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Winter Is Coming

Game of Thrones Recap: Season Three Premiere Valar Dohaeris

Praise R’hllor, Game of Thrones is back! Last night’s season three premiere sent my mind into something of a tizzy. On the one hand, (some of) my favorite characters are back, and the show’s setting up some really awesome things for them!

On the other hand… did anyone else think the premiere was a bit slow?

If you’ll recall, season two ended with Samwell Tarly surrounded by White Walkers on their way to attack the Night’s Watch, who are set to make a final stand at the Fist of the First Men. Season three began, not with that battle, but with Sam being rescued from an axe-slinging Walker by his brothers (and Ghost!), who then proceed to high-tail it to the Wall to warn people about the pending Walker invasion.

It makes sense not to start with a big battle—none of the central characters are involved in it, and it’s kind of an unnecessary thing to spent a large portion of one’s budget on (especially when there are dragons to be CG’ed). But it was still kind of a let-down after season two’s cliffhanger ending, I felt.

Anyway. After than somewhat inauspicious beginning, things started to get good. Ygritte and Jon have made it to the Wildling camp, where Jon sees his very first giant. Ygritte mocks him a bit (she doesn’t say “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” but we’ll get plenty of those in time) and then says if he doesn’t stop staring the giant will kill him. Because she’s awesome like that.

Jon then faces his first trial of the season: He has to convince Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, that he’s loyal to him (which he isn’t) and not a filthy crow spy (which he is). He tells Mance—excellently played by new cast member Ciarán Hinds—that he wants to join forces with the people who are serious about fighting the White Walkers, which the Night’s Watch isn’t. We know he’s lying, at least about his loyalty to the Wildlings, but there’s also a lot of truth in what he says. We’re looking forward to some heavy-duty emotional turmoil in the episodes to come. (Of course we are, it’s Jon Snow.)

And then we’re whisked away to King’s Landing where, approximately 12 minutes and thirty seconds into the episode, we get our first sexposition scene of the season. Bronn’s about to have a nice old time when—surprise!—sexus interrupts courtesy of Tyrion’s squire Podrick Payne, who tells Bronn he’s been summoned.

Tyrion’s life hasn’t been great since season two ended, when he was wounded in the Battle of the Blackwater and his father Tywin swooped in and took the title of Hand of the King away from him. He’s living in a dark, dank little room, and Tywin hasn’t checked in to see how he’s doing once. He does have an unwelcome visitor courtesy of Cersei, who’s heard that Tywin’s set up a meeting with their father and wants to know what Tyrion wants to tell him. (Might it sound like “Schmoffrey’s real father is Schmaime?”)

What follows is a few minutes of glorious banter, where Cersei gets in a few jibes about Tyrion’s appearance (“They said you’d lost your  nose, but it’s not as gruesome as all that”—yay book references!) and Tyrion a few about Cersei’s intelligence and how, when she was nine, she had guards brutally beat another nine-year-old for stealing a necklace. What fun sibling bonding! Tyrion and Cersei scenes are the best scenes.

After a brief interlude where Tyrion makes sure Bronn’s still on his side and Bronn says “Sure, but you’ll have to pay me double” (oh, Bronn), we catch up with Davos Seaworth, who washed up on a tiny rock island after Stannis’ defeat in the Battle of the Blackwater. Davos is rescued by Resident Awesome Pirate Salladhor Saan, who updates him on what’s been going down with Stannis: He’s “licking his wounds” and not seeing anyone but the red priestess Melisandre, who’s taken to burning alive anyone who dares speak against her. But Davos is damned if he’s going to abandon Stannis because of a small thing like a likely painful, gruesome death. He’s going to save his King from the Red Menace if it kills him! (And it likely will, says Saan.)

Meanwhile, King Robb, Catelyn Stark, and Robb’s wife Jeyne Talisa have arrived at Harrenhal with the armies of the North, all ready and willing to whup some Lannister butt before discovering that the Lannisters have already moved on, leaving 200 dead Northmen in the castle as a welcoming gift. Not much happens in this scene, honestly. Roose Bolton and Rickard Karstark mutter about how Catelyn let Jaime Lannister escape. Robb’s going to lock her up for it. One of the dead Northmen isn’t dead yet. That’s about it. Not really sure what the point of this scene was, to be honest.

And then, the scene that kills my heart: Tyrion meets with his father Tywin, who accuses his son of doing nothing but drinking and whoring while he was the Hand of the King, despite the fact that, y’know, without Tyrion the Battle of Blackwater would’ve been lost before Tywin showed up to save the day and steal the credit. Tywin’s response: What, you want a medal? Get lost, I hate you.

While Tywin’s in such a good mood, Tyrion comes to the real purpose of his visit: To ask his father to let him inherit Casterly Rock. Jaime can’t inherit it because he’s a member of the Kingsguard, so technically Tyrion should be the heir.

Tywin’s response:

  • You’re a disgrace.
  • You killed your mother by being born.
  • I might have to let you walk around shaming our family with the Lannister name because I can’t prove you’re not my son,
  • and I might give you a bit of lands or a wife one day if you deserve them.
  • But let you shame our family name by inheriting Casterly Rock?
  • OVER
  • MY
  • DEAD
  • BODY

Ouch, my feels.

Charles Dance was great in this scene as Tywin, and if Peter Dinklage doesn’t win an Emmy this year I might cry.

On the heels of that bit of emotional brutality, we see Sansa and Shae hanging out in King’s Landing, playing a game where they invent stories for the ships in the harbor (Shae’s bad at it). Sansa’s trying to cling with all her might to the notion that good stories—a.k.a. not horrible, death-filled stories like the one that is her life—can truly exist, perhaps as a self-preservation technique, but you can tell she’s losing any ounce of hope she once had. Littlefinger creeps his way over and tells Sansa that he might, just might, be able to help her escape. Meanwhile Ros and Shae are having a prostitues’ confab. Ros tells Shae to look out for Sansa, particularly when it comes to Littlefinger.

I rather liked Ros in this scene–her recollection of the bells ringing in Winterfall all day and night when Sansa was born reminds me, oh yeah, she’s a Northerner, and on the side of the Starks. Even though she was invented for the show and quite often seems like nothing more than an Exposition Delivery  Device, this scene added a little depth to her character, which I appreciate.

Also, thank you for warning Shae that Littlefinger’s a creeper, Ros. Well done.


And now we cross the sea to catch up with Dany, who’s sailing to the slave city of Astapor. There are dragons swooping around, and Dothraki being seasick, and Dany and Jorah Mormont arguing about the ethics of hiring a slave army. Dany doesn’t want to, finding the whole thing (rightfully) morally questionable. Jorah says yeah, it’s distasteful, but there’s no other way. Lest we forget, before the series began Jorah was forced to flee Westeros for selling people into slavery. So he might not have sufficient moral weight on this subject. Just sayin’.

Then we come to the ONE TRUE KING OF WESTEROS (sorry, my allegiance is showing) Stannis, who reacts to his BFF Davos not being dead with a stony-faced glare. Seriously, he doesn’t even turn around to say hello. It’s just: “I thought you were dead.” Oh, Stannis, I love you. Melisandre, pulling off the regal/creepy combo the way only she can, tells Davos that she could’ve pulled off a victory in the Battle of the Blackwater and saved the thousands of lives lost (including that of Davos’ son) if only Davos hadn’t convinced Stannis to leave her behind. BURRRRRN. Davos snaps, attacking Melisandre, after which Stannis orders Davos thrown into the dungeons.

Then we come to another king: Joffrey. He’s riding through Flea Bottom on his way back from church, when Margaery Tyrell decides to stop in at an orphanage and give food, toys, and pep talks to little kids who lost their parents at Blackwater. She talks about how all their dead fathers are heroes for helping Good King Joffrey defend the city and save all their lives.

God, Margaery is a PR master. Could you imagine her in the modern day, getting into politics? She’d be a force to be reckoned with. She is in Westeros, too: Cersei gives her the stink-eye all through a dinner they share with with Joffrey and Loras, where Loras talks up Margaery’s history of charity work, Cersei and Margaery spend some time civilly sniping at each other’s outfits, and Joffrey seems dickishly oblivious to all the politicking going on.

In Astapor, Daenerys is introduced to the Unsullied, 8,000 eunuch slave soldiers who could help her retake Westeros… for a price. This scene, in addition to giving us the episode’s most gruesome moment (sliced. off. nipple.), also gives us its best line: “My master points out that men don’t need nipples.” Truer words, Missandei. Truer words.

Daenerys says she’ll think about buying the slaves and then plays a nice, friendly game of catch with a little girl who—surprise!—is not a little girl at all, but a warlock sent to assassinate her. She’s saved by Barristan Selmy, former Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, whom Joffrey sent packing last season. As a member of Daenerys’s father’s Kingsguard, Selmy explains, he was supposed to protect the Targaryens, but he failed. So he’s here to protect her now as part of her Queensguard. Cut to Jorah, who’s feeling a little jealous about his position of Dany’s #1 Westerosi adviser/protector potentially being threatened.

Aaaaand credits.

Overall, this episode was a bit slow for me—it felt like 60 minutes of set-up, albeit setup for awesome things to come. I think I might’ve enjoyed it more had I not read the books and wasn’t able to anticipate future plot points. And I was missing Arya, Jaime, and Brienne, but oh well. Can’t have everyone in every episode.

Speaking of the books, this episode set up what look to be a few major changes. (The casual viewer might want to stop reading now to avoid potential spoilers for later in the season.)

1) There’s the aforementioned omission of the Battle at the Fist of the First Men. I’d imagine they’re moving the big showdown between the Watch and the White Walkers to later in the season.

2) It looks like they’re setting up Littlefinger, not Ser Dontos, as the one who eventually gets Sansa out of King’s Landing. I liked Ser Dontos’ plotline, but it ended with Littlefinger’s intervention anyway, so if they have to cut him out (or not bring him back, I guess, since he was in season two briefly), I don’t mind.

3) In the book the assassination plot against Dany is foiled by Barristan Selmy, same as in the series, but he’s disguised as Arstan Whitebeard, squire to one Strong Belwas, and Dany doesn’t find out who he really is for quite some time. It makes sense that the secret identity thing would be scrapped, as people would bound to notice that Arstan’s played by the same guy as Selmy. But I am going to miss Belwas, a former champion in the fighting pits of Meereen and an all-around great character. Time for a mental round of TAPS.

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  • Lily

    They may include Belwas at a later date. He has a few important scenes in later in the third book so they may be saving him for season four. Jojen and Meera were excluded from the second season and are now here for the third, so they may wait to include him until he is more essential to the plot.

  • Amanda Allen Douglas

    I love Belwas, he was so funny in the books.
    Overall, this episode was also anti-climactic and felt rushed for me, (the Barristan Selmy part esp.) And I really do wish Missandei was a littl(er) girl, the big boobs threw me off because I feel like Dany plays a very important mother role to Miss. and others and we’ll miss that if they look the same age. Also, speaking of not little girls, did anyone else notice how grown up Sansa looks next to Littlefinger already??

  • Aeryl

    Yea, we are going to Mireen. We could find him there. I know people like him, but isn’t one Hodor enough for the show, tbh?

  • Aeryl

    I thought the scene with Bolton and Karstark was very thematically important. The title was (translated) All Men Must Serve. And Bolton and Karstark are two men who are not feeling well served by their king(who must also serve). I though service, who does it, who commands it, who needs it, was a good through line for all of the scenes.

  • John Wao

    The only problem I had with this ep was why was Ghost with the Night’s Watch and not Jon “knows nothing” Snow?

  •!/laurakeet laurakeet

    I thought it also important that Littlefinger mentioned to Sansa that her sister was still alive…seemingly betraying the fact that he did recognize her at Harrenhal, and didn’t tell Tywin. That reveal got lost in the scene a bit, though.

  • Aeryl

    They did show Ghost wandering off after Jon wandered off with Ygritte. I can see that Ghost knows these people are Jon’s “pack” and hanging with them. Plus it’ll save them having to split later.

  • Aeryl

    I missed that!

  • Julianna Condor

    The guy who survived at Harrenhal was Qyburn, an ex-maester. He ends up being fairly important later, having some plots with Jaime and some seriously creepy action with Bolton and later in King’s Landing. In the books he entered as part of the Brave Companions, but that may be changed up in the show. :)

  •!/laurakeet laurakeet

    To be fair, it may have just been Littlefinger being Littlefinger and trying to convince Sansa to run away from King’s Landing with him – but the length of his silence, plus the way he looked at Arya while she was pouring (and spilling) wine last season, makes me pretty sure.

  • Brian

    Charles Dance and Maisie Williams should both have Emmys from their shared scenes last year.

  • Aeryl


    Since the link is cut off, it’s a link to a April Fool’s day story saying Peter Dinklage has been replaced in Season Four with Warwick Davis

  • Aeryl

    Also, that guy wasn’t a not-dead Northman. That was Qyburn! Now they’ve excluded the Bloody Mummers from the show, so who knows who he is now.

  • Rachael Stein

    This is the problem with making Sansa way too old to start with. She looks like an adult now.

  • Rachael Stein

    Do you really love Stannis best?! Or are you April fooling us?

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure they’ve entirely excluded them. In the scene at Harrenhall Bolton said he’d sent his “finest hunters” after Jaime, and there’s got to be someone who’s responsible for the bear thing later on, so some kind of group will have to be filling their role.

  • Aeryl

    I’m guessing it will all be Bolton. But that’s a guess.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I totally forgot about him seeing her at Harrenhall! As you say, LF might as well have been lying to Sansa—whether she believes him or not, she has no way of knowing the truth. It makes me wonder if the show’s going to do something bigger with LF knowing about Arya. Considering he does a lot more running around and interacting with people in the show than in the books, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I ABSOLUTELY love that curmudgeonly old so-and-so best. I will say it again tomorrow for confirmation, if need be. :)

  • Laszlo

    I think the problem with leaving out Ser Dontos is that I don’t think it would make sense if Sansa trusted Littlefinger the same way she trusted Dontos, like telling him about the Tyrells’ plans. I guess she will tell it to Shae, and it will somehow get around from her.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    I know they never cast Vargo Hoat, and I heard there was this other new character who would be fulfilling his role in the Harrenhal scenes. Regardless, I don’t think we’re getting the Mummers, at least not as we knew them in the books. :(

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Oh man, Qyburn. *shudder*

  • Hannah Wilson

    I think it is a very good way to demonstrate that Jon remains loyal to the Night’s Watch, because Ghost knows where he really belongs.

  • mary elizabeth newsom

    Yeah, I have to agree with you here. At first I thought he didn’t notice her, but then when I watched that scene again, I decided he had, though I am really surprised he didn’t DO anything about it.

  • mary elizabeth newsom

    Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor

  • Paul Christian

    There was a character cast named Locke that is supposed to fill the role of Vargo Hoat – or at least close enough to it. It’s a new character, so we don’t really know much about him yet.

  • Bernard

    Re: Arstan Whitebeard – It makes sense that the secret identity thing would be scrapped

    Barristan showing up and throwing up irks me. I feel like there was an opportunity to play with the audience and really build up Barristan’s character. If he would have pretended to be an old wise traveller (Arstan Whitebeard), and was eventually caught in the lie of who he really was, that monologue he delivered to Dany and Jorah in the show would have meant more and would have put Dany in a more difficult situation of what to do with him.

    Even if the audience recognized Barristan, it would have created suspense for what Dany would do when she found out who he really was. The audience members who did recognize him would be wondering about his true motivation (is he with her or is he just trying to get his old job back in the kingsguard). It could have been great drama. Barristan just showing up and revealing himself rather than first making sure Dany isn’t as crazy as her father just makes him a two dimensional background supporter and not the legendary man that I love from the books.

  • Aeryl

    Looks like they will be skipping the scene where Lady Olenna grills Sansa and offers to have her wed to Willas, to me at least. My guess is that Ros will tell Varys about LF’s plans to run off with her the first time. It seems, after that dinner scene, that Margaery is figuring out the deal with Joffrey real quick after Cersei’s pointed comment about the bravery of a king.

  • Jacii Miller

    I was disappointed that they didn’t say Valar Dohaeris once.

  • Wong Chia Chi

    I enjoyed the episode. I’m hoping to see how the first part of SOS plays out. IT’s going well so far.

    Regarding Sansa and Littlefinger I like this version more. Just because Sansa accepting or denying an offer from Littlefinger face to face means she gets a heads up early on on how creepy he is. Plus it’s basically her exhibiting much more agency. She’s dealing with Littlefinger on her own terms, not usuing a go between to save her. She’s acting rather than reacting. I like it. The only thing I’m wondering about is..*************************************************************************SPOLIERS******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

    Does this mean she’ll be more directly involved in the Purple Wedding than she was in the books? Like knowing what role she will play and choosing to play it in order to get Little finger to smuggle her out of KL?

    Sansa being that calculating this early on in the series…I love the idea of that.

  • Anonymous

    I thought it was a brilliant piece of writing, and I interpreted it as he thinks he’s lying and being his usual manipulative and duplicitous self, but we know he really HAS seen Arya,

    Because if he did recognize her, he isn’t doing much with the intel. He’s sitting on a gold mine — both the Lannisters and Starks would love to have Arya (albeit for reasons that vary greatly in terms of nobility).

    So I’m going to go with “clever nod to the audience/chuckle at Littlefinger’s expense.”

  • Anonymous

    Am I the only person who thought they changed her shade of hair dye? Hers looks almost as crazy-red as Mellisandre’s does now!

  • Anonymous

    Brass tacks: he does have the best claim to the throne, barring Dany (and certain spoiler characters for those who haven’t read the books).

    Plus, he was a very good husband to Virginia Woolf, so that ought to count for something.

  • Anonymous

    That is a great point. On the theme of service, you can also include Bronn/Tyrion, Sansa/Shae, Jon/Mance/The Watch. It’s actually a great through-line for the series at large. Think of Varys’s insistence that he serves “the realm” or Brienne’s broken-record “I serve Lady Catelyn!”

  • Anonymous

    I hope so, too. Sansa’s decisions don’t turn out too well early in the series, and she allows herself to be manipulated to everyone’s great grief. I’ve always thought that her truthful answer to Lady Oleanna was the beginning of a sea-change in the character, and if they enhance that by making her, perhaps,


    Put something in someone’s drink who really REALLY has it coming….I could live with that.

  • Oliver Kealey

    I’m so sad for the immense disservice the showrunners have done to Catelyn and Robb :( They’ve changed their characters so much. He’s gone from “My mother is the only one I can trust, she’s my counsel and my rock and I support her 100%.” to “Moooom, you’re SO EMBARRASSING! Why did you have to come along anyway?! UGHH.”

  • Amber Barnes

    I get the feeling that Rob doesn’t want to treat her this way, but has to to keep the bannermen in line. There was a very deliberate cut to them in the parapets, watching Rob and Catelyn investigate the carnage before Rob suddenly has them send her away. I’m pretty sure Catelyn is aware of the situation, too, and thus why she goes quietly.

  • Amber Barnes


    Oh the idea of Sansa avenging her family in some small way makes me happy.

  • Megasus

    Praise R’HLLOR!? Really? (j/k)

    I think they’re still gonna use Ser Dontos as a go-between (as Littlefinger just told Sansa that he would be leaving for a while), otherwise why did they show him in season two at all?

  • Megasus

    Yeah, I’m not sure if he actually DID see her, or if he was lying about it.

  • Megasus

    The Blood Mummers are in this season, I believe they slightly changed Vargo Hoat though, and he doesn’t have the same name? Yes, they’ve changed his name to Locke:

  • Michele J. Samuelson

    Being Littlefinger, especially the way they have been portraying him, I’d expect him to recognize Arya and catalog it for future use. So ditto to all you said.

  • Michele J. Samuelson

    It always bothered me in the book that Jorah Mormont didn’t immediately recognize Selmy, so I’m glad they played it the way they did in this episode. This brings the tension between the two of them to the forefront a little more fully and cuts down on Dany’s entourage, which gets a bit unwieldy IMHO. But, the show really never has allowed Dany to know how bonkers her father was (Viserys, yes, but Aerys the Mad King, not so much), and I hope Selmy still has to explain that to her at some point.

  • Michele J. Samuelson

    Yes to all this, and I think it was great foreshadowing for their role in the Things We Cannot Discuss later this season.

  • Laszlo

    Because that scene was important for Sansa, they couldn’t just leave it out. It shows that she did learn a bit about how to work people, being able to get Joffrey to spare someone by appealing to his selfishness and sadism.

  • Cat ni’Chonghaile

    He could be keeping that information to use for a particular moment in the future, with another “Arya” in mind (don’t want to spoil too much!)

  • Rebecca Pahle

    He’s an excellent Thomas Jefferson, too!

    Plus, of all the contenders for the throne I think he’d be one of the BEST kings, due to certain things from DWD that indicate where his priorities lie.

    So, yeah. No longer April Fools’ Day. Stannis is still my favorite.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    Thanks, I didn’t catch that he’d said his name. Not looking forward to Qyburn. He’s one creepy dude.

  • Wong Chia Chi

    Yes. It would be so awesome if it was her! Please, please, please! :D

  • Sam Whitehead

    I was so hoping that they’d have the awesome scene from the books with Margaery’s grandmother, “The Queen of Thorns”. She seems like such an awesome character to have in the show!