'Game of Thrones' Season 2 Premiere Recap: The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors
'Game of Thrones' Season 2 Premiere Recap: The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Let the battle begin! Game of Thrones season 2 premiered tonight, and the struggle for the Iron Throne is more violent than ever. It's also even better than before. Now that the show has established the characters, locations and stories in season 1, season 2 has the opportunity to really explore this world.

Without missing a beat, the second season continues all the storylines from season 1 and crams six locations and dozens of characters into a beautiful hour of television. There's a comet in the sky that serves as a warning about the rise of dragons, but most characters are too busy dealing with their own issues, like war, missing family members, and the fact that everyone in the Seven Kingdoms now knows about Cersei and Jaime Lannister's twincest.

King's Landing: The New Hand

King Joffrey celebrates his Name Day by making men kill each other (which might be a precursor to the Hunger Games). Sansa does her best to temper his cruelty without being forced to take another trip to the Museum of Her Dead Loved Ones' Heads. Luckily she's saved by everyone's favorite imp, Tyrion, who arrives whistling a jaunty tune.

Tyrion wastes little time being awesome by heading to the Small Council to let his sister Cersei know that he's here and he's the new temporary Hand of the King. She nearly blows a gasket, but he calms her down by revealing that he is quite brilliant when it comes to dealing with people. He's quick to point out that chopping off Ned Stark's head was the worst thing Joffrey possibly could've done (from a P.R. standpoint) and suggests trading the two Stark children for Jaime.

The only problem is that Arya is missing. Tyrion wisely points out that they had three Starks to trade with, but now one is headless and another is missing. Clearly the Lannisters need Tyrion for a whole lot of damage control.

But he's going to have his work cut out for him. After news of Cersei and Jaime's incestuous relationship (and Joffrey being their son) leaks to all corners of the Seven Kingdoms, King Joffrey chats with his mom. Joffrey is obviously threatened and troubled by the news that his uncle might be his daddy, so he insults his mother and asks how many bastard children Robert Baratheon had. Cersei slaps him, and it's about time someone slapped that annoying little brat. Jack Gleeson might be the most underrated actor on Game of Thrones, because he has made Joffrey so intensely hateable that I'm cheering in support of violence against children.

Just when you think killing Ned Stark and threatening to have his own mother executed were the worst things Joffrey could do, the final scenes of the season 2 premiere feature his men traveling across King's Landing in search of Robert's bastard children and executing them. That includes taking a crying infant from its mother's breast and killing it. Sorry, Viserys' golden crown, but there's a new most disturbing image on this show, and it's a man stabbing a baby.

And there's also bad news for Arya and Gendry, because the last thing we see is the old blacksmith giving up the fact that Gendry (aka Robert's bastard son) is on his way to the Night's Watch.

Stark Camp: The King of the North

While Tyrion figures out how best to handle the Stark problem, Robb Stark is busy taunting Jaime with his direwolf, who has become the size of a small horse. Robb may not be the big, strong warrior his father was, but he's clearly a skilled strategist. First he has a Lannister prisoner deliver a proposed treaty that he knows won't be accepted. Second, he agrees to let Theon Greyjoy go back to his home on the Iron Islands to ask his father and his 200 ships to team up with the Starks. Third, he asks his mother to go try and form an alliance with Renly Baratheon and his 100,000-man army. It's good to see he's smart enough to know that everyone who hates the Lannisters should team up to get rid of them.

Dragonstone: Meet the Lord of Light

The biggest obstacle in Robb Stark's "Everyone vs. the Lannisters" plan is Stannis Baratheon, who is not someone to be trifled with. He's Robert's oldest brother and therefore the true heir to the throne given Joffrey's parentage. He lets a scary priestess named Melisandre burn all false gods and idols to declare Stannis the Lord of Light so that he may worship and follow the one true God. Basically, Stannis is Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica and Melisandre is Number Six. If that analogy doesn't help you, go watch BSG, because it's almost as good as Game of Thrones.

We also see that Stannis is a smart guy because he commissions a memo about Jaime Lannister being Joffrey's biological father and sends it to everyone he can think of instead of keeping it a secret like Ned Stark did. However, Stannis is still willing to write in the note that Jaime Lannister is a knight and the Kingslayer, because Stannis respects warriors, even if they are incestuous a-holes.

Winterfell: Presenting Lord Bran
Since Bran is the oldest Stark left in Winterfell, he's now the lord in charge of all the decisions. The kid has definitely stepped up his game, and he seems to be having dreams where he inhabits the body of his direwolf. Bran also chats with his wildling prisoner Osha about the comet in the sky, which represents either an impending Lannister victory, a memorial for Ned Stark or the arrival of dragons. I think we all know what the correct answer is.

The Red Waste: Daenerys and Dragons

Dany and her depleted khalasar are traveling through a desert wasteland, mostly because everyone wants her dead since women aren't supposed to be in charge. Her favorite horse dies and she sends three riders out to search for someplace to go. At least she still has her baby dragons, except she has no idea what to feed them. I'm guessing Dothraki grocery stores don't carry dragon food. As is always the case, the Daenerys storyline exists in an isolated bubble and has absolutely nothing to do with everything else. By the time this girl makes it across the Narrow Sea, all the Starks, Lannisters and Baratheons will be dead.

Beyond the Wall: Welcome to Craster's Keep

The search for Benjen Stark continues as Jon Snow and the rest of the Night's Watch wind up at Craster's Keep, a house belonging to a former member of the Night's Watch who decided to live north of the Wall. He spends all of his time with his wives (who are also his daughters) and threatens to murder any man who dares touch them. This threat is made particularly clear to Jon Snow because he's so damn pretty that I'm guessing women naturally flock to him.

Craster has no idea where Benjen is, but he does let us know that the wildlings north of the Wall have joined forces in support of a new king, Mance Rayder. So just in case Joffrey vs. Renly vs. Stannis vs. Robb vs. Daenerys wasn't enough, now there's this Mnace dude coming down from north of the Wall to fight. I'll hold off judgment until I meet this guy, but I admit that Mance Rayder is the coolest name ever.

Next week on Game of Thrones: Arya and Gendry become BFFs, Theon Greyjoy returns to the Iron Islands and we see the fallout from Joffrey's "kill all the bastards" plan.

(Image courtesy of HBO)