The funny thing about HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’, which returned for its third season on Sunday, is that this is one of the few shows on television where an episode can go by in which basically nothing at all happens, and yet fans will still regard it as “epic” and “awe inspiring.”
Make no mistake, I count myself as one of those fans, and I rather enjoyed the season premiere, called ‘Valar Dohaeris’ (translated as: “All men must serve.”). Nevertheless, for as much grief as Aaron gave the anticlimactic ‘Walking Dead’ season finale this week, at least some events happened in that episode that were worth recapping. I’m not really sure that the same can be said here.
That’s probably not fair. After all, seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ are intended to play out in long form, like the George R.R. Martin novels they’re based on, with beginnings, middles and ends to the story arcs. The first chapter is all about setting up those arcs and reorienting viewers with the characters. The episode does that fairly effectively.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Jon Snow is brought into the Wildling camp (where they have a giant!) to meet “King Beyond the Wall” Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds from ‘Rome’ and ‘Political Animals’). Snow claims that he’s abandoned the Night’s Watch because, “I want to fight for the side that fights for the living.” Rayder accepts him a little too easily.
- Tyrion Lannister has a scar across his face but is otherwise recovering from his battle injuries. He finds neither sympathy nor appreciation from his father for his role in saving King’s Landing.
- Ser Davos, the Onion Knight, has survived the destruction of his lord Stannis Baratheon’s fleet. Well, most of him has – some of his fingers, not so much. He’s rescued by pirate master Salladhor Saan and reunites with the fool Stannis, who has been mislead by Melisandre into believing that the battle loss was Davos’ fault. After Davos tries and fails to kill the witch, Stannis imprisons him.
- Robb Stark is pissy with his mother for letting Jaime Lannister go, and has her locked up.
- Sansa accepts Baelish’s offer to help smuggle her out of King’s Landing. He very likely has ulterior motives.
- Snot-nosed brat King Joffrey’s newly betrothed, Margaery Tyrell, proves to have a savvy political mind when she makes a show of visiting the city’s poor orphans and acting like Westeros’ very own Princess Di. Can she rehab Joffrey’s image?
- Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons are growing quickly. She and her ragtag group of easily-seasick Dothraki visit a city called Astapor to recruit (or, more precisely, to purchase, using the riches raided from Qarth) an army of slave warriors. Morally conflicted over the decision of whether to support the brutal institution that produced these fearsome soldiers, Daenerys is almost killed by an evil child. She’s saved by Ser Barristan Selmy, the former commander of the Kingsguard who was disgraced and fired by Joffrey back in the first season. Selmy declares Daenerys the true heir to the throne, and pledges his loyalty to her.
Bullet-pointed out like this, the episode may seem to have quite a lot going on. Unfortunately, I’ve covered most of what occurs in almost as much depth as it plays out on screen. The episode feels rather fragmented and disjointed. Still, as I said, this is all about introductions, and I have no real complaints. I’m glad to have the show back, and look forward to the rest of the season.