Is Game of Thrones too complicated to enjoy?

Five hopeful kings from seven kingdoms make a play for the throne occupied by the secret child of incestuous twins and... Just try to keep up

In the second season of HBO's "Game of Thrones," King Joffrey will face off against a crowded cast of foes who want his throne... and his head.
(Image credit: HBO/Helen Sloan)

Between Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Justified, and Game of Thrones, a fierce battle is being waged for the title of cable TV's best drama. If critics who previewed the second season premiere of Game of Thrones, which airs Sunday night, are to be believed, HBO's fantasy epic may be poised to take the crown. The series is "brilliant," "elegant," "rich," "fun," and "compelling," they rave. But is it too convoluted? In the new episode, five self-proclaimed heirs challenge the reign of child king Joffrey, who took over the recently vacant throne. Viewers also have to keep track of 44 other characters, according to HBO's website, and follow the storylines relating to past instances of incest, beheadings, betrayals, allegiances, and dragon births. Has the show gotten too complex for its own good?

It's way too confusing: At one point, says Neil Genzlinger at The New York Times, widowed Queen Cersei groans as yet another hopeful king stakes a claim to the throne: "How many is that now? Five? I've lost count." She isn't the only one. It takes more energy than it's worth to keep tabs on the show's many characters, each of whom gets just seconds of screen time. What's worse is that gratuitous scenes of sex and violence cleverly mask the fact that, despite the show having a number of plotlines, not much actually happens. In order to truly be great, Game of Thrones must get past the shallow viewing experience that appeals only to "Dungeons & Dragons types."

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