I'm home sick from work today, so you'll have to forgive me if this post seems a bit incoherent; at this moment my head feels about three times larger than usual and my sinuses are about to explode. This will be fun!
The North Remembers does what any good season premiere should--it establishes where the characters are, what they want, and what they are doing. Since last season, the many (many) characters in the Game of Thrones universe are scattered throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and Dany is still wandering across the sea (and don't expect that to change any time soon).
Oh, and the wigs this season are SO much better. You'd be surprised what a big difference that makes.
I was impressed that the premiere managed to touch on everyone without feeling like a checklist, there were not any clumsy moments here. In fact, I think it's fair to say that this was a very elegantly structured premiere. Well, as elegant as you can get when you open with a knight getting tossed off a castle wall in honor of "King" Joffrey's nameday and leaving a giant blood smear. Reminds me of my last birthday!
I won't recap every character's arc here, mostly because I am too lazy. But I will point out that I found Cersei's scenes pretty fascinating. In the words of The Oatmeal, she is still a total cunthammer, but she got the meatiest stuff in the premiere. Things definitely haven't worked out as she imagined, have they? And I have to say, when she found herself the target of Joffrey's completely cruelchy (cruel + douchy = cruelchy) behavior at the end, it felt like just desserts. Joffrey is like a spoiled sociopathic attack dog that Cersei allowed free range of the neighborhood--she can't be surprised when he comes back and rips her throat out. And yet...I still find myself feeling kind of sorry for her.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not a fan of incest or letting your children grow up into bloodthirsty spoiled idiot monarchs, but Cersei is a woman clawing for power in a man's world. She has played second fiddle to those who were in charge for a long time (first her father, Tywin, and then her husband, Robert), that it must just burn to be completely overlooked because of her sex. But I'm not going to turn this into a defense of Cersei Lannister. Point is, she's an evil bitch, but I can kind of see where she's coming from. And that's the beauty of these characters. They can do the most despicable things but we get it.
Except Joffrey. That kid is just a total tool bag.
But speaking of wanting power, that is what Game of Thrones has always been about. Who has it, who wants it, and what people are willing to do to get it. Power can also take many different forms--for Littlefinger it's playing the role of puppetmaster. He prefers to sit and wait and pull the strings of those around him with the knowledge and secrets he gathers. But it sure was nice to see him get jerked around for a change by a demonstration of brute force. Even if it came from Cersei. And for others, like Arya and Jon Snow, power means the freedom to be who they want.
I have to wonder though: if you haven't read the books, how confused would you be by the premiere? I didn't think the introduction of Stannis, Melisandre, and the Lord of Light (R'hllor) was particularly clear. Even a title card letting us know the action had moved to Dragonstone would have been appreciated. Having said that, the scene in Dragonstone's conference room was beautifully structured to let us know what kind of man Stannis is and also that Melisandre is not someone you should mess with. But do other people have any idea what's going on with Davos Seaworth? I am sure the show will get into the onions and the fingers (don't ask) at some point, but some more establishment in the premiere could have gone a long way.
All in all, I think the season is off to a great start and it left me wanting more. So book the aircraft carrier, string up the Mission Accomplished banner, and let's get this season going!
The dead king's brother's wife's priestess says that Stannis will save us all with his flaming sword. Run that by me again?