This post contains spoilers for the first two seasons of Game of Thrones.
I should preface this post by saying that I have not read A Clash of Kings, the second book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire & Ice saga. I made the decision a few months before the season started that I would read each book after the corresponding season. While I did enjoy the first book, A Game of Thrones, I would rather be surprised by the HBO show than the books. I would rather care about what’s on the screen than constantly be thinking about what’s different and what they left out. I don’t want to hear, “It makes sense in the book.” The show should be able to stand alone.
While the second season had a lot of strong episodes and performances, I don’t think it was better than the first. The last two episodes, “Blackwater” and “Valar Morghulis,” contained the best and worst of the series. Spending all of “Blackwater” in one location for Stannis’ (Stephen Dillane) attack on King’s Landing was a wise decision that led to a tense, well-plotted episode. I think the price of that great episode was paid for in “Valar Morghulis.” That episode was a mess, bouncing from place to place in five to seven minute bursts. Even the extra ten minutes didn’t help as everything still felt rushed. I kept hearing that A Clash of Kings was the worst book. I didn’t believe it until I saw that last episode. The reveal of the White Walkers at the end wasn’t enough to salvage it.