The Ninjabot

Game of Thrones: “Valar Dohaeris” Review

Posted on March 31, 2013 at 8:44 pm by Jeff Mueller


It is finally here; the return of Game of Thrones to HBO!

(Let me take a fanboy moment and collect my thoughts real fast before we continue…)

The third season of the hit adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” series certainly didn’t take a breath or ease anyone back into the swing of things. No sir; in classic Game of Thrones fashion we jump right back into the thick of things, reuniting with many of the character’s storylines. Before we talk about tonight’s TV goodness though, let’s take a moment to remember what passed as season 2 wrapped up.

Last season left off with Daenerys entering the warlock’s tower, the “House of the Undying”, in Qarth in order to recover her dragons from the purple lipped sorcerers; only to find herself faced with what we can only surmise were some trippy and prophetic visions. She saw the Iron Throne covered in snow and was reunited with Khal Drogo and her son, only to heartbreakingly walk away in order to find her new, scaled “children”.

Tyrion found himself unceremoniously removed from his role as the King’s Hand and stuffed in a dark cell to recover from his heinous wounds, only to be informed that his sister, Cersei, was behind the attack that left him scarred and missing half his nose.

While north of the wall, a captive Jon Snow is forced into mortal combat with elder Ranger Qhorin Halfhand in order to cement his ruse as a deserter to infiltrate the army of Mance Rayder, the “King Beyond the Wall”. Meanwhile Samwell Tarly and the other Rangers hear that which they had hoped they never would, three blasts of the horn. The warning for the dreaded White Walkers! We were finally gifted with a clear look at the blue-eyed terrors of the north prior to the show leaving fans craving for more for 10 painful months.

Now with that out of the way…

**Warning, there be spoilers ahead!!!**

We jump right back into things where we left off, in the harsh snow covered North. A fleeing Sam runs aimlessly through the snow, and when confronted with the horrors of a battle that is left to our imaginations we find out that he has failed to release the ravens (aka the Westeros early warning system) and that the remaining men of the black have to make it back to the wall to warn the realm. We can only assume this is a bleak proposition considering how far out they are and they fact they are on foot.

Also beyond the wall, we begin to truly sense the scale of the forces threatening the south as Jon Snow gets his first real look at Mance Rayder’s moving war camp. We also get to see our, and Jon’s, first giant!  The introduction of more and more fantasy elements of the books are happening, and I have yet to be disappointed. What HBO has been able to do in terms of their effects budget has been impressive to say the least. We get tense, albeit quick, introduction to Mance’s inner circle and get a glimpse into what we can only assume is Jon’s inner conflict as he has to throw everything he held dear out in order to join this new army. I believe this was my only complaint (albeit a minor a one) as something this important to the arc of a main character should have gotten more screen time. While I understand that with so many “main” characters it is nigh impossible to give them all the onscreen time they might deserve all the time, but pivotal scenes such as this shouldn’t feel rushed.

Game-of-Thrones-Season-3-Tyrion-BronnIt doesn’t take long to return to fan favorites Bronn and Tyrion; who, as always, deliver some of the richest and delightfully layered dialogue of the series. I don’t know about you, but the moment I saw Bronn onscreen I broke into a huge grin, there has yet to be a single scene in three seasons that he has been less than stellar in. He is a fan favorite for a reason!

Continuing the focus on Tyrion we get right into the political intrigue and overwhelming daddy issues with he and Cersei. I could watch them verbally spar for hours, the dialogue and chemistry is so outstanding between them! We finish out his intro arc by having a reunion of sorts with his father, Tywin Lannister. Any sense of goodwill generated between the two of them last season (or any sympathy for Tywin at all) is crushed beneath the hammer of brutal dialogue. While Peter Dinklage often gets the lion’s share of praise for being perfectly cast as Tyrion, Charles Dance’s portrayal of Tywin could not be more on point. Finally we come to understand exactly how he feels about his son, and it is not pretty to say the least.

Remaining in King’s Landing we briefly are reminded of Sansa Stark, and in what is a large departure from the books, we find Lord Baelish offering to help her escape her living hell. These two seem perpetually portrayed in the same light – annoying and uber-creepy. Not that it is a bad thing, I just feel as though these two have had the least on-screen growth of any of the characters thus far. It would be nice to be more invested in them as the series progresses.

We find out that Sir Davos, the Onion Knight, actually survived the Battle of Blackwater Bay and has been stranded at sea ever since. Miraculously he is rescued and is returned to Dragonstone to reunite with Lord Stannis. Unfortunately for him Melisandre’s manipulation seems to have grown and he finds that he has traded a rock at sea to a dark cell.

Briefly we track north to Rob and Caetlyn Stark, along with Roose Bolton, as they survey hundreds of dead northmen prisoners at Harrenhal. Facing obvious morale issues the “King in the North” breaks down and has his mother imprisoned for her surreptitious release of Jaime Lannister last season.

game-of-thrones-daenerysDaenerys continues to grow bolder, traveling by boat to a new city and looking to hire a slave army of mercenaries known as “The Unsullied”. We are informed, along with Dany and Ser Jorah, that the “Unsullied are not men. Death means nothing to them” and to prove it, the slave-master performs a nipplectomy on an unflinching soldier (I, on the other hand, flinched uncontrollably just watching it). We are also treated to the triumphant return of Ser Barristan Selmy as he saves her from an assassination attempt by a really creepy ass kid. Oh, we also learn that Dothraki are not at all that scary at sea and we get to see some frolicking dragons as well. Yay!

And finally we get to see Joffrey, sweet Joffrey, continuing his transformation into a human weasel as the little bastard hides in his caravan while his queen-to-be, Margaery Tyrell, endears herself to the commoners by visiting the newly orphaned children who are dealing with the aftermath of the attack on the city. Her gentleness with almost made me forget how conniving she is. Almost.

While we made it about 2/3rds of the way through the cast of characters; absent from this episode were Brann, Osha, Hodor and Ricken; as well as Theon Greyjoy, Jaime Lannister and Brianne of Tarth, and Arya Stark.

We did not get much forward momentum this episode, but we definitely set the stage for things to come. From the ever growing rift between Tyrion and his father, to Peter Baelish’s scheming to abscond with Sansa, and Jon Snow’s pseudo-defection into the ranks of Mance Rayder we definitely have a lot going on! Expect more of the stage setting to continue with the remaining characters next week before things really can kick into gear…

Definitely two thumbs up for this episode from our perspective, but let us know what you think in the comments below!

Make sure to follow @themightyjerd on Twitter for more Game of Thrones musings!

Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 1 “Valar Dohaeris” aired March 31, 2013 on HBO.

Please Note – Due the nature of this TV show being quite far behind the books in terms of plot, we want to remind everyone that there is a zero tolerance policy regarding spoilers in the comments. Keep discussions relevant to the show only!

    • Snackbar

      There are too many characters. I find myself intently interested in some (Jon Snow, any Lannister, Bron, Varys, Littlefinger) and bored to death by others (Bran, Sansa, Rob, Catelyn, Greyjoys, Brienne, and anyone from High Garden or Dorne). Need to get to some killing and not introduce anyone new. The hanger-ones are watering down an otherwise good story.

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