This episode, more than the first, really managed to convey the books’ sense of impending doom. I really got the feeling that these characters are on a long, slow road to despair and we’re going to march with them every step of the way. This tone of futility may be a hard thing to endure episode after episode. I saw someone describe the series as cheerless, and while I think that may be denying the show some its wit and charm, there’s no escaping the fact that this is grim shit and it only gets grimmer. For every triumph (see Dani’s story), there are dozens of crushing blows to the spirit. And yet… and yet…herein lies the crux of the series. In a world that is so obviously mechanized towards grinding down the weak and the unlucky, these characters will struggle and plot and fight until the last breath, and they will cling to hope that somehow justice will ultimately find those who deserve it most. That’s the definition of nobility, right there, and make no mistake – this series is all about nobility in title versus nobility in action and in character. Episode two gets that across in spades.
I often catch myself falling into that trap of “worrying” how civilians might come at something like Game of Thrones, as if it’s important to consider the show without the prejudices or predispositions of having read the books beforehand. This is silly, of course. I can’t erase the knowledge and emotional baggage of having read the books first and, more importantly, there’s no reason on earth I should even try. Beyond its success in the ratings either providing me with more or fewer episodes to watch myself, what is the value in trying to anticipate how a casual HBO viewer might respond to Game of Thrones? The opinions of non-fans can be interesting and even insightful, but trying to taper my own enjoyment or approach to the show by seeing it through freshman eyes doesn’t grant me any better appreciation of its merits…or faults.