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Review: HBO's Game of Thrones

4/01/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

To get the
obvious out of the way,
the troubled realm of
Westeros is a worse place
after the execution of Eddard
Stark. But Game of
Thrones
is still magnificent even without season
1’s lead actor, Sean Bean. Peter Dinklage, as “the
imp” Tyrion Lannister, now gets top billing and very
capably steps into the late Stark’s role as chief adviser
or “hand” of the king.

As viewers of season 1 (and readers of George
R.R. Martin’s novels) know, the king is young,
venal Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson). The real
power behind the Iron Throne is his mother, Cersei
Lannister (Lena Headey), the queen regent.
Joffrey is an illegitimate king in every possible
way, and warring armies are in the field, eager to
protect (in the Lannisters’ case) or replace him.

The storytelling, four review episodes into
season 2, is still clear and the action still gripping.
The Starks’ direwolves are bigger and
more menacing. New characters Melisandre
(Carice Van Houten) and Amazonian warrior Brienne
of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) join other
potent female players, notably Eddard Starks’
two daughters and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia
Clarke), who was last seen emerging naked
from a desert pyre with three baby dragons,
hatched from petrified eggs. Oh, and winter is
coming, along with war.

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