The action ramps up while audiences learn about Westeros.
You’re probably getting tired of hearing good things about The Game of Thrones, but as cynical as I am it’s difficult to find issue with it beyond the nitpicks I’ve already shared.
One issue that some others have had with the show is that little of the background politics and geography are explained. There were even some important characters, like Theon, who had been shown, but never really introduced. The last two episodes have fixed a lot of that, without sacrificing the action.
Some important points of history and knowledge of the houses has been delivered via carefully crafted dialog and lessons for the children.
Of particular education was Bran’s lesson with the maps while he watched Theon practice his bowmanship. He went over the families and their words with Winterfell’s Maester, and made clear some of the reticence in the kingdom, though he refused to speak the Lannister’s words, which is telling in itself.
The conversation between Theon and Tyrion was telling as weel, giving the audience our first real introduction to the boy, and planting the seeds for the Greyjoy ploting which will come later.
Similarly, the audience learns much of the Tully history and allegiances in Cat’s speech at the inn where she arrests Tyrion, pointing out some of the families which will become more important later, even making a jib and the matrimonial success of Lord Walder of Frey.
Most interesting, however is the depiction of the crazed Lysa Arryn, sitting on her discordant throne with her adolescent son at her breast.
Her madness is made more clear here than it ever was in the books, I think. I mean: I got that she was a bit off, but this lady is pure loopy, and it comes off skillfully.
Her open air dungeon is also different than it had originally struck my mind’s eye. I had pictured it, from the text, as a flaw in the building; a dungeon room which had come to the open air by some masonic accident. It’s clear here that it was designed this way.
As I said, however, the action doesn’t suffer for this clear exposition and detailing.
Even having read the story from the pages of the novels, I still find myself holding my breath several times each episode as the conflicts assert themselves, and sympathizing with the characters for their losses. Perhaps even more for knowing what’s coming soon.