And it's back! Game of Thrones' third season opener Valar Dohaeris wasn't full of big battle scenes or lots of action, but it was well crafted, set a good pace for what's to come, and reminded us just why Game of Thrones is the best thing on television (even when it's not on television).
Beyond the Wall
We begin this new series of Game of Thrones where we left off, beyond the Wall where something wicked is coming.
Samwell is running like there's no tomorrow, when he thinks he sees one of his fellow members of the Night's Watch in front of him. He's not wrong, but when he walks around to the front of the kneeling figure he sees it is clutching its own chopped off head. Behind Samwell creeps a figure intent on destroying him, but just as it attacks it is grabbed by a wolfhound (Jon's wolf?) and the Night's Watch then set it alight.
Jeor Mormont asks Samwell if he has sent the ravens, to which Samwell shamefully replies no. On hearing the news, Mormont tells his men that they must make it back to the Wall, their aim now is not to fight but to warn others that the White Walkers are on their way.
While the Night's Watch are heading back to the wall, (my favourite character) Jon Snow is heading further away, and soon finds himself in the midst of Mance Rayder's camp of thousands of men. There he meets Mance himself, or thinks he does. After testing Jon, the real Mance comes out, and asks him why he has decided to defect. Jon's answer is a good one - that after discovering the Night's Watch know about the White Walkers, he wants to join the team fighting against them, and not the one that ignores evil in the world.
Jon's relationship with Ygritte continues to grow in the few short minutes we see them together on screen. Their lingering glances don't escape Mance's notice, and he calls Jon on the attraction straight away. That is a sign of just how tight the writing and acting is in Game of Thrones, the smallest of interactions are often enough to tell us masses about characters. It remains to be seen whether Jon will act on his emotions, or whether he will continue to be led by duty.
Tyrion Lannister remains holed up in the small quarters where he was stashed after his father took the role of Hand of the King. There, still scarred but now healed from the injuries sustained at the Battle of Blackwater, he is visited by his sister Cersei.
She has heard Tyrion is to meet with their father (who hasn't bothered to see his youngest son once since the battle), and feeling afraid Cersei tries to ask Tyrion what he wants from Tywin. The two do verbal battle, Cersei showing she is afraid of what Tyrion may know, and Tyrion, for the first time, showing a bit of fear at the power Cersei has. He remains as clever as always, but the physical distance between him and the rest of the court has put him in a vulnerable position.
Outside Tyrion's quarters, Bron appears, having been summoned by Tyrion while in the midst of an encounter with a prostitute (the episode's first bit of nudity came with minutes of the opening, so nothing has changed there). Bron and Tyrion make their way through the town, and when Tyrion meets with his father it's to face nothing but disappointment. Demanding that he be given Casterley Rock, the Lannister family home, Tyrion finds himself rebuked by his father, who still holds the fact that Tyrion's mum died while giving birth to him against his youngest son.
Meanwhile, Joffrey is still the Meanest Character on Television™. He is now engaged to Margaery Tyrell, who decides to stop and speak to some orphans on her way back from temple with Joffrey. Too scared to join her, Joffrey remains scowling in his carriage, but then blusters later when the two sit down to dinner with his mother and Margaery's brother Loras. It seems the Lannisters may think they're powerful, but the food on the table is being provided through connections the Tyrells have.
Cast aside by Joffrey, Sansa spends her days sitting around making up stories for ships she sees and waiting to be rescued. Unfortunately for her it's Littlefinger doing the rescuing, and he promises he'll take Sansa with him on a mission he's got coming up. Beware little lady, that one's up to no good.
Ser Davos wakes up washed up on some rocks (yes, I thought he was dead too) and manages to wave down a ship, which coincidentally belongs to his friend Salladhor. The latter tells Ser Davos that Stannis Baratheon is alive, and that his evil witch of a girlfriend Melisandre (the one who gives birth to black smoke babies) is still at his side. Together they're burning all of those who disagree with Melisandre.
Loyal to his master, Ser Davos heads back to Dragonstone to see if he can talk some sense into Stannis. Can he heck. After trying to be diplomatic, Ser Davos resorts to shouting in the hope something will get through to Stannis. It is not to be, and Ser Davos is chucked in a cell to rot. Since he survived Blackwater, I doubt a cell will kill him. Melisandre just might though.
On the road
A very, very brief glimpse of Robb Stark and his mother this week. They come across a battle scene where Robb discovers one of his grandfather's bannermen dead. He orders his men to find somewhere to lock his mother up (remember how she let Jaime Lannister go?) and then he and his wife (oh yes, he got married) tend to a man who suddenly shows signs of life.
Daenerys Targaryen is making her way across the sea by boat, watching her now much, much bigger (but still not big enough) dragons frolicking and catching fish to eat. She and Jorah Marmont are still sniping at each other (love, eh?), and her Dothraki followers are throwing up everywhere - they're the first Dothraki to ever get on a boat.
Wishing for an army, Jorah suggests Daenerys go to the Unsullied, a group of slaves trained for battle. Their owner, his words (mostly) translated for him by a beautiful girl, tells Daenerys why the Unsullied are such brilliant fighters. To demonstrate, the slaver walks up to one of the soldiers and cuts off his nipple - the man doesn't make a sound. It's disgusting, a show of power from a slaver who underestimates Daenerys, and also shows us just how much brute force Daenerys will have on her side should she choose to go with the Unsullied.
The scene also provided some humour in this episode, as the slaver insulted Daenerys to her face without her knowing. His translator acted as mediator, but had Daenerys known what the slaver was saying, or had the slaver seen Daenerys' dragons, perhaps their encounter would have played out differently.
Thinking about her decision, Daenerys and Jorah walk through the market, where a little girl gives Daenerys a box. As she goes to open it, a man in a hooded cloak shoves her over, then sticks a knife through the creepy crawlie that comes out of the box, and that was intended to kill Daenerys. That man? It's Barriston Selmy, former Lord Commander of the King's Guard. He tells Daenerys he's been looking for her, and swears that he'll protect her if she'll let him be part of her Queen's Guard. And with that, Daenerys is well and truly back in the game.