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Watching the Thrones: “Valar Dohaeris” Recap

Welcome back to Westeros ladies and gentlemen, the season premiere of Game of Thrones, “Valar Dohaeris”, was an exciting and visually stunning start to season 3…if perhaps a bit overstuffed, but this is Game of Thrones after-all, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A couple of disclaimers: I have read the books, and this sometimes makes it hard for me to review the show JUST as a show. That being said, I’m going to try hard to review Game of Thrones this season as JUST a show, and keep the comparisons/references to the book to bare, bare minimum, and maybe possibly try to forget that I’ve read the books while watching the show. Tall order, I know, but I’m going to do my best.

The North

Giants, zombies, direwolves, and the King of the Wildings himself, Mance Rayder, (Cirian Hinds) welcomed us back to the land of always winter. The episode picks up right where season 2 left off, with Sam left behind by his brothers and stuck in between an army of wights and white walkers. Sam’s grim predicament is quickly remedied by Ghost (and Commander Mormont’s handy torch) who save’s him from a ravenous Wight. The entire sequence set during an intense blizzard that obscures most of the surrounding area thus giving the locale an otherworldly appearance. The show never ceases to amaze me with the world building it manages to accomplish.  Yes, I realize Thrones has a much larger budget than other shows, but there are still realities to television production that hinder the ability to do this kind of cinema-quality world building on a week to week basis.

Other happenings of import in the north include Jon snow’s first meeting with Mance Rayder in the Wildling encampment. I felt Kit Harrington’s performance was the true standout in these scenes, mostly because in the previous two seasons his Jon Snow has been a rather stoic/every-man style of hero, so it was nice change of pace seeing Jon navigate his way through morally treacherous waters as an undercover agent attempting to gain’s Mance’s trust. And he was smart to use his own mistrust and suspicion of the Lord Commander Mormont’s alliance with Craster to add credence to his story. We also get a brief snippet of Robb and his forces heading into Harrenhal. Not much to report here other than it appears there is a growing discontentment among his underlings about how the young wolf is handling his war-time affairs.

King’s Landing

Oh how I have missed this treacherous, scheming, and (sometimes) profoundly sad lot. Sansa’s still depressed. Bronn is still a badass. Pod is still loyal. Cersei is still awful. And Joffery is still an insufferable prick. However, there are interesting new developments happening at King’s Landing as well, chief among them: Margaery Tyrell. Apparently, Margaery is quite the humanitarian. Something that utterly befuddles Joffery and Cersei, with the later seeming very suspicious of Margaery true motives. Either way, she introduces an element of instability (to quote Always Sunny: she’s the wild card here) to the rigid and cruel world Joffery and Cersei thrive in, and I cannot wait to see how this develops as the season progress.

Am I forgetting someone….oh yeah, the most beloved character on the show: Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion starts out the season three in not so fine form. He’s still recovering from the physical and emotional wounds he suffered during and after the battle of Blackwater. At this point is season 2 Tyrion was riding high: his father had appointed named him hand of the king, he was calling all the shots, and cutting off beards with equal aplomb. When we met up with him in
“Valar Dohaeris” , he is paranoid whisper of season two self. Yes, he’s still able to banter with Bronn and make his patented quips, but there’s a real weariness to him now. This is a Tyrion who’s different from what we’ve seen before; he’s wounded, weak, and desperately needing to find his barrings. It’s just too bad he thought asking Tywin for Casterly Rock was the right move. During their conversation Tywin obliterates Tyrion’s already wounded pride, denying him Casterly Rock and telling him “you are a ill-made spiteful little creature, full of envy, lust, and low-cunning.” That’s some great parenting there, Tywin.

Dragonstone
Out of all the character story lines featured in the season premiere picks back up on The Davos/Stannis story line seemed the most rushed. We are treated to about three scenes: Davos being rescued by Sandor, Davos getting an update from Sandor on Stannis current mental status, and then we have Davos already back in Dragonstone and attempting to kill Melisandre. I feel like Benioff and Weiss could have dedicated a larger chunk of time to Davos’ story line later on the season, which would have allowed for the other character’s story lines featured in this episode to have some breathing room.  However, I don’t really think this is too big of a deal, and I’ll explain why at the end of the recap.

Across the Whispering Sea

Dany is headed across the sea to buy herself an army, using all the loot she plundered from Xaro, with a boat full of sick dothraki. The army she is interested in buying appear to be some pretty hardcore dudes, so hardcore they don’t mind having their nipples sliced off. Dany’s scenes were the strongest parts of the episode. The Dragons soaring above and below the surf was summer blockbuster quality animation, and the three-way conversation between Dany, the slaver, and his poor interpreter was a perfect example of some of GOT’s ability to produce some wonderful dark comedy. Not to mention, the Obi-wan ish antics of Barristan Selmy while saving Dany from the warlock’s scorpion-thingy end was pure fun. Good stuff all around here, leaving me very excited about Dany’s story line this season.

Final thoughts 

Something I’ve seen other bloggers discuss is the possibility of more episodes like Blackwater that would allow a more intense focus on a smaller group of characters. On one hand, I could see how this would be beneficial to the storytelling, Stannis and Davos needed much more time than they received in this episode, but on the other hand, there is certain fun intellectual challenge Game of Thrones provides it’s viewers by bombarding them with so much information and characters in every episode, daring the audience to keep up and be able to process it all. Honestly, Game of Thrones is best assessed as whole 10 episode season, assessing/analyzing the merits of individuals episode, especially the ones at the outset of the season that contain a great deal of set-up, is tricky because all the set-up/build-up is very necessary. Without all the build-up episodes last year…we would never have Blackwater. So I’m fine with all the set up, because I know towards the end of the season it will all pay off in droves. With Game of Thrones patience is required, but always rewarded. it will all pay off in droves.

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The Author

Chris Baldwin

Chris Baldwin

Chris Baldwin is a sometimes college student, a most of the time pop culture geek, and aspiring comic book writer. He loves: movies, comics, good television, (no Snookis or Kardashians please and thank you) short fiction, long fiction, Stephen King’s fiction, all things Nintendo, music, standup comedy, sushi, and beer. He is from the south; Midway, Kentucky to be exact. GO CATS!! He’s required by state law to say that. He spent the last few years attending college at Western Kentucky University where he studied pop culture, creative writing, and film. Sometimes, he turns off the geek and enjoys the great outdoors, but only sometimes.