Review of Game of Thrones ‘Valar Dohaeris’
SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen season 3 episode 1 of ‘Game of Thrones’
This series blog is following the UK broadcast schedule on Sky Atlantic
Game of Thrones returned to our screens with an opening episode that deftly picked up the various story strands from the last season. The opening scene was more or less a continuation of the final one from last year involving Sam (John Bradley) running away from the White Walkers as they marched on the Wall. Poor old Sam can never do anything right, even sending off the ravens to warn of the impending doom, funnily enough though his incompetence makes him all the more endearing. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Sam bumbling around and generally looking terrified at anything and everything.
In other news Jon Snow met the King Beyond the Wall Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) and joined the wildings. The viewer’s encounter with Mance is so brief that it was hard to really get a sense of his character. Considering he is a former man of the Night’s Watch turned wilding I would have liked to have seen more of him and what made him turn traitor. But since time is of the essence this is something that will perhaps be delved into later.
South of the Wall Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his men surveyed the damage caused by the Lannisters. Speaking of the Lannisters, in King’s Landing Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) was demoted from the position of the King’s Hand and informed by his father Lord Tywin (Charles Dance) that he would never own Casterly Rock despite his legitimate claim to it. Tyrion is in a much more sombre place right now, the sardonicism and wisecracks that we know and love him for have gone. Perhaps that comes with having your face sliced in half by someone your sister has paid to kill you.
The new queen-to-be Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) was making waves in King’s Landing with her charitable work. Up until now she just came across as a schemer who would do anything for power but the tide has turned. I am not sure if I completely bought her so-called benevolence and I am reserving judgement until I have seen more. On the surface she is winning the hearts of the people of Flea Bottom but what are her real motives? In Game of Thrones everyone has an ulterior motive and wants something.
Elsewhere in the capital Sansa (Sophie Turner) spoke to Lord Baelish (Aidan Gillen) about escaping Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and King’s Landing. Littlefinger is as slippery as a snake – he did betray Ned Stark after all – so whether he can be trusted is entirely uncertain as Ros (Esme Bianco) pointed out. In the past I have found Turner’s acting to be lacking somewhat and this might be due to the character she is playing, however, she seems to have matured. Now Sansa comes across as quite jaded and most importantly more real than before.
Audiences were also shown Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) returning to Dragonstone and to a brooding Stannis (Stephen Dillane), who is licking his wounds after his defeat at Blackwater Bay at the end of the last season, and of course Melisandre (Carice van Houten) is still with him.
Across the sea Dany (Emilia Clarke) and her khalasar found a ship and made their way to Astapor to purchase an army of Unsullied to help her take back Westeros. The scene involving Dany surveying her potential new army was wonderfully done on a small scale. In the novel there are thousands of Unsullied present for inspection but this sequence was just as effective.
Valar Dohaeris is a strong start to season 3 and covers a lot of ground in a short space of time, even if it was just a series of brief check-in. Although Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Arya’s (Maisie Williams) strands were not visited this week, they will undoubtedly be at the top of the agenda next time. In some ways the episode deviated from the novel but as usual this is to the show’s benefit. In particular the fleeting conversation between Ros and Shae (Sibel Kekilli) added another dimension to these characters and revealed that despite it all even prostitutes have aspirations and can succeed in Westeros.
Overall Game of Thrones is a great adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels because it takes creative liberties which always pay off in bucket loads. Whether it is a scene between Cersei and Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) discussing their marriage or replacing the sappy Jeyne Westerling for the level-headed and tough Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin) as Robb Stark’s wife, these changes work in the context of the show. In fact these developments add to Martin’s world and flesh it out in new ways.
From what we have seen in Valar Dohaeris, season 3 has really picked up the pace with the storytelling. If seasons 1 and 2 were the warm up, then season 3 is the beginning of the marathon and the real journey. I have no doubt that this year the show will be far more action-packed with twists and shocks to leave viewers with mouths gaping in astonishment.
On a small note for those who may be wondering, Valar Dohaeris means ‘all men must serve’ and is somewhat of a reflection of the last episode of season 2 Valar Morghulis which is translated from High Valyrian as ‘all men must die’.Tagged in: A song of ice and fire, Arya, Baratheon, Cersei, dragon, game of thrones, George R.R. Martin, Joffrey, Jon Snow, Lannister, lena headey, Peter Dinklage, Sansa, Stannis, Stark, The Wall, Tyrion
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