This is one of the few (perhaps only) shows I've ever watched all the way through to the second season in which I've hated the overwhelming majority of the characters. I find myself anticipating horrible deaths for most of the characters in the series.
The few characters I like, I love. Snow, Dany, Tyrion, etc. I actually feel like rooting for them.
But I also root for death and/or pain to be bestowed on...pretty much everyone else. With a few exceptions, of course. Starting to sorta like Robb, for example.
Even with characters I utterly despise and find to be vile, the writing has invested me enough to actively wish for them to die. I cannot say any show has ever done the same. Usually, if I hate a majority of characters in a show, I just turn that shit off. But this draws you in. Gives you good reason to hate Littlefinger or Cersi or Joffrey.
The only problem I'm having with the show is the amount of characters just recently introduced. I find I don't really give a shit about what happens to Stannis or Theon's dad and so forth. This is true of characters who've been on the show a while, like Renly. I'd prefer to see more screentime devoted to Snow or Dany or Arya. I know that Stannis was mentioned last season, and that he didn't just come out of the blue. But he feels as if he did. Same with the Greyjoy family tree.
I imagine that, in the books, there is much more time and space to devote to all the characters, because they don't have to squeeze scenes down to fit an hour-long format. And you can't just...not put these characters into the show, since they're in the books.
But man, this has got to be a major obstacle to viewers who jumped on in the second season. This happened to my boss's girlfriend. He's into the show as much as I am, and she was interested but never had the chance to watch. A few weeks ago, they sat down to watch the second season, and it was just character overload for her. It wasn't able to hold her interest.
This really isn't the sort of show where you can just jump in without having viewed prior episodes, but I wonder if that will have any impact on the show's continued success. On the whole, will new jack viewers like what they see enough to go back and watch older episodes, to figure out who's who and what's what?
"You must be proud, bold, pleasant, resolute,
And now and then stab, as occasion serves."
Edward II: Act 2 Scene 1, by Christopher Marlowe