To put it lightly, Game of Thrones is complicated. Such a twisted plot full of scandal, intrigue, underhanded deals, fragile alliances and murder is bound to cause brain-ache eventually. Which is why this first episode of the third season is a welcome respite, if potentially a little underwhelming.
Potential spoilers for both this episode and previous Seasons.
The episode is essentially an aftermath of the Season 2 finale, mainly focused on reconciling what happens after the Battle of the Blackwater (between the Lannisters and Stannis Baratheon), and the outcome of the events beyond the Wall (the Battle of the Fist of the First Men and Jon Snow’s ‘betrayal’ of the Night’s Watch). There is very little in the way of action (limited swordplay, and the dragons make a token appearance. You do get to see a giant though, so there’s that). However, this allows the episode to act as a refresher course for those who are either not well versed in the plot, or have just forgotten what happened nearly 10 months ago. It also sows the seeds for the events that will surely come to pass in this Season.
The outcome of the Battle for the Blackwater sees the return of possibly my favourite relationship in any story, the thinly veiled hatred between Tyrion and Cersei. The family ties are strained as ever, and the political dancing and barefaced lies give way to some of the best back-and-forth banter of the show so far. The tables have turned in Cersei’s favour since winning the fight against Stannis, and with Tyrion no longer in a position of power, his vulnerability and fear is well displayed.
Tyrion’s relationship with his all-powerful father, Twyin Lannister, is also dragged into the cold, harsh light of reality, leaving no doubt about the true extent of his paternal love, and giving me and many others, I’m sure, another pang of pity in our hearts for the loveable rogue.
Everyone’s favourite king we love-to-loathe also returns briefly, well-written and acted as always. It always confuses me, but the fact that the second he appears on-screen I have the overwhelming urge to kick him in the face is a good thing, I’m sure. Very rarely is there a villainous character that every member of an audience can think “I hate him”. But Joffery manages it, and for that sense of community I have to thank him.
Meanwhile, north of the Wall, things aren’t going so great. We get to see Jon Snow’s encounters with the King-Beyond-the-Wall, and his troubles integrating with Wildling society, and we also see the remaining dregs of the Night’s Watch licking their wounds, preparing to run home. While these scenes are brief, and lack any real meat to them, they will certainly prove to be common themes in upcoming episodes, and as such reminding us early about what is happening in the deep, dead snow is welcome.
Overall, this opening episode is light on the high-fantasy action that the previous two seasons have taught us to expect, and this may disappoint some viewers. However, it acts as a good grounding to remember all the twists and turns of previous episodes, and catches us up to many of the main plot arcs after a near year-long hiatus. Stick with it though – this low gear will soon start to ramp up speed, and as those familiar with the books can tell you, things are about to get very interesting indeed.