We're going to make an effort to have these Game of Thrones chats with something resembling regularity this season, as I completely dropped the ball last time. It may have to wait until I have enough material for a whole post, or if a group of episodes are obviously linked by incident, we may wait. The show has finally caught up with all its major characters and to quote Professor Roger House, we're off and running. Without further ado, here's Fox and myself on the first two episodes of the third season of Game of Thrones.
Fox It's that time of year again. It's time to talk about Game of Thrones. Let the great discussion begin! Have you watched "Valar Dohaeris" yet?
Fox That's exactly how I felt when the episode was over. Nothing particularly miraculous took place in the premiere but it left me with a warm fuzzy feeling inside knowing that I was allowed to live in Westeros for the next ten weeks. But the warm feeling aside it's disgusting how much better GoT is on almost every level when compared to other television. It's as close to art as the medium can get and I'm just happy we're around for it.
Scout The episode features what I believe must be my favourite shot of the whole series, which is when the pirates drop Davos off at Dragonstone to find and kill Melissandre. He knows it won't work, he knows exactly how it's going to play out when he goes up there, but he's lost everything and like so many of the best characters on the show, he can't help himself. They frame him as a tiny, dirty, broken little man on a rock standing beneath the enormous castle, literally dug into stone, and all he can do is acknowledge that he's never going to make a difference. He's been forgotten. The shot is beautifully composed, the matte painting (digital matte painting?) is flawless and even at that great a distance Liam Cunningham's doing some of his best work. This gets at why the show works as well as it does, even as you say, nothing quite happens in this episode. It writes some of the best moments for characters who may end up being little more than cogs. The writers, directors, and crucially their art directors, never miss a moment to render Martin's text with the most rich detail imaginable.
Fox Davos' storyline is one of the most contested of the series. In the novels many fans actually feel that his plot is boring and to a certain extent they're right. But thats where the show comes in. Davos' storyline in the show is one of my favorites. He's the only reason we ever get a glimpse of Stannis. That's only part true in the novels. So not only is he used as a function of storytelling but he's a great character himself and one of the few "good" characters in the show. The writers of the show have done a great job of involving him in scenes that he wasn't really a part of in the novels and in the case of him directly confronting Melisandre, that doesn't even happen in the book. Instead he simply gets to Dragonstone and is immediately arrested. Plus Liam Cunningham is just so easy to watch. As is basically every single person on the show. It's the most well cast anything I've ever seen. I just watched the episode last night with Emily as she missed the original broadcast and came to the realization that any one character could be the basis for an entire fantasy series. Watching Sir Barristan save Daenerys from the warlock child reaffirmed that idea. That said it's amazing that the premiere didn't even touch Arya, Theon, Jaime, or Bran's story lines. This universe is astoundingly conceived and enormous.
Scout I know! And you're absolutely right. I think what makes Game stand HIGH above the heads of various dimwitted fantasy series (I'm looking at Legend of The Seeker, for want of more examples) is that it isn't a show about some charisma free Logan Lerman-esque twit learning about a spell he's got to master and going on a hero's journey. It's about an entire functioning set of opposing governmental systems filled with people, all of whom have well defined personalities and conflicting belief and moral system (though the orphans of King's Landing could admittedly use a little shading. But I kid the writer). That's a pretty herculean feet of storytelling, to not only have these largely very distinct characters exist alongside each other while also propelling a very clear narrative. That the show can afford to spend a week without three or four of its most compelling denizens and not suffer says an awful lot about how much they've achieved so far. We in the audience can see that they will appear and it will be satisfying and not panic. Deadwood had...what? 60 speaking characters? 80? And when one of them showed up for their 3rd or 4th appearance, you knew exactly what you were in for without a word of dialogue. Calamity Jane, Mose, Samuel Fields or Eddie Sawyer were splendidly themselves and could only handle themselves in the way that Milch and the writers set them up, because they were people, not characters. I don't think Game's quite there yet because there's a little more plot than ever drove Deadwood, but it's real close. Sir Barristan's showing up didn't have the kick for me that perhaps it could have, even though the gesture was amazing. But it's proof that these guys have the utmost command of the form, as well as a pretty amazing grip on their characters.
Fox And I think that really says it all. Series like The West Wing, Mad Men, Deadwood and GoT all take the time to make their characters so real that you could easily pass one of them on your way to somewhere and not bat an eye. That said I cannot wait to see Arya again.
Fox "Dark Wings, Dark Words" was awesome. They managed to find time for almost every character in the show and still tell a whole lot of story in an hour. They did a really wonderful job with the warg concept. I spent yesterday talking about the show with people and one of the story elements I'm worried about when it comes to the series is the supernatural. So far I find that show has done a much better job than the novels of introducing the magical in a way that doesn't bring everything else to a halt. Often while reading the books I'd actually double take alone in my living room when something magic happened seemingly out of nowhere. Watching a man beyond the wall sit with his eyes rolled back in his head while his consciousness is projected elsewhere was a nice easy way to tell you something without jarring the senses. I also entered the episode a little wary of Arya and Bran aging. I noticed how much older Sansa looked in the premiere and she's already passed the age where a week can change your face completely. The two pubescent Starks are noticeably older but I'm totally in favor of it. Bran's dream in the woods with his brothers and father advising his shot was incredible. Apart from it being incredibly touching and reminding us that he hasn't seen his family almost two full seasons, his face now resembles a young man rather than a boy and for the first time Bran's presence became a little frightening. Though Bran can't walk he'll still be a man soon and when that day comes he'll be exceptionally dangerous to his family's many enemies.
Scout Two episodes in something became clear to me. The show had, up until this point, made distinct and fascinating entities out of the many warring camps. But they've finally started taking sides. Robb is unwilling and clearly unsuited to leadership - he's basically his dad, which isn't the worst thing in the world, but he'd fuckin blow it in Tyrion or Joffrey's place. He's better suited to ruling the north, I think. Stannis is very clearly not the guy for the job (despite what David Sims thinks) as evinced by locking his moral center in the dungeon - Though his humanity is still buried in there somewhere as he didn't just burn Davos on the spot. The Ironborn are clearly too grim and gross to be the favourites. We don't know enough about the king beyond the wall or Jon's play yet, so they're a big question mark, but it doesn't look like the showrunners want us to think of them as the best imaginable option. So that leaves us with Dany, who we're supposed to be watching her wrestle with moral issues so she can come out on top of them and earn her place on the throne, which is where I think we're headed - morally anyway. This is what they want us to think. It's the first time they've really shown their hand other than in the broadest terms - Joffrey bad, Ned good, Jamie handsome...ok, so that's beside the point, but still... - so it feels like the lines are being drawn more clearly, the action will be more efficient, and the stakes will always be as high as the wall. They know who to kill now to get our attention. Which brings me to your comment about the aging faces. We're now watching the Stark kids grow up, which means now there's the added element of knowing the characters personally, because we remember what they looked like two seasons ago. We've lived with them and if the show puts them in danger, it's going to be more than fiction for many people.
On an individual note, now that they've set every plate spinning, it's time to see which one falls first. You have to hand it to the writers, they left every story on a cliffhanger. Who's got Theon? What will the brotherhood do with Arya? Should Bran be worried about Thomas Brodie-Sangster and his sister and their calling his powers out? Will Dany accept slaves and what does the arrival or Barristan mean? Will Brienne and Jamie get out of bondage? Will Tyrion be able to keep Shae safe? Will Margaery Tyrell punish Sansa or will Little Finger do it for her?
Finally, how lovely is it to see Dame Diana Rigg at work. The scene where she and Natalie Dormer are trying to grill Sansa is the best moment of the episode because we're just as conflicted as she is. We don't know these women, except that if Margaery learned her social cunning from her grandmother, then they're both to be feared because they goddamn get it. Margaery is among the more cunning characters in the show, even if we've only seen it in doses. And her grandmother is clearly the same, if now older and thus less calculated. She no longer gives a shit about concealing her intelligence. So, they could just be feeling Sansa out about Joffrey to plot strategy, or they could be planning to turn her in to make themselves look favourable in the fucking king's eyes. Margaery essentially seducing Joffrey (ick) says this is a possibility. And then what happens to her if Shae is discovered and killed by Tywin? Whatever way you look at it, Sansa's in the most trouble of anyone in the series right now, and I'm rather worried about her safety. In short, Game of Thrones is back, baby!
Fox I had a very clear memory of Books 1 and 2 but 3 is where things really start to go all over the place so I'm approaching this season very much in the dark until the moment things happen. It's making for some truly thrilling television. I yelled "Oh goddammit!" at the television when The Hound calls out Arya near the end of the episode. Do they make it at all clear in the episode who actually has Theon? I know from the novels but I'm not sure if it remained a mystery in the show.
Scout No mention made. Just some dudes in hoods and his sister knows about it.
Fox Okay thats what I thought. Natalie Dormer continues to rock my world. Now that her and her grandmother The Queen of Thorns (Rigg) are in the game (of thrones) I think shit's going to hit the goddamn fan