By Ystyn Francis

Note: Lucy Sweeny and I will be sharing the reviewing of Game of Thrones during Season 2.

No matter how sheer the cliffhanger at the conclusion of a season finale, the lengthy off-season hiatus inevitably dulls the tension writers deftly constructed across the numerous episodes previous. With this in mind, the series return of Game of Thrones successfully serves to solidify all that we may have forgotten while we were away watching lesser fare. In particular, we are reminded that Game of Thrones is possibly one of the darkest shows currently on television, and that Peter Dinklage in his role as Tyrion Lannister is poised to win both the Emmy and Golden Globe awards for Best Supporting Actor in a TV Drama Series for years to come.

After his execution of Eddard Stark late in Season One, the actions of King Joffrey as well as his legitimate right to the throne are under intense scrutiny from various strongholds around the kingdom. As per the episode’s title, Robb is declared King in the North by his people and begins preparations for war against the Lannisters who killed his father, paralyzed his younger brother, Bran, and have his sisters Sansa and Arya captive. Meanwhile, in other far flung corners of the land, Stannis and Renley Baratheon, the brothers of the late king, both lay claim to the throne, the former allowing the ancient gods of his people to be burned by the prophetess Melisandre in order to utilize her dark powers in battle. As the wooden idols burn on the windy sea shore at night, the scene is as terrifyingly dark as it is aesthetically beautiful.

The darkness entrenched in “The North Remembers” is further accentuated beyond The Wall as Jon Snow and his fellow Black Brothers seek information and shelter from a polygamist man who marries his own daughters, and when Joffrey catches wind of the rumours regarding his ‘real’ parents, he sends soldiers to slay the bastard children of Robert, babies included. It hardly makes for uplifting viewing.

So thank goodness for Tyrion Lannister. While certainly not immune to the horrors at hand, it is Tyrion’s approach to adversity that injects vital levity into proceedings and thus saves “The North Remembers” from being an episode far too bleak to watch purely for entertainment’s sake. His cynicism, cheekiness and nonchalance is played with such bravado by Dinklage that it establishes a more appropriate balance and is nicely offset against the diabolical acts of man (and woman) that are at the heart of Game of Thrones. However, it remains to be seen whether Tyrion as the new Hand of the King can do enough to stop winter coming.