Game of Thrones recap: Review of Season 3 Episode 1’s ‘Valar Dohaeris”

By 03.31.13

When last we left Game of Thrones, there was a whole lot going on. Something tells me the same will be true in the season premiere. Here’s our review of Game of Thrones season 3 episode 1, “Valar Dohaeris”.

As always, we’ll be picking the winners and losers of the episode to make this recap flow a little better than a rambling 2,000-word missive. And away we go!

LOSER: Samwell Tarly

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Is it safe to assume that poor Samwell has been running for the entire time since season two’s finale? Not a good time for a bigger guy, I’m sure. Samwell left season two being the first to see the risen army of White Walkers — Westeros’s mashup of Walking Dead zombies and a Klondike bar — and he immediately comes back to an attack from an undead Wildling. Even though Night’s Watch boss Lord Commander Mormont saves Samwell’s ass, the good feelings are fleeting: Samwell didn’t send the raven informing others of the situation. And, now, if they don’t get back to the wall quickly to warn people, Mormont warns, “everyone you’ve ever known will be dead” before winter’s over. No pressure, guys.

WINNER: The Casual Male Big and Tall North of the Wall

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Ygritte, our personal tour guide through Wildling life, shows Jon Snow the Wildling camp. The first stop on the tour? A giant that’s part of the team, leisurely hammering a pole into the ground with his fist. Such is life beyond the wall, I suppose. As excited as they must be to find a new giant for their army, I bet finding a suitable outfit for them takes far longer than any of the parties would like.

Snow gets an introduction to Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds), the “king” of the Wildlings. Since Snow was cajoled into killing Quorin Halfhand as part of an initiation into the group last season (slash presumable cover for Snow to infiltrate their army), Rayder wants to know why he would want to join the Wildlings. Rayder speculates it might be for Ygritte, but Snow says it’s for freedom. Rayder says Snow just wants to be a hero but Snow says that he really fights because of what he witnessed at Cratcher’s house — infant boys being sacrificed to the White Walkers. Since Mormont knew, Snow was disgusted, or so he tells Rayder. Snow wants to fight for the living. This pleases Rayder, who offers him a Wildlings cape to show he’s part of the squad. Does he get a varsity jacket, too? I hope so.

LOSER: Tyrion’s modeling career

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Cersei continues to play headgames with brother Tyrion Lannister, who only has a slashed face to show for his courage in the Battle of Blackwater in season two. We’re to believe that Tyrion has been holed away for weeks or months, embarrassed of his “disfigurement.” It’s really just a badass scar.

Fortunately, Bronn is called back to King’s Landing to protect Tyrion — for twice the money he was paying before. He’s a knight now, after all, thanks to his courage at the Battle of Blackwater. Tyrion says he doesn’t even know how much Bronn was being paid before which Bronn astutely points out means that he “can afford it.” Oh, Bronn. You’re as quick with your wit as you are with stabbing men in the face.

WINNER: Wildfire

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Speaking of people who have actual horrific damage, Davos somehow survived last season’s coordinated wildfire attack during Stannis’ attack on King’s Landing. You can look at his face above and know that the wildfire was the best usage of money in King’s Landing since they raided a Home Depot to build the Iron Throne.

Davos is picked up by a ship that returns him to Salladhor Saan, the beloved pirate who provided ships to Stannis and crew for the Battle of Blackwater. Davos asks for Saan to take him to Dragonstone so that he can put an end to Melisandre and get Stannis back on course to take the throne. Unfortunately, Saan doesn’t see it that way…he lost his ships, promises — much more important to a pirate than you’d think — were broken, and Stannis is a broken man. He’s out and Davos is on his own.

Sadly for Davos, when he does find his way to Dragonstone somehow, his place in the hierarchy has been usurped by fire priestess Melisandre. Even though Davos has been a loyal soldier to Stannis for untold years, one threat at her life from Davos leads Stannis to sentence him to jail awaiting death. Not a triumphant return, I’m afraid.

WINNER: Robb Stark’s undefeated streak

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Robb Stark is looking for a fight but the Lannisters have turned tail around every corner, presumably at the orders of Tywin Lannister. Stark’s undefeated streak in battle remains, albeit with an asterisk for this episode.

But Robb, and moreso prisoner mother Catelyn Stark (for freeing Jaime Lannister), are distracted by the death of one of her father’s bannermen. And that’s about all for the Starks this week.

LOSER: Tyrion’s inheritance

Tywin Lannister is busy doing monotonous Hand of the King jobs when he’s visited by his precious son, Tyrion. Tyrion wants to be the heir to Casterly Rock, a title that’s rightfully his, in exchange for his service in the Battle of Blackwater. But Tywin is having none of it, calling him an “ill-made, spiteful little creature” and dropping other bombs (including the GIF above) such as:

“Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors since I cannot prove that you are not mine.”

“To teach me humility, the Gods have condemned me to watch you waddle about.”

“Neither Gods nor men will ever compel me to allow you to turn Casterly Rock into your whorehouse.”

Tywin also threatens to hang the next whore that he catches in Tyrion’s bed. Needless to say, I hope they save that for a very special Father’s Day episode of Game of Thrones.

LOSER: Littlefinger’s possibly creepy boat rides

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An extremely red-headed Sansa and Shae are hanging out by the water playing a boring game that only Sansa would enjoy in which she imagines backstories for ships passing through the waters of King’s Landing. Littlefinger comes over with a super creepy voice for some reason, telling Sansa that he’ll get her out of there on a ship at some point soon. Meanwhile, Ros warns Shae to keep an eye on her, particularly with Littlefinger’s intentions.

Something tells me Littlefinger’s trip with Sansa may include a side stopover on David Copperfield’s island.

WINNER: Frolicking dragons!!!

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Our first moments spent with Daenerys Targaryen are with her and Jorah watching the dragons — now in their awkward teenage dragon point of life — frolicking in the air and water around them. Daenerys looks on like a proud mother, up until she claims they’re not big enough yet, which would be inappropriate for a mother to say in any circumstance that doesn’t involve dragons.

Daenerys decides she needs an army to supplement the dragons and Jorah recommends the unsullied — a group of slaves trained for battle. Slaver Kraznys mo Nakloz and his spokeswoman/interpreter Missandei show them their inventor of soldiers while Nakloz calls Dany a “whore” and other unpleasantries because he’s speaking in a language that she doesn’t understand.

To show off their loyalty, Nakloz then cuts off one of the soldier’s nipples because of course that’s how you make a sale. Oh, and also, as their final act of initiation, Nakloz makes the unsullied soldiers kill a baby to “get all of the weakness out of them.” Gotta take the work you can get in this economy, even as a slave.

WINNER: Margaery Tyrell’s publicist

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Margaery Tyrell undertakes what would now be known as a “publicity stunt,” visiting the orphans of King’s Landing, while King Joffrey waits in his car. Because he sucks.

Somehow, Margaery turns all of the poor of King’s Landing into lovers of the would-be queen. It’s hard to tell if she’s genuinely the most amazing person ever or just playing the part of benevolent queen.

Shockingly, Cersei doesn’t love Margaery spending time with the poor, recounting the time that she and Joffrey were once attacked at the market. But Joffrey calls his mother old and stupid, basically, and that’s about the end of her talking. Effective, cruel though it may be.

LOSER: Horrifying bugs thrown by little demon girls

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A seemingly adorable little girl throws Daenerys a ball in the market area of Astopor. When Dany goes to open the ball at the girl’s urging, a hooded man comes out of nowhere to slap the ball out of her hand. Out comes the green monster bug pictured above while the little demon girl runs away into the water. I have no clue what any of this means.

The hooded man reveals himself to be former King’s Guard Lord Commander, Barriston Selmy (whom you may remember getting unceremoniously fired by Joffrey in the first season of the show). He let Daenerys’ father down the first time and wants to make it up to her by serving as her Queen’s Guard. I’d hire him just to squish bugs, personally.

As you can see from all of the above, a lot went on in this episode. It’s the blessing and the curse of this show. We spend almost a year waiting for new episodes but, with a cast of characters as broad and rich as Game of Thrones, the first episode is spent leaping around at a breakneck pace that makes it almost impossible to keep up. And that’s excluding updates on major characters such as Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Bran and Arya Stark.

Point being: A hot start, but one you might need to watch twice just to keep up.

Tell us what you thought about the Game of Thrones season premiere in the comments below.

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