UK TV review: Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 2
Paul Greenwood | On 03, May 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers. For more on how to catch up with Game of Thrones, click here.
If there’s maybe one thing you could have a grumble about when it comes to Game of Thrones, it’s the show’s tendency to leave some plot threads dangling for – and it doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say this – years on end.
Where’s Gendry been shipped off to? Are we likely ever to see Walder Frey again? Chief among these danglers is young Bran Stark, who looked like he was coming into some serious skills during Season 4, but then didn’t make a single appearance in Season 5.
He was last seen during a terrible scene, when he and his companions were attacked by zombie skeletons as they travelled north of the Wall. Now, he’s developing his powers and here we meet Max von Sydow in his first appearance as the Three-Eyed Raven, looking for all the world like Alec Guinness as the blind butler in Murder By Death.
We get some very welcome delving into the decades yore, and happier days at Winterfell, as Bran and old Three-Eyes visit this time and place, during some sort of trance-like state, to see young Ned and his brother and sister. And Hodor talks! These fleeting moments of, if not quite levity, then certainly relief from the ongoing misery, can sometimes make all the difference.
Something that’s really become apparent recently is the staggering upswing in production values. Game of Thrones has always been a handsome show, obviously, but generally stopped short of trying to recreate digitally anything overly large in scale or ambitious. Now, it seems budgets have been given a healthy boost – one shot of Cersei looking out across the rooftops of King’s Landing would be fit to grace most big budget movies.
The Stark children may have lost their parents, but Cersei has had the opposite torment visited upon her, and has only one child left, even if Tommen does happen to be the king. Her increasing humanity is coinciding with the exploration of the role of religion in Westeros, which is really starting to deepen into something interesting.
Deaths-wise, the episode starts out surprisingly funny, as heads are bashed off walls in pithy fashion. Chuckles dwindle, though, as we get some major moves against would-be power-wielders that offer genuine shocks, with a couple of lords taken out in swift and unexpected fashion. Roose Bolton has been a serious player in the North for a few years now, someone with the tactical abilities and commanding presence of Tywin Lannister. But his bastard son, Ramsay, now firmly established as the show’s primary villain, finds himself put out at the birth of his half-brother, leading to one of the most shocking murders since the Red Wedding, even if it does mercifully take place off-screen.
Balon Greyjoy didn’t get too many appearances, but always seemed imposing. Newcomer Pilou Asbæk rocks up as his long-elsewhere brother, Euron, who appears out of nowhere, tosses him off a bridge and promptly disappears again.
It’s indicative of what is a largely very good, but sometimes frustratingly bitty episode, one that tries to fit in an awful lot of material and incident without always giving us a chance to take it all in. Where it triumphs is the escalating tension at several key points: the Castle Black mutineers beating down the door, Tyrion approaching the dragons and, of course, the ultimate breath-holding moment.
Since Kit Harington, one of the show’s marquee actors, has been portraying a corpse for the first two weeks, you could argue that the denouement here has been somewhat telegraphed, yet his resurrection still provides a stunning moment at the end of the episode. Introductions and gambits made, let’s hope the show can really start to settle into a proper rhythm in the weeks to come.
Who will die in Game of Thrones Season 6? We’ve calculated the odds for each major character – join in our sweepstakes here.
Game of Thrones Season 1 to 6 are available on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription. The show is also available on DVD, Blu-ray and pay-per-view VOD. For more, click here.
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