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301 days. Not that anyone’s counting, but that is how long it will have been when “Valar Dohaeris,” the first episode of Game of Thrones‘ highly anticipated third season debuts. That’s how long we’ve had to wait since season two took its final bow. Not that anyone’s counting.

For my own part, the opportunity to bring back the Blog of Thrones is a great one. Truly one of the most enjoyable parts of my job, blogging through the kingdom of Westeros offers my usually tame sensibilities to explode into the realm of fantasy. Long have I not been one for big fantasy adventures (sorry, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars), there’s something about George R.R. Martin’s creation that has captured my spirited attention. So here we are, almost a year removed from where we left off. It’s time to take a look back, talk season two (spoilers aplenty, so be sure you’re caught up) and a look forward to what we might expect from season three (no book spoilers, just wild hints and accusations). Come along as we continue our journey toward taking the Iron Throne for ourselves.

The curse of knowing what comes next…

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Here’s a recommendation: don’t read the books. Not to say that Martin’s books aren’t on a high plane of quality. They certainly are. But since early on in season two, as I’ve mentioned in past Blogs of Thrones, I began reading the series upon which HBO’s show is based. I now understand the true meaning of the phrase “ignorance is bliss.”

Having seen season one with fresh eyes, unaware of the fate that awaited poor Ned Stark, completely surprised when his head rolled at Baelor. What balls this show has, to kill off what is essentially its main character. Little did I know that Ned Stark’s death would be the inciting moment for all that would follow. Everything that has come to pass since and everything that will come is based on the reverberations from Ned’s head on a spike. It would have been great to have quelled my curiosity and allowed things to play out on-screen. But I got nosy. And it’s a long, fascinating, engrossing, deeply depressing road, this “Song of Ice and Fire.”

For me, knowing what will come next (I’ve begun reading A Dance With Dragons, book five in the series recently) is absolute torture. Will it help my blogging of the show be more informed? Yes. Does it enhance my knowledge of the characters to have a greater understanding of the old gods and the new? Absolutely, especially as we march on toward the adaptation of A Feast for Crows. Will I spoil things for you? Absolutely not. What sort of heathen would lay spoilers at the feet of the beautifully unspoiled masses? Lord Littlefinger, perhaps, but not yours truly.

Just know that for those of us who have read the books, watching the show is a special torment. We know where some of these journeys end, and there are moments where I hope that Benioff and Weiss will deviate from the books and let certain characters live. Their track record suggests otherwise. You shall all know the pain soon enough.

Looking back to season two…

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Dragons. White Walkers. Smoke monsters. Season two began to unleash some of the show’s more interesting fantasy elements while maintaining the human political chess matches that have made this series such a joy to follow. It began with two episodes spent checking in on all the characters we loved from season one, spent 3-4 episodes in the middle making promises for what would come — Stannis makes plans, Daenerys gets to Qarth, Jon meets Ygritte — and finishes with a flurry.

The interesting thing about season two and the book its based on is that no one seems to be winning. Fan favorite Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) saved the whole of King’s Landing at the battle of Blackwater, only to be scarred and overshadowed by his sister and father, respectively. Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) spent all that time getting his big army together, only to lose in spectacular fashion. Now it’s back to the drawing flames with his red woman. Even Robb Stark (Richard Madden) seemed to be winning all the battles, only to be distracted by love that caused him to break his oath and marry someone he’s not supposed to.

As it goes with just about every marriage-pact in this series, that probably won’t end well. And what of Daenerys and her dragons? Sure, they made it out of Qarth together and with money for a ship, but what a mess they made. She’s still not much closer to the Iron Throne. No, that still belongs to Joffrey. Seriously, someone needs to kill that guy.

For further exploration of what happened in season two, here’s HBO’s official season two recap show:

What we saw in season two was a continued excellence in balance. The writers of this show found a way to keep every character — even those like Daenerys who didn’t have much to do — in the mix. They also found ways to keep the game interesting, most often through the words and actions of the half-man. And of course, there was “Blackwater,” an episode in which we finally saw where all the money was going in HBO’s expensive gamble. That explosion, my lord. It’s rare to see a show spend an entire season building toward one big moment, only to deliver bigger than our expectations. Good on you, Game of Thrones.

What we expect from season three…

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Having rewatched season two this past week in preparation for new bloggings, it’s not hard to pick out a pattern. In just two seasons, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have created themselves a tight little formula. A man expects that they will shake things up at some point, but it’s really working. The first and last episodes of the season serve as bookends, doing a great deal of checking in with all of the characters. There’s no reason to expect anything less from season three. Episode one should bring us back to familiarity with everyone. What happened to the men of the Night’s Watch? How will things change at King’s Landing now that Tywin Lannister is Hand of the King? What will be the fate of Theon Greyjoy? Where is Daenerys going now that she’s left Qarth? It’s reasonable to expect answers to this questions quickly so that the show can move the story along.

Episode nine of each season is notable, as well. In season one, it was “Baelor” and the beheading of Ned Stark. In season two, it was “Blackwater” and the massive battle that brings the story to a crescendo. In season three, episode nine may also have its own big moment. And its title will give readers of the book a devious preview of what will come. Will it have something to do with a “Red Wedding”? Perhaps I’ve said too much already. Hopes are high. (Pro Tip: Don’t look that up on Wikipedia. Just don’t.)

If the promise of Game of Thrones is to be fulfilled, season three will undoubtedly be its bloodiest and most expansive frame yet. Which is great, as the success of incoming revenue of the show will finally match its expense. HBO has played its game of risk and by all accounts, it has won. Golden Globes, critical acclaim, the moniker of most pirated show of the year, internet sensation. Game of Thrones has become a phenomenon. And as it continues, the pressure is on. But as we’ve seen in the first two seasons, if the show’s top brass stick to the plan and stay true to the biggest moments in George R.R. Martin’s books, it will all come out splendidly.

For a more moving preview of season three, here are the two best trailers from HBO’s marketing push and a featurette about The Wildlings:

Featurette: Inside the Wildlings:

Blog of Thrones returns Sunday, March 31 at 1op EST. Come by immediately after the first episode of season three airs for what is sure to be a lively discussion, friendly to those who have not read the books. In the mean time, what are your (spoiler-free) expectations for season three?


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