With a stroke of fate aided by living in LA, I recently had the pleasure of seeing the Game of Thrones season 3 premiere. The experience of seeing the first episode of a new season, of an HBO show, before everyone else, really fans the flames of flailing fandom. Worth the trip downtown, let me tell ya.
Here’s my review after the jump. I’ve released the SPOILER ALERT ravens. Take heed.
So this premiere did a phenomenal job at arranging our beloved cast on the great chessboard of Westeros. Last season, we left everyone in the middle of getting their ducks in a row: Tyrion stood his ground as strategian of King’s Landing, Lord Stannis was getting freaky with the red lady, and Daenarys was loading her loyal Dothraki legion onto a ship bound for…the place where all the other storylines happen. Now we’re back in it, and the shit has begun to gently embrace the edges of the fan.
The former First Family, the ill-fated House Stark, is still scattered hither and thither. Boy King Robb is pissed at his mother for releasing Jamie “Natural Highlights” Lannister in hopes of using him as leverage to reunite the Starks. Arya is nowhere to be seen, presumably still getting her Boys Don’t Cry on. And Sansa is still hanging out on docks and quays, staring at the water and swallowing her consonants.
Fortunately, the former princess has a companion in Shae, the former prostitute that Tyrion cleverly fashioned into a lady-in-waiting last season. Littlefinger, aka Lord Baelish, has a nice moment with Sansa and says there’s a chance he could smuggle her out of the political powderkeg that is King’s Landing. “Watch him around her,” whispers Baelish’s concubine to Shae. Looks like we’re finally getting a taste of Baelish’s dark side – we know he had it bad for Sansa’s mom, but how far he’ll go to recapture that lost love remains to be seen. I think Baelish is a great character, a real example of the moral ambiguity that is the hallmark of GoT, and I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of weird sexual issues he tries to work out with the teenage daughter of his lost love.
Meanwhile, a serious familial smackdown is happening inside the castle nearby. Tyrion, sporting a cool face scar from the siege at Blackwater Bay, can’t get no respect. His psychotic sister Queen Cersei mocks his fall from grace – his significant tactical contributions are virtually unrecognized and he’s been relegated to tiny servants’ quarters. As she puts it, “You don’t need much room, do you?” In order to sidestep Cersei’s paranoia and probable intent to murder him, Tyrion seeks the protection of their father, Tywin. Then the shit gets real. Tywin calls Tyrion something like a “hedonistic, distasteful little creature” and throws a not-so-thinly-veiled death threat at Shae. I really hate when Tyrion gets crushed, mostly because Peter Dinklage has some of the best angry-teary eyes in the business. Seems like this is a setup for some very violent, very clever maneuvering for The Imp.
For all her cruelty, Cersei’s got her own problems (besides split ends and a crooked face in general). Her capriciously evil spawn, King Joffrey, has taken the adorable humanitarian Margaery Tyrell for a fiance and C seems to have met her match. Margy is sweet, well-spoken, flattering, and above all, calculating. It would seem the young maid who, last season, expressed a desire to be “THE Queen” may have a fighting shot. Natalie Dormer is very good in the role, one of the pivotal females of the series, and I’m really looking forward to seeing her and the diction-blessed Lena Headey go a-sparring.
And now for the two fan favorites: Jon “There Are Five Pups” Snow and Daenarys “WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS” Targaryen! I don’t mean to over-spoil, but I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone at this point that the twain eventually shall meet. These are the two most compelling characters and they’ve been doing far and away the most interesting stuff on the show – all outside the scope of the main cast. Jon Snow still moodily stalks The Wall, where it’s always night and it’s always freezing. Daeny soaks up the sun many, many miles away, cultivating her dragons and her army in the arid desert. Most fans believe that they are half-siblings, and I think they are both destined to serve as lynchpins for the season’s climax.
Daeny, for her part, has successfully transported some seasick Dothraki across the Narrow Sea in hopes of building her khalasar back into fighting shape. She dotes on her dragons, now screechy teenagers fond of broiling their wild-caught fish before swallowing them whole. Ser Jorah, forever-friendzoned, helps to save her from an attack from the Qarth warlock, who is totally stalking her from dock to dock. She buys more soldiers (really good ones, who don’t care about getting their nipples sliced off, which is a scene I will not speak further about) and in general seems to be building momentum towards a power-play on Westeros itself.
Meanwhile, Jon knows what’s up. The White Walkers are still afoot and that’s going to mean big problems this winter. Taken hostage by the city beyond The Wall, Snowbear turns things around and asks to join. This is a smart move on his part: the King beyond The Wall is better prepared to stave off a supernatural attack than those lazybones down South who have never seen the walking dead. Not to mention, those Northerners have giants! Is that you, Hagrid?
All in all, a satisfying check-in with all of our favorites. The episode had a lovely rumbling feel about it. Setting up some big twists, for sure. It’s a definite that we’ll see those dragons in fighting shape before the season is out, and I daresay that things are about to get really real for Robb Stark, the Lannisters, and anyone else not expecting simultaneous attacks from Dany and kooky Stannis. It will be a maelstrom of chain mail, blood, and sex. Business as usual. Winter’s finally here!