Game of Thrones: Valar Dohaeris

The season 3 premiere of Game of Thrones, “Valar Dohaeris”, was fairly low on action. It was almost a catch-up exercise to remind us who everyone is and what they are about to face. I will admit that even as someone who’s read the books it was helpful to have my memory jogged. The characters are so scattered and disconnected now, involved in their own unique dramas. Sometimes you forget certain characters even exist!

Beyond the wall – The Night’s Watch

The Night’s Watch has apparently just fought an epically brutal battle with the White Walkers and their reanimated minions. Only a small group survived, including Samwell Tarly, who missed the entire thing. Presumably he was still hiding behind a rock or he tripped and passed out face first in the snow. But he wasn’t the only one who missed out on the action … so did we! All we got was one lone zombie who got all grabby with Sam before someone set him on fire. I’d be disappointed if it weren’t for the fact that I hated the way the White Walkers were conceptualized in the final scene of last season. It didn’t gel with my image of them at all. But for a show that was criticized last season for being too ‘talky’ and lacking in action (the Blackwater episode aside), it seems silly to skip over a major opportunity for onscreen bloodshed

There was one gruesome image that stuck with me, but not for the right reasons. Sam stumbled across a dead Night’s Watchmen, sprawled in the snow … literally holding his head in his hands. Huh. Well he obviously didn’t pick up his own head and cradle it. And a walking corpse certainly didn’t come up with that clever pun. So a White Walker must have chopped off his head … and then paused in the middle of battle to create gruesome tableau? Riiiight.

Beyond the Wall – Wildings

Jon Snow finally met the illustrious Mance Rayder, King of the Wildings, who’s not the sort of man who appreciates pretentious titles and devoted bowing displays. He grills Jon on why he deserted the Night’s Watch. Jon tries a few answers that don’t quite land until he decides to tell the story of Craster’s baby boys and the monsters who steal them away. The Lord Commander knew about it and did nothing. Jon says he wants to fight for the side that will defeat the White Walkers. I was a little disappointed in the conceptualization of Mance. Ciaran Hinds is a fantastic actor, but I always pictures Mance as more suave and handsome – a devilish charmer. This version feels more gruff and dirty.

We also got a brief introduction to Tormand Giantsbane, one of the other key wilding characters.


Davos Seaworth, who has been scorching on a rocky island since the Battle of Blackwater, was rescued by pirate Salladhor Saan, and returned to Dragonstone. But Saan warns him that Stannis is sinking further every day, his mind poisoned by Melisandre. He watches as she punishes everyone who speaks against her god, burning them alive as servants of darkness. But Davos won’t abandon Stannis. He makes one last desperate plea to his leader to turn away from the Red Woman and stop the madness. Unfortunately Stannis refuses to hear his words of wisdom and Davos is thrown in the dungeons.

I can’t help but love Davos. So many characters on this series (even the great ones) are two-faced, manipulative and self-serving, but Davos is unfailingly honest and loyal. He loves Stannis and he threw himself on his sword for one last chance to save him.

The Northern Army

Robb Stark arrives at Harrenhal and smolders over the slaughter of 200 of his Northmen. Now that the Tyrells have joined forces with the Lannisters, secured King’s Landing and walloped Stannis’ army, things are looking bleaker for the Northmen. And they are DYING for a good fight. Everyone seems bitter and restless.

Catelyn Stark is still public enemy number one for releasing the Kingslayer and Robb can’t afford to make exceptions for her. He’s keeping his mother locked up for her treason.


Dany is sailing into the port of Astapor, her Dragons flying free and frying fish alongside the ship. They’re growing fast, but not fast enough to win her the Throne of Westeros. She’s getting impatient. Jorah wants her to consider purchasing an army of Unsullied, eunuch slaves who have been molded into unfailingly obedient warriors. But Dany isn’t keen on becoming a slave owner. It goes against everything she believes in. Her Dothraki just want to get the hell off of the ship. They’re moaning and retching everywhere with horrible seasickness. I’ll bet that ship smells fabulous.

When she arrives in Astapor Dany takes a meeting with the man who controls the Unsullied and is treated to a horrific display of their obedience. She is told they will stand for days, with no food or water, until they drop dead. Their Master chooses one at random, slices off his nipple, and tells him to get back in line. The man doesn’t even flinch. Dany is clearly disturbed, but Jorah is still trying to sway her. Wouldn’t an army of slaves fare better in her care than anyone else’s?

While strolling through Astapor, Dany is attacked by a Warlock disguised as a small child. A robed old man, who reveals himself as Barristan Selmy, legendary Kingsguard, saves her. He pledges his allegiance to her as this true Queen. She seems intrigued and touched by his presence, but Jorah distrusts him.

King’s Landing

As usual, the majority of the action took place in King’s Landing, where the city is rebuilding after Blackwater and the difficult siege beforehand.

Sansa, who has been dismissed as Joffrey’s betrothed, but not freed from his clutches, is still dreaming of escape. Littlefinger dangles the carrot of freedom in front of her, cryptically offering to take her away at some distant point in the future. But his number 1 whore Ros warns Shae to watch out for Sansa with her employer. Clearly she’s privy to the man behind the pleasant façade and doesn’t trust him with naïve little girls. Ick.

Lady Margaery is making herself right at home in the capital city. In fact she’s fashioning herself as a doe-eyed mother Teresa! She shocks King Joffrey when she stops her carriage in the middle of Flea Bottom (which with a name like that is obviously the wrong side of town) and start sauntering around sans guards. She steps in puddles in her finest gowns, she flashes bright smiles at dirty commoners … my goodness is there anything this saint won’t do! Margaery pays a special visit to an orphanage where she plops down cross-legged on the floor and tells them beautiful tales of their heroic fathers who fought and died for their freedom. She talks up King Joffrey as a great leader who saved the city from bad, bad men. A special Kudos to Margaery for her shockingly appropriate choice of dress. She had the good sense to put away her ta-tas for the kiddies’ sake.

But fear not, she whips the cleavage right back out again for dinner with the King and his mother. Margaery lays the flattery on the thick for an unimpressed, irritated Cersei, complimenting her gown and her bravery. Joffrey is almost enchanted with his new little bride-to-be, intrigued by tales of her endless charity work and her good nature. He obviously doesn’t give a crap about do-gooding but Margaery is petting his ego. Plus, it’s always more fun to play with a tasty new meal before you devour it. And Joffrey clearly has plans to swallow Margaery whole. Except Margaery isn’t the sweet little dove she’s pretending to be. She’s so fake, she makes me want to vomit. There’s no way Joffrey could torture her the way he does Sansa. She’s got sharp claws of her own for sure.

Cersei already clearly detests Margaery. She’s a beautiful, cunning seductress in her own right and she can see right through Margaery’s act. And it doesn’t help that Margaery’s a hot young thing nearly half her age. I can just picture Cersei storming back to her room and asking her magic mirror who’s the fairest of them all.

Tyrion is still licking his wounds: the physical scars that have left him disfigured and the emotional betrayals haunt him. His sister tried to have him killed and still won’t admit it and his father hasn’t even come to visit him in his sick-bed.

In one of the best scenes of this entire series, Tyrion confronts his father Tywin. Instead of acknowledging that Tyrion’s inventive mind saved King’s Landing from disaster for months, Tywin spits venom at his son about his fondness for whores and booze. Sometimes I wonder if Tywin is really so blinded by his disgust that he truly can’t see how smart and resourceful Tyrion is.

Knowing he will never have his father’s appreciation, Tyrion makes a last-ditch power play for the one thing that is his by birthright, the castle of Casterly Rock. Tywin’s response, “I would let myself be consumed by maggots before mocking the family name and making you heir to Casterly Rock.” Ugh! And the saddest thing is that Tyrion’s façade shatters for a second, his pain written all over his face, and he can only meekly ask “Why?” What he could possibly have done that his father could hate him so much? And Tywin plunges the knife deeper, accusing Tyrion of killing his mother because she died during childbirth, of being an ‘ill made spiteful little creature’ who must have been some type of punishment for Tywin who has to watch him “waddle around”. It should go without saying, but what an ASSHOLE! But also what a scene! Incredible character dynamics and emotional trauma.

Photo Courtesy of HBO

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