Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Game of Thrones 3.1: Valar Dohaeris

The Season 3 premiere finally arrived and it did not disappoint. The premiere picks up exactly where Season 2 left off: with Sam Tarly running into an army of White Walkers. As he tries to run away from the pack, Tarly stumbles upon another Night’s Watch brother, who did not have Sam’s luck and was beheaded. The same White Walker comes after Sam but just when Sam thinks his life is over, Snow  rescues him along with the other Night’s Watch brothers. I am glad the other brothers finally make an appearance. The last few episodes of Season 2 focused on Jon being captured by the Wildlings and did not cover where the other Night’s Watch brothers went. Also after Jon’s capture last season, I wondered what happened to Snow and was glad to discover that he was in the care of the other Night’s Watch brothers. After losing Lady and Nymeria in the first season, I did not want to see another direwolf lost.

Speaking of Jon Snow, he finally arrives at the Wildling camp and we are introduced to another set of mythological creatures, giants. Since there are dwarfs, dragons, warlocks, and zombies, I should not be surprised that there are also giants. I just hope this series doesn’t add any absurd mystical creatures like elves or unicorns. In fact, in a Game of Thrones discussion panel, Peter Dinklage actually stated (though I think in jest) that one of the reasons he decided to do the show was because there were no unicorns. Let’s hope further down the line he is not disappointed. Jon finally gets an audience with Mance Raydar. After all of the buildup from last season talking about the King Beyond the Wall, we finally get to meet him. Ciaran Hinds is perfect casting for this role. He has portrayed powerful leaders before with his role as Julius Caesar in another HBO show, Rome. It just shows that Game of Thrones continues to acquire European acting elite to portray characters in this show. The scene between Jon and Mance does have a twist. Jon asks to betray his brothers and join the Wildlings. He states his reason as, “I want to fight for the side that fights for the living.” This scene, though it adds a twist in the story, perplexed me because there was no indication that Jon was going to switch sides. When we left him last season, Ygritte protected him by claiming that Mance would want to speak with him. There was no sign that Jon was going to switch sides and since I am only on Book Two of the series, I did not have any prior knowledge. Thanks to the HBO interactive features for this show on HBOGo, Kit Harrington, Jon Snow’s portrayer, talks about Jon infiltrating the Wildling camp as a spy. This must have been the plan his fellow Night’s Watch brother had in mind last season when he asked Jon to follow his lead and I guess permit Jon to kill him to gain the Wildlings’ trust. Though this definitely is an interesting plot point, the show does not do an adequate job laying out this scenario and if I had not done the background research, I would have thought Jon really did want to leave the Night’s Watch.

Another plot point that is not fully clear in the first episode involves Robb’s visit to Harrenhal. When he arrives with his army, the castle is deserted. This is not surprising since we know that Tywin led his army south to help in the Battle of Blackwater. However, when Robb arrives, 200 hundred of his men are slaughtered within the castle’s gates. Once again, the show never made any previous mention of a group of Robb’s men going before the whole army to secure Harrenhal, so when we first see the scene of all the dead men, I thought Tywin killed some of  his own men before he left (which did not make any sense). I am now looking forward to getting to this section of the book so the details of this event will be clear. Robb still has not forgiven Catelyn for helping Jaime Lannister to escape and orders his men to find her a room to be her cell in Harrenhal. It is nice to see Talisa, Robb’s new wife, appeal his decision reminding him that Catelyn is his mother. I think she will be a good presence for Robb as the war continues and make sure he stays just and noble. Even though Robb does imprison his mother, I don’t think he wants to but does it to keep his men happy. He looks around at his bannermen and soldiers staring at him and his mother grieving the dead before he commands her imprisonment. He seems to want to let her free but knows he will lose some of his followers if they do not see Catelyn punished.

We find out this episode that Ser Davos survived the Battle of Blackwater, though I do not know how long he will continue to live. Stannis has succumbed to the power of Melisandre. Apparently what he saw last season in the fire intrigued him enough to follow her every command. Stannis takes a page from Joffrey’s book and begins gruesomely punishing his own men by burning alive anyone who talked against Melisandre. Ser Davos, as loyal as ever, tries to save Stannis by assassinating Melisandre but he is unsuccessful, and Stannis orders Ser Davos’ imprisonment. Stannis is heading down a dangerous path allowing this femme fatale to control everything. Stannis no longer cherishes Ser Davos’ brutal honesty that he found so valuable last season leading him to name Davos the King’s Hand. 

Tyrion fears for his life after almost being assassinated by one of his own men during the Battle of Blackwater. He continues the play of “one ups-man” with Cersei, each trying to get the upper hand on the other. We are able to see a little more into the relationship between Tyrion and his father Tywin. Tyrion pleads with his father asking him for the gratitude he deserves for protecting King’s Landing and leading the battle when Joffrey ran away. Tywin promises to give Tyrion better accommodations and a suitable position but he will not give Tyrion the one thing he truly wants: Casterly Rock and Tywin’s title once he dies. It is uncertain if Tywin hates Tyrion because he killed his mother in childbirth and is a dwarf (things Tyrion can’t control) or if it is Tyrion’s behavior of drinking, partying, and whoring that makes him loathe his youngest son. This scene is heartbreaking for Tyrion once and for all knows that his father does not like him and most likely does not love him. This is an interesting development for now Tyrion has no loyalty to his sister or his father. Tywin is making a big mistake for only noticing Tyrion’s playboy antics and not noticing his great political mind. I think Tyrion will now start working from the inside to bring down his sister, nephew and father.

This episode also reveals interesting facets of Joffrey and Margaery’s relationship. Last season, after Margaery cunningly maneuvered her way into being queen again after Renly died, I thought she was only after power. I still think this is her main motive, but it is nice to see that she understands that having power means that you have people to protect and look after. It is sweet how she visits with the orphaned children and promises to take care of them. Joffrey seems totally taken aback by her kindness. Jack Gleeson, Joffrey’s portrayer, in an interview commented that he thinks that Margaery will show Joffrey another way to rule and that you can be kind to your people. I am not nearly as optimistic as Gleeson and believe that Joffrey for the time being is putting on a sweet act. When he first met Sansa, he acted like the gallant prince but his cover was quickly blown at the first little squabble: Arya hitting him with a stick. It is only a matter of time before one little conflict sets him off and Margaery sees the psychopath inside. There is a humorous scene between Joffrey, Cersei and Margaery. During dinner, Cersei warns Margaery that Fleabottom is not safe and that not too long ago Joffrey was almost seriously injured down there. Joffrey reacts in the same fashion a teenager would react to his mother showing his prom date embarrassing photos of him as baby. Sansa was just a little girl when she met Joffrey and all he had to do was be a prince to impress her. Now he feels he has to be something bigger, braver, and stronger to impress this woman.

Lastly, Daenerys has her ship and now is off to find an army. She and Ser Jorah arrive at Astapora to look into acquiring a slave army. These soldiers are well trained and fear nothing but Daenerys has serious qualms about supporting slave labor. This is an interesting development since she had no problem with the Dothraki way of taking those they conquered in battle and turning them into slaves. Ser Jorah reminds her that there is no other way to get an army and that she will give them a better life than the one they have here. This episode ends with an interesting scene involving Daenerys. I do not know if the director meant to do an ode to Star Wars: Episode IV a New Hope but the last scene could have been a very close replication of one of the iconic scenes from that movie. Daenerys and Jorah wander the streets of Astapora discussing their options for the army. They are being followed by a man in a black hooded cloak whose face we cannot see. A child catches Daenerys’ attention and wants to play ball with her. As Daenerys follows the child’s instruction and begins to open the ball, the black hooded figure knocks the ball out of Daenerys’ hand. Jorah struggles with the hooded man. The ball opens and a mythical looking scorpion appears and attacks Daenerys. The hooded man kills the scorpion and chases after the child. It turns out that Daenerys’ battle with the warlocks did not end in Qarth. This is very reminiscent of the scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, when Luke is attacked by the Sand Creatures. A man in a black hooded cloak appears, attacks the Sand Creatures and saves Luke’s life. Just as there is a dramatic reveal in Star Wars with the hooded figure turning out to be Obi Wan Kenobi, the hooded figure in Game of Thrones is revealed to be Ser Barristan Selmy, the commander of the King’s Guard who the Lannister’s forced into retirement. Selmy apologizes for turning against Daenerys and asks to join her Queen’s Guard where he promises to serve her loyally.

This was an awesome season premiere and it only covered half of the storylines. Next week, hopefully we will see where the others stories are heading. Also on an even more uplifting not, after the Season 3 premiere broke HBO viewing records, the network decided to renew the series for Season 4! Let’s keep the viewership up to make sure that the entire series can be transformed into a visual epic.