Sunday night marked the highly anticipated return of HBO’s Game of Thrones series and it did not disappoint. When we last saw the various Lords and Highborns of George R.R. Martin’s Westeros Kingdom there was chaos. King Robert Baratheon was dead, his son Joffrey sat on the throne, and three other Lords had declared themselves King. That kind of power vacuum calls for chaos.

The North Remembers, being a season premier, spent most of its time Sunday updating us on the plight of our favorite characters and setting up their season two story arcs. While that left us with very little action, it did manage to whet the appetite for the season to come. The episode touched on all the old characters and a few new ones, but it mainly focused on the capital of King’s Landing and the Lannisters.

The show opened with the young and cruel King Joffrey watching a tournament where his personal protector, The Hound, punished some unlucky knight before knocking him off a ledge. Watching with King Joffrey was Sansa Stark, who is still engaged to Joffrey, albeit against her will. She looked miserable and coldly answered any question asked of her.

It’s clear that she has learned to say whatever it is she thinks the King wants to hear.

Joffrey started the series as a wimpy little kid, and in many ways he is still that, but we got a glimpse of what kind of King he would be last season as he killed Ned Stark. The opening scenes proved that he has not softened any. He tried to drown the foolish knight Ser Dontas Hollard in wine after he showed up to the tournament drunk. He was stopped by Sansa, who reminded the King that killing someone on their name day was bad luck. She suggested that Ser Dontas might make a better fool. Joffrey agreed, thus saving Ser Dontas’ life.

Later in the episode Joffrey accused his mother, Queen Cersi, of not pleasing his late father which forced him to father several bastards throughout the capital city. Cersi has never been one who takes being spoken too that way and slapped the young King in public. Joffrey did not like that and reminded her that what she did was punishable by death and that she better never do it again.

This was an intense scene as the young king tries to pull away from the influence of his mother, and sets up some ripe drama down the road.

Tyrion Lannister, played by the brilliant Peter Dinklage, returns to King’s Landing to serve as Hand of the King. He surprises Joffrey at his tournament and then interrupts a small council meeting to inform them of the news. Queen Cersi, his sister, is furious with the news. Tyrion, the Imp, has not lost his sharp tongue or stunning wit. He clearly has a rivalry with his sister which will be played out this season and has plans for King’s Landing. In a scene where he is lounging around with his “girlfriend” Shae, he mentions the bed is hard and “is one of the many things we must change”. This is clearly a message, saying he is not going to be sitting idly by this season.

As the best character on the show, this is good news for the rest of us.

Queen Cersi, perhaps still burned by the appearance of her brother later asks Littlefinger to find the missing Ayra Stark on behalf of the realm. He balks and lets on that he knows the secret of the Queen’s incestuous affair with her brother. He tells the Queen that “knowledge is power” in a way of letting her know that he will not be pushed around. Cersi orders her guards to seize him and to slit his throat. Her guards obey only to have her stop them just before they kill Littlefinger. She then has them back away, turn around and close their eyes before smiling at Littlefinger and saying “Power is Power.” This scene may have been the strongest of the night. It showed the cunning of Queen Cersi who is not to be messed with, a lesson Littlefinger now knows.

One of the strongest parts of Martin’s story is the vast worlds full of deep characters. This episode gave us a glimpse of some new people who are going to play big roles. First the show took us to the island of Dragonstone where the red-haired priestess Millasandre is preaching about “the Lord of Light” while several statues of the old gods burn behind her. Dragonstone is the home of Stannis Baratheon who has also named himself King. Millasandre has convinced him that he is destined to rule the seven kingdoms. On that beach and on his council is also Ser Davos Seaworth, Stannis’ right hand man, who seems nervous about the whole thing.

North of the wall the Night’s Watch, including Jon Snow, come upon Craster’s Keep, the creepy home of the Wilding Craster and his daughter-wives. Commander Mormont speaks with Craster to find out information about where the Wildings, and their “King” Mance Rayder have gone to. Craster doesn’t like the looks of Jon and warns him to stay away from his wives before telling Mormont that Raydar has amassed an army of Wildings and plans on marching South with them. This news seems to unsettle Mormont.

We also get updates on Robb Stark and his army as well. They still have Jamie Lannister captive and tied up in a cage, Robb decides to send Theon Greyjoy to his homeland to convince his father to ally with the Starks, he dispatches his mother Catelyn Stark to call upon King Robb’s other brother, Renly (who also is now a King) for an alliance and he sends his terms of peace to the Lannisters. It’s a peace he knows they won’t accept as it calls for them to recognize he is King of the North and to never set foot there again. In this scene we see how Robb has grown into a fierce commander who is tough and determined to win.

In the desert Daenerys, and what is left of her followers, wander to search for a city. Her dragons are growing and as her horse dies, she dispatches four of her riders in each direction to find something, a city, a caravan, anything that will save them. We don’t get too many scenes in the first episode of Daeny, but it will be fun to watch the dragons grow and see what becomes of their plight.

The show ended with a grim tone as the new boy King sent his soldiers around the city to round up all of King Robert’s bastards and snuff them out. This gave us a harsh reminder of how grim Game of Thrones can be at times, as the first bastard they killed was just a baby. The show ended with the last one, Gendry, riding a cart headed North with Arya Stark. This is the only time we see Arya, who now has an entire kingdom looking for her.

With as little action as there was in this episode you know that the producers of the show will make up for it in later episodes. If you have read the book you know of the events that this season will ultimately climax with, and you also have to be happy with how HBO has set up all the great story lines to come.

In memorium:

Each week promises to take some characters away from us. We remember those now. This week it was the poor knight killed by the Hound at the King’s tournament. Even though we never saw his face, we will miss him.

We also lost Maester Cresson at Dragonstone who tried first to stop Millasandre from burning the gods to later trying to poison her, only to have her reverse the potion on him. Poor Cresson, we only got to enjoy you for this one episode.

Last, but not least, we remember the poor bastards that King Joffrey killed. There were at least three of them and they did no harm in the world. Such a shame to see them taken.

Home Culture Game of Thrones Recap: Episode 201, The North Remembers