Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.

As the figureheads of power have been overturned in Westeros, a civil war now engulfs the land as five different kings all claim the title of ruler. The newest claimer is Stannis Baratheon, a seasoned and humorless military veteran whose religion, The Lord of Light, burns nonbelievers, is the greatest threat facing the ruling King.

This a perfect Thrones season. The best thing about it is Tyrion becoming a primary focus of the plot as he rules in King’s Landing as Hand of the King and must temper King Joffrey’s deranged lunacy. As King’s Landing lies under threat of siege it is Tyrion who bears the burden of making sure the city and government are run well.

While Tyrion maintains order in King’s Lading, his father Tywin unwittingly employs Arya Stark in his service as a cup bearer. Two sworn enemies so close to each other, and only the young girl is the one who is aware! Makes for excellent drama.

For a show that has countless wonderful character pairings this was still among the best. Arya’s journey in S2 was one of her most memorable years, but it would pale in comparison to her brother. The loss of youthful innocence would be felt terribly as Brandon Stark’s journey begins. Left alone in the North by his family, he must rule Winterfell as a child only to have the Greyjoys wreak horror on him, his people, and his home. I wasn’t prepared to see Winterfell burn; I still didn’t think the story would go there and so soon. The destruction of the Starks’ hold on the North would be a wound so deep it would be years until it healed.

Jon Snow’s character development is finally put to the test as his cocky greenhorn attitude  abates through encounters with privation and danger for the first time in his life beyond the wall. This is the season when he finally becomes a man. As the Night’s Watch ventures North of the Wall to investigate the looming threat of the Wildlings and White Walkers, we see gorgeous vistas of arctic landscapes and frozen glaciers. It still remains one of the series’ best location shoots. There is no faking it. No green screen could ever replicate the stunning vistas that Iceland offered the production. We really are far into the frozen lands beyond the wall.

Sequences like that is why Thrones, unlike any other premium TV show to come before it or since, is in a league of its own, and it will only grow bigger in the series years that follow. The finale of S2 by both production and technical standpoints would prove to be the first instances when Thrones set it self apart from anything else on TV. We are treated to the series’ first foray into grandiose set pieces with The Battle of Blackwater Bay as Stannis launches an amphibious siege to King’s Landing,  and the embiggening of fantasy playing a larger role in the story as the incredible finale finally unveils the White Walkers and the Army of the Dead for the first time. The editing to the finale episode “Valar Morghulis” still burns in my mind. The way the it juxtaposes two far sides of the world with the fire theme of dragons and the ice lands of the undead is sublime and we the audience begin to understand these two forces would inventively clash one day.

It also gave birth to a vision. A vision of Danerys walking through the Throne Room in King’s Landing that is equally burned as it was covered in snow. We still wait to see that vision fulfilled.

Grade A+.

As if you didn’t know, Season Two of Game of Thrones is available with your HBO Go subscription. You can also stream it from your favorite service.

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