Game of Thrones is back! The Season 3 premiere (“Valar Dohaeris”) kicks off the season with new characters, disturbing violence, and all the wonderful snark you could ever want from your favorite medieval fantasy show. It's not the flashiest episode — can anything ever top the Battle of the Blackwater? — but it's a welcome return to the world of Westeros.
Come reflect on all the drama with Wetpaint Entertainment's recap of the episode.
Beyond the Wall: Snow the Spy and the Fate of the World
Last season ended with Sam surrounded by an army of White Walkers, so of course we pick up with him running through the snow. Because plain ol' huffing and puffing doesn't make for an action-packed cold open, Sam quickly stumbles on a bloody headless corpse and the undead monster that made it. But just moments before our gasping hero is turned into an extra for The Walking Dead, Jon's direwolf, Ghost, intervenes. Well, the Night's Watch helps — but Ghost is the best part.
Before there's time to worry that the Watch has gone sentimental, Commander Mormont steps forward to berate Sam for failing to send off any ravens before he was surrounded by the forces of evil. No "are you okay, man? That seemed pretty scary." Just "you didn't send the ravens? Fuck you! You had one job!" Because of Sam's slip-up, if this scouting group doesn't get back to the Wall to warn people, everyone's gonna die. Not everyone in the group. Just ... everyone.
Elsewhere, in a much prettier part of the snowy North, Jon is taken to the Wildling camp, which is full of giants, warriors, and sexual tension. He quickly discovers that his black cloak doesn't endear him to anyone, and Ygritte warns that his one chance at survival is winning over Wildling leader Mance Rayder.
Jon gets off to a good start by bowing to the wrong man. Hilarity! The legendary Mance doesn't mind the mistake, though, and is impressed that Jon killed Watchman Qhorin Halfhand last season. If you've forgotten, that murder was secretly at Qhorin's request; it was the linchpin of his plan to get Jon access to Mance so he can spy for the Watch.
Jon's skills at deception are put to an immediate test when Mance demands to know why he wants to switch sides. Rather than going with "um, have you seen Ygritte? Who wouldn't betray his sacred oath to get some of that?" Jon spins a tale about protecting Westeros from the Others. Is that more believable? We guess so, 'cause Mance appears to buy it, at least enough not to kill him on the spot. Score one for Team Snow. He's already better at this subterfuge thing than his dad ever was.
King's Landing: Lannister Family Disfunction
The bulk of the action this week takes place in King's Landing, where everyone is trying to adjust to the new world order. Tywin is the Hand of the King, the Tyrells are carousing around like they own the place, and Cersei and Tyrion are not happy.
First, said siblings share a wonderful scene full of all the barbs, accusations, and hurt feelings we've come to expect from Westeros' most dysfunctional family. Cersei is afraid Tyrion is going to badmouth her to daddy dearest ("It's not slander if it's true," he points out), Tyrion is still a bit concerned someone wants to kill him, they reminisce about that time Cersei had a servant girl beat — you know, the usual. They're both clearly on edge about Tywin's presence, which quickly becomes deeply understandable.
Why? Because later Tyrion has a meet and greet with his father, and we get to see firsthand where his daddy issues come from. Unlike the entire viewing audience, Tywin is not charmed by Tyrion's intelligence or won over by his wit. He sees his son as a foul, degenerate creature responsible for his mother's death.
Amongst other fatherly touches worked into this single heartwarming scene, Tywin refuses to acknowledge his son's impressive work as Hand because Lannisters don't need thanks; we learn he didn't visit Tyrion while he was recovering from his injury because that would require caring; he threatens to kill the next whore he catches in Tyrion's bed; and he declares he'll never allow Tyrion to inherit Casterly Rock, rights be damned. Dude, we know you're sad your wife died in childbirth, but come on. At least Tyrion hasn't engaged in incest, unlike some other Lannisters we know.
If obnoxious sisters and overbearing fathers aren't enough, Tyrion gets some more bad news this week: Bromance doesn't pay the bills, so his best bud Bronn wants a raise. Where's the love?
At least Tyrion would be pleased to know Cersei isn't having a great time, either. If you recall, at the end of last season Joffrey and his supremely punchable face ditched Sansa and got engaged to Margaery Tyrell instead. That's all well and good, but it turns out Margaery is a bit of a badass who isn't nearly as easy to control as her Stark predecessor. She does things like wear revealing dresses and — gasp — comfort orphans. What a monster, right? How dare she do some much needed PR work for the royal family?
Cersei, ever insecure, is clearly not thrilled with the new woman in her son's life, leading to the most hilariously awkward, passive-aggressive dinner scene since Breaking Bad last summer. Best moments: Cersei implying Margaery's dress is slutty, Joffrey nonsensically cutting Cersei off by claiming their lives were "never truly in danger" that one time the mob nearly killed them, and the difficulty with which Joff utters the words "charitable work." Margaery handles it all with aplomb, because she's kinda the best.
Also of note in King's Landing this week: Tyrion's lover/Sansa's handmaiden Shae gets an interesting warning from Ros — she should watch out for Sansa around Littlefinger. Um, duh? It's an important note, though, because Sansa is planning to run away on one of Littlefinger's ships. What is it about Starks and believing a word that man says?
Harrenhal: We Just Wanna Fight, Man
At the abandoned husk that is Harrenhal, Robb and his men are grumpy because the Lannister forces are being all strategic and avoiding battle, while the Stark army just wants to stab something. But they have bigger problems than frustration: A ton of Northmen are dead at Harrenhal, and many men are still pissed that Cat let Jaime Lannister go, depriving them of their chance at revenge. So Robb locks Cat up, like you do. Awkward.
The High Seas and Dragonstone: It's the Pirate's Life for Us
On a random rock in the ocean, Davos Seaworth is a burned mess — but at least he survived the Battle of the Blackwater, unlike his son. He's fortuitously rescued by his pirate buddy Salladhor Saan, who may be the one truly sane person on the whole show. Salladhor is all about giving up on the war and getting the hell outta Dodge, but Davos demands to be taken back to Dragonstone, because loyalty to Stannis is his number one character trait.
Unfortunately for him, Stannis's number one character trait right now is listening to Melisandre, whose current plan is to isolate Stannis and burn everyone who defies her. Hey, no one ever said the Lord of Light is a merciful god. Davos shows up, declares Melisandre's his enemy, and tries to stab her; Stannis has him hauled off to the dungeons without blinking. That's what you get for trying, Davos. Shoulda gone back to a life of carefree piracy when you had the chance.
As a side note: Melisandre claims that if she'd been at Blackwater, Stannis would have won. True, or baseless bragging?
Astapor: There's Slaves, and Then There's the Unsullied
Saving the awesomest for last!
Dany, her growing but still small dragons, and her seasick Dothraki tribe need backup if she's going to take Westeros, so she heads to Astapor, where an army of 8,000 super-soldier slaves — called the Unsullied, because yes, they are cool enough for their own name — awaits anyone willing to pay the price.
When we say the Unsullied are super-soldiers, we mean it. They're trained from childhood to fight to perfection and abandon all feelings. They murder infants to prove their dispassion, and don't flinch when their owners cut off their nipples for funzies. They're hardcore; clearly they'd be a huge boon in any war. But they're also slaves, and we all know how Dany feels about slaves.
While she's busy contemplating the ethics of using slaves to win the Iron Throne, Dany is attacked by a warlock, presumably because they're still pissed she burned down their temple last season. Like Sam at the beginning of the episode, she's saved at the last moment. In her case, it's by a character from Season 1: Ser Barristan Selmy.
Jorah provides a primer for those who've forgotten who Barristan is: He's a great knight who served as the head of Robert's Kingsguard. However, as we know, Joffrey dumped him at the end of Season 1. Barristan cuts in to remind everyone that he served Dany's father before Robert, and says that he's now come to pledge himself to the Targaryens again. A new ally for the Mother of the Dragons!
And thus ends the episode. Yes, that means there are no Arya, Bran, or Jaime and Brienne scenes this week. Boo. But think of it this way: Their absence in the premiere just makes next week even more exciting!
- Mance Rayder is portrayed by Ciarán Hinds, who's perhaps most well known for playing a little historical figure named Julius Caesar on Rome. He also tackled a Bill Clinton-esque womanizing ex-President on Political Animals last summer. Clearly, Hollywood has decided he's the platonic ideal of a gregarious, beloved, and ruthless ruler.
- Sexposition? What sexposition? At this point, they've moved on to using nudity in completely unnecessary (though very funny) comedy scenes.
- "They'd said you lost your nose, but it's not as gruesome as all that" — Cersei to Tyrion. We enjoyed this wink to the book-reading viewers, who know that in the novels, Tyrion does lose his nose in the Battle of the Blackwater. We're glad they went with a more subdued scar for the show.
- Tyrion line of the week: "Grand Maester Pycelle made the same joke. You must be proud to be as funny as a man whose balls brush his knees."
- Tyrion moment of the week: We love that he didn't wait for Tywin to finish threatening to kill whores before walking out in disgust over the whole conversation.
- This episode is the most we've ever liked Ros. She's better with her clothes on.
- Cercei's metalwork dress is gorgeous, if a bit odd.
- The subtitled banter between the Unsullied's owner and his translator is an A+ touch.
What did you think of the premiere? Let us know in the comments below.
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Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaDMartin.