Apr 1 2013 9:52am

Game of Thrones, Season 3, Ep. 1: “Valar Dohaeris”

Game of Thrones Season 3 Episode 1 Valar Dohaeris

Winter is over and Game of Thrones is here. How excited are you? Did you do anything to celebrate the season premiere? In fairness, the Wine of Courage was flowing very freely at my house. But it is my sworn duty to review these episodes no matter what.

We picked up right where season two left off, with Samwell staring down a White Walker. Poor Sam—he can’t even do the one job he was given. Can you blame him for not sending a raven? When was he supposed to find the time?

I loved the little touches in the opening credits; Winterfell was smoking! The Harpy overlooks Astapor!

Beyond the Wall, Jon had an eye-opening introduction to the wildling camp. Ygritte was having way too much fun introducing Jon to his first giant. (Very impressive looking.) After Jon mistook Tormund Giantsbane for Mance Raydar, the King Beyond the Wall seemed to find himself intrigued with Ned Stark’s bastard. Though we haven’t seen the late Lord of Winterfell since season one, he casts a long shadow. You really get a sense of “legacy” in this show. But in the books, Jon’s excuse for deserting the Night’s Watch was because of his bastard status, yet here, it’s more pragmatic. “I want to fight for the side that fights for the living.” While he may be on an undercover mission, Jon’s loyalty already seems in question to himself. Convincing Mance was all too easy.

Down south in King’s Landing (no, that’s not a euphemism for Bronn in the first of what is sure to be many brothel scenes this season) motives are much clearer. We find Tyrion scarred from battle and stripped of his title as Hand of the King While it’s probably for the best, longevity-wise, I wouldn’t have expected Tyrion to be so wounded by his father’s lack of attention, but so it is. Everyone has their weakness and aside from his favorite whore Shae, Tyrion’s is still hoping for his father’s approval. At least he can count on Bronn being Bronn.

I really liked Tywin and his scenes with Arya last season, but now we’re reminded that he is a true Lannister and ergo a jerk.

Also having a rough season opener is Davos, cursed with nasty blisters and sanity. Sad fool. I want to say he’s lucky to be alive but... his son is dead and his lord Stannis is still under the sway of the most irritating sort of religious zealot. I hate Melisandre almost as much as Cersei. She’s even more smug. Davos reminds me too much of Ned, which can’t mean good things in this world. If I were him, I’d just hide out with Salladhor and his pirates, but then, I’m not half as honorable as Davos. “And you drank with me on four of my wedding days, but I don’t ask you for favors.” Ha! Pirates get the best lines.

There are so many kings in Westeros, it was almost easy to forget about the current king, Joffrey (the little bastard.) Margaery is a cunning businesswoman. Seeing her console the orphans of Flea Bottom put me in mind of an old-timey Angelina Jolie. She knows exactly what she needs to do to manuever and build up her public persona. How smooth she was in her awkward dinner with Cersei and Joffrey. Cersei’s wise to be wary of her, but for viewers, it’s pure schadenfreude to watch the fading beauty become threatened by a younger, more popular model.

Loved that little moment between working girls Shae and Ros. If anyone exemplifies the voice of the common people, it’s these two upstarts.

Not so unlike Tyrion, you’d think Dany has earned her self-styled high status, but without an army to back her power, she’s still just a girl with a ragtag khalasar. But with eight thousand newly purchased Unsullied soldiers behind her, she seems to be on the right track out of the gate. I mean, these guys can get their nipples sliced off without even flinching. It was chilling to see the broker describe, so matter-of-factly, what act of cruelty it takes to complete their training. Is this “means to an end” worth it to Dany?

I cheered when Barristan Selmy reappeared across the Narrow Sea. I was a bit surprised that they outed him so fast but a) viewers would recognize the actor when Dany would not and b) not a lot of big moments happened in the beginning of A Storm of Swords, so this was a cool note to end the episode on. In the greater theme of serving a greater cause, few men are as loyal to their ideals as Selmy. You can see Jorah turn green with envy.

I was so excited for a new episode that I almost forget we still need to catch up with Arya, Bran, and Jamie. Next week’s episode is promising to be just as exciting.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9P.M. E/PT on HBO.

Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to, covering True Blood, Game of Thrones, and gaming news. Follower her on Twitter @tdelucci

1. Tenesmus
Anyone happen to see what Tywin was writing when Tyrion was waiting to talk to him. All I saw were the words, "...ripe for the picking." Anyon catch any more?
2. cleopatra2525
I cheered when Barristan Selmy reappeared across the Narrow Sea. I was a bit surprised that they outed him so fast...
I guess this means Strong Belwas won't be in the tv series? :(
Pritpaul Bains
3. Kickpuncher
@2 - My guess is he won't, though I'm really hoping he turns up later in the season because, well, Strong Belwas is awesome.

Seeing GoT's first giant was kind of reminiscent of encountering my first giant in Skyrim.
Deana Whitney
4. Braid_Tug
“I want to fight for the side that fights for the living.”
Great line.
However, I think Jon’s book story is more convincing reason for turning “traitor.”
Chris Nelly
5. Aeryl
I've seen a lot of reviews say that they had a hard time getting the theme of this episode, but it's right there in the title, All Men Must Serve.

You check in with Bronn, who is doing service, and is called away for more deadly service. Later, he demands better compensation for his service(never change Bronn).

Then Tyrion, who bears the scars from his service, and is finding his services unappreciated(and WOW was so MUCH groundwork laid in that scene). Oh, and nice little shout out to the book. "Rumors said you lost your nose. It's not that bad."

Robb, who as a king must even serve those under him, and two of his bannerman who aren't feeling very well served by their king are seen muttering of to the side.

Jon, learning how far he will have to go in service to the realm.

Davos, learning the cost of being an honorable servant.

Littlefinger, a man who desires power but is viewed as little more than a glorified servant.

Sansa, who came to KL to serve as a bride to a king and has found that service unwanted.

And added to that is that pointed scene from those who serve them both(Oh, Shae honey, I see your end worse than it is in the books now).
And Dany, beginning to grasp how she must serve others, seeking those who will serve her. I am very surprised they had Barristan announce himself so quickly, but it wouldn't work the same way in film that it does on paper. It helps that they had Jorah recognize him immediately. Now all that's left is to see how the tension will escalate between them.

I was disappointed with the captioning in the Astapor scene, I would have like to have seen all the things he was saying so we could see how diplomatically it was translated. And I think it would have made it more explicit that Dany understands every word. Clarke did a good face clenching her face when he started getting nasty, but the uneven captioning didn't make many things explicit.

I too really enjoyed the little changes to the map, with Winterfell on fire(I whimpered) and the harpy. I can't wait for Riverrun to pop up.
6. Curt Shannon
@ Tenesmus: Good eye to catch that. I recorded the show and plan to pause at the moment the page is shown. Btw, it's a nice shout-out to the book, so I won't say more.
7. Kent Karlson
I like Jamie's idea of loyalty more than Selmy's.
Rob Munnelly
8. RobMRobM
@1 All I remember is the word "wedding"

@5 - yep. I was expected to get the Reeds in under the same theme, but I guess they ran out of time. I guess they can be put in under Ep. 2 "Dark Wings" theme.

I liked the Ep. Agree that the pacing is quite slow but that's better than trying to rush too hard. Need to let the scenes breathe and the season build.

- Sam opening was only ok. He was scooping poop - not reasonable for him to get to the ravens.

- Tyrion Cersei, Tyrion Bronn and Tyrion Tywin all first rate.

- I'm reserving comment about LF trying so openly to have Sansa escape with him on his "mission" - I really wish they had kept that under wraps and kept Dontos in his book role.

- Davos-Mel-Stannis was only ok, but I'm looking forward to more later.

- Really like the Margaery add on - clear from the books that Tyrells brought food into city to curry favor with the people and a reasonable extension that she would do some of it personnally. The dinner with Cersei was really really wonderfully done.

- Loved the Astapor scene top to bottom. I would have preferred the Whitebeard reveal later but would have been too hard to hide on TV so makes sense to put it on table up front.
Shelly wb
9. shellywb
@1, what I can make out is: tempt the wolves
...we cleared the forest
...determined to scavenge on our lands
...may be long, we shall have to fill...
...need those supplies for a long while to come...
...hunt deserves to be marked. I h....
...ripe for t...
Chris Nelly
10. Aeryl
@8 Rob, I disliked the way Sam's scene went. In the books he gets the messages off, right? I didn't like they took that competence away from him. :( It'll pay off more later I guess.

Neat thing I noticed in the trailer. The guy that Jon threatened with Ghost in S1, the one who was gonna hurt Sam in training. You can see him in the shotsof the return to Craster's Keep.

I like what they are doing with Margaery in the show. After seeing her in S2, it's kind of a letdown to see how little of a presence she is in the books.

I don't necessarily see a problem with how they are going about getting Sansa out of KL, other than WHY are they meeting in front of Lannister guards??!!!??? The Godswood would work so much better, and it's not Winterfell it doesn't have to have a wierwood. I can understand why they would want to cut Dontos out and have LF deal direct. For those who haven't read the books, it's putting Sansa in real jeopardy, in their eyes. They don't know what LF's plan is, my boss is convinced he's gonna make her his sex slave. I'm seeing Ros telling Varys about the meeting, which will divert his first attempt at getting her out, prompting the Lannisters to marry her off, instead of the Tyrells attempting to marry her off to Willas(but maybe that's to come). But that means the PW has to come together some other way then. IDK
11. Lsana

In the books, Sam releases the ravens but forgets to tie the messages to them. He consideres it a failure, but in reality, the fact that all the ravens return to their respective castles without any messages is enough to warn those there that something REALLY bad had happened.
Nathan Martin
12. lerris
@5 - it may be in the title, but how many episode reviewers know the meaning of "Valar Dohaeris"? If they haven't read the books, then they wouldn't know this.
Chris Nelly
13. Aeryl
@12, Well one review I read that stuck out mentioned the definition, and then said it failed to find any thematic relevance.
14. TheEightChandrian
Book spoilers!

I think there was a foreshadowing and confirmation for The Winds of Winter. Mormont says to Dany "you'll lead a true khalasar when you prove yourself strong" I think Dany's going to prove herself strong to the dothraki she met at the end of DwD
Chris Nelly
15. Aeryl
Someone just pointed out elsewhere, that LF confirmed to Sansa that Arya's alive. Which means he did recognize her in Harrenhal. I completely missed that!!!
17. Gryffud
Dany hasn't actually purchased the Unsullied yet.
Rob Munnelly
18. RobMRobM
@15 - or he's lying, the way he lied to Cat in Renly's camp that Arya was safe and well. I'd bet the house he's lying now as well.
Chris Nelly
19. Aeryl
Why lie when the truth will work though? He did see her, and she is alive. Now, he may not have recognized her, but I think him seeing her and not telling Tywin works well for his character, plus gives him leverage to use on Sansa.
20. Veejay J
Great episode. Margaery Tyrell was really fascinating. I fear what Joffrey is going to do to her or what Cersei will do to her for that matter.

Daenaerys' story was great too. A clear improvement over her story in season 2, where the showrunners really dropped the ball.

I forgot, does Qwaithe (sic?) show up in the first half of A Storm of Swords?

How does Selmy track the Warlock child-thing? Is he really that badass?

Doesn't Daenaerys pretend to put up one of her Dragons for sale? Should that have happened before they showed her the Unsullied?

This season is going to be really good.
Chris Nelly
21. Aeryl
Yea, not having the assasin be a Sorrowful Man changes the dynamic again. I don't think Quaithe shows up again. She browses the "wares" at Astapor before she agrees to sell her dragon in the book. So she looked around, then returned with Drogon.
22. Veejay J
Thanks! @21.Aeryl
Stephanie Leroux
23. StephLrx
I loved this season premiere. This is my first time watching it without DVD and I can truly say, those cliffhanging ends are annoying. I was really glad to see Barristan coming back since I don't think we saw enough of him in the previous episodes.

Natalie Dormer who plays Margaery Tyrell is such a good addition to the cast and now that we'll be seeing more of her, the King's Landing scenes will be so much more entertaining.

Thanks for the recap!
Alan Brown
24. AlanBrown
I will have to watch the opening credits more closely next week--I missed a few details!
My wife and I both thought this episode was a bit dull. Kind of like a TV version of the Dramatis Personae lists that appear at the front of plays and books, lots of folks introduced without much happening.
I agree with folks above that complement Natalie Dormer--the character of Margaery is much more compelling on the screen than in the book. And I loved the way they showed Joffery being afraid of her and fascinated at the same time.
And the introduction of Barristan Selmy is a perfect example of how some tricks that are used on the page just aren't possible on the screen--it was handled the way it had to be, without the mystery of who this person was.
But, all that being said, the episode just rushed by, and we can't wait for next week!
25. DouglasCohen
Taking another bow for properly calling the ending of the first episode at your viewing party. :)
Martin Dunn
26. xithone
I was impressed by Gleesson's (Joffrey) performance ... seems to be maturing as an actor.

BTW, who was the person beside Robb on horseback as they are about to enter Harrenhal?
Philbert de Zwart
27. philbert
It's obvious Barristan Selmy is outed right away because TV viewers could recognize his face. (though, tbh I would probably not if I weren't a book reader)

I love the fact that there is a Dutch actress playing in this: Carice van Houten plays Melissandre. However, I do find that her Dutch accent (slight as it is really) does pull me out of immersion. That's probably not the case for people not of Dutch descent. Anyway, she's beautiful and a good actress, so I support her.

I do hope Belwas does come into the story, he is too cool to stay out. Also he has a number of big scenes that would need to be solved otherwise later on. I suspect GRRM realizes the popularity of Strong Belwas and has devised a cool introduction scene just for him.
Rob Munnelly
28. RobMRobM
@27 - no Belwas for you, this year at least. Wasn't cast.

@26 - I'd have to look back, but Roose Bolton and Rickard Karstark both came into Harrenhall with him. Was it one of those two?

@24 - I don't agree it was dull but do agree the show took its time resetting the characters and plotlines for Season 3.

One minor thing - there was a mystery during the casting process where a young actress named Charlotte Hope added GoT Season 3 to her resume playing "Myranda." Lots of discussions on various websites what that means - would she be the book Myranda who lives in the Vale? Or a Frey with a new name? But, based on photo and fact that her IMDB says she appeared in Ep. 1, I believe Ms. Hope was the young woman in the alleyway who told Natalie Dormer to be careful going into the orphans' home in Flea Bottom. So...a handmaiden to Margaery with a name not reflected in the books. Mystery solved.
Elizabeth Doolin
29. mochabean
@15, 18 RobMRobM, Aeryl: No doubt in my mind LF recognized Arya at Harrenahll. His lies are always laced with truth, and he's playing the longest game of all.

@26 It was Roose Bolton. Flayed Man sigil on his armour. He's less quietly menacing on the show, so far, but I suspect that may change.

Tyrion/Tywin scene was excellent. Laying groundwork indeed...
Theresa DeLucci
30. theresa_delucci
I'm a bit disappointed that they aged Missandei up. I hope they won't use her as a simple stand-in for Doreah and Irri, who can teach Dany the ways of love and provide pointless sexposition. I really can't see any other purpose for making her Dany's age aside from sex appeal.

@24 I liked the pace of the episode a lot. I think I was sooooo excited for the show to be back, it completely sped by for me. I think if they added Arya, Bran, Jamie, etc, it really would've felt like a
Dramatis Personae.

Joffrey's looks at Margery from the safety of his litter were really interesting. Like Robb in the books, we never get into Joffrey's head, but on the show, we can see things from their perspectives. And he looked mystified to see Margaery be so charitable. He's like a monster trying to understand how humans work.

Also - want Strong Belwas! Maybe in a later season, somehow.
Martin Dunn
31. xithone
@28 and 29 Thanks.

@29 Nice catch on the flayed man sigil.

Count another vote for Strong Belwas in season 4!
Chris Nelly
32. Aeryl
@30, That was my thought when I saw her too, especially the way her costume was showcasing her breasts, that since Irri died last season when Doreah took the dragons, they are going to replace that *ehem*problematic*ehem* relationship, with one with Missandei. Which could still be problematic as all get out, but could be done right. We will have to see.
Rob Munnelly
33. RobMRobM
@30, 32. Given that dress, not sure I have any problems whatsoever with the show using Missandei as a sex object. (Did I say that out loud....? LOL).

On a more serious note, I assume they were concerned that a younger actress would have the acting and language chops to carry of the role as needed... but agree that they may well will want some female servant-type around as Dany's frisky side re-emerges the season. So your concern about use/misuse of Missandei may be valid.

As Belwas' best scenes are in Astapor and Yunkai, which are in Season 3, I think he's likely to be not on the TV show. Happy to be proven wrong.
Lisa Schensted
34. heylisarenee
"Davos reminds me too much of Ned, which can’t mean good things in this world."

I did not draw that comaparison at ALL while reading, but it was glaringly obvious in the show. I think it was all his talk of honor and doing what's right and all that.
35. Crusader75
What exactly happened at Harrenhal? My buddy and I discussed it and we did not think it was explained very well (and this is one of the plotlines where the show deviates from the books). My best guess is that the Mountain escaped before Robb could fully set up the siege and killed his northern captives as he left. Thoughts?
Rob Munnelly
37. RobMRobM
@36 - can you take the commercial content down a notch or two?

@35 - agree it is not explained well. Your guess could work, except it is hard to see how Qyburn would have ended up there if deaths were limited to execution of northern prisoners. Maybe northerners tried to take castle, battled combination of Lannisters and Brave Companions, and lost? Thus, some deaths are non-northern?

@34 - Davos is a Ned substitute, absolutely, except coming from low rather than high birth. For governing purposes, his approach should work well with rule-based Stannis assuming he doesn't get executed for disliking Mel (and don't forget that Ned also got along with Stannis as well). Ned and Robert were great friends during the war and thousands of miles apart, but governing styles didn't mesh at all.
Bridget McGovern
38. BMcGovern
#36 was recurring spam--anybody notices any other comments on the site blatantly singing the praises of DISH television, please flag them and we'll zap them. Thanks!
Chris Nelly
39. Aeryl
@35, I assumed that the Mountain abandoned it, but massacred everyone, Northman prisoners, servants, animals, everything alive, for Robb to find. My guess is that scouts and sentries told him the army was coming, and he did a strategic retreat designed to demoralize the Northern army.

Plus, Robb's a man of honor and decency, he'll halt his advance from the Trident to deal with the mess, get people buried, giving the Mountain and his forces time to escape and set up a new base camp.

It'd have been nice to have some nod to how Harrenhal fell in the books, but at the same time, this act feeds into the dire history of the castle.
Theresa DeLucci
40. theresa_delucci
@33 I think the casting director deserves a lot of credit for finding such talented young actors like Maise Williams and the kid who plays Bran. They definitely could've found someone young and good for Missandei if they wanted. Plus, younger kids are even better at picking up new languages, in my opinion. There's definitely a sexier reason for her aging up.

@34 and @35 Davos totally reminded me of Ned in the books, too. Ned was always a bit more salt-of-the-earth type than the other noblemen. How many of them got their hands dirty executing their own prisoners (or cared about the bigger picture, i.e. the growing plight of the Night's Watch?) He would make a great advisor to Stannis if only he can avoid Mel. Which seems pretty difficult as she seems to be all-knowing, scarily believes her own hype, is sexy and has Stannis almost completely under her sway. (As much as a man like Stannis can yield.)

@37 I think that's a solid theory, giving what everyone seems to know about Robb and his honorable reputation. (Except that Frey bride he ditched of course.) It's what i figured anyway, but it really wasn't explained well. I guess they won't be hanging around there long anyway, right? Off to the Trident next, seeing as we have yet to meet Edmure.
42. Nessa
Joining all the others here in singing Margaery's praise. I love that they really played up her calculating side, and also sow the seeds for her upcoming conflict with Cersei. I'm a little disappointed that we didn't get to see Olenna Tyrell yet, but I'm guessing Sansa's Teatime with the Tyrells is coming up soon.

@8: I agree the situation with Littlefinger could have been handled better. I really can't see him cozying up to Sansa in such an open place, but I don't think they had enough time to really go into the details of the escape plan, so I can understand why they kept it that way. Also, Margaery's 'charity' work isn't really so much of an extension. It's mentioned in the book that Marg shops at local grocers, and does a lot of visiting to gain the people's support.

@24: I agree, the episode wasn't all that interesting (there were a few good bits in there though, like with the Tyrells) but I think that was necessary to set the stage for Season 3. I think the next episodes should be more dynamic.
Chris Nelly
43. Aeryl
@43, IDK, for some reason, I'm thinking Olenna's tea time is getting cut, that's why LF has come into play so early. Which sucks, I like that scene. Sophie Turner also said today in an interview I saw at The Mary Sue, that there are big differences in store for ShowSansa from BookSansa(she did not elaborate). My guess is that she knows what the hairnet is for(which I WILL LOVE, it'd be nice to see her act instead of react).
Rob Munnelly
44. RobMRobM
Good news - Olenna's tea time with Sansa was teased in the "Next week on Game of Thrones" clip at end of the show (along with Bran seeing in dreams someone coming to see him, Arya meeting up with Thoros of Myr, Jaime and Brienne fighting on a bridge, etc.)

@40 - not necessarily sure it's just a sexy reason for aging her up. Given the show changes from the book, with both handmaidens dying (rather than having Irri still around), Dany needs an actual handmaiden/friend around her as opposed to just a clever child translator. Some of the dialogue just won't be as good if Miss is a child and the only one around. So either they need to create a new handmaiden or age Miss up and give her multiple roles. It makes sense that's what they are doing, especially where I'm impressed with the actress based on these initial scenes.
lake sidey
45. lakesidey
Also, most people in the books are aged up a bit, even the child actors (Arya and Sansa and Bran are all older than in the book).

Harrenhal was confusing, indeed :P

Tim Marshall
47. smaug86
:( I just saw where Martin confirmed that Strong Belwas will not appear on the tv series.

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