Game of Thrones Recap
Season 3 Episode 1: Valar Dohaeris
So, these will normally be posted sooner because I will normally not be out of the country when the episodes air. Okay cool. Here is everything that happened on last week’s episode.
The wait is over: We hear sounds of fighting, time lapses beautifully over the North, and then Sam is running breathlessly through a blizzard. He comes across a man, dead and seated, and then across another man, dead and walking towards him with a large axe. Sam does exactly what you would expect him to do, which is fall over backwards. Luckily, Jon’s direwolf Ghost shows up with teeth and Lord Commander Mormont shows up with a torch, and between them, the zombsicle is retired. Did you think Ghost was with Jon, many miles away? I did. Maybe Ghost doesn’t like Wildlings.
Mormont and the rest of the Watch have a “you had ONE JOB” moment with Sam, who failed to send ravens to the Wall reporting the decimation of their party by icy corpses and snow demons. When we last saw Sam, it kind of seemed like there was a horde of bad guys between him and the camp, so I’m not really sure how he was supposed to send ravens anywhere, but let’s not worry about it. The Watch is now booking it back to the Wall to defend mankind and warn the Seven Kingdoms.
The credits: Ah, the familiar thrill. Winterfell is a smoking ruin and there’s a new city in the East, Astapor, which lies along the promisingly-named Slaver’s Bay. Also, sweet relief, Liam Cunningham is credited! “Sexy badger” Davos (surprisingly, not my words) survived!
Jon enters Mance Rayder’s camp and sees a really well done giant casually pounding wood or mammoth tusks or something into the ground and children throw rocks at him (at Jon, not at the giant – do NOT throw rocks at a giant, ever). If you were playing our drinking game, you were already well on your way at this point from all the shouts of “Crow!”
In Mance’s tent, Jon explains physics and then bows to a large sullen man who isn’t Stellan Skarsgard, no matter how many times my mom asks if he is, and also isn’t Mance Rayder. Jon gets referred to as several baby animals (drink, drink) and shows us how well he’s prepared his turn-cloak explanation. Mance appears to buy his story about “want[ing] to fight for the side that fights for the living” – i.e., why fight the Wildlings when there are White Walkers out there? – and Jon gets to live another day. “We need to find you a new cloak,” Mance observes, and presumably sends Jon to the supply tent where they have all that snow camo that literally every single Wildling wears.
Back in King’s Landing, recently wrecked ships lie in Blackwater Bay. We get a fun Bronn scene that features Jerome Flynn saying most of his lines into a prostitute’s silky loincloth (never change, HBO), then move on to Tyrion having considerably less fun as he examines his shiny new facial scar. Cersei visits, which freaks Tyrion out until she points out that if she wanted to kill him, it would have happened by now, and a lovely scene ensues.
All the layers of the Lannister siblings’ relationship are on display, their banter allowing them to hurt each other but also to be heartbreakingly vulnerable and honest, and the new proximity of their father only raises the stakes. My favorite aspect of this scene: Cersei is there to threaten Tyrion, and Tyrion is clearly shaken when she shows up with two Kingsguard, but somehow her presence is the greatest gift she could give him, an unintentional but no less powerful kindness. The Tyrion we see peering out an iron grating, too apprehensive to talk? That’s not the Tyrion we know and love. That’s a broken, frightened man. By coming to him, letting him spar with her and see her own fear, Cersei allows her despised younger brother to get a handle on the situation and remember who he is. You can see him drawing strength from every quip, even as he admits how hurt he is by his father’s disregard for his recovery.
We learn that Bronn has been knighted but is still his usual mercenary self, and Tyrion will now be paying him double for his services. King’s Landing is being rebuilt. Are they still filming this in Dubrovnik? If so, let’s all go there immediately, because dang that’s a good-looking body of water.
We jump to a much less good-looking body (of a human, not water. god this segue is awkward), mostly because that body is covered with severe sun damage. Davos is alive!!!! He flags down a passing ship and risks his life by declaring his loyalty to Stannis while in Joffrey’s territory. Fortunately the ship belongs to his old friend, the pirate Salladhor Saan, who tells him things are bad on Dragonstone. Davos resolves to try to kill Melisandre, which Salladhor correctly identifies as a dumb idea while also perfectly delivering all his sassy lines.
Robb arrives at Harrenhal expecting a fight or a siege, but it turns out that the Mountain (Gregor Clegane, the Hound’s crazy brother), or maybe Tywin himself, opted to kill the 200+ Northern prisoners there and leave rather than bother defending the huge castle. Do you remember these two Northern lords with Robb, Roose Bolton (bald) and Rickard Karstark (long white hair and beard)? Bolton sent his Bastard to deal with Theon, and Karstark was, and apparently still is, pissed at Catelyn for letting Jaime go. Bolton lets us know that he has his “best hunter” looking for Jaime now. Unclear whether this was at Robb’s behest…
Under the watchful gaze of his men, Robb sends his mother off to a cell. Newlywed Talisa does her thing where she says some emotional human things and Robb says some duty-bound leadership things and together they fully comprehend the world. It turns out there are only 199 dead, as one of the bodies coughs and turns out to be alive and named Qyburn. “You’re lucky to be alive,” Robb informs him, but looking at all the bodies around him, Qyburn seems amused by the choice of words.
Back in King’s Landing again, Tywin writes letters in low light, something you get yelled at for doing in my house because apparently it’s very bad for your eyes. Tywin and Tyrion proceed to have a conversation that makes Balon Greyjoy look like a warm, present father. Tywin is pissed that Tyrion brought a whore to King’s Landing when he expressly told him not to, which Tyrion thinks is pretty small potatoes compared to the fact that he saved the city and almost lost his life in the process. “Jugglers and singers require applause. You are a Lannister,” Tywin chastises him, which sounds like tough love but is quickly revealed to be much emptier. For one thing, Tyrion isn’t asking for applause, he’s asking to not be treated like a leper, but that’s not the worst part. When Tyrion asks his father to recognize him as his heir (Jaime, as a member of the Kingsguard for life, has been completely ineligible for years) and the claimant to the Lannister home, Tywin makes painfully clear that he isn’t disappointed in his youngest child, isn’t indifferent, isn’t merely strict: he actually hates his son. Because of “the laws of men,” Tywin cannot strip Tyrion of his surname, and his desire to protect the Lannister legacy means no Lannister can be seen as publicly weak, but Tyrion will always be a punishment from the gods rather than a son in his father’s eyes. Tywin wants him to act like a Lannister, yes, but deep down, he should know he isn’t one.
Tyrion may have suspected his father felt this way to some degree, but from the look on his face, he didn’t know it was quite this bad. Do you remember in season 1, when he told Jon Snow to wear the world’s perception of him like armor so it could never be used to hurt him? That’s been Tyrion’s M.O., but you can’t armor yourself against something this awful. Knowing now that there’s nothing he could do to make his father accept him has to be a turning point for him. He waves off Tywin’s threat about seeing any more whores, I get it dad, you don’t like my harlots. Thanks for your input.
Speaking of Tyrion’s girlfriend, Shae and Sansa are on a dock playing a game that reminds us that Sansa is all fantasy and Shae is all realism. The Hound would be pleased to know that at least Sansa has finally noticed that “the truth is always terrible or boring.” Petyr Baelish repeats his offer to take Sansa away, an offer she takes this time, although it’s unclear how long she’ll have to wait. The newly promoted Ros has a winking lady-to-lady conversation with Shae, warning her to protect Sansa from Littlefinger. I love Petyr-Sansa interactions and am totally rooting for him to take her away with him. What is the matter with me?
Finally, we get to the dragons. They’re (slightly) bigger and still look expensive and real! They’re flying and fishing and flapping in front of their momma, you know, dragon stuffs. Daenerys has a beautiful new perfectly tailored dress somehow, but apparently she didn’t spring for new jawnz for Jorah because his shirt is still very sweaty. Not that I’m complaining. Keep Iain Glenn in that shirt for the next thirty seasons. Back on the boat, the Dothraki haven’t figured out that you’re supposed to vomit off the bows of a ship if you’re seasick. Would you puke on your horse, guys? Jorah says advisor things about strength and Daenerys makes the determined-Targaryen face. Love her.
Stannis has more grey in his hair but somehow looks younger to me, maybe because of his new five-day shadow. Anyway, he looks rough and he’s no longer listening to Davos’s counsel, firmly under Melisandre’s spell. The Red Priestess voices all the doubts Stannis has about leaving her behind for the battle at Blackwater, Davos tries to knife her, and Stannis sends him to the dungeons. Not sure how else Davos expected it to go.
Margaery jumps out of her litter in a poor part of King’s Landing and makes the interesting choice to let her dress drag through a puddle of fresh human feces instead of lifting the hem three inches when visiting an orphanage. All those kids have giardia now. Joffrey seems confused, but he’s into it. The visit is a total PR move, clearly pre-planned, as Margaery has brought baskets of toys to give out. Later, Joffrey, Margaery, Loras, and Cersei have an awkward future-in-laws dinner. Cersei doles out backhanded compliments and feels threatened by this new soft-power advocate, somehow managing to roll her eyes at everything while never actually rolling her eyes. Joffrey tries to impress Margaery but also clearly doesn’t really get what she’s doing, Margaery is unbearably gracious and just this side of sanctimonious, and Loras smiles a bunch. I like to think he’s drunk, although he’s clearly not.
Dany rolls up to Astapor, Instagrams the sunset with #nofilter, and hears a bunch about slave soldiers called Unsullied. This seems to be a misnomer, as their training is horrific on every level, theoretically turning them into the most unflinching warriors in the world. The slave merchant has a fun back-and-forth with his translator at the Westerners’ expense. Dany has some moral qualms about owning slaves, while voluntary love-slave Jorah voices the guilt-assuaging argument that serving her would be a lot better than serving anyone else, right? This chitchat is interrupted when a dirty child-Warlock tries to assassinate Dany, who is saved by Barristan Selmy, the grandfather you totally wish you had. He explains that he feels bad for letting her father down years ago, but if she lets him join her Queensguard, he’ll get it right this time.
The music swells and we realize that for the next nine weeks, heaven is a place on Earth, and that place is not actually a place, it’s a premium cable channel, and that channel is HBO.