Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Game of Thrones Season 3: "Valar Dohaeris"

So, Sunday was the long-awaited return of the best show on television, the filmed adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books called A Game of Thrones. This season I am going to attempt to do a blog review of each of the 10 episodes with my reactions.

This first episode of Season 3 was entitled "Valar Dohaeris," which is clearly intended to make a linkage between the final episode of Season 2 which was entitled "Valar Morghulis." Valar morghulis is translated as "all men must die" while valar dohaeris is translated to mean "all men must serve."

One of the major features (and a bug) of the source material of the books is the extensive cast of characters and multi-layered plots. Frankly, while reading the books one can often get the characters confused and lose track of what events are happening at what locations.

So, the first episode of Season 3 focussed on reacquainting the viewer with the many characters and updating us on where they are and what they are doing since we last saw then in Summer 2012. The inclusion of so many character in so many different locales makes Episode 1 seem more like a travelogue. The episode starts with scenes "up beyond the Wall" featuring Samwell Tarly and the Night's Watch, as well as Jon Snow and Ygritte in Mance Rayder's Wildlings camp. By the end of the episode we see Robb and Catelyn seeing the aftermath of a massacre; Sansa, Littlefinger and Shae in King's Landing; Verbal tussles between Tyrion & Tywin and Tyrion & Cersei and Tyrion & Bronn; an attempted assassination of Daenerys thwarted by Ser Barristan Selmy in Essos; Joffrey and Margaery on the streets of King's Landing (and having dinner with Loras and Cersei) and (last but not least) Davos, Stannis and Melissandre in the Iron Islands.

Just this summary makes it clear that this was a jam-packed episode but even so it managed to miss two important threads: Brienne and her captor Jamie Lannister travelling the kingsroad to King's Landing and Bran and Rickon Stark on their own path to the Wall with Hodor and Osha.

Even so, the highlight of the episode for me were the scenes between Tywin and Tyrion as well as the one between Tywin and Cersei. The sheer contempt that both Cersei and Tywin feel towards Tywin is so palpable it is stunning to behold. The actors do an excellent job of depicting the depth of feeling between the characters that us built upon years and years of interactions as members of the same family.

Davos' obsession with trying to convince his Lord Stannis that the woman he loves and who is whispering sweet promises of power and conquest in his ears is actually evil incarnate just seems worse than futile; at some point it seems mindless and frankly, stupid. And Davos' story really is not that interesting.

Grade: B+.
Overall the first episode of Season 3 was a solid entry, promising more engaging and thrilling drama as the story unfolds.

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