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"You've come to a dangerous place full of dangerous people..."
The third season premiere of Game of Thrones not only managed to satisfy the very high expectations that had been building over a long winter's wait but also earned itself some big numbers in the process. Well, big for HBO. "Valar Dohaeris" (or "All Men Must Serve") did a fantastic job of both catching up with several of the series' most beloved characters as well as seamlessly slipping in a few new ones, all while showcasing some great looking special effects (dragons, direwolves, wights and giants) and spectacular locations. And the first half of "Dark Wings, Dark Words" was pretty much just more of the same - touching base with faces old and new - before the second sank its claws in, pulling us deeper into this season's many story lines. Those ravens, they rarely bring good news. Speaking of ravens, before following the three eyed one to catch-up with (a much older looking) Bran and his companions, I thought we'd start in King's Landing and talk a little about the women in Westeros.
"That's what intelligent women do, what they're told."
Power is at the heart of the series for both genders (and Varys) but it is especially interesting to see how the female characters in the still very patriarchal society play the Game of Thrones. At first it seemed a bit odd for an episode so wrapped up in questions of feminine power to exclude Daenerys, however, since the Khalessi doesn't bow to the same societal pressures as the others on the other side of the sea (yet, or anymore) perhaps it makes sense. Things are certainly tougher in the capital for the 'fairer' sex with the misogynistic and homophobic King Joffrey in charge, and nobody is feeling that more than Cersei. The Queen, with Lena Headey continuing to give the show's best portrayal, has been losing control of the situation ever since her eldest son took the Iron Throne even though he still acts like a petulant five-year0old who needs his mother very much. Joffrey would do well to treat Cersei with a little more respect because the Tyrell ladies are no joke, as we can see by the very skillful way Margaery, Lady Olenna and Loras handled themselves this week. Sorry!
I'm not like Joffrey, I swear! Like Jaime, I know that you can't choose who you love. Anyway, Diana Rigg steals the show in her first episode as “The Queen of Thorns,” a character named for her prickly demeanour which the actress perfectly puts on display. The House of Flowers matriarch is one badass grandmother and doesn't mince words, especially when it comes to expressing her disdain for having to listen to men just because, well, they are men. Was Sansa too quick to trust the Tyrells and share her thoughts on Margaery's future husband? I want to trust them, don't you? Mostly because they are the first to look like a formidable adversary to the Lannister rule in some time. Margaery is quite a woman and knows exactly how to play the young King, which is exactly why Cersei is worried. Sees a little too much of herself in her son's future bride Shae's another formidable (former working) woman working angles in the capital, the scene with Tyrion a quick reminder of her wiles as well as increasing concern for the great beauty with the old name. Not to mention some playful jealousy. And I'm pretty sure that was Ned Stark's warning about King's Landing that the little Lion shared with Shae.
"The only one thing that matters... you."
It wouldn't be the first time in "Dark Wings, Dark Words" that we heard Lord Eddard's words, either, with the installment opening in one of Bran's dreams as he relives a moment from before the shit hit the fan. Well, half an old moment and half a new one, with the three eyed raven reappearing, this time to introduce Bran to Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) before he actually meets the mysterious young Crannogman and his sister Meera (Ellie Kendrick) in real life. Osha isn't particularly pleased with the 'greenseeing' and urges them, that's the two plus Hodor and Rickon, to keep moving after hearing a bird fly above. She's a wildling remember, she, unlike Jon Snow, has met a warg before. Wait, that makes no sense since Jon's obviously met Bran as well... anyway, the small band carries on but they soon run into the Reeds and the group grows from four to six. Oh, and Summer and Shaggy. I especially liked the scene to come where the boys swapped stories about their fathers and I have to admit to getting a little emotional reminiscing about Ned. Brodie-Sangster has a mesmerizing quality that's really well suited for the part.
"I told them we were all going to die if we don't get south because that's the truth."
As Bran's company marches towards the Wall from the south, two groups are advancing towards it from the north. First, there's the remaining brothers of the Night's Watch heading back to Castle Black from the Fist of the FIrst Men after their bloody encounter with the White Walkers. They pretty much only have one goal in mind and that's getting back in time to warn the rest of Westeros about the invading force of frozen dead. Too bad Sam is still, well, out of shape and feeling sorry for himself which only makes the journey that much harder. Will he ever stop being craven and be of some use? His former best friend, however, is busy trying new things during his stay with the wildlings, including that aforementioned (not) first meeting with a warg. The skinchanger in question is named Orell, played by Mackenzie Crook (a legend thanks to his turn as Gareth on The Office), and the show is doing a great job of incorporating more fantasy each week without ever distancing itself too much from the human drama. Jon and Mance continue to bond, sharing a Heat like exchange of respect, and Ygritte continues to love taking the piss out of the 'former' crow.
"I think you lost this war the day you married her."
We caught up with Robb's campaign last week and his storyline is probably the most advanced thus far with the titular raven undoubtedly referring to the one that brings him bad news from both Riverrun and Winterfell. First he's interrupted by Lord Bolton right when his hot wife Talisa is trying to cheer him up and then he has to tell his prisoner-mother not only that her father is dead but that their former home has been burnt to the ground, all its residents slaughtered and her two youngest boys missing. Not easy being the King, or the mother of Kings. Bolton stays behind to guard Harrenhaal while Lord Karstark continues to share his growing discontent with the campaign, this time with the King of the North himself. The old man continues to push on about his dead sons, adding the trip to Riverrun for a funeral as well as Lady Talisa to his list of complaints. Talisa tries to console Cat after the bad news but instead hears a (wonderful) story about baby Jon Snow and how the latter blames herself for the whole mess because of a broken promise to the Gods. If only she could love that little bastard.
"I'll come for you tonight while the castle sleeps."
Bastards, right. The last time we heard from Lord Botlon's Bastard before the titular raven informing Robb of the ruin of Westeros, he was on his way to the great castle of the north to save it from the hands of Theon Greyjoy and the Krakens. The last the we saw Theon, he was knocked out by his own men after giving a rousing speech in hopes of convincing them to go out fighting even though they were surrounded by Northmen. So much for Cat's hopes that the former ward, or hostage, depending on how you look at it, would be getting in touch regarding demands or ransom or any message about the boys since he's a little busy being tortured at the moment. No real reason why, either, they just want to, as the one captor so eloquently put it. Even when the heir to the Iron Islands screams the truth at the top of his lungs, the people holding him don't stop turning the screws. Literally. Luckily for Theon, it seems that his sister Yara was able to sneak in a spy to save him from the pain, he just has to wait a little longer. Hm. Does that 'X' Theon is strapped to look familiar? I swear we've seen that pose before, or was it later? Perhaps on a banner?
"You move well. For a great beast of a woman."
Brienne and Jaime were one of the most enjoyable relationships to watch late last season and we caught up with them continuing their journey to King's Landing in order to trade his life for both Stark girls' freedom. Jaime isn't all that eager to be corporative of course, so instead he lightens things up by calling her names and prodding at her personal life. The odd couple makes such a good pair because of their complete contrasts, her 'ugly' and loyal, him handsome and treacherous. She's about as charming as, well, that plank that he calls her, while Jaime could talk the pants off a straight man. If not, most certainly Renly. While taking the risky road across a bridge, the Kingslayer's bullshit finally pays off and he's able to steal one of Brienne's swords. I must admit, when he cut the rope and spun to face her, my smile was almost as wide as his. Of course, I continued to be amused well after she had worn the weak and shackled prisoner down while I don't think he felt the same. Especially when the riders brandishing the Bolton banner showed up and that stupid farmer they should have killed (his thoughts) identified him. Doesn't look good for the proud lion.
"You're a dangerous person. I like dangerous people."
Game of Thrones Season 3 returns next Sunday with Episode 3, "Walk of Punishment," at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. The series stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Join The Realm.