It always amazes me how confident Game of Thrones is with its storytelling. Every episode does a splendid job of juggling numerous subplots while maintaining momentum; it’s incredible!
After floundering about in Qarth for an entire season, Dany’s journey this season is already infinitely more compelling. The Mother of Dragons faces a moral quandary as she arrives in Astapur and considers purchasing a horrifying army called The Unsullied. It’s a fascinating sequence as she faces off with the buyer, the menacing Kraznys, who badmouths her in Valyrian while his slave Missandei translates. The moment in which Kraznys slices off one of the soldiers’ nipples is particularly gruesome, as is the revelation that each of them has murdered a baby. The subplot is punctuated by an assassination attempt on Dany’s life (those pesky warlocks), in which she’s saved by none other than Barristan Selmy (who was her father’s Kingsguard). Talk about worlds colliding!
The manipulations over in King’s Landing also received an added layer this week with Marjaery “helping” the poor and pissing off Cersei in her attempts at seducing Joffrey. Nathalie Dormer continues to be terrific in the role – equal parts lovable and duplicitous, and that’s just the kind of adversary Cersei needs to butt heads against. Plus, she seems to have King Joffrey wrapped around her finger with the goody-two-shoes persona.
Valar Dohaeris also featured the introduction of Mance Rayder after a whole lot of build-up. Thankfully, Ciarán Hinds lived up to expectations; his face-off with Jon was exceptional, both men determined and unwilling to back down. In addition, John successfully managed to earn his place in the Wildling camp. This should be good.
But the highlight of the episode is the face-off between Tywin and Tyrion. It’s so emotionally charged and powerful – their entire father/son dynamic embodied in one conversation. The way Tywin destroys his son at the end and denies him Casterly Rock is just brutal (and Peter Dinklage conveys so much pain without saying much). It’s also interesting to note the parallels between Tywin and Cersei. Much like his daughter revealed, his detests Tyrion for killing his wife during childbirth! Ouch!
Bits & Beheadings
– I guess the budget still isn’t the greatest because the show sidestepped a huge battle once more by chickening out of the epic season two White Walker invasion that bookended the finale. Here we only hear screams, and then witness Sam getting attacked by a Walker. I understand the funds weren’t available, but the season two ending seems like a cheap stunt in retrospect.
– Milestone: the first time we see a Giant, and it’s at the Wildling camp.
– The Cersei/Tyrion banter wars are always such a treat to watch.
– Gorgeous sweeping shot of Dany’s dragons flying around her ship. They sure are getting bigger!
– Davos is saved by none other than Salladhor Saan! Too bad he never got to meet Cersei!
– It’s interesting that Melisandre became so outright villainous in the season premiere; she toyed with Davos (who survived the Wildfire explosion) and basically had him thrown in jail under Stannis’ orders.
– Speaking of jails, if you thought Robb had forgiven Catelyn? Think again! Even after walking into a massacre at Harenhall, he still has his mother sent behind bars.
-Love that Ros interacts with Shae and can immediately figure out she’s a whore (not to mention warning her to protect Sansa from Littlefinger).
– Valar Dohaeris means “All men must serve”. A nice contrast to the season two finale title.
– No Arya. Not cool.
– The scorpion at the end (and the child warlock thing) were beyond unsettling.
Kings & Quips
Cersei: Bit of a comedown from chamber of the Hand. But then I don’t suppose you need much room.
Tyrion: Grand Maester Pycelle made the same joke. You must be proud to be as funny as a man whose balls brush his knees.
Cersei: You’re a clever man, but not as clever as you think you are.
Tyrion: Still makes me cleverer than you.
Bronn: Oh, look at these two shining warriors. Ser Taryn Mant and… Ser Whosit of Whocares.
Tyrion: Do you grow bored protecting me?
Bronn: I grow poor protecting you.
Tywin: I sent you here to advise the king. I gave you real power and authority. You chose to spend your days as you always have, bedding harlots and drinking with thieves.
Tyrion: Occasionally I drank with the harlots.
Tywin: You ask that? You who killed your mother to come into the world? You are an ill-made spiteful little creature, full of envy, lust and low-cunning.
An excellent season opener that capably plants the seeds for another first-rate year.