Last season of Game of Thrones threw us more than a few curveballs – deaths all around, villains doing the killing and heroes doing the dying. Betrayal was everywhere, and those who didn’t know how to play met their untimely ends. This season, which starts Sunday on HBO, will be all of that doubled, and more. I don’t know about you, but my knuckles are white with anticipation.
I’m not going to put any potential real spoilers for the new season here – because while I’ve read the second and third books, A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords, it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen in the show. I’ve seen a scene or two that I know are in ASOS and I assume they bumped up to make the second season more interesting (Robb Stark and Jaime Lannister are absent for much of the second book, just because Robb is off doing kingly things and Jaime is, well, captured). However, if you’re a spoiler hound like I am, here’s the Wiki page for the second book, in case you want to know what is probably going to happen next. The Wiki for season two of the show has a few quick episode summaries, if you’re a reader and want to know how they’re pacing it (FYI, Blackwater is episode nine – in case you were curious).
Last season, we followed mainly the Stark family, of Winterfell in the North, and learned just how vicious the game of thrones really is. We saw the death of King Robert Baratheon, known as the Usurper after the murder of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen. In his stead rules his son, Joffrey Baratheon – or should I say Lannister, since he was born of incest between Queen Cersei and her twin brother Jaime? Having discovered the truth, Ned Stark was beheaded for treason. His eldest daughter Sansa is captive at King’s Landing, betrothed to Joffrey, and youngest daughter Arya has escaped the city with nowhere to run to. Ned’s son Robb has styled himself King in the North and intends to slaughter the Lannisters for what they did to his father. Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow has been banished to the Wall, where he swore to take no wives, own no land, and win no glory. The last of the big players, Daenerys Targaryen now rules as widowed queen of the what’s left of her Dothraki (those that didn’t leave her after Khal Drogo died), and she has been revealed as the true dragon, next in line of the powerful and slightly-mad Targaryens – and she intends to take back what has been stolen from her family.
So – what to expect this season?
- With Robert dead and widely-suspected twincest-born 14-year-old Joffrey crowned king, civil unrest has arisen and there are now five who claim the throne: Joffrey Baratheon of King’s Landing, Robb Stark of Winterfell, Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands, Stannis Baratheon (Robert’s younger brother), and Renly Baratheon (Robert and Stannis’s youngest brother).
- Theon Greyjoy has a much bigger presence this year. While he was in the background of season one and A Game of Thrones, he no longer considers himself a ward of the Starks and decides to stake his claim as son of Balon Greyjoy and a lord of the Iron Islands.
- Stannis Baratheon, generally ignored by everyone in the first season (out of sight, out of mind, I guess), returns to claim the throne as the rightful heir; however, he brings with him Melisandre, the Red Woman, and the faith of R’hllor, a god relatively unheard of in Westeros. Also included here: Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight.
- Because he is beloved in Westeros (and still alive, after fleeing King’s Landing before Joffrey could kill him for treason like he did Ned Stark), Renly Baratheon claims the throne as well. Though he and Stannis both know the truth of Joffrey’s parentage, will they stand united to bring down the Lannisters or will they come to blows with each other before they get there?
- Daenerys Targaryen, widowed khaleesi of the Dothraki, travels across the desert with what’s left of her queensguard and Ser Jorah Mormont in search of an army and the crown of Westeros.
One thing I love about ACOK as a book is that while it continues to focus on the Stark family, it does so through the lenses of other characters. The first season of the show explores what it’s like to be a child of powerful men (and women, Cersei and Catelyn), but the second season will show us what it’s like when those children are forced to grow up. Children can become adults in an instant, as Robb was forced to accept the mantle of King in the North, King of Winterfell, when his father Ned was beheaded. His mother Catelyn Tully is lost, trying to make her way as a displaced Lady of Winterfell, trying to understand how best to serve Robb in his new capacity without being overbearing. Sansa is held captive at King’s Landing, still forcibly betrothed to Joffrey. Arya is on the run, trying to make her way back to Winterfell while pretending to be a boy and hide her true identity. Bran is now Lord of Winterfell in Robb’s absence, still so young, and little Rickon isn’t even ten years old and having to shoulder the mantle of what being second Stark in command at Winterfell means. And Jon Snow, who ever knows nothing, is at the Wall with Sam Tarly, trying to understand his new role in life. In the first season, these were children playing at being kings and queens. In the second season, they have the roles of kings and queens thrust upon them, and they must adapt. After all, in the game of thrones, you win or you die. To quote Arya, “Anyone can be killed” – never were words more accurate.
I don’t want to give too many things away because this book is, as with the others, spectacular, and I know I’m looking forward to seeing how HBO adapts this bestselling series further.
Game of Thrones returns this Sunday at 9PM on HBO, with reruns of the pilot at 10 and 11. Below is my favorite trailer, featuring Florence + The Machine’s “Seven Devils” (I know, right? Perfect.). Seven devils all around you, indeed.