or a traveling mistral show, or a pond, or really anything other than miserable rocky desert and certain death.
North of the Wall: Where the Incest's So Icky, It Makes the Lannisters Look Good
Meanwhile, north of The Wall, the Night's Watch marches through a wintery wonderland, which is apparently not so wonderful to hang out in for days on end. They come to a crude shack that belongs to a Wildling named Craster. His “house” is full of women who are all his wives. And daughters. At the same time, mostly. Please feel free to shudder. (As Jon notes, there are no boys around. Odd?)
Craster tells Lord Commander Mormont that he hasn't seen Benjen Stark for years, and warns that a man named Mance Rayder has fashioned himself “King-Beyond-the-Wall.” Apparently Mance is gathering a giant army of Wildlings. He plans to march south, eventually. Of course he does. Westeros could always use more kings.
Craster also takes a dislike to Jon, mostly because Jon fails to hide his utter disdain of everything about Craster's life. Mormont gives him a harsh talking to, warning him that he has to learn to follow if he ever wants to lead. As creepy as Craster is, half of Jon's sworn brothers are rapists and murderers and such, so Mormont definitely has a point.
Dragonstone: Hey, Did You Hear the Night Is Dark and Full of Terrors?
Finally, putting a wrench in everyone's war plans is Stannis Baratheon, the actual heir to the throne. Stannis hasn't gathered much of an army yet, but he has found himself a foreign priestess named Melisandre, who brings with her a strange foreign religion. She makes Stannis and his followers burn statues of the Seven (the gods of Westeros' most common religion), gives him a fiery sword called Lightbringer, and declares he has the Lord of Light on his side.
While most of Stannis's men stay stone-faced and uncomplaining through Melisandre's little show, we see that at least two of them are not happy about the new girl in town: Davos, Stannis' trusted right-hand man, and Dragonstone's Maester, whose name we won't bother figuring out because he's gonna die in a sec.
Stannis and his team of advisers, including Davos, Melisandre, and the Maester, retire to his Room of Planning, where Stannis composes a letter announcing the Lannister's incest, declaring himself the true King of Westeroes, and demanding everyone acknowledge his claim to his throne; he orders this letter sent to every corner of the kingdom.
We learn a number of things about Stannis in this scene. One: He has no plans to try to team up with Robb or even his own brother. Two: He is stern, stern, and, oh yeah, stern. Three: He's a stickler for the truth in all matters — he even insists the letter refer to Jaime as Sir Jaime Lannister, The Kingslayer, because he IS a king slayer, and he's also a knight. Fair's fair, we guess.
After Stannis is done with the letter business, his Maester pretends to have made peace with the idea of Melisandre, and offers to share a cup of wine with her. He takes a sip and hands the cup over. He then immediately starts bleeding from the nose: He's so committed to taking her down, he's willing to poison himself to kill her. She notices the blood but takes a deep drink anyway, and then watches, unaffected, as the Maester falls dead at her feet.
Watch out, Westeros. There's a new player in town.
- Peter Dinklage has already earned his inevitable Emmy nomination just for the look Tyrion gives Sansa when she chokes out that her father and family are traitors.
- Creepy Caster is really, really protective of his daughter-wives. He makes about fifty comments about it, which you know means someone is going to totally fall for, bang, or at least make eyes at one of those women at some point.
- Stannis's table with a raised map of Westeros on it is absolutely gorgeous.
- Stannis refusing to call Robert his “beloved” brother because they didn't actually love each other is a fantastic touch.
- "Have you grown found of me, Stark, is that it? I've never seen you with a girl." Oh Jaime, you just don't give a damn, do you?
- Robb thinks Joffrey killed Ned to cover up the truth. He's giving Joff WAY too much credit.
- We really hope people talking to caged Jaime becomes this season's way of conveying random information, because it's a lot more entertaining than sexposition.
- One complaint: Needs more Bronn. Tyrion's bromance with this sellsword is the closest thing to a functional friendship any Lannister has.
- Littlefinger's self-made sigil is a mockingbird. He should hang out with Katniss
- Don't worry, they managed to squeak in an unnecessary sex scene right before the massive slaughter of Robert's bastards. Nice.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaMartin47.