THE CHANGE: Just like poor old muttonchop enthusiast Ser Rodrik Cassel, the Winterfell storyline took a lot of little cuts rather than just one or two big ones. A handful of important characters never show up – Jojen and Meera Reed, the teen children of Ned Stark’s swamp-dwelling bannerman and best friend; Big Walder Frey and Little Walder Frey, descendants of the irasciable Lord of the Crossing whose daughter Robb is sworn to marry; Reek, a foul-smelling serial killer locked up in Winterfell’s dungeons – and it’s left to mainstays like Bran, Osha, and Theon to fill in the gaps.
THE VERDICT: I miss Reek and the Reeds (fuck the Walders), I don’t know why Osha had to seduce Theon to escape, and just like in Season One I think Bran’s budding psychic powers have been drastically underplayed. But these are mostly minor complaints, washed away in the magnificent sequence in which Theon conquers Winterfell, cements his rule, and most likely seals his own doom by killing Ser Rodrik. Both Rodrik’s death and the botched beheading come from different parts of the books involving different executioners, but using them here made perfect thematic sense and created the second season’s most powerful sequence.