Review: Game of Thrones: Episode 2 – Watchers on The Wall
If the first episode of Telltale Games’ video game adaptation of Game of Thrones, “Iron from Ice,” was all about setting up the game board and (re)introducing us to the world of Westeros, the episodic adventure’s second episode is all about moving the pieces.
While an imminent future for House Forrester, the main protagonists of Telltale’s tale, is not quite foreseeable just yet, is all about setting up a big play — whether it ends up being in House Forrester’s favor or setting up their imminent failure.
Following the shocking ending of “Iron from Ice,” the second episode of Game of Thrones titled “The Lost Lords” moves around the game board and sets players up for a very different type of game.
Given the dense nature of the world and after Episode 1 provided a swift but detailed introduction to the members of House Forrester, “The Lost Lords” instead focuses on getting the ball rolling; new players are introduced, more house politics and rivalries are explored, and even more blood has been shed and violence enacted on those both good and bad.
After Episode 1 ended in a heart-rending cliffhanger for the members of House Forrester, Episode 2 moves around quickly (and effectively) between those we have already met, such as Mira Forrester serving Margaery Tyrell in King’s Landing, and squire Gared Tuttle making his trek to Castle Black to serve on The Wall as exile.
While Episode 2 moves both Mira and Gared’s stories forward to some shocking (and mostly satisfying) degrees, it notably introduces lots of new faces both familiar and brand new, making it a thrilling and always varying episode if only for that reason.
Bouncing between the Forrester’s home of Ironrath, to the beautiful and sun-kissed King’s Landing, to the series’ first trip to the city of Yunkai on Essos, “The Lost Lords” moves briskly between the stories of Mira, Gared, the newly-returned (and critically injured) Rodrik, and heading over to exiled son Asher in Yunkai, keeping the pacing (mostly) consistent and weaving politics and betrayals that Game of Thrones is so well-known for.
Starting with an action-packed close quarters brawl with Asher and new character Beshka, the Essos-equivalent of fan-favorite Brienne of Tarth in the HBO series but still a complete badass in her own right, the second episode kicks thing off tensely and excitingly.
Featuring far more action compared to Episode 1, the previous episode featured great moments of quiet tension compared to what this one often puts on offer, but the relatively quick pace and action, which features one of Telltale’s best combat sequences yet right at the beginning, truly makes the game feel like the show — where one slip can end in disastrous, and often fatal, consequences for all.
Coming into the debut of this series, Telltale Games already faced an uphill battle in adapting Game of Thrones for an interactive adventure by trying to keep the game feeling like the distinctive world of the television series, and yet also making the game series its own by crafting an original story around an already-established universe.
While Episode 1 introduced House Forrester alongside a host of recognizable faces from the TV series, sometimes distractingly so, “The Lost Lords” successfully has started to build the Forrester’s tale into one that is gripping and worth exploring well on its own.
While the appearances of beloved characters like Tyrion Lannister, Margaery Tyrell, and the great inclusion of Jon Snow in the second episode, firmly establish the game within the world as seen on the TV screen, Telltale’s game adaptation has finally started to come into its own and making House Forrester’s tale as equally engaging.
Rather than copy-pasting the archetypes established by the loyal and empathetic House Stark of the TV series, each member of the Forrester clan has grown compared to their brief introductions in the first episode, making their life-or-death decisions (and their own mortality) much more vital to the experience.
Telltale has been expanding the character development for each member of House Forrester and making it a welcome experience, with the sole exception being Asher Forrester. He quickly proves his skills in combat, yet his story comes in a bit underdeveloped compared to Mira or Gared, though being introduced in this episode there is plenty of room to develop him beyond combat.
Having faced a bad situation at the beginning of the previous episode, Rodrik Forrester comes across with more development and sympathy, having been newly-crowned as the lord of House Forrester following the events of “Iron from Ice.”
Out of Episode 2‘s cast of characters, Rodrik’s story thread easily stood out not only for having to choose being submissive or overbearing in many situations, but in that many of my instances from the previous episode, especially in the scenarios with Ethan, weighing largely on my conscious.
Faced with the guilt of past actions and not wanting to force myself into corners were history repeated itself, having to make the same hard decisions as Ethan in the first episode but being forced to approach them in different ways highlighted exactly what makes the world of Game of Thrones so unique, in which good people are forced to make bad decisions, to avoid even worse consequences.
Likewise, “The Lost Lords” successfully builds on the story lines of Mira and Gared, building Mira’s story into one with critical decisions for the future of House Forrester and likewise making Gared’s tale a more personal and intimate story of loyalty and service, no matter what the costs may be.
Mira’s storyline continues the critical decisions of loyalty toward House Forrester while also serving Margaery faithfully, often putting each of these forces at odds with one another and leading to a shocking twist. Likewise, Gared’s journey to Castle Black brings those glued to the TV series back to a familiar location.
While Gared’s journey closely mimics that of Jon Snow’s own venture to The Wall, his appearance here is excellent and serves Gared’s story well, continuing Telltale’s use of established characters as more than just glorified cameos as they actually propel the story.
As much as this episode is mostly well-paced, the weakest aspects come from some repetitive scenarios from the first episode, alongside some odd moments of pacing in between the episode’s general quick speed.
In particular, one of Mira’s key decisions in this episode comes down to a question of loyally serving Margaery Tyrell or betraying her trust, an element of Mira’s story already touched upon in “Iron from Ice” and one that feels rehashed in the second episode.
Mira’s story has easily been one of the highlights of the series so far — especially with her story’s path at the end of Episode 2 — but coming across a situation that very closely mirrored one from Episode 1 felt like traveling the same road, rather than taking Mira’s dynamic with Margaery to somewhere new.
Likewise, Gared’s storyline at The Wall takes shape as a far slower-paced journey compared to that of Mira, Rodrik, or Asher, leading to a few sequences that feel like a drag compared to the more breakneck sections involving Asher or even Mira.
Again, like Episode 1, a lot of this is meant as build-up: though players of the game are well aware of The Wall, Jon Snow, and the aspects of The Night’s Watch, some of Gared’s moments in the story such as his training sequence with members of Castle Black, slow the story down a bit aside from the constant shifting that “The Lost Lords” provides.
Aside from its slower moments, Gared’s story still impresses with Jon Snow’s appearance and some truly scenic landscapes that really show off the game’s oil painting-esque visuals.
With players now one-third of the way through the series and four episodes to go, Telltale Games’ rendition of Game of Thrones closely mirrors the show, for better and for worse. As the game series is showing many of the qualities that some deride the show for (excessive violence, often slow pacing), Telltale is hitting the target far more often than missing.
While Game of Thrones has yet to give a definitive vision of what the future holds for House Forrester (and knowing the series and George R.R. Martin’s inclinations it probably isn’t going to be good) Episode 2 of its game adaptation still shows that their tale is worth sticking through to the end, even if it may mean paying the iron price for it.