“You Know Nothing, Jon Snow” — Josh Reviews Game of Thrones Season 3!
It seems like the third season of Game of Thrones began just a few minutes ago and now, ten pretty terrific episodes later, it’s over and the long, long wait until next spring and the next season begins.
Overall, season 3 of Game of Thrones was another phenomenal season of this spectacular show. I have found the first three seasons of the show to be remarkable consistent in style and quality. If you really made me list my favorites, I’d say that season 1 still remains my favorite season of the show, with season 3 coming in just a hair better than season 2. (By the way, friends, as I often do, I will try to avoid any outright spoilers in this review, but I can’t avoid discussing certain plot twists when discussing the season, so please be warned. There be spoilers here!!)
In season 2, my two biggest complaints were how uninteresting I found the stories of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. I had loved both characters in season 1, but in season 2 it felt like both of their stories were just treading water. Their stories felt totally disconnected from all of the other story-lines in the show, and I found it hard to really care about what was happening to them. I was pleased that, in season 3, both characters were given far better story-lines. I loved watching the evolution of Jon Snow’s relationship with the wildling Ygritte. The actress playing Ygritte (Rose Leslie) is dynamite, and I felt Jon Snow’s character came to life when paired up with her. Suddenly I cared about Jon Snow again, because I was invested in his relationship with this girl. Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, I was also more interested in Deanerys again, mostly because they managed to incorporate some great visual effects sequences and some fun action into her story. I loved getting to see her dragons wreak havoc in episode 4, “And Now His Watch is Ended” when they destroyed Astopor, and I also loved getting to see Sir Jorah, Grey Worm, and Daario kick some ass at Yunkai in episode 9, “The Rains of Castamere.” I also loved the return of Ser Barristan (last seen in season 1 being unceremoniously shown the door by Cersei and Joffrey).
Speaking of “The Rains of Castamere,” that shocking episode is, of course, the heart of season 3, and I suspect one’s feeling about that episode will affect one’s over-all judgment of the season. The Red Wedding (which I had heard mentioned, but about which I remained, thankfully, totally unspoiled) arrived and quite a few of the show’s most beloved characters were brutally massacred. It was an incredibly shocking, brutal turn of events. Our characters weren’t given any last-minute heroics. There was no glory, just a brutal, ugly, massacre. I was devastated by the episode. I applaud the show-runners and, of course, George R.R. Martin, for having the bravery to depict, so unflinchingly, this turn of events.
I am still upset by that episode, though! I was far more upset by that episode than I was by the death of Ned in “Baelor.” But of course that was the point, and that this episode affected me in a way that television rarely does is, of course, the reason why Game of Thrones is such a phenomenal show. But I find myself puzzled as to where the story will go from here. Back in season one, the moment I really fell in love with the show was the afore-mentioned death of Ned Stark. I was dazzled by that stunning turn of events, and I was delighted to realize that, whereas I had thought that the show was going to be primarily about Ned Stark, it was in fact about his children. But when the end credits rolled on “The Rains of Castamere,” I realized that even that belief might have been mistaken. Most of the Stark children are now either dead or unable to influence the political goings-on in Westeros to any degree that I can see. (Theon is being tortured somewhere, Jon is with the Night’s Watch, Sansa is powerless in the capital and Arya is on the run and too young for me to imagine her being able to be a leader of men.)
So I am left to wonder, who am I now, as a viewer, supposed to be rooting for? Oh, there are still characters who I like on the show. I’m rooting for Arya, I’m rooting for Tyrion. (And, of course, some of my favorite characters on the show are the villains.) But with so many villains in positions of power (pretty much all of the Lannisters except for Tyrion, Roose Bolton, Walder Frey, etc.), who am I rooting for to defeat those bad-guys and give them their come-uppance? Daenerys, I guess. Whereas for seasons 1 and 2 I was conflicted about her designs on the throne of Westeros, because there were Starks (Ned, and then Robb) who I was rooting for to win the throne, now I guess there’s not much reason not to want Dany to come in and conquer Westeros. I’ll be interested to see, in season 4, which “good-guy” characters step into the positions of the characters that we, the audience, most invest in and root for.
I’ll also be interested to see if, in season 4, we finally see some of the characters who scattered to the winds in season 1 begin to re-connect. That’s really the one aspect of season 3 that frustrated me, as a viewer. I am so emotionally invested in the show and these characters that I crave the chance for Sansa or Arya to see their family again, or for Tyrion to see Jon Snow again and get wind of what’s happening north of the Wall, or for someone to learn of the survival of Bran and Rickon, etc. I love the long-form story-telling of the show, but because we only get ten episodes a year, it’s already been years since we saw these characters separate, and so it is becoming increasingly agonizing to continue waiting for some of them to reconnect with one another. If I have to wait several more years for some resolution, I am afraid I am going to start to lose patience.
The last two episodes of season 3 began to give us a hint of what I had been waiting for. “The Rains of Castamere” was wonderful because suddenly Jon was so close to Bran and Rickon, and Arya was so close to her mother and brother. But, of course, that episode was also absolutely torturous because, despite how tantalizingly close these characters were to one another, they did not actually reconnect. Things got a little better in the finale, “Mhysa,” in which Sam crossed paths with Bran and then reunited with Jon Snow, while Jamie finally returned to King’s Landing and reunited with Cersei. (Though why did the show cut away once Cersei saw Jamie in her doorway??? We’ve been waiting three years to see their reunion, why didn’t they show us their whole reunion??) I hope that, in season 4, there will be further drawing back together of these characters.
There were a few aspects of season 3 that I didn’t find altogether successful. Though I praised the Jon Snow/Ygritte relationship, above, I nevertheless was somewhat perplexed by much of Jon Snow’s story, particularly in the first half of the season. I wasn’t quite sure just what he was hoping to accomplish, all alone and “undercover” with the enemy, nor did I really understand why the wildlings would trust him for a second. (Also, while I loved seeing Ciaran Hinds as Mance Ryder, I was disappointed that he wasn’t a more major character this year. Hopefully we’ll get more of Mance in the future.)
Then there was the Passion of the Greyjoy. This was by far the least successful story-line this year. Not only was it brutally unpleasant to watch Theon get slowly tortured over the course of the season, but I don’t understand the decision to withhold the information from us as to where Theon was or who it was who was torturing him, and why. Why make all of that a mystery? It just made me frustrated every time we cut back to Theon, because not only did I not enjoy watching those torture scenes, but as the episodes wore on I just became more and more frustrated that I didn’t know what was going on. When it’s finally confirmed, in the finale, that Theon is being held by Roose Bolton’s bastard son, I was left with a feeling of “eh.” This wasn’t some shocking reveal, so why weren’t we just told that right from the beginning of the season? Weird.
But any small problems I had were far outweighed by everything that loved about season 3, including:
The terrific action sequence of the wildlings scaling the Wall in “The Climb,” and Jon & Ygritte’s embrace atop the wall after she gets her first glimpse of the green lands to the south.
Tyrion’s marriage to Sansa and all of the complications that came from that. I did NOT expect that marriage to actually happen. That it did is just one of the many reasons I love this show. I hope we see lots more of the Sansa/Tyrion pairing next season — I am very interested to see how the relationship between the two develops.
Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell. Such a phenomenal new character! The scene in which we finally see her butt heads with Tywin Lannister is one of my favorite moments from the season.
Speaking of Tywin (played by the amazing Charles Dance), I think we saw more of him this season than ever before, and I was delighted. I loved every scene with this terrible, twisted man, and I particularly enjoyed the moments in which he squashed down little Joffrey.
Arya and Sandor Clegane. I loved Arya’s pairing with Tywin last year, and I was just as intrigued by her pairing with another older, brutal man this season. Where their pairing is going I have no idea, but I can’t wait to see how this develops. I never would have imagined any sort of connection possible between Arya and the vicious Hound, but they’ve begun to develop a weird sort of friendship that has me totally intrigued.
Speaking of weird sort of friendships, I also adored the burgeoning friendship between Jamie and Brienne. Their duel at the end of “Dark Wings, Dark Words” was phenomenal, and I was shocked how sympathetic Jamie became through his acts of kindness to Brienne. Here is yet one more unexpectedly fabulous character pairing that I can’t wait to see more of.
And so we arrive, far to quickly, to the end of season 3. For the second out of three seasons, we ended with Daenerys and her dragons, and once the credits rolled I began the long period of waiting and anticipating the next season. Let me extend an enormous congratulations and bravo to David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and the hundreds if not thousands of talented performers, artists, and technicians who contributed to another fabulous season of what is probably my very favorite show on television these days. Well done, ladies and gentlemen. Now, please, let’s hurry up and get to work on season four!!