Television Series DVD

Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season

Distributed By: HBO

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


               Having started reading the books in the George R.R. Martin A Song of Fire and Ice series, I was interested in learning how well the television adaptation of the books kept to the storyline.  I watched the first season of the show and was impressed, but now that I had completed the third book, I wondered if the television series was still keeping true to the original content.  Happily, I was gifted with Seasons 2 and 3 of Game of Thrones so I could find out.

                In Season One of Game of Thrones, we left off with a war brewing – as is oft said in this series, “Winter is coming.”  Though Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) sits on the throne his father Robert (Mark Addy) seized from the Targaryans, it is rumored that he is not actually the son of Robert Baratheon, but the product of his mother Cersei (Lena Headey) and her brother Jaime Lannister (Nokolaj Coster-Waldau).  Thus, there are those who have decided that he has no claim to the throne.  Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) has decided that, as eldest of the two surviving Baratheon brothers, has the better claim to the throne.  He is aided in his quest by his friend, former smuggler Davos (Liam Cunningham), and the Red Priestess (Carice van Houten) of a religion that worships the Lord of Light as her God.  Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), the youngest and more popular brother, has amassed a great army, laying claim to the Iron Throne as well.

                Meanwhile, across the seas, there is Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), an exiled heir to the Targaryen throne.  Known as the Mother of Dragons, Daenerys and her newly hatched dragons are working on creating an army big enough to take back the throne that once belonged to her family.  And still others are claiming themselves king.  Robb Stark has been dubbed King of the North.  His family aided in conquering the Targaryen’s years before.  Now that the Lannisters have killed his father, crippled his brother and kidnapped his sisters, Robb (Richard Madden) is willing to stop at nothing to have his revenge.  Then, there is also the King Beyond the Walls, a former Night's Watchman turned self-proclaimed king of the Wildlings.

                Season Two opens as the various kings make their way toward King's Landing and war with Joffrey.  Robb Stark has already won a number of battles against the Lannisters and is in possession of Jaime Lannister, holding him hostage as a possible piece with which to negotiate the release of his sisters.  Meanwhile, Renly’s affable nature is winning him points in this war, amassing a great army from the many families swearing fealty to him.  Worried that Renly could easily best Stannis in a battle based on sheer numbers, he allows the Red Priestess to use her dark magic to destroy him.  With Renly out of the way, Stannis and his ships head toward King’s Landing for what promises to be a great siege.  Acting King's Hand, Tyrion Lannnister (Peter Dinklage) hopes to hold Stannis at bay through the use of wildfire and ingenuity.

                Meanwhile Robb has been betrayed by trusted friend Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), who, instead of asking for help from his father (Patrick Malahide), decides to capture Winterfell for himself.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much support in his quest on either side of the battle and not much in the way of manpower.  Robb has also been betrayed by his mother who frees Jaime Lannister and sends him back to King’s Landing in the care of Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), hoping that this gesture will end in the return of her daughters Sansa and Arya.  Losing his bargaining chip makes Robb furious, but he has other things on his mind – love…and not the love of the woman he has been betrothed to.

                And across the sea, Daenerys finds herself taking refuge in the city of Qarth.  There aren’t many of her people left – many perished in the journey across the desert, but Daenerys hopes to find aid in Qarth in the form of ships and warriors.  What she finds is hatred, deception and betrayal.  Can the Mother of Dragons protect those she holds dear and still somehow amass the army and ships she needs to take back her rightful place on the Iron Throne, or will she lose everything to the deceitful actions of the people of Qarth?

                I could not wait to see what happens in Season 2 and compare it to what I’ve already read in the book series, but I had one problem.  The discs took soooo long to load.  I put them in the DVD player and I waited…and waited…then, things started moving, only to reach a logo screen that I couldn’t fast forward through or skip.  And so, I waited some more.  But, I suppose, once the series finally got going, it was definitely worth the wait. 

                Though a tad different from the book series, the second season of Game of Thrones is mostly on the money in its depiction of the war between several nations and the quest of an exiled woman to recapture her family’s throne.  I can understand the differences here – some are too long and tedious for the television series – better for a book, but less captivating for a one hour episode.  Other moments were not racy enough in the book and make for better television if…enhanced a bit. Still others weren’t cost effective for the budget allotted the series.  Despite the tweaking, the storyline remains the same and the twists and turns that make the book series so awesome are still there.

The acting was quite believable and thus, you can’t help yourself feeling hatred for Joffrey, love for Tyrion, lust for Jon Snow…okay, that has less to do with his acting, but, so what.  I loved the way Ygritte (Rose Leslie) needles Jon Snow mercilessly.  The two have great chemistry on screen and the dialogue is much the same in the novels.  Sansa is so wishy-washy you just want to smack her around a bit and I can’t quite make out whether I should pity Cersei or loathe her.  Tyrion is, by far, my favorite character – underestimated due to his stature, he rises above them all thanks to his brains.  One cheers his every victory and rues his every betrayal.  The acting is such that you believe these characters are real and want to see the ones you enjoy succeed.

                The special effects were amazing, from the wraith that takes Renly to the wildfire used in the battle at King's Landing to the dragons to the warlocks of Qarth.  I was amazed to see what they had done with the dragons and can’t wait to see these creatures all grown up.  Right now, they are cute little things that hiccup fire, but, thanks to the scene in Qarth, we know that these are not playthings or sweet little pets. 

                Battles are brutal in both the book and the television series.  If you are squeamish, these scenes may be problematic for you.  There is no shying away from the split skull, arrow through the eye, or the sailor being burnt alive.  Sword, mace and arrow battles are bound to be a bit messy, as are the medical attention for the wounds of battle.  They certainly know how to make a gory scene come to life on this series.

                As fun as watching a television series bring your favorite stories to life are the extras that accompany the tale on the DVD.  If you have only watched the television series and never read the books, some of these extras will be imperative to help you understand how the various houses came to be, where the enmity between the Baratheon brothers comes from, the hatred of the Greyjoys for those who have subjugated them, how Robert Baratheon came to be seated on the Iron Throne and more.  Much of this can be found in the Histories & Lore and the War of the Five Kings segments.  The Religions of Westeros explains the various gods worshipped in the series, such as The Seven, the Old Gods, the Drowned God and more.  Creating the Battle of Blackwater Bay was a terrific documentary for those of us who sat, mouths agape, wondering, “How’d they do that?!” during that final battle scene.  My favorite extra was the Game of Thrones: Inner Circle a sort of round table in which actors Lena Heady, Liam Cunningham, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, and Michelle Fairley discuss their characters, the storyline and more with the television series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

                I watched the Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season DVD with the very person who bought it for me.  This is someone who isn’t much into fantasy movies or television series, but after a couple of episodes, was captivated by Game of Thrones.  She couldn’t take her eyes off of the show and wanted more when it was done.  Though there are differences between the books and the series, the television series creators have never lost sight of the storyline that made them want to take on this series to begin with.  The characters, story and plot twists are enough to keep anyone coming back for more.  I can’t wait to watch the third season!


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