Monday, April 1, 2013

Game of Thrones Season 3 Premiere: "Valar Dohaeris"

Written By Amanda Lowery

So we began last night’s premiere episode in the dark, which we already know is full of terrors aka a whole lot of Walkers. I mean White Walkers, but I’m tuning in on the DVR after the season finale of Walking Dead – so you can appreciate the transition. And then we find Sam, hauling ass in the wight ridden North having another close call with almost certain death before he has to face the fact that he has failed. And because of his inability to send the ravens south to the Wall to let them know an army of White Walkers is headed their way they will be completely unprepared to keep them behind the Wall. The poor Night’s Watch, up there where shit is getting real; the disrespected ancient order of knights who stand as the only thing between the darkness that dwells within Winter and those folks down south playing some game with some thrones.

Hello Jon Snow, I’m smiling now, and really looking forward to seeing you grow as a character. That was some foreshadowing there, and it may continue. I’ve read the books and I will reference them a lot, but I promise not to give anything away. Okay, so Jon Snow has killed Qhorin Halfhand to prove he’s dedicated to the Wildling cause.
His intention is to spy on them for his brotherhood - to which he will secretly remain loyal – no matter what he might be tempted to do. You know nothing about giants, Jon Snow, but they look pretty awesome (well done graphics guys). Jon meets Mance Rayder who seems to be a chill guy, a little softer than I imagined him and older but still willing to accept Jon’s (rippling with defiance) plea for his life. It was an interesting story that Jon used to keep his life – tinged with truth about Craster and some hint at the nature of White Walkers. He says he wants to fight for the side that fights for the living. The King Beyond the Wall must have some interest in the crow, for he does decide to spare him his life.

Back in King’s Landing, we find Bronn admitting to a whore that he doesn’t have much of an imagination – which is later set to parallel the imagination game Sansa and Shae play (nicely done writers). Cersei visits Tyrion and gives a direct comment relating to the difference between what happens to Tyrion’s face in the book versus the TV show. And I quote from paused closed-captioning, “they said you’d lost your nose, but it’s not as gruesome as all that.” I like any show that gives a nod to readers who know their characters. In the books, Tyrion loses his nose in that injury and it is yet another misfortune he must learn to own in order to make strength out of a weakness. Word in the corridor is that Tyrion has intentions of meeting with Tywin Lannister, his father, who has not visited him the entire time he’s been recovering. Cersei is scared of what Tyrion may say about her, as well she should be, and so we begin to see that Cersei’s paranoia is growing and there is someone she is afraid of – her father. Their visit is brief, full of tension and dialogue delivered by actors who know these characters so well.

Tyrion does go see his father, and we are introduced to a new low in their relationship. Tywin Lannister is a proud and cruel man. He is so well acted that there is no separation for me between Charles Dance and the character of Tywin. He denies Tyrion the only thing he wants: his birthright – Casterly Rock. Jamie can’t have it because he is part of the Kingsguard and forfeit his inheritance. So it goes to Tyrion, but his father berates him for his whore mongering and his general existence as a dwarf and refuses to give Tyrion anything except a pseudo-honorable life under his watchful eye in Kings Landing. I feel like this is a catalyst for events to come; Tywin has finally given Tyrion his perspective on having a dwarf as a son, and it is full of hate and resentment. Tyrion loves the game and so we know he will play, but after this conversation we have to wonder what side he will be playing for. How much hate from your own family must you endure before resorting to revenge?

Also in King’s Landing, we got to see Lord Baelish and our favorite whore Ros taking a scenic stroll to begin manipulations of young Sansa Stark. The imagination game is a reminder that Sansa is still young, and more than anything she wants to be away from King’s Landing and so the game is a way to live that fantasy. I wonder if - with some more knowledge of the cruelty of the world - Sansa will become a player of the real game of thrones, spinning her fantasies into strategies. In the meantime, watch out for Littlefinger, Sansa – like Ros and Shae he is a low-born digger and he has his eyes set on you, eldest daughter of the Starks. She almost had her way out with Stannis’ attack, but well, we know how that turned out.

Davos! You are alive! Davos is a character from the books that I think is hard to translate to screen. They’ve done a good job so far, but his internal dialogue is what I love about him. Davos is like Ned Stark in a lot of ways, he is a good man and he loves his wife and children…and Stannis, in kind of a weird way. After Sallador Saan informs him that Stannis and the Red Woman have been growing increasingly obsessed with one another and have taken to burning men alive, Davos pledges to return to Dragonstone and set Stannis right by killing the Red Woman. However, his intention is squashed by Melissandre as she reminds him that it is his fault she wasn’t there in the battle and by extension it is his fault that they lost and that his son is dead. Davos winds up in a cell in the dungeons of Dragonstone where I hope he gets lots of fresh water and rest because he’s looking parched.

Robb Stark is still mad at his mom for betraying him, and even coaxing from new wife Talisa does nothing to quell his anger after they come across 200 dead Northmen (Manderlys) who are bannermen to Catelyn Tully’s father.  Harrenhal is still creepy and Arya-less. And Robb seems to be working with an army that is steadily growing discontent with their most recent march and no action.

Now let’s talk of Queens. Talisa is a nurse; we see her help the wounded Maester in Harrenhal with no hesitation to get her hands dirty. We also see Margery Tyrell in action as a charitable propagandist building rapport between the unfortunate citizens of Kings Landing and their King. This is wonderfully juxtaposed by the Cersei Lannister perspective on ruling, and we get a taste of that tension during the most awkward family dinner ever. I know this is the game of thrones, but the Tyrell’s must be really power hungry to put themselves in the mix with Joffrey and Cersei at the wheel. These two lions have no love for the common folk as we know well from last season, but to see a noble woman actually engage with her people seems to shock them both. Margery also skillfully reminds the duo that their survival is in major part due to the Tyrell's alliance. Now Cersei feels an increasing threat to her status as Queen Regent and her beauty in the shadow of Margery Tyrell’s good graces and youth.

Daenerys Targaryen is still making her way to the Iron Throne via Astapor where she stops off to see a man about an army. An army of brainwashed Eunuchs called the Unsullied who have to kill a baby in front of its mother to prove they have no weakness left in them (echoes the baby killing we saw in the Season Two premiere). Dany is the kind of Queen who does not want to build her empire on the backs of slaves. That’s real nice; another example of a Queen who knows the importance of the love of her people. However, there are some warlocks in the world who are a little peeved at the Khaleesi and her dragons (that look amazing, again – good job with the graphics). The Khaleesi nearly meets her end by a terrifyingly giant scorpion handed to her by a child. Luckily, she’s saved by Ser Barristan Selmy, whose presence seems to ruffle the feathers of Jorah Mormont. Selmy is a man who knew Dany’s father and her entire family for that matter and you can see that recognition pass through her eyes as she accepts him into her Queensguard. In the books, his identity is kept a mystery for a while before the big reveal, but I can see that the show doesn't really have a purpose in dragging it out. 

There were a lot of characters we didn’t see from who I’m sure we’ll catch up with next week. All in all, the episode was well paced and we got inside some of the cliff hangers of season two, but already we can see that the games are still afoot and who knows what will happen next. 


Shady_Grady said...

I thought the Tyrion/Tywin confrontation was the most powerful scene. IIRC much of it was taken almost verbatim from the books.

Amanda Lowery said...

I agree. Both actors are so good, and the relationship is so flawed -- it was a very revealing scene in the sense that when you hurt someone, especially your son, that will not be forgotten.

Helzapoppn said...

Agree that there was no good way to play out Ser Barristan's identity for TV as was done in ASoS. The downside is that we likely won't see Strong Belwas, who could have been a fan favorite. On the other hand, doing justice to Strong Belwas would require a LARGE HAM, something GoT has largely avoided.