With the introduction and exposition heavy first episode behind it, Game of Thrones now moves onto the business of the story. In the wake of shocking conclusion of the first episode (incest and attempted child murder still qualify as shocking, right?), the second episode, titled “The Kingsroad“, quite literally takes the action on the road. Many characters embark on journies that will shape the events of the entire season, and indeed the rest of the series. Ned Stark and his family leave the solitude of Winterfell for the uncertainty of King’s Landing; the alienated Jon Snow makes his way north to The Wall; the grief-stricken Catelyn Stark begins to unravel the treachery of the Lannisters; and Daenerys begins the arduous trek towards Dothraki capital of Vaes Dothrak and her unknown destiny.
The Kingsroad is likely the weakest of the first half dozen episodes, if only because it acts as a bridge of sorts between the events of the series opener and the meaty intrigues that begin in earnest come episode three. It still remains a competent piece of television, but it, like the episode preceding it, is utilitarian at best. The first two episode of Thrones are laying the foundations for the series; uneventful but strong, they perform their function admirably.
While the first episode of Thrones was mostly concerned with introducing characters and their back stories, the second episode focuses mainly on setting the tone for what is to come. Viewers already know that the Lannisters (namely Cersei and Jaime) will stop at nothing to protect their own interests, but here the Stark family gets their first real taste of Lannister dickery on multiple fronts. Jon Snow endures the mockery of the Lannister brothers (one seriously, and one in jest), Catelyn and Bran Stark are nearly killed by an assassin apparently hired by the Lannisters, and Ned Stark and his daughters learn first hand that the Queen’s family is not to be trifled with. It’s the tumultuous relationship between these two families that forms the backbone of Thrones, and it only gets uglier.
This episode may be a bit of a road show, but it’s far from dull. Catelyn and Daenerys, who began the series as a doting mother and timid political bargaining chip respectively, are almost completely transformed by the end of the episode. They cease being spectators to the events engulfing them, and begin to direct those events through action. Sansa Stark on the other hand, reveals herself content to spectate as events unfold, even if those circumstances impact her family negatively. Viewers should get used to this kind of behaviour from her character.
Tyrion Lannister, who was easily the most well characterized and nuanced character in Martin’s novels, makes the transition to the screen wonderfully, due, in large part to the excellent Peter Dinklage. While Dinklage’s accent remains as the Brits would say, “a bit dodgy”, he delivers his lines with such humour and aplomb that it’s easy to ignore his obviously affected voice. If Tyrion is not already your favourite character, he soon will be.
Kingsroad is a significant episode because it puts the characters in motion, but it doesn’t do much else. Viewers have yet to meet the colourful cast of characters that populate the capital city of King’s Landing and the dreary Castle Black at the foot of The Wall. In that way, episode two is essentially just a journey towards more intriguing and interesting things. As is the case with most serialized television shows, individual episodes can suffer from being part of a larger story arc. However, when viewed as part of a whole season seemingly weak episodes can take on even more importance.