Game of Thrones Season 3 – Episode 1 – A Slow Start ***SPOILERS***
Just after the intro, when that nigh-on iconic Theme music came, my girlfriend tried to ruin the tune for me by doing lots of different ‘versions’ of it; “Chitty bang-bang, chitty bang-bang, CHITTY BANG-BANG, CHITTY BANG-BANG!”, for example.
Sadly, this was one of the most exciting parts of this opening episode.
Series 2 ended on a massive high and it did so by leaving very little unresolved. As a result, when we pick up with the various groups they are mostly coping with the fallout from Series 2’s events. Sam returns from failing to send the ravens and the Night’s Watch must continue their journey back to the wall; Cersei and Tyrion discuss an upcoming meeting between Tyrion and Tywin; Lord Baelish catches up with Sansa and discusses pretty much the same potential exit for her as has previously been mentioned; The Khaleesi crosses the poison water to buy an army with her stolen booty and Davos is found on an island, dehydrated and unhappy, having narrowly survived the Battle of Blackwater
The only scene of much interest from the opening half hour, is Jon Snow meeting Mance Rayder, a somewhat close and tense scene with Tormund Giantsbane introduced to boot. It’s well done and also bleeding awesome to hear again a big budget drama show, let alone an American one, with a bunch of Yorkshiremen able to talk without being comic relief.
The episode begins to pick up with Margaery Tyrell putting Joffrey to shame and visiting an orphanage. She shows some of that fascinating potentially-two faced behavior which makes you question whether she is conniving or completely genuine in the books. As an amusing aside, Joffrey sits outside the Orphanarium until she’s done, which seems to be a good twenty minutes or so. He really is an odious tool.
Still, he does take part in one of the better scenes later in which he, Margaery and Cersei verbally spar over dinner; It’s a very good, well-acted and funny.
Though it doesn’t hold a candle to when Daenerys is buying the Unsullied. As in the book, the interplay between Daenerys, the translator and the Good Master Karznys is genuinely hilarious. It almost rescues the episode on its own.
One of the other scenes that helps is the confrontation between Tywin and Tyrion. These are both strong, powerful characters who will not be swayed in their views and they just so happen to disagree about Tyrion’s legitimacy to take control of Casterly Rock with Tywin now the Hand of the King. It’s almost spot-on to the book, as many of the Tyrion / Tywin scenes are.
Meanwhile, Robb Stark finds Harrenhal in disarray after Gregor Clegane has put it to the sword. Caetlyn is as disturbed as the King in the North and she surveys the corpses piled up around the castle but is then confined to a cell once more by Robb for the crime of releasing Jaime Lannister. Once gone, one of the corpses moves; it is Qyburn, who fans of the books will be interested to see flourish over the series.
The episode closes with an assassination attempt against Daenerys as she discusses her discomfort with the prospect of purchasing and using slaves in her army. Mormont is not able to intervene but someone else does, someone that you’d have to have been paying a lot of attention to notice previously in the series but who fans of the books like myself will have been squeeing to see.
In summary, this episode takes a while to get going and covers a lot of ground which probably could have been done through montage or backstory. After about twenty to thirty minutes, it begins to approach the usual quality of the series. My girlfriend pointed out quite correctly that it didn’t feel like the first episode of a series but more the end / beginning of a book. Whilst this makes sense, the producers and writers should have appreciated that this is a TV series and needs to start building the hooks and plot threads that keep it motoring along. Hopefully this is just a blip and the series will pick up from here.