The hotly anticipated season three premiere of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” finally arrived last night! And let me tell you, it does not disappoint. We’re brought right back into all of our favorite characters’ stories almost exactly where they left off at the end of last season.
The episode begins right where the finale left off – with Sam Tarly running from the white walkers. It’s windy and snowing to the point of being a whiteout, but Sam is just running – most likely for his life. Unfortunately, the first person he comes upon is one of his brothers of the Night’s Watch, dead and decapitated. He is attacked by a white walker, but is saved by a wolf and his surviving brothers.
Meanwhile, Jon Snow is also north of the wall. He and Ygritte are headed to see Mance Rayder, the wildling king. Poor Jon – he endures children throwing rocks at him the whole way there. In the mean time, we get to see a giant! Yes, in this world giants do exist, even if folks from Westeros don’t believe in them anymore. To be fair, they also don’t believe in white walkers, either, and clearly those are alive (in a way) and kicking. When they get to Mance’s hut we’re introduced to two significant characters, Mance himself and another wildling named Tormund Giantsbane. Ciaran Hinds, of “Rome” fame, does a wonderful job in his debut appearance as Mance Rayder. The wizened ex-brother of the Night’s Watch and current democratically chosen king of the wildlings asks Jon why he wants to abandon his brothers, and Jon’s answer harkens back to last season when we were introduced to Craster. He says that seeing the Lord Commander’s tolerance for Craster’s abandonment of his sons goes too far against what he believes. Mance believes him, but is he telling the truth? We shall see….
Next up, we have another golden scene between Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister and Lena Headey’s Cersei Lannister. Cersei visits Tyrion in his now-modest accommodations in a display of her growing paranoia. She has heard that he’ll be meeting with their father and wants to head off any possibility that he will be telling lies about her. As it turns out, according to Tyrion, he simply wants to know why his own father didn’t visit him once while he was in bed with life-threatening injuries incurred during the Battle of Blackwater.
Then we get to see what became of Davos Seaworth after the epic disaster that was the Stannis Baratheon-led attack on King’s Landing. Last we saw he was thrown from his ship by an explosion of wildfire, but he survived. We find him washed up on a tiny spit of land and is luckily spotted by a passing ship. It seems that during his time being shipwrecked Davos decided that he must kill Melisandre, the red priestess. Later in the episode he does get to try…but he fails and his former friend Stannis has him sent to the dungeon.
All too briefly, we get a look at what the gorgeous Robb Stark (Richard Madden) is up to. He and his men are marching on Harrenhall, only to find it deserted. Well, deserted except for the hundreds of dead Stark men littering the courtyard. It’s a gruesome sight, and we’ll leave it at that.
Inarguably the most intense scene of the episode was the meeting between Tyrion and his father, Tywin. If there were any doubts as to how hateful Tywin is regarding his younger son, it’s safe to say they are now gone. The venom begins when Tyrion essentially asks to be thanked for his rather large part in saving King’s Landing on the night of the Battle of Blackwater, to which Tywin responds by saying “Jugglers and singers require applause. You are a Lannister.” If that seems harsh, it’s nothing compared to the verbal beatdown Tywin serves Tyrion when the latter asks to be formally recognized as his father’s heir. The colorful phrase “ill-made spiteful little creature full of envy, lust, and low cunning” is thrown into Tywin’s tirade. Even if you don’t particularly care for Tyrion, with this scene you can’t help but feel for him.
It seems that Sansa Stark is still in King’s Landing, even after being put aside by King Joffrey in favor of Margaery Tyrell. It’s clear that she’s grown up from the starry-eyed child she was when she came to the capital (watching your father being beheaded does that to a girl, I would imagine), but she still has a glimmer of her girlish idealism. We see her sitting on a dock with Shae, playing a game. They’re picking ships that they see out on the ocean and making up stories about the men on them, the more fantastic the better. After all, she says, “the truth is always either terrible or boring.” With that line we see the toll the last two years have taken on Sansa. She may still be just a girl, but she is no longer the naïve and happy one she once was. She knows that reality is not the beautiful stories and songs from her childhood. This game is a way to escape that. It’s important to note the way this character has grown over the last two seasons. Viewers tend to think of her as still being that naïve child, but she’s growing. It will be interesting to see where she goes in the coming season.
Regarding Margaery Tyrell, we finally get a bit of characterization from her. We see her stop her litter in Flea Bottom, which is basically the ghetto of King’s Landing, to go visit an orphanage. She wades through shit (literally) to get inside, where she sits and talks with the children who are orphans as a result of the Battle of Blackwater. It’s almost sickeningly sweet to watch her, but it isn’t an act. She is literally that sweet and giving. According to her brother Loras, Margaery spent a lot of time in Highgarden helping the poor. Amusingly enough, it seems like Cersei is the only one immune to Margaery’s charms. The interactions between those two are sweet and complimentary on Margaery’s side, but stiff and all but unkind on Cersei’s. And it looks like Joffrey’s taking Margaery’s side, if his dig at his mother’s age is any indication.
The episode ends with our lovely Mother of Dragons reaching Astapor by ship to potentially gain her army. We left off with Dany’s story when she defeated the warlocks in the House of the Undying to rescue her dragons. Subsequently she and her Dothraki took what gold they could carry from the city of Qarth to buy the ship we see them sailing on now. Astapor is known for the warriors they “grow” from a very young age, known as The Unsullied. These are the perfect soldiers, unflinchingly loyal, unquestioningly obedient, and incredibly strong. Their obedience is proven when the man who is selling them cuts off the nipple of one of the soldiers, and the latter does not so much as flinch. In fact, when the owner is finished with him the Unsullied says that it was basically an honor to do his bidding. I know, I know, ouch! Daenerys is unhappy with the fact that these men are slaves, but she does need an army. She is given one day to decide whether or not she wants to buy the soldiers. Meanwhile, during her walk back to her ship, there is an assassination attempt. She is saved by a mysterious old man in a cloak…who turns out to be a very familiar face (to viewers, at least). It’s Ser Barristan Selmy, the former knight of the kingsguard, who was dismissed by Cersei back in season one. Evidently since then he has been scouring the globe in search of Daenerys, desperate to apologize to her. Now that he’s found her, he wastes no time in doing so, citing the fact that he had truly failed to protect her family, which was his one and only duty as a member of her father’s kingsguard.
We have yet to see where some other characters’ stories pick up. Notably, we have yet to see Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth, still trekking across the realm together. We do know that George R. R. Martin himself wrote the episode titled “The Bear and The Maiden Fair”, which will be the seventh episode of the season, and this episode will feature their story heavily. Those who have read the books know exactly what we can expect from that episode. Until then, however, we’ve got six episodes to content ourselves with.
Don’t miss “Game of Thrones” next Sunday at 9pm/EST on HBO!
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