Game of Thrones Season 3 Premiere Review “Valar Dohaeris”

Through two seasons, Game of Thrones developed a knack for subtle character beats, intense brutality, and a generally bleak disposition. While the land of Westeros still isn’t peaches and rosemary, I kept thinking tonight’s episode took a sunnier disposition as it moved the playing pieces around the board. However, listening to tales of the Unsullied slaughtering babies made me realize that we weren’t in a happier place. Westeros is still bleak, brutal, and a generally awful place to live. Instead, what I thought was a show’s sunnier outlook was really my happiness at being thrust back into this world. It’s one of the great things about watching great television: The people on the show become friends. You’re excited when you see them, and you’re happy to spend time with them. Sure, Tyrion may be cramped into a small room, but it’s delightful to watch him fire shots at his sister. More than anything else, tonight’s season premiere was noteworthy mainly because we were back in Westeros.

While the premiere was a fun watch, it played a lot like an extension of season two. We had to make sure we checked in with almost everyone of note, and set up some major story arcs for the season going forward. This type of episode may disappoint some viewers who came expecting a White Walker battle. However, Game of Thrones is so exceptional at the character beats that the show can have a piece-moving episode that is plenty exhilarating. Watching the Lannister family tear into each other was impressive stuff. Lena Headey is remarkable at playing a powerful woman who ultimately has very little of it. Charles Dance dropped the charm he displayed throughout the majority of season two in favor of his more menacing side that we saw in season one. Finally, Peter Dinklage was Peter Dinklage. I think we’ve run out of superlatives to describe his work on this show.

Aside from the Lannisters, so many characters got brilliant little moments as we jumped from one exotic location to another. A restrained Ciaran Hinds appears as though he will do really well as Mance Rayder. Bronn attempting to talk Podrick away from him while so close to probably the one good thing about living in Westeros was hilarious. Natalie Dormer is primed for another standout performance in a period drama as Margaery Tyrell. Unfortunately, I don’t think her charitable nature is a good fit for the land ruled by the Lannisters. She may have some cunning to her name, but we’ve seen too many times that a person’s cunning is no match for Joffrey’s sheer power and brutality. I’m worried for her already. I even enjoyed the budding relationship between Sansa and Shae. You may not have gotten the action you wanted, but Game of Thrones is an amazing show when it doesn’t have action. The show has never been about who has the strongest sword, it’s been about who has the resources to outmaneuver their enemies.

The show is merely warming up with tonight’s episode. However, Game of Thrones warming up remains better than many shows best work. Only more exciting things are ahead. Until then, let’s just enjoy our return to Westeros.

Some quick thoughts:

*The on-fire Winterfell in the opening credits was awesome. I love the opening credits, but that was a nice touch.

*Robb Stark takes an unfair rap as being a boring character. In a world where he is the closest thing we have to a virtuous man, he doesn’t get to have as much fun. Totally thankless work being done by the King of the North.

*”The truth is either terrible or boring.” Lady Sansa has grown up.

*I really hope the show didn’t blow it’s dragon account in the first episode. Surely they’ll make more important appearances.

Finally, with my ascension to the digital throne as your Game of Thrones reviewer now complete, allow me to make a simple request: As a non-book reader, I will keep my discussion of Game of Thrones to the television series. I request that you do the same. I realize we television viewers may seem like Johnny-come-latelys to you avid readers, but I think there is plenty of room for everyone underneath Westeros’ tent.

With that in mind, what did everyone think of tonight’s episode?