Welcome to the second installment of Dead Series Discussion, where Patches of Nothing but the Rain and I will discuss Season 3 of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Not only is Game of Thrones more popular than our first effort, ABC’s Last Resort, but we also like it more, meaning we probably won’t spend 2,000+ words discussing what we didn’t like about the show. Like our previous Dead Series Discussion, this is a multi-part series. You’re reading Part 2. Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4 are also available.
If the title didn’t make SEASON 3 SPOILERS obvious, then you need to start paying attention while you read. There are also spoilers for the first two seasons of Game of Thrones and the first 3 books of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. There are, however, NO spoilers from books 4 and 5, beyond one mention of the general timeline for those books and what season 3 of the TV show covers.
With that, our Skype-based discussion and analysis of Season 3 continues…
Patches: I spoke earlier of the book having many “big moments.” Maybe this is the time to take a closer look at those. With what should we begin?
Jeff: I think it might be best to go chronologically through the season. I’m not sure how much time we want to spend on each moment and I’m also not sure what really defines “big” moment, but the season had a few that are worth talking about. Unless you can think of something earlier, perhaps the first big shocker was Jaime Lannister losing his sword hand at the end of episode 3, “Walk of Punishment.”
Patches: Ah, Jaime… He should be so unlikeable after the incest and the throwing boys off castles and the bad optometry on Jory Cassel (Never forget!). Yet, after a nice build during his capture in Season 2, he’s become my favorite character on the show. I’ll talk about the character more later, but for now, suffice it to say that scene worked marvelously. After seeing Lannisters get away with everything for so long, the viewer can be forgiven for thinking they are “inwincible.” They even made it seem like he was going to charm his way out before dropping the hammer on the viewer. Sound like anything later in the season?
The only thing I didn’t like was the punk-rock version of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” over the end credits. I didn’t exactly need a Ryan Chappelle silent clock, but I didn’t like how it took me out of the moment. You loved it though, right?
Jeff: Yes. Isn’t it strange that despicable Jaime Lannister gets the Buster Bluth treatment and almost immediately we start liking him more? This is definitely major moment for Jaime and prime example of the complexity at the heart of Martin’s characters. Lots of gray in these books. I think perhaps we lose something in not having the ability to read Jaime’s thoughts, but the show, as usual, has adapted well. The best part: Jaime’s journey is far from over.
As for the song, I thought it was a great button to keep the intensity of the moment going. Sure, it’s anachronistic, but throw in something instrumental or traditionally score-like and I don’t think it works as well. Also, when you realize that they’re singing a punk/rock version of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” maybe you get a laugh out of it to ease some of the tension.
Patches: I think the next big episode, and one of the best of the season, was Episode 4 (“And Now His Watch Is Ended”), which featured both the Mutiny at Craster’s Keep and The Sack of Astapor. What did you think of that double-whammy?
Jeff: This was a very big episode with two big moments. Ultimately, I feel like the mutiny could have played out a little bit differently. I would liked to have seen Jeor Mormont mention his son Jorah, and honestly I wish I had a better feeling for exactly who these mutineers were. It might have been nice to see a little bit more of the mayhem, but I understand the desire to stick with Sam as he runs away. Perhaps it’s best that this came in the middle of the episode so they could save the big one for the end.
Dany’s reveal that she understands/speaks Valyrian and her torching of the Ben Kingsley slaver was perfect. This is an example of the team behind the TV series creating a moment that plays out much like I pictured it in my mind. The Unsullied spearing their former masters offers a moment of vengeance, and the flames flying high give this scene a very epic feel. I don’t think there’s much they could have done differently to make this scene any better. Also, it’s the start of Dany’s comeback season (in my opinion). I know you’re down with crispy slavers, but did you feel the same way I did?
Patches: I am always down for violence being inflicted on slavers. Need proof? There is a Fallout 3 achievement that makes you enslave three people. Not only did I pass up 20 gamerpoints, but I also grabbed a minigun and went to town on everyone inside Paradise Falls. Not sure how I have the moral high-ground there, but suffice it to say I’m not a fan of slavery.
I had been looking forward to that scene ever since Ben Kingsley Slaver (Haha. Your nickname stuck!) uttered his first of many Valyrian whore/slut combinations to Dany. It was a delight to see him get his comeuppance. I did think, however, that the director (I assume) got a little too melodramatic. Maybe it was the camera looking up at Dany with explosions and flames in the background. Maybe it was the music. Maybe it was the slow-motion shot of Dany tossing the slave leash to the ground, followed by slow-motion stomping on it. It seemed a little hammier than they wanted. My favorite thing about “Blackwater” was how epic it was without bashing you in the head telling you it was epic. This scene did not pass that test.
As for the mutiny scene, I liked it. It was quick, believable, brutal, and ultimately, a bit shocking. Echoing your thoughts, I wish we would have gotten to know the mutineers. Specifically, we had a couple seasons to get to know/hate Rast. Why not have him start the mutiny?
Jeff: I can agree with you about some of the heavy-handed symbolism of throwing down the whip, but I still liked the moment, one of the biggest the series has done I think. The next moment may not really be big, but it’s certainly important. Let’s talk a little about “Sam the slayer” finally making use of his dragonglass dagger and killing a white walker at the end of episode 8, “Second Sons”. This was a moment I had been waiting for since the beginning of the season. Sam’s a fat screw-up and I really wanted him to have a moment of heroism. Unfortunately, Gilly is the only one who sees it (plus, he leaves the dagger behind!). Still, I think it’s a nice moment where the character does something right for a change.
Patches: Agreed! I’m not a huge fan of Sam’s season, but I did enjoy that moment. I think Sam works better as a foil for Jon than he does as the “expert” with Gilly, which is why I haven’t been as interested in his story this season. Still, it was nice to let the little guy get a win and show some character growth.
Jeff: One more quick thing about Sam. I almost feel like he’s the most appropriate candidate for an audience surrogate character. Sure, we may all want to be Dany with her dragons and armies, Davos with his honor, Jon with Ygritte or Pod with his Rod–or we may not want to be any of these people–but I think Sam is probably the most like an audience member (or at least the most like me, even if I dream of being as witty as Tyrion). Apart from screwing up, he’s smart, he’s kind, he doesn’t like to fight and thankfully, he survives (so far). That claim is arguable, but I think it makes some sense at least.
Patches: So, are we missing any big events from Season 3?
Jeff: [Starts playing “The Rains of Castamere”]
Patches: Wait, I’m not sure I get that reference. I remember it being played at Edmure’s wedding. Then some Frey took out a giant-ass knife. Then I blacked out or PTSDed or dissociative amnesia-ed or something. I assumed everyone important escaped harm?
Jeff: If by everyone you mean The Blackfish and by important you mean Walder Frey.
Patches: Lol. Well, shit…
But seriously, Red Wedding. Where do we even start?
Jeff: I think maybe we start with whether the scene was satisfactory (as far as massacres go). We’ve both read the book and we knew what was coming, but did it live up to expectations? It worked for me, particularly the inclusion of Talisa. I spent most of the season suspicious that she was somehow behind the upcoming bloodshed, exchanging letters with Tywin and so forth, however, when Random Frey #1 started making beef stew of her baby bump…man. What a way to kick things off! Beyond that, a lot of the Red Wedding played out similar to what I envisioned when reading. I’m glad they had Cat kill Walder’s wife, if only to make Walder that much more horrible. Basically, a great moment, well adapted, directed and edited.
Patches: I totally agree. Even now I struggle to find the right words for that episode. As great as the depiction of the massacre was, “The Rains of Castamere” was so damn devastating because it lured you into a false sense of security, even if you knew what was coming. It suckers you in with cute Frey bait-and-switches, funny lines, Edmure’s disarming stupidity, salt and bread ceremonies, and lots of great facial expressions. There was so much levity that we almost forgot that Winter was Coming (TM). And when it did, holy shit… Talisa’s stabbing was so impossibly violent and shocking that I actually got a little sick to my stomach. THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN TO ME EVER!
Jeff: So good stuff, huh? Before we leave the wedding behind, you and I had a private discussion about the significance of the Red Wedding as a television event. Though we both came up with several examples, neither of us could think of anything that was quite so devastating in scale and emotionally as the Red Wedding. Your mileage may vary on Cat and Robb (particularly this season), and Talisa isn’t even in the books, so why should we like her? Still, it’s hard to find anything that stacks up as highly on as many levels as this event does.
Patches: For sure. I wish we could expand this conversation, but there’s no way we could do it without ruining seven different shows for our reader(s?). Other shows have episodes with a similar body count. Others managed to approach, if not match, the shock or the emotional devastation. Nothing I’ve seen had that combination of all three.
Jeff: Exactly. If you’re done discussing the laugh-a-minute Red Wedding, there’s one last thing I wanted to mention before turning to some best/worst stuff. I need to take a moment to mention how impressed I am with Game of Thrones for being so successful with such a non-traditional ensemble structure. Apart from Ned in season 1, the show hasn’t really had a definitive “lead.” No character has appeared in every episode and many “regular” characters disappear for long stretches and then come back later. While there may be some more of this “character equality” on ensemble comedies or cop shows, I don’t think I’ve seen anything like Game of Thrones. While the case could be made for Tyrion and King’s Landing, we don’t really have a central character to follow every week or setting that we can call home. Despite that, the show succeeds. Just another reason why this is one of the best shows on TV and why I’m liking it more each season.
Patches: I like it because of the boobs. Is “unnecessarily sophomoric” a good note to end on?
* * * * * *
That’s it for Part 2. Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4 are also available.