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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x01: Valar Dohaeris



Game of Thrones is back, and going forward, I'll be giving it the full post treatment in place of the departed Walking Dead. Like my write-ups of the show within the "Last Week in TV" posts last season, I'll break down each episode by location, then give some general thoughts (when necessary) at the end. So let's get to it!

North of the Wall
Our cliffhanger from last season is rather perfunctorily resolved, as Sam essentially hides from the ice zombies until they're gone, gets attacked by another, then is rescued by Ghost and the rest of the Night's Watch, all of whom promptly decide to skedaddle on account of the, you know, ice zombies. I'm sure it'll be made clear eventually, but last season I was under the impression the White Walkers were heading toward the wall (ie where everyone else is now headed), presumably to invade the south, but apparently they were just moving from one place to another and Sam stumbled into their path?

Meanwhile, we finally met Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, and while the previous two seasons hinted at this pretty heavily, he's not quite the monster the leaders of the Night's Watch would have us believe. Ciaran Hinds is one of those "that guy" actors who I like, and I'm already intrigued by his past as a former Ranger and rise to power amongst the Wildlings.

It took me a moment to remember that Jon's actual goal is to be a double agent within Mance's camp, which is a testament to how well he sold his little spiel to Mance about why he wants to join up.

That said, we're obviously heading towards a season arc for Jon in which he finds himself torn between doing his duty and abandoning the Night's Watch for good, helped along by the saucy Ygritte.

Dragonstone
While I was pleased to see Davos turn up alive and well (had he been on that rock since the Battle of Blackwater Bay, which seems to have happened at least a few weeks ago, if not more? There was a line about him having been in prison that seemed to get glossed over; I wasn't sure if that meant just prior to this episode, or another time), things didn't end much better for him as he was hauled away after trying to kill Melisandre.

Otherwise, not much of note happened on the thoroughly-depressing Dragonstone. Stannis seems more concerned with burning heretics than claiming the throne, which is a shame. 

Harrenhal
I was a little unclear who all the dead bodies were: all the people Tywin had been holding at Harrenhal before leaving for King's Landing, or some contigent of Robb's forces killed by the Mountain?

How long before Littlefinger shows up to claim Harrenhal and finds Robb's forces there?

King's Landing
Holy crap, Tywin Lannister is harsh. What's worse, he's not entirely wrong: Tyrion is a bit of a philanderer (though that's changed of late, not that it would matter to his father because Tyrion's choice of girlfriend was a whore at one point) who likes to drink, and there's a certain truth to the fact that just because Tyrion acted unexpectedly by his usual standards, that doesn't mean he should be applauded considering he was only doing what was always expected of him.

But Tyrion is trapped in a chicken-and-egg scenario, where no matter what he does, it won't be good enough, because at the end of the day, everyone blames him for the death of his mother. And even when he does something well, like display a strong aptitude for politics, his father dismisses it as a result of his "low cunning". So basically, no matter what he does, even if it does help his family, his father won't approve simply because Tyrion did it, which has to hurt most of all.    

That whole scene was expertly acted, with neither Tywin nor Tyrion flying off the handle while still making their respective feelings on the matter clear.

That said, I do hope we get some sense of Tywin's feelings about Joffrey. Because even if he doesn't want to applaud Tyrion for simply acting like a typical Lannister, he can't possible think much better of Joffrey considering how he behaved during the battle. Tywin doesn't strike me as the type who would give Joffrey a pass just because he's his grandson/the king.

Legally speaking, Tyrion does have a point about being the Lannister heir (Joffrey is technically the heir, I suppose, but that would require the Lannisters confirming he's not the son of Robert Baratheon, which would make his hold on the throne even more tenuous). I wonder if there's any kind of court in Westeros where Tyrion could lodge a formal complaint?  

I'm not sure yet if I'm supposed to (it's unclear how much her actions are genuine and how much they're simply a means to an end), but I like Margaery. On the surface, at least, she seems to have a pretty good head for leadership and an ability to ably play the game, which counts for a lot on this show. 

While it certainly doesn't excuse his vast swath of dickery thus far, I can't help but be amused by Joffrey getting cockblocked by his mom, as well as Cersei's clear disdain for Margaery and the fact that her son is more enamored of her than Cersei.   

So did Sansa get hit with the puberty stick between seasons or what? Not that its a bad or unexpected thing, but I was taken aback at how tall she'd gotten. Maybe one of those ships will take her to join the WNBA.

Littlefinger's interest in her remains creepy, and I'm glad Roz at least made a point of it to Shae (not that I expect good things for Shae, either). The scene between Roz and Shae overall was strong.

Astapor 
After one final "give me back my dragons!" in the Previously On segment that had to be a wink to the audience, Dany has thankfully left Qarth behind in search of an army to back up her ambitions and dragons. The idea of the slave army and the moral quandary it suggests is intriguing (frankly, I was half expecting Dany to summon up a dragon or two to roast the slaver just because she was outraged by him), though I do wonder how the option of buying the army is even available to her, considering Xaro Xaro Ducksauce's vault was empty last season.

Jorah did have a good point that should Dany buy the army, she would at least treat them better than many other buyers would. 

I was also excited by the return of Barristan Selmy (this might have been fueled by my having just read the chapter where he was dismissed by Joffrey in the first book the night before), and hope that at some point we might see him back up all the claims about what a great swordfighter he is.

I'm not sure if it's intentional or not, or if she'll stay on this same track, but I'm continuing to think that Dany might be the best candidate for ruler of Westeros. She seems to have just the right balance of skill and empathy to do the job well. 

Other Thoughts
No Arya, Bran, Theon or Jamie/Brienne this episode. 

The opening credits, which are pretty much the best on TV right now, were updated to include a burnt out Winterfell and Astapor.

This is a show that will always be relatively fragmented (the focused "Blackwater" from last season the occasional exception) but this one didn't feel too jumbled, especially for a premiere. It helped that the cutting back and forth between locations largely occurred in the second half, and was then limited mostly to going from Kings Landing to somewhere else. 

In case you were worried, the show was renewed for a fourth season today, and the season premiered to new highs in the ratings.

10 comments:

  1. don't really have anything else to say. Oh, except, yes Dany would treat the slave army right, but paying the slaver for them just means he has the funds to go out and raise another slave army. It's kind of like the moral quandry with puppy mill dogs

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  2. WARNING: SPOILERS? AHEAD. I don't say anything in particular (or anything I consider a spoiler) but people are touchy about this stuff.

    Here are some thoughts/comparisons to the books.

    BEYOND THE WALL: If you were wondering, the fight with the Walkers isn't depicted in the book either. This wasn't a ploy to save money (though I'm sure they were glad they didn't have to pay for an expensive fight sequence). The book opens in much the same way.

    Yeah, Mance is the shit.

    DRAGONSTONE: Davos was in prison prior, not after the Blackwater. This line was a reference to his time as a smuggler. He was stuck on the rock for all that time. The book is more detailed in this account and we spend a little time with Davos thinking on his little island before being rescued.

    HARRENHAL: Pretty sure that was Rob's vangaurd or leading party or something. They were on the march to Harrenhal last season (when we thought Tywin was heading out to battle Rob and instead went to King's Landing) and I imagine those were his soldiers beaten by the Mountain. I don't remember that scene in particular in the book. I feel like it was added...

    KING'S LANDING: I am surprised Tywin's actor doesn't get more acclaim. He nails every scene. There are few characters who are depicted as perfectly as him. That scene was genius. In comparison to other shows we watch (like Once Upon A Time) this scene wouldn't have shown the appreciated restraint you mentioned.

    That scene is another example of why I love the show/books. Both characters have valid points (as you pointed out) so while Tywin is the "bad guy" in this scene (because everyone is rooting for Tyrion) he isn't evil. His reasoning follows sound logic for his character, which isn't always the case in other stories.

    Joffrey seems to be getting more contracted and hunchback-y, which I like. His confused looks towards Margarey is something only the show's visuals can do. Margarey does make feel bad for Cersei and she definitely provides Cersei some much needed sympathy (as much as Cersei deserves).

    ASTAPOR: I'm pretty sure in the books Dany sacks Qarth following the return of her dragons (hence the money). Also, Sir Barriston is accompanied by other people, money, and ships from Pentos via Illyrio Mopatis. His identity in the books is a secret for a long time: he has a big beard if I remember correctly and Jorah doesn't recognize him, but says he seems familiar and doesn't trust him. This mystery goes on for a while (maybe into the beginning of fifth book? I could be wrong, it has been a while) for the readers. Of course, the show can't really do this so the reveal got moved to right away.

    As far as money, the show hasn't really touched this, but Dany has the dragons and even one of them would be worth more than anything money could buy. She is virtually the most wealthy person alive; if she would ever give up a dragon.

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  3. BOOK SPOILERS! But not much more than what has been posted already.

    Selmy shows up about midway through the third book. It's the last one I have read so far. I was kind of wondering how they would do his reveal since the visual of TV would ruin the surprise. Like you said they just did it right away instead. I haven't watched season 2 yet. Have we met Belwas yet?

    I could be wrong but I don't remember Dany sacking Qarth in the books. She uses Illyrio's ships and their cargo among other things, all without Illyrio's knowledge, as bartering tools for the Unsullied. I really like how it turned out in the books and since I don't have HBO, I caught the premier at the tail end of the Xfinity watchathon, I will have to wait a while to see it happen. Assuming they do it the same way of course.

    I was talking with somebody at work about how Tyrion, despite being kind of portrayed as a bit of a schemer and not necesarily bad certainly not very good either, is really a pretty decent guy. He just kind of gets kicked from place to place and gets blamed for all sorts of things that he didn't do when he really is just trying to be a decent guy for the most part. You kind of have to feel sorry for the guy at a certain point. He gets crapped on and just brushes it off and carries on.

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  4. @Phantomos No Strong Belwas or mention of Illyrio (at least since his appearance in season 1). In fact, season 2 handled Qarth in some drastically different ways.

    Also, there has been no mention of how she got the ships her crew were seen sailing. After how the show ended in Qarth I suppose she could have taken Xaro's ships in the TV-verse.

    Yeah, it had been a while since I read the books (and really long since Clash of Kings) so some of the Qarth details are a little fuzzy.

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  5. Woohoo! If I had to name my favorite show currently on TV, it would be a hard choice between this, Mad Men, and Justified, but I think Game of Thrones beats the others out. Admittedly I like epics more than smaller, personal stories (as you may have gathered from many of my "X-Aminations" comments over the years), and no show on television is as epic as this. I'm thrilled that it's back, and equally disappointed that we only have it for ten weeks! But anyway...

    "Ciaran Hinds is one of those "that guy" actors who I like..."

    Me, my brother, and my sister-in-law were all trying to place the guy when he showed up. We had to pause the episode to find him on IMDB. Turns out we all knew him from Harry Potter more than anything else, though my brother also recalled him as Julius Caesar in Rome.

    "While I was pleased to see Davos turn up alive and well ... things didn't end much better for him as he was hauled away after trying to kill Melisandre."

    However, the actor who plays him, Liam Cunningham, has been added to the opening credits, so I expect him to stick around for this full season, at least.

    "I was a little unclear who all the dead bodies were..."

    I was equally confused. Sometimes I wish this show had Cliffs Notes. I know the HBO Go app does a "second screen" thing where you can follow along on your iOS device while watching the show and it will elaborate on certain stuff for you, but I've never tried it. I wonder if it's worth it...

    "That whole scene was expertly acted, with neither Tywin nor Tyrion flying off the handle while still making their respective feelings on the matter clear."

    I really, really, really want to see Tywin get what's coming to him. But I don't want him to die! I want him to be publicly humiliated somehow, hopefully undone by the scheming of Tyrion himself, which I feel for him is a fate worse than death.

    But given the nature of this series, I'm not holding my breath! George R.R. Martin seems mostly to delight in putting characters through the wringer without giving the audience any sort of satisfying resolution.

    I, too, would love to see some Tywin/Joffrey interaction. Hopefully they'll get to that this season.

    "I was also excited by the return of Barristan Selmy..."

    Me too! I thought that guy was awesome back in season 1, especially in the scene where Joffrey fired him and he told the other guards he could take them all out easily (repeated in the "Previously on..." segment). I'm surprised to see him working for Dany, though... I had thought he might defect to the Starks or something since he and Ned seemed somewhat chummy in season 1 (unless I'm misremembering).

    Anyway, whatever happens with him, I'm glad to see him back. One thing I like about this show is that it has a lot of older men who can still kick ass. I get tired of seeing the main male characters in every single series as young prettyboys.

    (I know it makes me sexist or something, but by the same token, I like that almost all women on this show are relatively young and hot.)

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  6. @Sarah: It's kind of like the moral quandry with puppy mill dogs

    Ah, good point. Better then to just roast the guy and take his army. :)

    @BrotherTeebore: the fight with the Walkers isn't depicted in the book either.

    Good to know. Is the idea supposed to be that the contingent of Rangers that found Sam killed all the Walkers we saw at the end of the season, or did they just avoid them and the Walkers are still moseying around up there?

    He was stuck on the rock for all that time.

    Wow, no wonder he looked like crap. How long, roughly, was he on that little island?

    I am surprised Tywin's actor doesn't get more acclaim. He nails every scene.

    Agreed on both counts.

    Margarey does make feel bad for Cersei and she definitely provides Cersei some much needed sympathy (as much as Cersei deserves).

    So far, Margaery has just made me laugh at Cersei (like, "haha, you're losing your influence, suck it!") rather than feel sympathy for her, but that could just be me.

    Dany has the dragons and even one of them would be worth more than anything money could buy.

    Yeah, but like you said, she'd have to sell one, and that isn't likely, so in reality they're as valuable to her (in terms of money) as not having them.

    After how the show ended in Qarth I suppose she could have taken Xaro's ships in the TV-verse.

    It's funny that I wondered how she'd have money to buy the Unsullied, yet never asked where she got that ship. It makes sense that she probably would have just taken it from Xaro, considering he was a shipping magnate of some sort, and I can understand why the show didn't take the time to make a point of it.

    @Phantomas: You kind of have to feel sorry for the guy at a certain point.

    Definitely. Even when he does well, he just gets crapped on more and more. Nothing is ever good enough, because no matter what he does, it'll always be him doing it, and thus, no one will care.

    @Matt: If I had to name my favorite show currently on TV, it would be a hard choice between this, Mad Men, and Justified, but I think Game of Thrones beats the others out.

    This is definitely my favorite show on TV (though I don't watch the other two you mentioned). Certainly my favorite drama; it's tough to rank comedies and dramas side by side.

    However, the actor who plays him, Liam Cunningham, has been added to the opening credits, so I expect him to stick around for this full season, at least.

    I did notice his name in the credits, but I'd forgotten he wasn't there last season. I'm glad he'll apparently be sticking around; I like him.

    I've never tried it

    Nor have I. If I ever do, I'll let you know how it goes.

    But given the nature of this series, I'm not holding my breath!

    I know what you mean. Along with Tywin, I'm still waiting for Joffrey to get some kind of humiliating comeuppance, but I just don't think that's going to happen. The best I think I can hope for is that he loses the throne, but I'm not even confidant that'll ever happen.

    I thought that guy was awesome back in season 1, especially in the scene where Joffrey fired him and he told the other guards he could take them all out easily

    Yeah, that's the scene that really makes me want to see him in action. Like, I understand why he didn't take out the other Kingsguards in that scene, but I want to see him display his skills somewhere else now.






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  7. Teebore -- "Certainly my favorite drama; it's tough to rank comedies and dramas side by side."

    Yeah, when I said "favorite TV show," I basically meant "favorite drama." It's like apples and oranges.

    Teebore -- "I did notice his name in the credits, but I'd forgotten he wasn't there last season. I'm glad he'll apparently be sticking around; I like him."

    Well, I don't think he was there last year. I feel like I saw his name there for the first time this season, because I thought to myself, "I don't recognize that name. I need to look him up." But it's always possible he was just buried further into the cast before. In the premiere, I think he had one credit all to himself.

    Anyway, I hope he can talk some sense into Stannis.

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  8. @Matt: Anyway, I hope he can talk some sense into Stannis.

    Me too, me too...

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  9. Nice writeup, Teebore, and great comments, folks...

    I love that it's the outsiders, Daenerys and the Wildling chief and to an extent Margaery, who arguably (?) bring the most human, humane outlook and thus deserve to rule the most.

    Tyrion is trapped in a chicken-and-egg scenario, where no matter what he does, it won't be good enough

    I was thinking that you could maybe add Tyrion to my off-the-cuff list above on both counts — not that he's jockeying to actually be king or queen. Having book smarts, as he's demonstrated, as well as "street smarts" to an extent (in a fashion that gets him labeled a schemer rather than a guy's guy) he's more sympathetic, I'd wager, to many of the viewers on account of his intelligence alone than are the male characters who get by in Westeros on their looks or their skills in battle. Yet while he isn't truly to blame for being born a dwarf nor killing his mother in the process, Tywin can't help but consider him responsible for the latter and is sadly likely right that the former precludes him, in the time and place of Game of Thrones, from representing the Lannister family in any figurehead role.

    Last season we came to a grudging admiration of Tywin as he sparred verbally with Arya, as we often do with antagonists on the show. Him largely being such a civilized despot is what makes this conversation with Tyrion so galling; he's a smart man but has a huge blind spot with Tyrion because of Tyrion's own past carousing, because he hasn't been privy to Tyrion's actual strategy and even bravery in King's Landing, and because of the emotions Tyrion's very existence stirs.

    No Arya, Bran, Theon or Jamie/Brienne this episode.

    I know there's no way to get to every plot/character thread — not satisfyingly, at least, probably — but it surprised me that they didn't touch on Arya or Jamie/Brienne. Nobody who's watching is going to stop because of that, of course, but it feels like Arya in particular is such a fan-favorite. Then again, Daenerys excepted she has possibly the most isolated storyline (maybe the most, period, since while Daenerys is farther away she at least has Ser Jorah with her).

    Maybe one of those ships will take [Sansa] to join the WNBA

    I did notice she'd matured, at least physically. On the one hand the wait between seasons, and the paltry number of episodes per season, is good for the child actors' growth spurts in that if you haven't rewatched the show in the interim that may not jump out at you as much. On the other hand both of those factors only make the situation more problematic, particularly since nowhere near a year passes on Game of Thrones as it does in viewers' lives, unlike most shows; with, say, Modern Family you not only have the younger cast members growing during shooting, which except for a couple months off between seasons is fairly constant, but you also have the narrative running parallel to an actual year in real life, getting compressed sometimes but then skipping ahead to compensate.

    As far as anyone being listed in the opening credits, by the way, only actors who appear in a given episode show up there; I'm not sure if their placement, outside of the most prominent names, indicates their level of screen time. I find this practice eminently fair, yet it can also be distracting if not spoilery should one actually pay attention to the credits amidst all the awesome clockwork city-raising.

    Sorry for cutting this so close to tonight's episode!

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  10. @Blam: I love that it's the outsiders, Daenerys and the Wildling chief and to an extent Margaery, who arguably (?) bring the most human, humane outlook and thus deserve to rule the most.

    Good point. Even Jon, who of all the various Stark children, seems the most capable of leading, is an outsider, by dint of his birth and in terms of his physical location, and I definitely think you could put Tyrion in that category as well.

    Nobody who's watching is going to stop because of that, of course, but it feels like Arya in particular is such a fan-favorite.

    Yeah, I feel like after Tyrion, Arya is probably the next fan favorite, and it was a little surprising that they held her for the second episode.

    On the other hand both of those factors only make the situation more problematic, particularly since nowhere near a year passes on Game of Thrones as it does in viewers' lives

    I talk about this a little bit in the most recent post in terms of Bran, but yeah, it's becoming more and more apparent that more time is passing in the real world vs. in Westeros when it comes to the child actors. So far, it's not too hard to look past: Sansa is at an age where the character is growing alongside the actor portraying her, while Bran's growth spurt is mitigated a bit by the character being unable to stand (regularly) and thus reminding us of how tall he's gotten and Arya doesn't yet (in her one appearance this season) seem to have grown too much, too fast (though I imagine a side-by-side comparison of the character from season one to now would reveal otherwise).

    But I imagine this may get harder and harder for the audience to reconcile, especially considering the third book is being split across two seasons, meaning the discrepancy between time in the story and time in the real world is likely going to get even bigger. Nevertheless, I'm much more willing to turn a blind eye to that sort of thing rather than have the characters recast or end up in a Walt-like situation.

    As far as anyone being listed in the opening credits, by the way, only actors who appear in a given episode show up there; I'm not sure if their placement, outside of the most prominent names, indicates their level of screen time.

    I'm continually fascinated by how the opening credits of a show relate to the business end of actors' contracts (ie whether placement in the credits requires an increase in pay/assurances of X number of appearances, etc). Once upon a time I used to think there was an industry standard to that sort of thing (and maybe there was), but these days I think it tends to differ from show to show.

    Either way, I never realized the opening credits differed based on who was appearing in a given episode (apparently I'm too busy watching the clockwork city raising), so thanks for pointing that out.

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