This is my first ever recap and before I get started, I feel the need to do that thing bad writers do where I explain where I’m coming from:
I have never read George R. R. Martin, Songs of Ice and Fire series of books, on which Game of Thrones is based. I am not sure why the author needs that extra “R” in his name. It seems excessive. That said, I enjoy Game of Thrones more than anything else on television and most things in life, including my family. I have spent 9 months counting the days until we could find out what happens next. I have watched and re-watched the first two seasons; I have imaginary conversations in my apartment where I introduce myself as “John, of house Ortved, 2nd of my name”; I may have created a sigil (it’s a bear). This is to say: I’m into it. As a TV show. I won’t be checking out the Game of Thrones exhibit and I won’t be reading ahead in the books or looking anything up on the Internet other than how to spell people’s names.
There will never be a need for a Spoiler alert in these recaps because I know no more than the average fan, who I assume is a guy who lives alone and strategizes about his masturbation “technique.”
So let’s get into it.
Season 3 starts pretty much where we left off* except in the trailer for HBO’s spring lineup, we see Jon Snow and Ygritte making out in a pool or a hot spring or reservoir or some other natural body of water. So I guess that happens.
An unprecedented cold open begins with the sound of swords clashing and dragon screams. Cool. Samwell, who reminds me way too much of “Sam” from The Lord of the Rings series (because he’s a fat pussy), is chased by a wight, which Vulture recently explained is different from a white walker. He’s saved by the direwolf Ghost, and his brothers of the Night’s Watch, who take time to remind him what a giant fuckup he is and how “everyone they’ve ever loved” will soon die if they don’t find their way back to The Wall.
Here, I’m a little confused, because in the last shots from the Season 2, one of the white walker commanders and Sam were basically having a staring contest. So did they not notice him, or did they just not want him? Unlike the Night’s Watch, maybe the white walkers have some kind of screening process. Also, the notion of a white walker hierarchy of any kind makes me confused. Their communication skills seem pretty limited. How do they figure out who’s in charge? Do they decorate the best zombie soldiers? Does their zombie army make gay jokes about their zombie navy? I don’t know. Let’s move on.
Further north, Jon Snow enters Mance Rayder’s camp with Ygritte (who is very beautiful, but so far one of the shallowest characters in the show; she values her freedom, we get it), who, like her fellow Wildlings, wears high-tech winter camo, fit for Siberian units of the FSS. There is no explanation of how they make or dye this gear, or how in the (imaginary) world they would forge steel, which really sticks in my craw, as far as these shows go. Though, I will say that GoT is much better at giving nods towards the economy’s workings than most fantasy series and films.
So we’ll let that go, too.
Snow sees his first giant, and is taken to meet the boss. Note that before entering Mance’s tent, Ygritte checks her spear and takes a sword instead. Naturally: a spear wouldn’t be much help in close quarters. It’s this attention to detail that makes us believe in the characters and in fact the entire world of Game of Thrones. While Mance is unconvinced that Snow wants to be free, Snow tells him that he’s seen white walkers and “wants to fight on the side of the living.” This somehow convinces Mance to welcome him. Not sure I bought this. Then again, Stalin once shook hands with Ribbentrop.
Back in King’s Landing, the Half Man is visited by his sister, whose guards attempted to murder him at the battle of Black Water. Tyrion and Cersei have their banter, which is as deliciously cyanide-laced as ever; she revels in his loss of status, but is worried of what he will tell their father, the new Hand of the King, when he meets him later that day. She needn’t worry. Tyrion wants Casterly Rock, the family home, which his father—who considers Tyrion an “ill-made, spiteful little creature…full of low cunning”—denies him, with prejudice. He knows about Shae, discounts Tyrion’s contributions as Hand, and accuses him of spending his time whoring and drinking with thieves, then leaves him with this gem: “The next whore I catch in your bed I’ll hang.”
Tywin is a great villain. He’s thoughtful, calculating, and his emotions bubble just under the surface. His scenes last season with Arya were some of the best in the series. Would love to see more of his relationship with Cersei, who he married off to Robert Barathean at a tender age. Actually, I’d love to see an entire spin-off series where they go into the preceding wars, the murder of the Mad King, Eddart Stark’s repression of the northern rebellions, all of it. Can we get on that, please, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss?
On a deserted rock in the sea we find Davos Seaworth, the Onion Knight, Stannis Baratheon’s king’s guard, disheveled and starving like a hobo Prospero. He’s picked up by his pirate friend and brought to his master, who has been burning doubters alive on the orders of the fire-worshipping red witch, Melisandre. Seaworth speaks against the witch and Stannis throws him in jail. Nice.
Meanwhile, Catelyn Stark and Robb’s army—his banner-men still upset about the Kingslayer’s abetted escape—come upon a burned out city with hundreds of slaughtered men from the North, including Catelyn’s father’s banner-man. Despite his new wife’s protestations, Robb throws his mom in jail. Lot of that going around.
In the harbor where the Battle of Black Water was fought, Lord Baelish comes across Sansa Stark, whose mother he still loves, and suggests that, if she tells no one, he might soon be able to smuggle her out on a ship. While Baelish’s words slither into the Stark girl’s ear, Shae meets the prostitute Ros, who warns her against Baelish, offering up perhaps the most enticing alliance between two of the series’ strongest characters.
Elsewhere in King’s Landing, Joffrey Barathian is out for a walk—and by walk I mean he’s being carried around in a covered litter, with holes, like a box for a pet—and witnesses his future wife, Margaery Tyrell, helping orphans. As she walks through poop and holds hands with the kids, Joffrey seems impressed and bewildered.
Later, at dinner, with the king and his mom, she and Cersei do that thing where women say really nice things to each other when they mean the opposite, and Margaery gives us this lovely little piece of social Darwinism: “The lowest among us are no different from the highest if you give them a chance,” making her still the most likeable person in the room. Joffrey calls Cersei old. Burn. She reminds him that he’s a coward. Fun dinner. Appropriate that this episode played on Easter.
Finally, back on the water, Daenery’s dragons, now pubescent, frolick and bar-b-q fish while their mother talks strategy with Jorah Mormont. The Iron Throne is still her raison d’etre. To raise an army, Mormont suggests the Unsullied, an elite slave army of eunuchs, against Daenerys’ protestations.
Upon arrival in Astapor, Daenerys and Jorah review the Unsullied, with the help of a slaver and his translator, who is mad saucy. We’re told how the Unsullied train from the age of 5, how only one in 4 boys survives the training. To demonstrate their discipline, the slaver cuts off one of the soldier’s nipples, which is gross, but answers the age-old question “Why do men have nipples?” Apparently, so the guy who owns you can cut one off to prove something to a lady with a bunch of dragons.
The slaver concludes his sales pitch by telling them how, before any of the 8,000 Unsullied can be made soldiers, he must kill a newborn baby before its mothers eyes. Daenerys is horrified, yet intrigued. But before she can make a decision, the warlocks from Qarth attempt her life, using a playful child and her ball, which contains a small scorpion monster, with a face. Knocked to the ground Daenerys is saved by a mysterious cloaked man, who skewers the Matrix-ish insect. This is Sir Selby, former captain of Robert Baratheon’s King’s Guard, and before him The Mad King’s, who had his title unceremoniously relieved by Joffrey. He pledges his fealty to Daenerys.
Some questions after this episode:
1. Where the heck is Theon Greyjoy? I want to know what happened to the arrogant little ward of Ned Stark, played by Alfie Allen. His big sister Lilly has not released an album since 2009, so maybe he’s helping her with that.
2. No Jamie Lannister? Come. On. You give us the boring old Onion Knight (who I actually love, mostly for his atheism), and sleepy Stannis, but no Jamie vs. Brienne. Boo.
3. Need me some Arya. And Gendry. Arya is a crowdpleaser and a genuinely interesting character. Gendry—in my mind—ends ups sharing the Iron Throne with Daenerys, or at least helping he get it, so I want to know how Robert’s bastard is doing with that.
I realize that #3 was not a question. Whatever. See you next week.
*In our last glimpse of The Seven Kingdoms, there was an army of Whitewalkers moving towards The Wall; Daenerys Targaryen was reunited with her dragons and had enough gold to buy a ship; Robb Stark was doing well in his campaign against the Lannisters, despite his mother having freed Jamie Lannister, who was making his way towards Westeross under the guard of Catelyn Stark’s knight, Brienne of Tarth; Winterfell had been burned by its Ironborn occupiers, who mutinied against their “leader,” Theon Greyjoy; Arya Stark had escaped Casterly Rock and was looking for her mom and brother; Tyrian Lannister, who’s smart imp thinking and bravery saved Westeros from Stannis Baratheon’s invasion, had been knocked down a few pegs and was recuperating with his lover, Shae; Jon Snow had seemingly infiltrated the wildlings and was on his way to meet Mance Rayder, the King Beyond The Wall.