Season three of Game of Thrones has finally started killing people. And not just anyone, as we’ll discuss in this week’s epic, thoughtful edition of Blog of Thrones. For those reading along, as always, we’re not getting into any spoiler territory. Sometimes a little bit of bookishness will shine through, but at no point will we discuss any events that have not happened yet in the show.
With that in mind, lets get on with it. Because as season three has its first big character death, it also now has a number of great accelerating storylines.
“You sound like a bloody woman.”
As I feared aloud in last week’s entry, Jamie Lannister is about to become very depressing. We meet back up with the one-handed Kingslayer first in episode three, his stump still fresh and his hand dangling around his neck. It’s one of many cruel moments played out upon the eldest Lion by Locke (newcomer Noah Taylor, ever the vicious sonofabitch.) There’s much pity to be laid at the feet of one of the least likable characters in all of Westeros. Because as expected, a knight who loses his sword hand will soon lose his spirit. To Jamie Lannister, that seems to be a fatal blow. Gone are the thoughts of getting back to his sisterlover, his illegitimate King of a son, his loving father, his entertaining brother or the White Cloaked men of the King’s Guard, whom he once led. He just wants to die. It seems fitting, really, that it’s Brienne who won’t let him give up. Two episodes ago, she may have killed him. But they are friends now. Friends in sadness and despair. A regular Thelma and Louise, with one less hand and an equally grizzly fate, I’m sure.
A Spider in the Garden
One of the great insights of Todd VanDerWerff’s GoT column over at AV Club (link for book-savvy readers only) is that a great accomplishment of the show’s adaptation is the ability to skip a great number of flashbacks from the books, yet still accomplish the same emotional weight through little bits of storytelling. The best example of this so far is in this week’s episode, in the story of how Lord Varys was turned into a eunuch. The scene serves a dual purpose. It addresses the ongoing paranoia Tyrion has about his sister and her plot to have him killed, and it gives us incredible insight into how The Spider came to be one of the most powerful men in all of Westeros without any testicles.
In horrifying yet succinct details, we simultaneously learn his backstory and then all at once, are witness to his power. What sells it is Conleth Hill‘s performance. He’s someone we don’t talk about enough, mostly because Varys weaves in and out of so many storylines that we’ve just now gotten a chance to know more about him. But think back, to yourself for a moment, about all the major moments in which he’s played a major role. Hill kills it at every turn. He’s charming and engaging, unpredictable yet terrifically calculated. In this Varys-heavy episode, his performance is immaculate. Whether haunting us with his tales or striking challenging new alliances, he continues to be one of the most engaging people this show has to offer.
He’s also matched quite well with Diana Rigg‘s firecracker Lady Olenna. She’s been a breath of fresh air to the otherwise non-story happening at King’s Landing. With Tyrion still reeling from his Blackwater battle and the return of his steely father and Cersei wrapped up in competition with a teenager over her son’s affection (she’s losing in dramatic fashion, by the way), the garden scenes with Grandmama Tyrell have been the most interesting and promising. When she and Varys get together to talk about Sansa Stark’s well-being, we can see that these two are a dangerous pair. Dangerous for Littlefinger, for sure. Dangerous for Sansa? Who knows. Either way, it will be fun to watch.
One note on the eldest Stark daughter, because I can’t resist talking about that sad, adorable ginger. Is it hard for anyone else to feel good for her in her scene later in the episode with Margaery? I know that Marge said she’s going to be queen and hook her up with Loras and everything is going to be sunshine and golden roses (pun intended), but there’s something that doesn’t feel right about seeing Sansa Stark smile, am I right? This girl has a black cloud following her around. There’s no way in seven hells that she gets to be happy. Perhaps this show has turned me into a cynic. And for good reason.
Margaery the Kingmaker
Speaking of the relatively clothed Margaery (played with incredible charm as ever by Natalie Dormer), she gets yet another key moment with King Joffrey and the Queen Regent. As the season moves on, she’s put her political chops on display. Strengthened by the presence of Lady Olenna, she’s really pushing and manipulating Joffrey, perhaps into being a decent, kinder king. Surely that won’t last. But it does present ample opportunity to piss off momma bear Cersei. Yet when the Queen Regent goes running to daddy, a tactic that has probably worked countless times in the past, Tywin is having none of it. Once again, Charles Dance is ice-cold and menacing. He’ll say no to Joffrey. That’s change we can believe in.
The Great Conflict of Theon Greyjoy
Just as I struggled emotionally this week to feel good for Sansa Stark’s promise of a brighter future, I found it equally as difficult to feel bad for Theon Greyjoy’s awful circumstances. On one hand, Theon spent half of last season earning every bit of torture he’s undergoing this time around. On the other, that’s a pretty sick and twisted game being played by a character whose identity remains a bit of a mystery. We do know, however, that he’s quite a meanie. I wondered throughout Theon’s final moments in this episode whether or not I’m the only one feeling such conflict. He earned some punishment, but this is bad. And it only appears as if it will get worse. Poor Theon Greyjoy, nobody loves him.
“Dracarys” is High Valyrian for “Here comes the badass shit”
Once we get the political maneuvering and storytelling of King’s Landing out of the way, check in to watch Jamie Lannister slip into a deep depression and play around a bit with those zany Lannisters, we get to this episode’s crescendo: two rather big action pieces and the setup for another. The first is the setup in the company of the Brotherhood Without Banners. Serving as a check-in with Westeros’ darling Arya Stark and the introduction of a grizzly new character, Ser Beric “I’ve Got An Eyepatch, Deal With That” Dondarrion, the scene also brings back the notion of this Lord of Light, the “one true god.” Clearly Stannis’ red woman isn’t the only one dealing in monotheism. As Dondarrion addresses The Hound — who, comically, is still about two feet taller than everyone else on this show — it’s not hard to believe him when he says that he’s been reborn.
The Game of Thrones makeup team has taken great care in lending detail to his claim. Rewind the episode on your DVR and take note of the gnarly neck scar he’s sporting. This man is not kidding when he says that he doesn’t plan to see better days again. He also does not seem to be joking about fighting The Hound, a scene that, if next week’s preview is to be believed (I’ve embedded it at the bottom, for good measure), will see them square off in a battle that will involve a sword on fire. And we all remember how much The Hound loves fire.
This week’s frame also brings about the first death amongst the top two tiers of characters. Sure, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch isn’t exactly Ned Stark, but his death is a big one. Prior to the skirmish at Craster’s Keep, he’s the glue holding together the Seven Kingdom’s last defense against what everyone keeps telling us is the real danger to the people of Westeros: the things beyond the wall and Winter, which is still very much coming. Now that the Night’s Watch is scattered all over the area Beyond the Wall, who will protect the gods-fearing Westerosi people? A question that will hopefully be answered sooner than later, as those White Walkers do not look to be messing about. Another note on the skirmish at Crasters — beyond the fact that Sam finally gets to save Gilly and her baby — is yet another prime example of how hot people get over the whole “bastard” issue. Clearly being born out of wedlock is something that scars a kid for life. Sometimes it means growing up to be a daughter-sexing, baby-killing maniac whose death was sweet release for everyone who hated him (read: everyone).
And then there’s Daenerys Targaryen. All that we need to know about what is to come from the Warrior Queen can be seen in her eyes as the doors of Astapor’s slave yard open and she’s introduced into the episode. This is a different woman than the one who was sold of to Khal Drogo in season one. Different yet from the girl who emerged from that season’s finally nude and unburnt. Different, even, from the Khaleesi who navigated the House of the Undying at the end of season two, emerging from the political and magical nightmare of Qarth. In that single moment, we see that it’s a different level of heat that burns within her. In the intense gaze of Emilia Clarke, who once again shows us how much of a killer she can be with a look, we see the flame inside Dany turn from red to white-hot. What comes next is almost expected, but no less fun than it should be. Of course she toasts that awful excuse for a human that is slaver Kraznys. Of course she turns her Unsullied army loose on their former masters. Of course we get that awesome low-angle shot of her bigger-every-week dragon laying waste with fire behind her. This is the most evolved character on the show. She began as a scared little girl. This week, we see her finally turn into the Warrior Queen she’s been trying to become. As she marches off with her army toward the opening credits, it’s impossible not to get very excited about where her journey goes from here. She may still be a long way away from the Iron Throne, but she’s back in the action mix in a big way.
Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, The Unburnt, Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, Freer of Slaves.
Just drop that whip and pimp away. You’ve earned it.
Next week on Game of Thrones…
Someone lights their sword on fire. Yes!