Game of Thrones: "Jugglers and Singers Require Applause, You Are a Lannister."
Even before its third-season premiere last night, Game of Thrones officially crossed the threshold into legitimate cultural phenomenon. The lead-up to last night was months in the making, with magazine covers, cookbooks and even a tool to let your create your own house. Dream On never got that kind of treatment.
Still pissed off about your dad? That was two seasons ago, dude.
The opening episode, "Valar Dohaeris," didn't disappoint. Ranging from the frozen North to Slaver's Bay across the Narrow Sea, if anything, show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have crammed even more story into their allotted ten episodes, even as they attempt to streamline the source material. A formidable task given author George R.R. Martin's propensity for bloat. Season three, encompassing the first half of A Storm of Swords, promises to be as narratively dense as ever.
So let's get to it. After all, winter is coming. Or so I'm told.
Locations Highlighted in the Opening Titles (* = new): King's Landing, Dragonstone, Harrenhal, Winterfell, The Wall, Astapor*
So where were we? Oh right, Jaime Lannister escaped captivity (courtesy of Catelyn Stark herself); Barristan "the Bold" was unceremoniously dismissed by Cersei and Joffrey from the Kingsguard; Stannis and Melisandre had a shadow baby that killed Uncle Renly; also dragons! Zombies!
We start beyond the Wall. The [White] Walkers have made short work of most of the Watch, though Lord Mormont (James Cosmo) has survived and tells his men they need to get back to warn, well, everyone. Jon Snow (Kit Harington), meanwhile, gets his first look at Mance Rayder's wildling camp. Plus giants. Ygritte (Rose Leslie -- "They made her too pretty," my wife says) escorts Jon to see Mance (Ciarán Hinds) himself, and Jon passes his first test, telling Mance he betrayed the Watch because he wants to "fight for the side that fights for the living."
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is feeling a trifle unsettled, a sensation not enhanced by a visit from Cersei (Lena Headey), who -- as the helpful recap reminded us -- ordered Ser Mandon Moore to kill him during the Battle of the Blackwater. She wants to know details about his upcoming meeting with dear old dad Tywin -- more to the point, what he might tell Tywin about Joffrey (and possibly her dalliances with Lancel). As if that weren't enough, Bronn (sorry, "Ser" Bronn) wants more money to keep watching his ass. Impin' ain't easy.
Davos (Liam Cunningham) has survived, in case you were worried. So did Salladhor Saan (Lucian Msamati), though in slightly better shape. He also has grim news about the New Melisandre Order (burning enemies alive is now SOP). Davos wants Salladhor to take him back to Dragonstone, but the pirate demurs, even when Davos expreses his desire to kill Melisandre. Davos gets back somehow, and Stannis (Stephen Dillane) gives him a Snake Plissken ("I heard you were dead"). Melisandre (Carice van Houten) throws Blackwater Bay in Davos's face, reminding him he was the one who convinced Stannis to leave her behind. That's cold, especially for a Red Priestess. He pulls a knife, Stannis throws him in the dungeons. Not swagga for Davos.
Robb (Richard Madden), Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) and a guy who looks like Donald Sutherland (okay, fine, Rickard Karstark) come to Harrenhal and find hundreds of Northmen slaughtered and the Lannisters gone. Feelings are still pretty raw about Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) freeing Jaime Lannister. Fortunately, Northmen are a forgiving sort.