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"The North Remembers" is the first episode of the second season of HBO's fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and its 11th episode overall. First aired on April 1, 2012, it was written by the show creators and executive producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, and directed by returning director Alan Taylor.
With a war on the horizon, the Seven Kingdoms are witnessing an ever-growing clash of kings. The boy king Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) sits on the Iron Throne guided by cruelty and deceit, while his honorable counterpart Robb Stark (Richard Madden) of the North heads south to avenge his father's death. Meanwhile, the late king Robert Baratheon's estranged brother Stannis (Stephen Dillane) emerges as yet another claimant to the throne. A frantic search for King Robert's bastard sons ensues, while the Queen sets to find the missing Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) in order to retrieve her lover and brother Jaime, now a captive to the Starks.
"The North Remembers" received universal acclaim from critics, who noted Tyrion Lannister's development as a key player as a highlight of the episode. In the United States, the episode achieved a viewership of 3.86 million in its initial broadcast. The episode introduced a number of new cast members, including Stephen Dillane's Stannis Baratheon, Carice van Houten's Melisandre and Liam Cunningham as "the onion knight" Davos Seaworth. It also featured a number of new locations, both fictional and real, most notably the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, which served as the capital city of King's Landing. It received a great amount of critical praise, with critics welcoming the new set of characters, which they saw as a great addition. The episode went on to win an American Society of Cinematographers for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in One-Hour Episodic Television Series.Contents
The eldest living brother of the late King Robert, Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), announces himself as rightful heir to the Iron Throne. From his court at the island of Dragonstone, he sends a letter to all the corners of the Seven Kingdoms announcing that Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella Baratheon are not Robert's true heirs, but rather the products of incest between Cersei Lannister and her twin brother Jaime. Stannis refuses to seek an alliance with Robb Stark or Renly Baratheon, despite the advice of his advisor Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), because he sees them as usurpers; Stannis insists that all will bend the knee to him or be destroyed.
Stannis's maester, Cressen, is preoccupied with his lord's decisions and especially with the influence that the foreign priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten) has over him. Having come under the influence of the Red Priestess and her god, the Lord of Light R'hllor, Stannis has even converted to the new religion and has ordered the burning of the statues of the Westerosi Seven Gods. Willing to sacrifice himself for Stannis's sake, Cressen puts poison in a cup and asks Melisandre to drink from it after he has done so. While he dies almost immediately, the priestess swallows the entire cup unaffected.In the Riverlands
King of the North Robb Stark (Richard Madden) visits his prisoner Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), informing Jaime that Robb has received Stannis' letter about Cersei's children being Jaime's, and surmises that his brother Bran was crippled and his father was killed because they had discovered this themselves. Robb also informs Jaime that he intends to send Jaime's cousin, Alton Lannister, who also has been captured by the Northern army, to King's Landing with terms for peace. His demands include the release of his sisters Sansa and Arya, the return of the remains of Eddard and his household for proper burial, and the acknowledgement of the Northern independence.
Although he has defeated the Lannisters three times on the battlefield, Robb knows that he cannot beat them alone. For this reason, he reluctantly agrees to send Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) to his father, Lord Balon Greyjoy, to convince Lord Greyjoy to join them with all the naval force of the Iron Islands. While his mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) wishes to return to Winterfell to be with her sons Bran and Rickon, Robb asks her to travel to Renly's court to negotiate an alliance. Catelyn tells Robb that his father would be proud of what Robb has accomplished, but warns him that Balon Greyjoy is not to be trusted.At Winterfell
Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is learning how to be the Lord of Winterfell while his older brother is away at war. He has a strange dream, where he sees himself as Summer, his direwolf, running in the Godswood. The next morning, he goes to the Godswood with Osha (Natalia Tena), who tries to pry about his dreams, but Bran ignores her questions. The pair notice a comet in the sky; Bran remarks that the men claim it is an omen of victory for one side or another in the war, but Osha insists it means one thing: dragons have returned.Beyond the Wall
The ranging party that set out from Castle Black reaches Craster's Keep, a settlement some distance north of the Wall. Craster (Robert Pugh) provides information on the wildlings and their leader, King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder, claiming that Rayder is amassing an army in the mountains, larger than any south of the Wall, and intends to move south. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo) offers leadership advice to Jon Snow (Kit Harington) due to Jon's disgust that Craster has taken his daughters as his wives.In the Red Waste
With the remnants of Khal Drogo's khalasar, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) crosses the Red Waste hoping to find shelter. The trip is hard, with her newborn dragons unwilling to eat the meat they are offered, and horses dying of exhaustion. Finally, Daenerys sends riders on their remaining horses to explore in three separate directions.In King's Landing
During a series of combats held to celebrate King Joffrey Baratheon's (Jack Gleeson) name day, the captive Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) saves the drunkard Ser Dontos Hollard's life by convincing Joffrey to make him a fool instead of killing him. The festivities are interrupted by the arrival of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), who has been sent to the capital to act as Hand of the King in his father's stead. Cersei (Lena Headey) is furious, but accepts the new situation after her brother assures her that he will only act as an advisor. When Tyrion learns that Cersei has let Arya Stark escape after the execution of her father, he mocks her for throwing away two valuable hostages, as he'd planned to trade the girls for Jaime.
King Joffrey confronts his mother with Stannis' letter. Immediately after, the City Watch murders all of King Robert's illegitimate children that they can find, though it is not clear who gave the order. Gendry (Joe Dempsie), one of King Robert's bastards, is already out of the city, but his former master smith reveals that he is in a caravan travelling to the Wall. Unknown to the Lannisters, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is also travelling in that caravan.Production Writing
The episode was written by producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, based on the original work of George R. R. Martin. As the second season covers mostly A Clash of Kings, the second book of the series, the first episode adapts the material from the first chapters of the book including the Prologue, Sansa I, Tyrion I, Bran I, Catelyn I, Davos I, the first half of Daenerys I and Jon III (chapters 1, 3–5, 7, 10, 12, and 23). Two chapters from the beginning of the book had already been included in season 1's finale, while Jon Snow's story is being pushed forward.Casting Stephen Dillane and Carice van Houten joined the cast as Stannis Baratheon and the red priestess Melisandre.
This episode introduces several prominent characters, most notably Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), and Melisandre (Carice van Houten). The three of them represent the head of an entirely new storyline that intertwines with other plotlines as the season progresses. Other recurring characters introduced in this episode are drunken knight Ser Dontos Hollard (Tony Way), the Starks' captive Alton Lannister (Karl Davies), Melisandre's opponent Maester Cressen (Oliver Ford Davies), Davos's son Matthos Seaworth (Kerr Logan), Night's Watch member Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton), Wildling Craster (Robert Pugh), and his daughter and wife Gilly (Hannah Murray).
The episode also marks the upgrade of several returning characters to the main cast. John Bradley-West returns as Jon Snow's friend Sam Tarly, James Cosmo as the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch Jeor Mormont, Jerome Flynn as Tyrion's cunning servant Bronn, with Sibel Kekilli as Tyrion's concubine Shae, and lastly Conleth Hill as the gossiping eunuch Varys. Peter Dinklage takes the place of Sean Bean as the first credit during the intro sequence. Since Bean's character was killed at the end of last season, Dinklage jokingly wished that he could stay being the lead credit for some time.Filming locations Downhill Strand was used to represent a beach of the island of Dragonstone, where the statues of the Seven were burned.
The production continued using the Paint Hall studios as the filming headquarters and the Northern Irish landscapes for many of the exterior shots. The burning of the Seven was filmed at the beach of Downhill Strand, where local press echoed the stir that the filming caused to the small community of Castlerock. Craster's keep beyond the Wall was built in a forest in Clandeboye Estate. David Benioff and D. B. Weiss stated in their audio commentary track that while most scenes set north of the Wall were filmed in Iceland, the Craster's Keep scenes were filmed in Northern Ireland, as the lack of significant tree growth in Iceland prevented them filming forest scenes there. The closing sequence, of a caravan heading north along the Kingsroad, bringing Arya to Winterfell and Robert Baratheon's illegitimate son Gendry and the other passengers onward to Castle Black, was shot at the "Dark Hedges", an avenue of gnarly beech trees near Armoy, County Antrim.Joffrey's name day tourney was filmed at Fort Lovrijenac.
For the exteriors of the capital city of King's Landing, that had been doubled for Malta for the entire season 1, now the production flew to the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. Known as The Pearl of the Adriatic, the city proved to be a good representation of King's Landing since it shared many characteristics with the fictional capital: it had a well-preserved medieval look, with high walls and the sea at its side. According to David Benioff, executive producer of the show, "The minute we started walking around the city walls we knew that was it. You read the descriptions in the book and you come to Dubrovnik and that's what the actual city is. It has the sparkling sea, sun and beautiful architecture."
The first scene of the episode, depicting the celebration of King Joffrey's name day, was filmed on Dubrovnik's Fort Lovrijenac (also called St. Lawrence Fortress). The later debate about the nature of power between Cersei and Littlefinger also takes place in its porch, and in the final montage with the killing of the bastards the Old City of Dubrovnik and its famed walls can be clearly seen.
The scenery in Daenerys's desert scenes was filled in with CGI; however, the production filmed desert scenes in Morocco in Season Three.Reception Ratings
The viewership of the episode on its premiere airing in the US rose to a new series' top of 3.858 million viewers, with a rating of 2.0 in the relevant 18-49 demographic on HBO. Taking into account the additional airings of the night the number of viewers totaled 6.3 million. In the United Kingdom, the episode was seen by 0.928 million viewers on Sky Atlantic, being the channel's highest-rated broadcast that week.Critical reception
The episode received universal critical acclaim. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes surveyed 15 reviews of the episode and judged 100% of them to be positive, with an average score of 8.5 out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads, "'The North Remembers' underscores Joffrey's capacity for cruelty and Tyrion's development as a key player in a compelling sophomore season opener." Matt Fowler of IGN rated the episode 9 out of 10. The A.V. Club gave it B+. Alan Sepinwall, who reviewed the episode for HitFix, called it "a great beginning. Funny in spots, scary in others, never blinking away from the cruelty of this world and this war."
Andy Greenwald of Grantland praised the episode for its new additions of Dillane and Van Houten, its setup of later episodes, and its themes. "It's also evident that the second year of Thrones, if not the remainder of the series, is about a race to fill what may well be an impossible vacuum. Everything feels thrillingly unsettled, as if the rules are constantly changing and the biggest prize may actually be a booby trap." Luke Broadwater, writing for The Baltimore Sun, enjoyed Tyrion's increased role, referring to him as the new lead of the series after the death of Eddard Stark (Sean Bean). He thought that the episode "excelled in underscoring Joffrey's cruelty...and Tyrion's humor and growth as a character." However, his commentary was not all positive; the reviewer criticized the scene in which Littlefinger threatens Cersei and thought that Maester Cressen should have been kept alive longer. In her recap of the episode, Jenifer D Braun of The Star-Ledger wrote that the episode contained the sex and violence that the show had had in its first season and stated, "Man, I missed this show, didn't you?"
Sarah Hughes of The Guardian was very complimentary towards the episode as a season premiere, remarking that "The season opener deftly covers a huge amount of scene-setting while introducing a host of new characters." In addition, she praised the episode's adaptation of the source novels for including a large number of important scenes and storylines with minimal filler. " this was a leanly written episode, which tackled a huge amount of exposition and scene-setting but never wasted a word." Nina Shen Rastogi, writing for Vulture, thought that the episode served as both a redefinition of the plot and an reintroduction of the first seasons's themes of violence and succession. She wrote, "from the very first scene of last night's season premiere, GoT strove to reassure us that some things would never change." Simon Abrams of Slant Magazine lauded "The North Remembers" as a "thematically focused" episode on the subject of good leadership. He enjoyed how each of the rulers were developed in the premiere and hoped that the rest of the season "can keep up with its premiere's big ideas."Accolades
This episode won an American Society of Cinematographers for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in One-Hour Episodic Television Series.References