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.
- 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?
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.
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.