Pompeii felt like a Roland Emmerich disaster film but with plots from Titanic and Gladiator. It spewed more terrible, lazy dialog at me than the titular volcano spewed fireballs. Every plot point felt forced, it was riddled with anachronisms, and the sets looked fake and/or obvious CG. Kit Harrington perpetually wore his signature befuddled look, and Kiefer Sutherland hammed up his performance so much I think he thought it was a comedy. And the actual volcanic disaster part of the plot was hidden behind boring sword-and-sandal cliches until I could no longer be bothered to care.
The animation was fantastic, the new dragons fun, and the story well-plotted, but none of it felt nearly as funny or clever as the first film. It also had some odd pacing, with the slower dramatic family moments clashing with the central conflict’s foreboding urgency. If I wasn’t so distracted with comparing it to its predecessor, I’m sure I would’ve been enthralled, especially by the dragon battles, but it just couldn’t surpass that strong precedent.
This season’s “All men must die” tagline certainly proved apt, and the show continued to reenforce how choosing favorite characters is not a good idea. The Red Wedding from last season saw the deaths of many major players, but not since Season 1 have we seen so many fall, and in such creative, satisfying ways. The full-episode battle at The Wall was easily the best battle scene I’ve watched on television. There were of course plenty of great performances, especially The Hound, Tywin, and predictably, Tyrion. Lots of interesting developments left most characters at the ends of arcs, so that the season felt wrapped up, but with plenty of intriguing uncertainty about where things will go from here.
It’s nearly impossible to review this season without focusing on the divisive penultimate episode. While it can be argued that it crossed too far past “bold” or “daring” into something more akin to “sensationalist”, no one should claim it was boring. But the lead up to that beautiful episode had loads of fantastic moments too. Jamie underwent some interesting character “growth” and Peter Dinklage further showed why he earned his accolades. Arya continued to entertain, mostly due to her hanging out with the coolest minor characters on the show. Daenerys had a great moment of badassery mid-season but then her story got a bit redundant.
There was quite a different tone than season 1; with significantly more magical goings-on. Though I enjoyed the first season more, I think that may have been from watching it all in one sitting, rather than weekly as I did this time around. The stakes seemed higher this season, but the consequences weren’t as dramatic. There were some incredible moments though, especially in the penultimate episode (written by Martin himself.) I loved some of the new characters, anxiously wondering about their inevitable demises. The wait for season 3 will be painful.
Like most shows with such a numerous cast, it took a bit to establish each of the characters, but they did so quickly enough that I wasn’t ever lost. Lots of different plot lines with different emotional underscores melded seamlessly as I discovered the goals and faults of all the various central characters. I raged at the characters I was supposed to hate, felt for those for whom sympathy was expected, and celebrated those who I couldn’t help but root for. I eagerly await season two.