Baby Dragons in ‘Thrones’; 48-Foot Boa; Pip: TV

Peter Dinklage in ``Game of Thrones.'' The show airs Sunday on HBO at 9 p.m. New York time. Photographer: Paul Schiraldi/HBO via Bloomberg

The night is dark and full of terror, intones a heretic priestess on “Game of Thrones.”

Too much darkness, too little terror for me, but the talky series’ dragon-loving legions won’t be disappointed by the convolutions of Season 2.

The big-budget adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s swords-and-sorcery bestsellers is one of HBO’s most popular series, a well-produced, high-toned fantasy epic with gravitas to spare.

As the new season begins, war and winter are descending on Westeros, a red-tailed comet portends change and the sadistic youth Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) sits at the Iron Throne of King’s Landing.

That summary, of course, doesn’t begin to encompass the series’ political machinations, military maneuvers and dynastic discord -- all the stuff that fans devour and the rest of us find impenetrable and silly. The baby dragons are cool, though, and Emmy-winning Peter Dinklage as the outwardly cynical dwarf Tyrion Lannister remains the show’s commanding center.

“Game of Thrones” airs Sunday on HBO at 9 p.m. New York time. Rating: **1/2

‘Monster Snake’

Who needs horror films when you’ve got Smithsonian Channel’s “Titanoboa: Monster Snake?”

The slick documentary offers a first look at the 48-foot, 2,500-pound snake that slithered through Colombia’s rainforests 60 million years ago, snacking on SUV-sized crocodiles.

Discovered only 10 years ago, when a coal mining excavation turned up a fist-sized, fossilized vertebra, the ancestor of modern boa constrictors dubbed Titanoboa (pronounced ti-TAN-o-BO-a) should thrill nightmare-loving kids decades to come.

Adults will find plenty to squirm about too, as the film chronicles scientists’ decade-long reconstruction of the beast. Included: side trips to Venezuela, where boa hunters trudge barefoot through marshes hoping to brush against creatures sane people avoid.

“Titanoboa: Monster Snake” airs Sunday on Smithsonian Channel at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: **1/2

‘The Killing’

The shooting of mayoral candidate Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell) that ended the debut season of AMC’s “The Killing” seriously tested our patience.

The moody whodunit returns Sunday for Season 2, bloodied but worth a second look.

Set in Seattle, producer Veena Sud’s remake of a popular Danish series about the search for a teenage girl’s murderer had the most intriguing premiere since Laura Palmer’s corpse washed up on “Twin Peaks.”

But months followed of blind alleys, red herrings and relentless gloom, turning “The Killing” into an endurance test, capped by a frustrating season finale that raised more questions than it answered.

The two-hour return knocks at least two people off the list of suspects in the murder of Rosie Larsen. We find out which cops are corrupt (and which most definitely are not) and get a firmer sense of a political conspiracy that trailed the murder.

What we do not find out, not yet, anyway, is who killed Rosie. Nevertheless, “The Killing” had me hooked from start to finish, thanks mostly to the newly prominent role of troubled, loyal campaign manager Jamie Wright (Eric Ladin).

Season 2 picks up in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Jamie is devastated, and Ladin’s sharp portrayal hints at motivations and feelings that could take the story in fresh directions.

Ladin’s increased screen time also provides occasional respite from the grim intensity of murder-obsessed detectives Mireille Enos and Stephen Holder. As good as Enos and Holder are -- and they are very good -- they can be wearying.

On the Larsen home front, Brent Sexton’s grieving father lends this series the volatility of a poked bear, and Terry Marek as the dead teen’s party-girl aunt continues to find emotional layers. (Rosie’s mother, played by Michelle Forbes, is M.I.A. during the two-hour premiere).

“The Killing” airs Sunday on AMC at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***

‘Great Expectations’

PBS’s two-part Masterpiece Classic adaptation of Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations” is as handsome as its Pip, but too often also as wan.

Douglas Booth plays the orphan smitten by love and compromised by mysteriously-gained wealth. He might be the prettiest Pip ever caught on film, but Booth’s mostly expressionless performance is as dry as Miss Havisham’s ancient wedding cake.

Gillian Anderson, done up in ghostly face-paint and using the sort of spooky voice adults use to scare children, plays the haunted Havisham, going as far over the top as Booth goes under.

Better are Ray Winstone as the convict Magwitch and David Suchet as the string-pulling lawyer Jaggers. Havisham goes up in flames, but they bring the fire.

“Great Expectations” airs on PBS’s Masterpiece Classic Sunday April 1 and April 8 at 9 p.m. New York time. Rating: **

What the Stars Mean:

**** Excellent
*** Good
** Average
* Poor
(No stars) Worthless

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE