Whether it’s a TV show, movie or videogame, second entries don’t have it easy: They are responsible for keeping fans invested and looking forward to the future.
It’s the situation faced by “The Lost Lords,” the second episode of Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones series. While the episode can’t completely escape the pressures of having to follow-up a powerful first episode, “Lords” wisely acts as both a wrap-up to that initial outing while also establishing the major players for the next four episodes in this season.
“Lords” starts off on a note almost entirely absent from the first episode—levity. While Game of Thrones the show has never been the most light-hearted adventure, moments of thrill and humor, even if they are soaked in blood, are needed in a world plagued with brutal war. The episode introduces Asher Forrester, the exiled son currently living out his days in Essos, the land east of Westeros.
Asher is the closest thing to a swashbuckling pirate Game of Thrones may have, and his sequencesare a mix of tense action and just a touch of Jack Sparrow-infused charm. “Lords” doesn’t offer the same chance to delve into Asher’s character as the first episode allowed for the other Forresters, but his captivating introduction delivers a welcome respite from the horrors awaiting the other members of his house.
And perhaps no area in Westeros is as horrific as the Wall, where the game resumes Gared Tuttle’s story. Gared arrives to become a member of the Night’s Watch, a plot line that will unfortunately feel a bit familiar for those who watched Jon Snow’s training on the HBO show. The similarities are at least fitting, as Kit Harrington actually makes an appearance as Snow. It’s unclear exactly how Gared’s story will tie back into the plight of the Forrester clan, and his scenes in “Lords” definitely slow things down, though there’s promise for what may come at the Wall.
King’s Landing delivers much more momentum in the episode, however. Mira Forrester continues to deal with both Margaery Tyrell and the Lannisters while struggling to be away from her family. I thought Mira’s sequences dragged down the proceedings in the first episode, “Iron from Ice,” but her exploits in “Lords” carry much more weight and excitement.
The decisions players make as Mira are perhaps the most difficult in the episode, and whatever path the players choose, her story makes a big, engaging leap forward. Even after completing the episode, my mind continues to frequently drift back to her scenes, wondering if I really left Mira in the best of circumstances.
It’s a shame then that the decision-making requirements in the other locales don’t feel quite as important. Granted, there are four more episodes to play out, and surely some of the choices in “Lords” will factor into them. The pace benefits greatly without too many overly fretful decisions, but the weighty nature of both Westeros and Telltale’s signature system does not feel as intrinsic as it did to the premiere episode. Telltale has a knack for playing into its long game, however, so while those moments may not feel as significant now, they may be essential down the line.
All that isn’t to say that “Lords'” exploration of loss and power isn’t intriguing, particularly with the the surprise playable character at Ironrath. The Ironrath-set scenes may eschew more difficult decisions that the player must face to make room for stirring moments of characterization.
The Forresters lost several members of their family in episode one, and “Lords” takes the proper time for grieving, while also indicating that the family is far from done with their strife. The Ironrath plot ends on a note of hope—hope for vengeance, but hope all the same—that concludes some of the lingering concerns of the house established in “Iron from Ice.”
“The Lost Lords,” while delivering another set of powerful sequences, is perhaps hurt most by its placement in the series. The episode has to simultaneously wrap up a few major plot points from the premiere episode while also advancing and even establishing others. As a result, “Lords” doesn’t quite dig as deep into its characters or settings as it could, and delivers a more streamlined, albeit still incredibly engaging, experience.
But that is the plight of almost any second episode—it has to retain those who fell in love with the first episode while attempting to reassure those who might question whether this is the series for them. And in the cases of Asher’s introduction, Mira’s brutal choices, and even the surprise return in Ironrath, Telltale assures players it has an ambitious and intriguing plan—and now that many plots and themes have been established, it’s time to dig deep into what Telltale hopes to showcase in its so-far thrilling journey through Westeros.