×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Game of Thrones

More magic begins creeping into the second season of "Game of Thrones," literally speaking, but the magic conjured by season one continues virtually unabated: a dizzying array of characters, splendid performances, and a scope and grandeur like nothing else on television.

With:
Tyrion Lannister - Peter Dinklage Catelyn Stark - Michelle Fairley Cersei Lannister - Lena Headey Daenerys Targaryen - Emilia Clarke Jaime Lannister - Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish - Aidan Gillen Jorah Mormont - Iain Glen Jon Snow - Kit Harington Robb Stark - Richard Madden Arya Stark - Maisie Williams Bran Stark - Isaac Hempstead Wright Sansa Stark - Sophie Turner Joffrey Baratheon - Jack Gleeson

More magic begins creeping into the second season of “Game of Thrones,” literally speaking, but the magic conjured by season one continues virtually unabated: a dizzying array of characters, splendid performances, and a scope and grandeur like nothing else on television. Combine that with the handful of warring factions vying for the Iron Throne, and pervasive ruthlessness that leaves no one — including children — safe, and HBO has the ingredients for a series that puts nearly every other genre offering to shame. “Winter is coming” is the show’s catchphrase, but it was worth the wait till spring to receive it.

Series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss deserve enormous credit for tackling George R.R. Martin’s popular novels with all the unflinching intensity they require, even if that means re-jiggering a few pieces for cinematic purposes. And while the characters lost during the first campaign leave a mark, the season’s first four episodes make clear the narrative hasn’t retreated, but merely reloaded.

Having arranged the death of the former king, the Lannister family now controls the seat of power, with sadistic teenager Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) — the incestuous progeny of his mother, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey), and her brother Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) — ruling like a pubescent Nero.

Fortunately, Joffrey’s uncle Tyrion (Emmy winner Peter Dinklage) is now serving as the Hand of the King, which has a way of elevating every scene he’s in, as well as sprinkling the festivities with disarming humor.

That helps, since so much else of what transpires is grim and bloody, in a world where the term “power corrupts” has never appeared more apt. Indeed, when the plotting whore-master Baelish (Aidan Gillen) tells the queen, “Knowledge is power,” she quickly corrects him. “Power is power,” she says, providing a brutal example to illustrate her point.

The Lannisters remain under siege from northern forces led by Robb Stark (Richard Madden), who is still smarting, understandably, over the little matter of his father’s beheading. But a handful of other factions are also massing to capture the throne, which not only takes the show to a staggering assortment of locations but sets up such an intricate web that casual observers are to be forgiven if they ask for a scorecard.

Not that you really need one to savor “Thrones” on any number of levels, starting with the easily overlooked assortment of topnotch talent, mostly British, holding down key roles. Among the new faces are Stephen Dillane (who played Thomas Jefferson in “John Adams”) as the late king’s brother, and Gwendoline Christie as Brienne, a towering female warrior.

“Thrones” creates such a rich visual feast — replete with plenty of gratuitous nudity and blood-letting — as to almost obscure its fundamental storytelling pleasures, which are as much a mob drama as anything else, having traded bullets for broadswords. By that measure, this really might the closest spiritual heir to “The Sopranos” HBO has delivered since the show’s notorious whiteout.

Game of Thrones” will always face an extra hurdle in that some will resist its fantasy elements, but under a niche-oriented business model, who cares? For an army of loyalists, HBO will be must-have TV each time the show raises its banner.

And in pay-TV terms, that is power.

Game of Thrones

HBO, Sun. April 1, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Northern Ireland and Croatia by Bighead Littlehead, 360 Television and Grok Television. Executive producers, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Carolyn Strauss, Frank Doelger; co-executive producers, George R.R. Martin, Vanessa Taylor, Alan Taylor, Guymon Casady, Vince Gerardis; producer, Bernadette Caulfield; director, Alan Taylor; writers, Benioff, Weiss;

Crew: camera, Kramer Morgenthau; production designer, Gemma Jackson; editor, Francis Parker; music, Ram Djawadi; casting, Nina Gold, Robert Sterne. 60 MIN.

Cast: Tyrion Lannister - Peter Dinklage Catelyn Stark - Michelle Fairley Cersei Lannister - Lena Headey Daenerys Targaryen - Emilia Clarke Jaime Lannister - Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish - Aidan Gillen Jorah Mormont - Iain Glen Jon Snow - Kit Harington Robb Stark - Richard Madden Arya Stark - Maisie Williams Bran Stark - Isaac Hempstead Wright Sansa Stark - Sophie Turner Joffrey Baratheon - Jack GleesonWith: Alfie Allen, Rory McCann, Charles Dance, Jerome Flynn, Conleth Hill, John Bradley, James Cosmo, Sibel Kekilli, Donald Sumpter, Ron Donachie, Gethin Anthony, Stephen Dillane, Gwendoline Christie, Carice van Houten, Liam Cunningham, Natalie Dormer, Rose Leslie.

More TV

  • Disney-Family-Movies

    Disney Family Movies SVOD Service Is Shutting Down Ahead of Disney Plus Debut

    After 11 years, Disney is pulling the plug on Disney Family Movies On Demand — with the service’s shutdown coming just days before the launch of the Mouse House’s Disney Plus. Disney Family Movies, which cost between $5-$10 per month, has been available via pay-TV providers in the U.S., including Comcast Xfinity, Charter Communications, Verizon [...]

  • Sunnyside

    TV Ratings: 'Sunnyside' Stable in Final Broadcast Episode

    NBC’s “Sunnyside,” which was pulled from the network’s schedule this week, closed off its broadcast run to roughly the same numbers as last week. The Kal Penn comedy posted a 0.3 rating and 1.2 million total viewers, continuing its run as the lowest rated and least watched new fall show in Live+Same Day. NBC has [...]

  • Bill Macy dead

    Bill Macy, 'Maude' Star, Dies at 97

    Bill Macy, who played Bea Arthur’s husband Walter Findlay on the “All in the Family” spinoff, “Maude,” died on Thursday. He was 97. “My buddy Bill Macy passed away at 7:13pm tonight. He was a spitfire right up to the end,” producer and manager Matt Beckoff wrote on Facebook. “My condolences to his beautiful wife Samantha [...]

  • Credit: Netflix / Black Mirror

    All3Media Drops Out of the Bidding for Endemol Shine (EXCLUSIVE)

    All3Media has dropped out of the running to buy rival production and distribution giant Endemol Shine, Variety has learned. All3Media, jointly owned by Discovery and Liberty Global, had lately been running the numbers to see if the acquisition made sense. Liberty is building up a huge war chest, having gained approval to offload a raft [...]

  • Issa Rae Launches Raedio Label With

    Issa Rae Launches Raedio Label With Atlantic; Watch First Release, TeaMarrr’s ‘Kinda Love’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Raedio, the new label co-founded by Emmy-nominated actress-producer-writer Issa Rae, and Atlantic Records have announced a new partnership, which kicks off with today’s release of the new single, “Kinda Love,” by singer-rapper TeaMarrr. The companion visual, directed by child (Ari Lennox, Lucky Daye), features cameos from Rae and comedian Jessie Woo — watch it below. [...]

  • Chris-Hayes-live-audience-MSNBC

    Live, From New York... It's MSNBC Anchor Chris Hayes?

    The comedian wanted people to laugh. But not all the time. Sometimes, not at all. Ryan Reiss typically spends his evenings warming up studio audiences for Seth Meyers’ “Late Night” show. Big guffaws are in demand. On recent Friday evenings, however, Reiss has held forth in a different studio at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content