Monday, April 1, 2013

Game of Thrones Review: Valar Dohaeris

"Game of Thrones" is back and ... underwhelming. But in individual moments, still incredible.

The premiere spent most of its time doing the necessaries: picking up where the characters left off, introducing new ones and laying the groundwork for things to come. Not much room for anything to get the heart pumping.

That said, there were a lot of little things I enjoyed quite a bit. Top of the list were Tyrion's encounters with Cersei and, especially, Tywin. Tyrion is still licking his wounds from the after-effects of the Battle of Blackwater. He's been disfigured by a slash across the face (put there by someone Cersei hired), removed from his position as Hand of the King and longing for a little recognition for the stellar job he did. Though he's a dwarf, he has never really seemed small -- until this episode. He holds his own with Cersei as she gloats over his circumstances and tries to pump him for information, but his usual calm with her is replaced by a jumpy wariness. And he's feeling so vulnerable that he goes to his father and openly asks for what is his by rights -- despite knowing how much Tywin loathes him, and being told so again.

While Tyrion is getting beaten down, Dany's fortunes are looking up as she considers buying an army of 8,000 Unsullied warriors from a slave trader. Though the warriors' show of force was small, their precision was impressive and their backstories horrifying. The books spent a great deal of time on her moral opposition to slavery, and I'm curious how much of that will make it into the show. Jorah seems to have already convinced her that she would be a much nicer slave owner than the other guy.

Meanwhile, Jon is falling in with another army north of the wall led by Mance Rayder, played by Ciaran Hinds. I'm not sure about Hinds yet, but he seems to give Rayder just a touch of levity, which works for me. Elsewhere in the camp, there's a giant doing menial labor. Love it.

Other highlights/lowlights:
-- I was happy to see Davos alive, but unhappy to see him carted off. Also, the Stannis/Red Woman dynamic is rather flat by now.

-- Behind Tyrion's scenes, probably my favorite one was the brief exchange between Ros, the prostitute-turned-brothel manager (or whatever), and Shae, the prostitute-turned-lady's maid. For all the sexposition that goes on, it's nice to be reminded that these two women have become far more complex and interesting characters.

-- Nice touch on the main titles, showing Winterfell now as a smoldering mess.

-- Yeah, the dragons are bigger and badder, but they're also less convincing than when they were smaller. But I won't hold it against you, VFX guys, because the direwolves still look awesome.

-- Looking forward to next week, when we get to check in with Arya, Bran and Jamie.

What did everyone else think?


  1. Lot of good points. The episode didn't wow me, but there were a lot of small telling moments, some that may seem pretty innocuous now, but could prove to be momentous as the season goes on. I'm surprised you didn't mention Lady Margaery Tyrell. she had a small part in the episode, but I think she's going to be a major force. She knows what Joffrey is all about and is smart enough to play him. Remember her words, "I don't want to a queen, I want to be THE queen."And now Daenerys has a major ally in Lord Commander Jeor, who Joffrey idiotically dismissed and disgraced. And Tyrion will be back, by hook or crook. He's too smart and crafty for this lot.

  2. Loved the exchanges between Tyrion and Cersei, and Tyrion and his father, and Tyrion and Bronn. OK, so every conversation Tyrion ever has.

    Good points, Jeannie; you mentioned some things that I missed — my husband and I kept rehashing previous seasons as well as future plot developments from the books. I'll probably need to revisit the episode before moving on to the next one.

  3. Mac, you're totally right about Margaery. She's already positioning herself as the queen of the people, while sniveling little Joffrey continues to hide away, and is also laying the groundwork to undercut Cersei as much as she can.