Sunday’s episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ might have had some trouble going up against the season finale of ‘The Walking Dead,’ but many fans echoed the (paraphrased) famous words of Arya’s dancing teacher Syrio Forel, and decided: “What do we say to ‘The Walking Dead’ finale? Not today.”
Without recapping two seasons of storyline up to this point, which could take hours (or 14 minutes), the final episode of the last season was titled ‘Valar Morghulis,’ which means, in the fictional High Valyrian as “all men must die.” The season 3 premiere episode is called ‘Valar Dohaeris,’ which translates to “all men must serve.”
North of the Wall
The episode cold opens — literally — on Samwell Tarly trudging through the snow after the events of the season finale — presumably after Sam heard the three horn blasts which signified the presence of White Walkers, a race of frozen undead thought to be extinct. He happens upon what he thinks might be a hunched-over comrade, but turns out to be a decapitated comrade — with a White Walker approaching just beyond him.
Jon Snow’s direwolf, Ghost, saves him just in time by dragging the wight off him, and the Lord Commander appears and sets the Walker ablaze.
Jon Snow, still a captive of the Wildlings and the attractive, sun-kissed Ygritte, is being led to Mance Rayder, so-called the King Beyond the Wall, a title used mostly in mockery of the monarchy of the seven kingdoms. Rumblings have suggested that, even though Wildlings hate the Night’s Watch, anyone courageous enough to kill their sworn brother Qhorin Halfhand might either be of use, crazy, or have an ulterior motive — all of which their leader would want to deem for himself.
Jon enters the tent and mistakenly bows to one of Mance’s foot soldiers, assuming him to be the Wildling King, and Mance reveals himself, chuckling amongst his leaders that such pageantry doesn’t apply north of the wall.
Understandably, he questions Jon’s motives for killing his sworn brother, and Jon gives an answer so convincing, the audience is left wondering where his fealty truly lies. He explains that after seeing the horrors at Craster’s Keep, where Craster “marries” his own daughters and granddaughters, leaving his sons out for White Walkers to snatch in the night, he decided to fight for the side that fights for the living.
Back at King’s Landing
After planning and launching the attack that all but saves King’s Landing from complete destruction, former Hand to King Tyrion’s only thanks is being banished to a tiny recovery room, where none of his family members deign to check in on his health.
With his father back in town and unable to trust his sister, who he believes sent Ser Mandon Moore to kill him during the attack on Blackwater Bay (when they should have been fighting on the same side), Tyrion re-enlists his friend/sellsword Bronn as protection.
Speaking of protection, King Joffrey and potential future Queen Margaery Tyrell travel back from a weekly trip to the sept in small boxes for their safety. Fans may remember the prior trip through the slums of Flea Bottom where the royal family were beaten and almost raped, which makes it even more curious when brave Margaery cheerfully exits her cart at a nearby orphanage. Joffrey remains safely inside, but to his surprise, she’s left unbeaten and makes her way in to talk amongst the townspeople. She makes a great impression on them, applauding the orphaned children for having such brave family members to fight and die for their throne. Who needs P.R. in King’s Landing when you’ve got Margaery?
Later, Tyrion is finally granted an audience with the busy new Hand to the King, his father Tywin. Since Jaime has taken the cloak as a sworn protector of the King, he is not allowed to marry or own lands, so Tyrion, after his recent victory over Stannis’ invading army, has granted him the right to cash in on what is rightfully his — ownership of his wealthy family’s home of Casterly Rock. Tywin all but spits in his dwarven son’s face, saying he would sooner be eaten by maggots than hand over the family lands to him.
Ser Davos, the Onion Knight, and once Hand to the King for the rightful king Stannis, wakes up on a rock outside Blackwater Bay after the grand battle and is rescued by a passing rowboat full of soldiers who, thankfully, fought for the same side.
The boat takes Davos to his old friend Salladhor Saan, whom he enlists against all recommendation, to bring him to Stannis’ side even though the Red Woman is still whispering in his ear.
Although Stannis is never truly happy to see anyone, he’s especially unimpressed when his once-trusted advisor, thought to be dead, shows up and urges him to leave Melisandre’s side. Melisandre points out that if she had been allowed to accompany the fleet to Blackwater Bay instead of being banished by Davos, the fight would have turned out very differently.
In a last-ditch effort to save his old friend, Davos pulls a knife on Melisandre, but the guards anticipate his movement and drag him off to prison.
The haunted castle lives up to its name. As Robb Stark approaches with a small army behind him, he finds that hundreds of Northerners have been slaughtered and left on display by Gregor Clegane. Since Clegane is still a pawn of the Lannister family, the wound is freshly opened that Catelyn Stark had let Jaime Lannister go in an attempt to bargain for the safe passage of her daughters from King’s Landing. So as to not look weak in front of his men, Robb orders his mother to be placed in a cell within Harrenhal until he can figure out what to do with her.
Having narrowly escaped Qarth with her life the last time she tried to raise an army, Daenerys is now only slightly better off with her three growing dragons and a single ship with which to sail across the narrow sea. But the few Dothraki soldiers who stayed with her are not exactly seafaring, and not nearly high enough in number to defeat her opposition once she reaches Westeros and demands her rightful place on the Iron Throne.
The port of Astapor is close by, and Jorah Mormont advises her to purchase soldiers there. Astapor is the home of a clan of mercenary soldiers called the Unsullied. They are trained from a very young age to fight for whoever owns them without any care for themselves or what is objectively right and just. As a display, the slaver instructs one to step forward, and he cuts off the nipple of one of the slaves without so much as a flinch from either of them.
Daenerys doesn’t seem entirely impressed with their brutal ways, but during a stroll through an open market, Jorah points out that they would have a much better life with her as a ruler than whomever else they might get sold to. A hooded figure seems to be tracking the duo, and Daenerys gets distracted while watching a small child tossing a ball to herself. The young girl rolls the ball to Daenerys and mimes for her to open it, and in the blink of an eye, the hooded figure lashes forward. Jorah tries to stop him as Daenerys falls to the ground, and the ball opens up with a lethal-looking insect inside.
The hooded figure stabs the insect, and the young girl sneers, revealing a blueish tint to the inside of her mouth, a telltale sign of the warlocks from Qarth. The hooded figure has saved Daenerys and is revealed to be Ser Barristan Selmy, who served in the kingsguard of Daenerys’ father and knows her to be the rightful heir to the throne.
In some ways, it’s hard to believe there will only be 10 episodes in the third season of ‘Game of Thrones,’ but when they’re as action-packed as this episode, it’s easy to see how much can happen in the coming short months.
What did you think of the premiere of ‘Game of Thrones’?