All aboard the Hype Train! In preparation of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, Kelly is doing a rewatch for the greater good to refresh our memories, catch the things we might have forgotten, pick up the things we might have missed, and maybe make predictions! Hold onto your fur rugs from Ikea and AWAY WE GO.
Rules of this series: We’re deep diving into these episodes and I’m watching them on a per-episode base because I like digesting the episodes. Spoilers lie ahead. As much as I can, I am going to try and keep things episode/season specific. It’s out of respect to the narrative as well as the later seasons. Onwards!
3.1 Valar Dohaeris
We’re here. This is where shit really starts to take off. It is arguably the best season of Game of Thrones. It might not have the big gore or shock/“Ooh” moments, but it is the best constructed from start to finish and all the characters hit their stride here, going from an unknown journey to an actual objective. As most of Season 2 was sitting around and getting ready for its Episode 9, Season 3 actually builds around each of its events so that Episode 9 feels so wrong and so right at the same time. I like me some Season 4, but there’s a lot of, “Well, no one will see this coming and let’s make it bloodier.” I think Season 3 was so carefully handled in its distribution of information, so its results feel better connected throughout.
We open the season with Valar Dohaeris, which roughly translates into “All men must serve” in High Valyrian, typically used in Braavos which was founded by former slaves (get it), and the response to Valar Morgulis– I see what the showrunners did here, like the “SO” “NS” episodes of Sons of Anarchy. Well played! I’m probably wrong, but my two interpretations of this are all men must serve/provide a service/to an extent- work for something (loosely bend the knee) at some point or another. Or this is simply another way of saying Valar Morgulis, meaning all men must serve the Many-Faced God or the God of Death. I’m taking suggestions.
The episode starts with a cold opening, picking up at the Fist of the First Men and Sam is alive and still running away from the White Walkers. I don’t know how they didn’t find him. They never get into it. It’s fine. We were supposed to forget between seasons. Just as he’s about to get attacked by a wight, Ghost comes from thin air and saves Jon’s BFF before the rest of the Night’s Watch sets the wight on fire. Sam is a bit resentful that he was deserted by his pals but also forgot to do his job of sending for more help via raven, so the Night’s Watch decides to head back to the Wall to send White Walker warnings to the rest of Westeros.
In the opening credits, we get another glimpse of Dragonstone and I could be wrong, but it feels like we never get a full Dragonstone in these opening credits. Maybe later, when Dany arrives? Winterfell has been reduced to a pile of smoke and ash- I think the first indicator where we noticed that the opening credits didn’t just change location, but could provide hints to the episodes as well. Finally, we are introduced to Astapor, the first of slave cities that Dany will conquer and abandon throughout the rest of the series.
Up Beyond the Wall, Ygritte and Jon make their way down to Mance Rayder’s camp and with Jon as our lens, we see our first Giant. The other Free Folk immediately recognize Jon’s black cloak and are rightfully suspicious of his presence. When introduced to a rather important tent, Jon mistakes TORMUND GIANTSBANE for Mance, immediately bowing and calling him Your Grace- man, young Jon is so submissive. The real Mance, played by veteran actor Ciaran Hinds, reveals himself and asks if Jon wants to join them, asking what he wants and Jon doesn’t really know how to answer. He then falls back on telling Mance what he saw at Craster’s keep and Jeor’s response, and this survivor mentality puts them on the same side.
Down at King’s Landing, Bronn is getting down and dirty with a prostitute in Littlefinger’s brothel when Pod demands he go visit Tyrion. Great timing, Pod! Before Bronn can get there, Cersi pays a visit so she can see the damage done during Blackwater. Cersei implies that Varys is feeding her information (probably not true as Varys would never side with Cersei) and Cersei’s main focus is to make sure that Tyrion doesn’t tell Tywin what he knows about Jaime and their children. Bronn is about to fight Meryn Trant to get into Tyrion’s room when Cersei breezes by without a glance at Bronn, completely in line with her character as well as a possible reference to the previous off-screen relationship between the two actors. As a newly anointed knight, Bronn can charge double to Tyrion for protection but I think he only half means this and Tyrion only half takes him seriously- insert Half Man joke here. It’s possible Tyrion knows that if Bronn was really cutthroat, he would have left before the Battle of Blackwater.
Outside the Bay and stranded, Davos is alive and luckily rescued by- fellow supporters of Stannis. Davos heads back to Dragonstone, where it’s rumored Stannis has been refusing everyone except Melisandre and setting people on fire as a form of ritual sacrifice. Es no bueno. He needs Davos.
More… northish and missing Arya by just a few days, Roose Bolton is semi-arguing, semi-persuading Robb to lay siege to Harrnehal, occupied by the Mountain but Robb refuses as Harrnehal is basically worthless and they can’t really use a castle with no defenses and no resources. It doesn’t matter anyway, as Harrenhal has been deserted and its prisoners slain, such as 200 Northmen, according to Lord Karstark. Roose drops a line that all Northmen, including Karstark’s sons will be avenged and they chit chat as the camera lingers on Cat, implying that they very much blame her for what happened to these people and any results that will come with Jaime’s release. Robb can tell that his men are not happy and, reminded of her betrayal, openly treats Cat as a prisoner.
Among the bodies, Talisa finds Qyburn, who is at Harrenhal because reasons. Well. There are reasons for this in the book but you know. Show stuff! But Book-Qyburn concerns Roose Bolton, so we’ll get into it anyway. Originally, Qyburn is the unofficial Maester of another band of mercenaries/sellswords that are more violent and ruthless (think the Ironborn’s raiding if they were led by the Mountain) called the Brave Companions, led by Vargo Hoat and hired by Tywin Lannister. Hoat’s storyline was passed over to Locke, and GRRM requested they change his name to Locke since Hoat is a very exaggerated, slobbery, cartoonish character. When Tywin leaves Harrenhal, Hoat betrays him, kills the remaining Lannister soldiers, and hands Harrenhal as well as its Northern prisoners (including Arya) over to Roose. Roose takes on Qyburn as his Maester when his own dies. As the Bolton has a history of flaying, the Brave Companions are fans of torture, and Qyburn has a reputation with unethical experiments, they’re natural allies.
Back in King’s Landing, Tywin is annoyed that Tyrion brought “a whore” into the Hand’s tower, meaning he knows about Shae ‘s presence, but it’s unclear if he knows it’s the same whore from the battlefield. Tywin tries to teach Tyrion about leadership, telling him he shouldn’t make demands for accolades for simple responsibilities such as protecting one’s family but Tyrion says that Tywin should give him Casterly Rock, as Jaime has no interest. Tywin refuses, claiming he is unfit- and proceeds to demonize him as a spiteful “creature”. Apparently the only reason Tywin keeps Tyrion around is because it’s impossible to prove that Tyrion is not his son.
(There’s a theory in the books that Tyrion is the bastard son of the Mad King Aerys, who took what’s called “first night” over Tywin’s wife Joanna- basically, if a serving or lesser house was married, their ruling lord or king would claim the bride’s virginity rape the bride before she consummated the marriage. It wasn’t heavily practiced because, you know, dissent and all, but it was rumored that Aerys forced himself on Joanna, not only this time, but several times after that- producing Tyrion as the third dragon in addition to Dany and then Jon. Just a tinfoil-y theory for ya!)
Outside in the harbor, Sansa and Shae are giving backstories to the ships arriving and leaving, but Shae refuses to play saying she knows the truth and Sansa calls truths terrible and boring. She has a point! They’re approached by Littlefinger and he’s accompanied by Ros. He tells Sansa that he’s been in contact with Cat and he’s also seen Arya- so he DID recognize Arya! Whoo! Sansa desperately pleads with Littlefinger to get her home- but Ros warns Shae to not trust them together. Those might be Varys’ words talking but let’s not forget that Varys already has access to Shae and he could have relayed this himself. I like to read this scene as genuine concern- Ros comes from the North and being a North woman, is looking out for a Stark. THE NORTH REMEMBERS.
Across the Narrow Sea, on a small boat, somewhere, Dany’s dragons are still small but are certainly getting bigger. It looks like the tooth fairy has come and she’s kept two molars from one of them to wear as a necklace. Dany and Company are on their way to Astapor to hire some foot soldiers, but Dany says they’re nothing more than slaves and she doesn’t like the idea of having people forced to fight for her. Jorah insists she needs to prove herself a stronger warrior before the rest of the Dothraki support her and this army should help her with that.
Arriving at Dragonstone, Mel points at Davos saying it’s his fault Stannis lost as he’s the one who banned her from the battlefield. She rubs Mathos’ death in his face and Stannis sends Davos to the dungeons to await his punishment.
In Flea Botton, Joff and Margaery are taking a stroll, meaning they are getting carried around, and Margaery gets out to visit an orphanage and campaign for the people’s favor. It’s a wonderful display of all Margaery’s strengths, as she disarms the poor with smiles, politeness, and kindness. As the Tyrells are the most well-prepared family against winter, she can afford to offer assistance and food, which completely wins over the peasants of King’s Landing. While this is strictly political move, I do love that Margaery was willing to be a good diplomat while being queen- she would have made a great queen. It makes her a natural threat to Cersei and protagonist in this world of bad.
When she and Loras sit down with Cersei and Joff, Cersei gets increasingly aggressive, speaking poorly of the commoners and Joff immediately downplays the riot from the previous season, already showing signs of Margaery’s influence over him. Like, “MOMMMM!! Don’t embarrass me in front of the pretty girl.” It’s really cool to see that even though Loras is the heir to Highgarden, Margaery is doing all of the talking about the family status and wealth. The Tyrells have a been one of the more feminine houses, in sigil, color, and even their words reference fertility- so it seems right that they are led by a woman. We never hear about any of the great things Loras or Mace do- but we can never get enough of how Olenna and Margaery keep their family in line.
Over in Astapor, Dany is getting a tour of the Unsullied army with translations from Master Kraznys and Missandei. Missandei, right away, we can tell is highly observant as she translates not only Dany’s speech but her negotiating tactics as well. Missandei also leaves out some of the cruder and more insulting language from her master but does translate how roughly the Unsullied are raised, saying they’ll do anything because they are not actually men and worth less than dirt. When the master speaks openly of killing newborns and the weaker children, we can see Dany object to pretty much everything she has heard about the army- how they are formed, how they are repaid, and the morals of how they are raised.
Dany is reluctant to purchase the Unsullied as she doesn’t want to own slaves, but is soon distracted by a small child who rolls a ball to her- with a scorpion inside. Supposedly this small child is a form of Pyat Pree but… who cares. Lucky for Dany, Ser Barristan has made his way to her and swears himself one of her protectors- bad news for Jorah, as his reputation as King Robert’s spy could be unveiled, but great news for Dany as this is a representation of Westeros support and a fan favorite.
On deck: 3.2 Dark Wings, Dark Words!