So it’s back– my favorite series of all time. Obviously I’m happy, though the header photo on this article should point out my main quibble with Season 3’s first episode, “Valar Dohaeris”– there was a notable lack of Arya Stark. Having read roughly halfway into the book upon which this season and next are based, I know Arya’s in for interesting times, and I love the murderous little scamp– she’s basically a medieval version of Hit Girl, and all the more awesome for that. Also missing from the proceedings was Arya’s brother Brand, whom I didn’t really miss, except for the fact that his band of misfits is hooking up with Ferb at some point in this season– well, at least the actor who voices Ferb, Thomas Sangster. What we did get was a bit of a mixed bag. Not much in the way of action tonight, but a lot of setup, which is always a huge tease with this series.
Last season ended with Sam Tarly surrounded by undead White Walkers in a blinding snowstorm, so of course we pick up immediately where we left off– poor chunky Sam running the 10-minute mile in said blinding snowstorm, stumbling on dead comrades, getting rescued by Ghost the direwolf, and then getting bitched out by his commander– wait a minute, didn’t Jon Snow kill that dude last season? Is this a dream sequence? We don’t find out. This is the only glimpse of that particular storyline we see in this episode.
We get some spanking-new credits with some new clockwork cities that had Fluffy squeeing in delight, having read the books at least this far. Then we join Jon Snow as he finally gains audience with Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall. Does Jon have a clue that Ygritte wants him in the worst way? Hey, can you blame the girl? For a guy named Snow, he’s smokin’ hot. Well, if he hadn’t figured it out already, Mance spells it out for him. This Night’s Watch spy mission involves some deep cover. Cut back to King’s Landing and we find newly knighted sellsword Bronn sexing it up with one of the show’s infamous, yet somehow generic, prostitutes. Unfortunately for Bronn, Tyrion’s faithful squire Podrick chooses this moment to summon him. Tyrion’s having a bad day; his dad, who hates his guts, just stole his job and kicked him out of his quarters, he’s got a nasty new facial scar from that time at the Battle of Blackwater when his bitchy sister tried to have him murdered, and to make matters worse, the bitchy sister just showed up at his door to… well, just be a bitch. (If this were Oz, a house would have fallen on Cersei Lannister already.) Bronn shows up as prompted, but informs Tyrion that if he wants protection, he has to pay for it– knight or not, he is still a sellsword.
Next we find Davos Seaworth, the dullest character in the Seven Kingdoms, looking like beef jerky on an island– guess he didn’t buy the farm at Blackwater after all; he could’ve won the battle by simply BORING the Lannisters to death, but that’s neither here nor there. He gets rescued by one of his pirate buddies, whom he persuades to take him back to the defeated Stannis Baratheon at Dragonstone so he can murder Melisandre, Stannis’ creepy guru hooker. Yeah, good luck with that– this is the chick who gave birth to the frigging shadow-demon that killed Renly. And back at Harrenhall, Robb Stark is still pissed at his mom Catelyn for setting Jaime Lannister free last season. Mom had her reasons– the Lannisters currently have Robb’s ditsy sister Sansa in their greedy clutches, and as far as Catelyn knows, her other daughter Arya as well (unbeknownst to Catelyn but knownst to us, Arya is way too smart for that crap and she’s been out of King’s Landing since Ned got beheaded). So naturally it would be a nice gesture to send back the Lannisters’ captive son in order to get her own kids back, right? Wrong. Robb is good at doing what Robb wants, as we saw last season when he wiggled out his engagement to Walder Frey’s granddaughter by blatantly marrying somebody else, so he has dear old Mom treated as a prisoner. Where are Jaime and Brienne anyway? We don’t see them this episode either.
Back to King’s Landing and Tyrion, whose Very Bad Day continues with a steaming pile of insults from his dad, Tywin, who denies him as the rightful heir to the family keep. Sansa Stark is meanwhile enjoying some outdoor time with her handmaid Shae, Tyrion’s secret ex-prostitute girlfriend, when she’s joined by smarmy Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger, who seems to be taking her under his oily wing with what may or may not be empty promises of escape. And then… dragons. Finally! Here’s Daenerys, my pick for eventual winner of the Game of Thrones, playing with her winged pets on board a ship approaching Astapor. Her Dothraki warriors aren’t doing so well, and Dany needs backup in a big way.
When Davos schleps his way back to Dragonstone and tries to kill Melisandre, she thwarts him and he’s arrested– who didn’t see that coming? Anyway, if you were wondering what our skidmark of a king, Joffrey, was up to, he’s getting annoyed with– or at least confused by– his bride-to-be Margaery Tyrell and her charitable work with the city’s poor. Cersei tries to put the kibosh on the future queen’s activities, which smacks of jealousy of the girl about to take her title, but Joffrey backs Margaery, at least for now.
Upon reaching Astapor, Dany is checking out slaves– to make up her army, you see. She’s interested in the brutally trained and highly effective killing machines known as the Unsullied. We get a squick moment when the slaver cuts up one of the potential soldiers right in front of her to show off their stoicism, but Dany is still feeling iffy about perpetuating slavery. While she ruminates over this with Jorah, a little girl rolls her a ball– full of poisonous icky mutated death by scorpion. She’s rescued at this opportune moment by a mysterious old gentleman, and the little girl, really one of those grotty warlocks from back at the House of the Undying, hightails it away. Dany’s savior is none other than Sir Barristan Selmy, the scrupulously principled former Captain of the Kingsguard whom we last saw when Joffrey and Cersei canned him at the end of Season One (I think– it may have been the beginning of Season Two). He’s caught up with Dany to offer her his loyalty.
And that’s the end. Dammit! At least I only have to wait a week for the next episode instead of well nigh a year. This season, if it’s anything like the book, is going to be packed with plot developments all over the place. That there are so many subplots that all the major characters didn’t fit into a single episode is testimony to the embarrassment of riches we’re in for, and as I said I still haven’t finished the book– it’s massive enough to warrant the two seasons it’s been allotted, and I’m wondering at this point where that midpoint cutoff is going to be. We can look forward to some awesome action, interesting characters, and hopefully lots of Dany and Arya; their stories in the books get more engrossing with every page, and their respective actresses, Emilia Clarke and Maisie Williams, bring them to life spectacularly. And I’m all fidgety waiting for Jon and Ygritte to finally… well, no spoilers from me. All I can say is that I’m glad my favorite show is back, and how much I’m going to miss it for the long long months after its all-too-brief stay.