Friday, April 5, 2013

Game of Thrones 3.01: "Valar Dohaeris"

“Jugglers and singers require applause. You are a Lannister.”

“Game of Thrones” returned for its third season on HBO this past weekend. If you were looking for the show to make a drastic change away from the spend a couple minutes with each of the zillion characters each episode structure, you’re going to be disappointed. There were characters who did not make an appearance in this episode (Arya and Theon are two I can think of off the top of my head), but that doesn’t mean the show didn’t cover a heck of a lot of ground. It just means that the universe of the show has expanded. There’s some compelling stuff happening in this episode, and I definitely felt transported back to Westeros, but I’d still like to see the show slow down and live in maybe two or three stories per episode. The current structure is more true to the feel of the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels, but the “Lord of the Rings” taught us that even when the source material is awesome, sometimes major structural changes need to be made to work in a visual medium.

As per usual, Tyrion’s story was one of the more interesting of the episode. He’s trying to cement a place for himself in Westeros now that he isn’t Hand of the King. Twyin is kind of weirdly fixated on the fact that Tyrion brought Shae to King’s Landing over Tyrion’s explicit protest. Nevermind the fact that tyrion played a pretty huge role in defending the Lannister regime at the Battle of Blackwater. Anyway, Tyrion has to confront both Cersei and Tywin in this episode. The scene with Cersei is the typical trying to one-up each other with the scheming. The scene with Tywin had some more meat to it. Tyrion finally decided that he should ask to be guaranteed his rightful inheritance. He wants Casterly Rock. Since Jaime, the eldest son, joined the gold cloaks and pledged to take no inheritance, by rights, the Lannister titles and fortune should be Tyrion’s. Tywin doesn’t hold with this, though. He’s still pissed about Shae (and about the fact that his wife died giving birth to Tyrion), so it’s a definite no go.

We spend way too much time with the Dragonstone contingent in this episode. Davos is washed up on a tiny rock of an island, and he’s rescued by the ship of a pirate friend who also happened to have once been loyal to Stannis. Well, Davos is still (mostly) loyal, but the pirate friend is not. Understandably, he’s just in it for himself. The pirate friend warns Davos that Melisandre is still very much in control of Stannis, but he takes Davos to see Stannis anyway. This seems like a pretty dumb move considering Melisandre has been killing anyone in Stannis’ camp who questions her or the Lord of Light. And of course, as soon as he arrives on Dragonstone, he tells Stannis to get away from Melisandre and stop worshiping the Lord of Light. Melisandre doesn’t take kindly to this, and Davos is ordered to the dungeons.

There’s plenty of intrigue going on in King’s Landing beyond what Tyrion is up to. Margaery Tyrell is now betrothed to Joffrey, and Joffrey doesn’t seem to be having a very good time of it. She freaks him out when she stops their carriage in Fleabottom to go make nice with some war orphans. I’m not quite sure yet what she was trying to accomplish with that one, but I’m sure it was part of some larger scheme yet to be revealed. Also, the no-longer-betrothed to Joffrey Sansa is in some danger. We see her sitting on the dock with Shae making up stories about the ships. Then Littlefinger appears and makes a creepy offer that Sansa can’t refuse. He’s going to help her escape King’s Landing. It’s his affection for Cat that makes this all creepy. Especially considering that he likes to compare Sansa to Cat on a fairly regular basis. There is a cool little scene where Ros, who now works for Littlefinger, and Shae kind of size each other up.

There’s also some interesting stuff going on with other members of the Stark family. Robb and his army appear to have taken Harrenhal, but there’s not much left there for him to take. The place is deserted and smoking. He does, however, ask one of his bannermen to find a room that would work as a suitable cell for Cat. He’s pissed that she let Jaime Lannister go, even if she is his mom. There’s more substance to Jon Snow’s story in this episode, though. He’s still way up north beyond the Wall, and he’s still held captive by Ygritte and the Wildlings. Ygritte takes Jon to see Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall. He claims to want to join the Wildlings, but Rayder and his cronies don’t believe him. Eventually, when Jon tells the story about seeing that one little boy taken out into the tundra to die, they believe him. I’m a little confused myself. I’m not sure if Jon is telling the truth or not. Yeah, he was emo about that particular incident, but he’s pretty emo about being devoted to his Night’s Watch vows, too. So yeah, heard to know where his head is at currently.

Daenerys is also faced with her share of ethical dilemmas in this episode. She has her ship and some very seasick Dothraki, but she really needs an army if she wants to have a shot at taking back the Iron Throne. They pull into port in some random place across the Shivering Sea from Westeros. Slavery is rampant there, and Dany and her crew are there to see the Unsullied. The Unsullied are basically a very highly trained slave army. They are treated horribly, and they never flinch, even when mutilated by their owners. Dany thinks the whole thing is horrific, and at first she doesn’t want to deal with them at all. Jorah, however, changes her mind. He tells Dany that she needs an army to get her throne, and the Unsullied will be treated better by her than they are currently treated. She eventually relents and makes the deal. And thus ends the first episode of Game of Thrones season three. Like I said, lots and lots of different plots going on.

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