Game of Thrones: What We Learned From Season Three
Our beloved lunatics from Westeros are back for season four of Game of Thrones, which means it’s time for a refresher course on what the hell is going on in the Seven Kingdoms (and beyond). We all needed a breather after last season’s penultimate episode, “The Rains of Castamere.” That infamous hour of television delivered such a collective gut punch to the millions of fans who hadn’t read George R. R. Martin’s novels, and therefore weren’t prepared for what was about to happen, that it spawned a popular Twitter feed @RedWeddingTears and videos of fan reactions to a wedding reception that could have only been worse if there had been a cash bar.
For a game of visual catch up, check out HBO’s 25-minute season three recap below.
Here’s a quick run through of what we learned so far, three seasons in, with some additional GOT tidbits.
Don't Mess With the Dragon Queen
So on the one hand, Daenerys is GOT’s resident emancipator, going around from one spectacularly cruel city after another freeing slaves. On the other hand, she’s just as power mad as any of the other show’s heavies; but she’s the only one with dragons. She’s gone from being a pawn and an object of desire into a literal and figurative force of nature; a flame retardant, dragon mothering bad ass. In season three, Daenerys freed the Unsullied—a massive slave army known to be the best warriors in the known world.
In order to do so, she engaged in a little duplicitous diplomacy with their slave master, failing to tell him she understood his language (therefore she picked up on his misogyny and general depravity), and squelched on her promise of offering him a dragon for his slaves. Instead, she freed the Unsullied (who pledged their allegiance to her) and had her dragon turn the miserable slaver into a double fried chicken steak.
Fun production note: The Astapor scene, shot in historic coastal town of Essaouria, Morocco, included 300 crew members and 200 extras.
Don't Mess With Revenge Obsessed Princesses, Either
Meanwhile in Westeros, the Stark girls came into their own. Although Sansa is still caught between a thousand rocks and a hard place in King's Landing, she jumped a couple levels in maturity last season and learned how to spin a lie like a pro. Sure, she's now Joffrey's aunt-in-law (yikes), but if you have to be forced into marriage with someone whose whole family wants your family dead, you really can't do better than Tyrion Lannister.
And Arya, off on her own long, strange trip, finally got to stab a dude.
Do Not Fall in Love
One of season three’s seminal moments was when Jon Snow and Ygritte had one of the more, shall we say, ‘generous’ coupling scenes on TV last year. For a show replete with giants, dragons, frozen zombies (or whatever White Walkers are), people who can mind-meld with animals and wholesale slaughter, this scene was downright lovely. The flame-haired wilding spirited her bastard lover into a cave, with a hot spring, for some seriously tender loving. (A hot spring North of the Wall? I smell a burgeoning rental market!) So how did season three end for our passionate lovers? Naturally, with Ygritte treating Jon Snow like a doe-eyed Voodoo doll and peppering him with arrows.
Then there's Robb Stark’s pure love for Talisa. That ended well.
Do Not Try to Be Like Ned Stark or You Will Be Horribly Injured or Murdered
Has any character caused more carnage than the long-dead Ned Stark, whose idiotic nobility has become a popular meme and has led to sundry horrible outcomes? His offspring, bastards and admirers continually attempt to live up to his noble ways and, by doing so, cause no end of pain and harm to themselves and others. Go back to Jon Snow, whose Ned-like refusal to kill an innocent old man results in the Wildings he’s been undercover with attempting to kill him, forcing Ygritte to defend him (thus becoming a traitor to her own people), and, ultimately ending with Ygritte shooting him.
One could argue (as I’m about to right here) that thanks to Ned Stark’s legacy of nobility at all costs, the bloodbath that was The Red Wedding can be pinned on him as well. Robb Stark’s decision to behead Lord Karstark for killing two teenage Lannisters because it was “the right thing to do” loses him the support of an entire army and forces him to ask Lord Frey for help. The same Lord Frey that Robb had betrayed in season two by refusing to marry one of his daughters…because he fell in love with Talisa. So, thanks to all of this Nedian behavior (which includes monogamous romantic feelings), one son ends up an unwilling acupuncture patient and the other, along with his pregnant wife and his poor, long-suffering mother Catelyn (Ned's widow!), are diced like deli meat.
On top of all this, you can also pin the death of Robb's direworf, Grey Wind, on stupid Ned as well. Grey Wind was run through with swords while stuck in a cage during the Red Wedding massacre.
Further Proof that Nobility is the Worst Possible Virtue on this Show
Jaime Lannister performs perhaps his first truly noble act during season three—he makes up a story to save Brienne of Tarth from being raped by Locke and the detachment of lowlifes that had captured them. The Kingslayer tells Locke that Brienne is actually a noblewoman, the sole heir of Lord Selwyn of Tarth, and that Lord Selwyn will pay “her weight in Sapphires” if she is left unharmed. Locke agrees, and calls off his men. For his good deed (and continued attempts to bribe Locke), Jamie is relieved of his sword hand with a single chop, the very thing that makes Jaime Jaime. Yet even handless, Jamie continues doing noble things! When they arrive in Harrenhal, Lord Bolton agrees to let him leave so long as he promises to tell his father, Tywin, that he had nothing to do with his mutilation. Only Lord Bolton won’t allow Brienne to leave with him. So Jaime leaves, but once again his newfound nobility sends him back to Harrenhal to save Brienne, where he finds her, in a pit, with a bear. Jaime jumps down and helps her escape, and the two continue their epic, once adorable and now just kind of sad and pitiful buddy cop-style road trip to King’s Landing.
Bran and Hodor have the only love that seems fit to last
Let’s Also Blame Ned Stark for Theon Greyjoy’s Ceaseless Misery
My god, this storyline. The once proud liege of Ned Stark, who at one point loved the man who had murdered his people and taken him prisoner after war (only to raise him as one of his own, more or less), let pride and fury (at, who else, Ned Stark) lead him into one bad decision after another, finally landing him in the hands of Ramsay Snow, who's essentially a crown-less, grown up Joffrey (meaning sadist). Those torture scenes were interminable. Theon was mutilated for most of the season, physically and emotionally, until Ramsay turned him into Reek, a castrated, drooling, gutless shade of his former self. Ned Stark! (Shaking fist at sky.)
Jack Gleeson Deserves Credit for Fully Inhabiting The Worst Person in Westeros
A moment of respect for actor Jack Gleeson, who has delivered a preening, petulant sadist that is perhaps the most fun character to hate since that actor who plays Shia LaBeouf. Joffrey manages to go from being utterly unlikable in season two, a character you desperately want to see on a pike, to a full blown monster in season three. The boy king is repellent even to the one person who would be in his corner no matter what—his mother Cersei. Once news of the Red Wedding reaches King’s Landing, Joffrey is gleeful, promising to serve Robb Starks’ head to Sansa at her wedding. Having not read the books, one can only dream that whatever retribution is coming Joffrey's way be by her hand.
Random But Fun Tidbits
Sophie Turner adopted her Direwolf. The young actress who plays Sansa Stark adopted Zuni, the dog who plays her late direwolf, Lady. Guess who killed Lady? Yup, Ned Friggin’ Stark!
HBO commissioned ten GOT loving rappers (Big Boi! Wale! Common!) to create a “Catch the Thrones” mixtape. And boy did they deliver. Read the hyperlinked piece by Vulture above and listen to their work, from Dominik Omega’s “Arya’s Prayer” to Big Boi’s “Mother of Dragons.”
Characters not Mentioned But Probably Should Have Been
Littlefinger, Margaery, Stannis, Bronn, The Hound, Melisandre, Jorah Mormont, Mance Rayder, Davos, Shae, Bran, Samwell, and Varys.
Featured image: Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Shae (Sibel Kekilli). Courtesy HBO.