Warning: Spoilers below. Don’t read on until you’ve seen the Game of Thrones Season 3 premiere – it deserves both watching and describing.
A black screen looms while you hear sounds of White Walkers, screeching and taking lives. Then a BOOM and the sun rises on the horizon as Sam finds a fellow man of the Night’s Watch, kneeling and holding his own head in his hands, his whole body frozen over, blood solidified. At the end of Season 2, we left Sam cowering behind a rock as the White Walkers wandered past him, the leader noticed him but moved forward anyways – a dramatic nuance not mentioned in the book.
The Season 3 premiere continues each story line from the exact point of departure at the end of Season 2 – although there are so many characters to cover, some don’t even get screen time. Both sets of Stark children on the run, both Arya with her friends, and Bran and Rickon with their wildling protector, weren’t mentioned at all – except for when Little Finger promised Lady Sansa that she’d be seeing her sister soon, even though he has no idea where she is.
The episode begins beyond the wall, first with Sam and the ranging Night’s Watch and then to John Snow being led by his sexy-yet-dangerous Ygritte to the wildling’s king. On the way we see the first giants – huge and deformed, and John Snow stops as we watch one pound a stake through the snow.
Gradually the show reveals more and more of its magical side, separating it bit by bit from our world – easing us into it like its folklore, and slowly preparing us for the time when winter will come and all of those things that “died thousands of years ago” will become very very real.
When John Snow meets Mance Rayder to be judged, he gives the perfect response to the question, “Why do you want to join us?”:
“Thousands of years ago, the First Men battled the White Walkers and defeated them. I want to fight for the side that fights for the living. Did I come to the right place?”
Another flawless confrontation scene comes when Tyrion meets with his father and demands he be given Casterly Rock, since he is the rightful heir as the oldest son. He’s hurt that his father didn’t come to see him since his injury, after he stepped up and led the charge in battle while the ‘King’ Jeoffrey “quivered in fear behind the walls.” Lord Tywin and took all the glory away from him, and at the same time he took his job as Hand to the King, and his chambers. But his father is still bitter that an imp took his wife away from him – says he’ll give him a better job and a better place to live but when Tyrion asks why Casterly Rock shouldn’t be his, Tywin ends with sharp words that seem to reopen the wound across Tyrion’s face as it falls to pieces:
“You, who killed your mother to come into the world? You are an ill-made, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust, and low cunning. Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my coors since I cannot prove that you are not mine. And to teach me humility, the gods have condemned me to watch you waddle about wearing that proud lion that was my father’s sigil and his father’s before him. But neither gods nor men will ever compel me to let you turn Casterly Rock into your whorehouse.”
Tyrion just sits there and takes it, his eyes sinking and his heart falling. Everything in his life was decided for him at birth, before memory, and before choices. He tries to make as much of himself as society will allow, but spends his days watching Cersei and Jamie and Joffrey make one selfish choice after the next one, doing whatever they please with no consequences at all.
But some of the best quotes of the episode come from Sansa while she sits on the at the shore with Shae making up stories about where the boats are going:
“But it’s not coming back. The captain’s tired of risking his life so King’s Landing lords and ladies can get drunk on better wine than they deserve.”
And when Shae actually knows where one of the ships is going she says, “That’s not how the game works. You’re not supposed to just blurt out the right answer. You’ve got to invent a story about where the ship is going and why.”
“Why should I make up a story when I know the truth?”
“Because the truth is always either terrible or boring.”
We don’t see Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons till 35 minutes in, but it’s worth the wait:
For more on the new season, check out the following:
- The Telegraph’s interview with Charles Dance who plays Lord Tywin, 3/31/13
- HBO’s interview with author George R.R. Martin
- Mother Jones’ interview with the show’s creators, in their March/April issue
- EW’s interview with Peter Dinklage who plays Tyrion, 3/28/13