Warning: this post contains extensive spoilers for both ‘Game of Thrones’ and the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. You have been warned…
I was in no hurry to watch the third season of HBO’s highly successful TV series ‘Game of Thrones’, based roughly on the first half of the third book in George R.R. Martin’s equally successful series A Song of Ice and Fire (namely, A Storm of Swords). I suppose that has something to do with the fact that I already know what is going to happen, having read the books, and so there seemed no need to rush out and see what has befallen all our favourite characters, since I already know.
Or thought I knew…
Turns out, this third season is the most divergent yet from the source material – more than a few liberties are taken with George R.R. Martin’s plotting, much to my chagrin in certain circumstances. Understandably, the adaption of such an epic and lengthy story from page to screen is a heroic undertaking and there are bound to be omissions and compromises when it comes to story and characters, but even knowing that some of the decisions made irk me. For instance, Catelyn Stark’s confession regarding Jon Snow in ‘Dark Wings, Dark Words’ (Episode 2) that seems completely out of character considering what we know about her from the books.
Of course, putting ourselves in the shoes of the show’s producers, the highly talented D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, helps to maintain a sense of perspective: after-all, ‘Game of Thrones’ is for everybody, not just fans of the book series, right?
Getting over the somewhat petulant attachment to the source material takes some work, but if you can (and I managed to, finally) then Season 3 proves to be an extremely worthwhile endeavour – not as good as Season 2, perhaps (‘Blackwater’ remains my favourite episode, so far), but good just the same; and jam-packed with twists and surprises to boot.
There are more than a few to choose from, but these are the high points for me: every one a seminal event that the show’s writers/directors/actors managed to nail.
1) Jaime’s confession.
When Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth are brought to Harrenhal, they share a moment in the bathhouse where the Kingslayer finally reveals what really happened in the Red Keep 15 years ago. It’s perfectly done (if not word-for-word drawn from the book), and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau deserves every award there is (in my opinion) for what he’s done to humanise a character who began as one of the most reviled on television.
2) Beric Dondarrion vs the Hound.
This was always going to be epic. I think this scene and the next are the only truly great action sequences in the season. Of the two, I think I prefer this one: the combat is fast and ferocious and the ending? Well, if you know it’s coming it doesn’t matter, it’s still amazing.
3) Daenerys’ conquest of Astapor.
A truly tense scene that hits almost every mark, suffering only because the scale necessary to do it justice is probably a little beyond even HBO’s budget. Even so, it’s gratifying to see Dany finally take control of her own destiny and show the Good Masters who’s boss.
- Jaime’s maiming.
It’s a pity we don’t get to see Vargo Hoat, but I guess Noah Taylor’s Locke isn’t a bad substitute. And this scene manages to retain its shock value, which is good.
- Tyrion and Sansa’s wedding.
Sansa continues to be cast in a much more favourable light than her book counterpart, and this is a good example: the petulance and childishness present on the page is absent from the screen.
- The Red Wedding.
The BIG moment of Season 3, very well done and just as shocking as it should be. Don’t know why we had to see Talisa brutally murdered in that way, seemed a bit gratuitous, but what can you do…
- Mutiny at Craster’s Keep.
We don’t get to see the Battle of the Fist of the First Men, so we need to satisfy ourselves with this: Jeor Morment getting stabbed in the back (literally). He puts up a good fight, but it’s still a bit of a disappointing end for the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. And no mention of his son, Jorah, like in the book. Still, good to see Craster get it (finally).
- Tywin vs Tyrion.
A battle of wits and words, rather than steel, that goes on for most of the season but the standout is the first volley, fired by Tyrion and returned by Tywin. The Imp demands what is his by rights, and the Lord of Casterly Rock shoots him down spectacularly. Thrilling acting from both Peter Dinklage and Charles Dance.
- Anything with Olenna Tyrell.
The Queen of Thorns lives up to her name, matching wits with everybody including (most satisfyingly) Lord Tywin.
- Stannis and Davos in the dungeons of Dragonstone.
The only truly satisfying Stannis scene this season (which is disappointing, because I’m a fan of Stannis’ storyline), where he comes to the imprisoned Davos to offer forgiveness and confess his doubts.
Maisie Williams also deserves props for her continued portrayal of Arya Stark – despite the fact that she’s so young and Arya is such a complex (and evolving) character, Maisie continues to impress. I believe she is Arya, and that’s saying something.
Season 4 is still some months away but it goes without saying that everybody (myself included) will already be waiting with baited breath. Despite whatever misgivings I might have, ‘Game of Thrones’ is undeniably one of the best (if not the best) shows on television, and everybody involved in its production should be justly proud of its success.
So, here’s looking forward to Oberyn Martell, the Battle of the Wall and Tyrion’s Trial…