How Will Season 2 Of ‘Game of Thrones’ Handle Governance?

Such is my investment in Game of Thrones that this trailer, which gives us brief looks at the characters looking…basically like themselves without much context, can still get me pretty excited:


I think the biggest question for me will be how the second season of the show handles the themes of governance that are so important to A Clash of Kings. Other than Jon Snow’s attempts to reform the Wall, the struggle between Joffrey and Cersei on one side and Tyrion on the other over how to run King’s Landing — and by extension, the realm — is one of the few experiments in and debates over governing philosophies we ever see in action. Cersei’s devoted all of her efforts to bolstering the hard power of King’s Landing, recruiting new men into the City Watch, spending coin on wildfire, displaying heads on walls, and paying for it all with a tax that’s throttled already constricted trade. Tyrion comes in and shifts the balance, opening up trade, making a deal with the city’s armorers that both bolsters their trade and lets him prepare to wage unconventional warfare, and takes the heads off the walls in an effort to make the regime less savage. He institutes actual diplomatic relations with Dorne, which you think someone else might have considered at some point earlier, given their utterly badass reputation.

He’s not perfect, of course. The riot that sweeps the city is an augury that neither Tyrion or Cersei read fully (much to the latter’s dismay later) — it always surprises me that Cersei and her advisers are caught off-guard by an upswing in religious fervor during times of insecurity. The fact that even the Lannister who loves learning, who actually has the intellectual curiosity to want to see the end of the world, can’t accept what Ser Allister Thorne is telling him about the White Walkers on the border suggests something powerful about the limitations of our collective ability to grapple with the monstrous and unthinkable. And Tyrion is too personal when it comes to reforming the Small Council, failing to appreciate Maester Pycelle’s abilities and connections (and given the scene the show gave us of his secret vigor, I wonder if he might not resist Tyrion more strongly than in the novels).

All in all, it’s a parable for the dangers of allowing your governance to become personal. Tyrion is doomed to failure when his rule becomes as much about discipling Joffrey and proving his father wrong about his abilities. Both are futile tasks. Joffrey’s already a hopeless sadist with an elevated sense of his own wisdom by the time Tyrion gets anywhere close to him. Tywin ultimately turns out to be flexible, but not in ways that lend him strength or reason. King’s Landing might have turned out to be genuinely salvageable, the unbreakable link in a chain of Lannister defenses. But disciplining these three generations of Lannisters or restoring them to decency isn’t a project worth Tyrion’s considerable talents.