‘Game of Thrones’ Season 3, Ep. 1 – ‘Valar Dohaeris’ – Review


It’s back! Game of Thrones returned tonight with a great premiere episode for season three. It’s hard to tell if I’m biased because I love the show, but Valar Dohaeirs was extremely satisfying as a viewer. Season two ended on such pivotal moments for our characters, it would be nearly impossible to give screentime to each storyline.

Here are the character storylines we missed in tonight’s episode – Arya, Theon, Bran/Rickon, and Jaime/Brienne. The beginning of the episode picked up right where we left off, with the White Walkers and Sam terrified. The black screen with screams, swords and blood was a striking and terrifying start to the episode and clearly established the stakes that are at play this season.

In short, here’s what we learned tonight. The White Walkers are advancing on the Wall. Jon Snow has successfully joined the ranks of the army north of the Wall. Ser Davos is alive, Stannis’ army is destroyed but Melisandre now holds more power over Stannis than before. Robb and his army arrived at Harrenhaal to find it strewn with bodies and no sign of the Lannisters. Margaery’s influence on Joffrey has increased exponentially in a short time. Cersei is losing her power and influence over Joffrey. Littlefinger is conspiring with Sansa. Tywin is a bigger asshole than imaginable to Tyrion (more on that soon). Daenerys is advancing across the sea in search of her army (and it just got a HUGE get.)

The three most important scenes of tonight’s episode were the following:

1. Tyrion meets with Tywin.

Hat tip to writers David Benioff and DB Weiss, along with director Daniel Minahan for the most emotional and power scene in the episode, and one of the most powerful of the entire series to date. Peter Dinklage and Charles Dance may have just earned Emmy/ Golden Globe nominations for this scene alone. Tywin’s hatred for Tyrion has been alluded to before, but never before has it been so brutally acknowledged. Tyrion is an extremely complicated character (and much more likable in the books I’m told – I’ve only read Game of Thrones and the first half of A Clash of Kings). In the show, Tyrion has become the champion for the audience. To see the man that the preceding two seasons have established as clever, smart, honorable when required, and overwhelmingly likable; absolutely and unequivocally emotionally destroyed was heartbreaking. Tywin, like Cersei, has malice and hate in spades. Where Cersei mocks Tyrion and attempts to outwit him with snark and biting comments, Tywin wastes no effort and never hides behind his words. This was a pivotal scene for Tyrion and will absolutely alter his path this season.

2. Margaery establishes herself as a good queen and asserts her influence on Joffrey.

In the two short scenes with Margaery (orphanage and dinner), she very quickly and skillfully established her subtle influence over Joffrey. Joffrey to this point has been virtually uncontrollable. Cersei’s control began to quickly diminish once Joffrey took the throne at the end of season one, but in tonight’s episode we saw Margaery all but eliminate any remaining aspect of power for Cersei. Whether Margaery’s charitable nature at the orphanage is authentic, or merely a ploy to gain power in the kingdom (I’m in support of the latter), the reaction in Joffrey is what matters most.

3. Daenerys is saved by a cloaked man.

Daenerys was a point of frustration for me last season as her character basically coasted on auto-pilot until the last few episodes. With growing dragons and ships to sail across the sea, she’s finally able to begin flexing her muscles. While she reviewed the slave army in Astapor, she is in a dangerous land. Her attempted assassination by Creepy Girl establishes that she is still very vulnerable (Creepy Girl raises a whole additional series of questions). The cloaked man that saves her ends up being Ser Barristan Selmy and apologies for his failure to protect her father. He swears allegiance to never fail her family again and suddenly her army just became one that should truly be feared. Last we saw Ser Barristan, he was being relieved of his duties by Joffrey at the end of season one. It was clear then that Joffrey’s decision would have lasting consequences. His reappearance and joining of Daenerys’ Queensguard massively ups the ante this season.

Overall, it was a fantastic episode as I said previously. The previews for next week’s episode hint that we’ll get to see all the storylines missed in this episode which is to be expected. Things are looking tense in Westeros and I’m ecstatic about it.

Note: I reviewed every episode of last season and will do so again this season. If you’re looking for another take on the series this season, please stick it out with me. I’ll have reviews posted every Sunday night or Monday morning.

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  1. Pingback: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 3, Ep.2 – ‘Dark Wings, Dark Words’ – Recap and Review

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