We’ve developed a trend here on this blog. If you want a basic idea of what some show is about without getting any real spoilers, you need to check out the very first review that I ever did for said show, and that rule holds the same for Game of Thrones which I’ve determined after just two episodes now has the potential to be the best new TV show since Lost and The Wire. There are going to be plenty of spoiler-iffic things discussed in this review/recap so I warned you.

This episode picks up an unspecified but not particularly long amount of time after the end of the last episode, which climaxed with the news that the old “Hand of the King” may have been murdered by the Lannisters and with Jaime Lannister tossing young Bran Stark out of an incredibly high tower after he caught Jaime and his twin sister the queen, Cersei, having sex in the tower. This episode has three main story lines. It follows Jon, Ned Stark’s bastard son, starting off his new life as a member of the Night Watch, an elite group that guards the Wall with the unruled North. He is joined on this expedition, temporarily, by my favorite character on the show, Tyrion Lannister, the queen’s brother, the dwarf. It follows the beginning of the journey from Winterfell back to King’s Landing for Ned and his brood as well as the King and his family now that Ned is the new Hand of the King. The third story line focuses on Ned’s wife Catelyn, who suspects that Bran’s fall, which he survived, was no accident after an assassin comes in the night to try and kill Bran. I guess there’s a fourth storyline which focuses on Daenerys’s new life as Khal Drogo’s wife and her life with the Dothraki.

This episode incredibly managed to up the dramatic tension of the pilot and managed to fill every scene with a sense of paranoia and dread. This series takes moral ambiguity to the kind of levels that I expect from a David Simon docudrama not a fantasy series and it’s fantastic. I always feel like I have to intellectually defend my love of fantasy settings and worlds and for once, I no longer have to feel that way toward this show because it as smartly written as anything else on TV. God bless HBO for having the balls to take on this task because the show looks ridiculously expensive and a high-brow fantasy series has to be a huge gamble for them, but since it’s already been renewed for a second season, I think the gamble is probably paying off.

After two episodes (and the limited amount that I’ve read from the book), I’ve already staked out who are my favorite characters on the show. Tyrion Lannister is heads and away the best character on the show. He’s hilarious, wise, and you never quite know what to expect from him. He’s quickly moving up the ranks of one of my favorite HBO characters ever but we’ll have to give him more time on the show to really see that. Jon Snow is my favorite of the Stark brood, even if he doesn’t have Stark’s name. He seems like the child with the best head on his shoulders yet he still manages to carry around enough bitterness and anger to keep him interesting and not perfect. Daenerys Targaryen’s journey from girl to woman will be very satisfying, and I can’t wait to see where they take Arya Stark, the tomboy and youngest daughter of Ned. She attacked the crown prince in the last episode to defend a commoner. She’s got some heart and I can’t wait to see more from her.

Basically, you need to watch this show. It’s got everything that I love about a great HBO show like The Wire or Oz. It’s got tons of drama. It’s got a huge ensemble cast. At any point, I’m fairly certain that any of the major characters has the potential to die. The line between good and evil is blurry as hell if it exists at all. I’m hooked on this show. Having access to HBO nearly ruins my ability to watch TV programs on regular network TV. If George R. R. Martin didn’t suddenly start writing a terrible book halfway through this door-stopper of a novel, then this show is pretty much going to be the best new show in years, guaranteed.

Winter is Coming.

Episode Score: A