Peter Dinklage, Jerome Flynn and Daniel Portman star in Season Three of Game of Thrones, premiering tonight on HBO.
HBO is using a dramatic silhouette of a dragon in flight on its teaser posters for season three of Game of Thrones, which premieres tonight on the premium cable network. That’s not surprising, since the three “children” of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who are now the size of large canines, are key players in one of the most electrifying scenes of the Emmy-winning series this season.
Yet this epic adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire never has been only about the big moments. As with previous seasons, there is magic and bedazzlement to spare in these new episodes, but Martin and adaptors David Benioff & D.B. Weiss never lose the human scale of the story they are telling. The characters we meet in Game of Thrones are, by and large, recognizable mortals caught up in extraordinary situations.
Over the two previous seasons, those situations have sent so many of these characters in different directions on personal quests that viewers should prepare themselves for a fairly leisurely pace in the first couple of these new episodes, simply because it takes that long to check in with the various characters and their current status. (Note: What follows doesn’t include any major spoilers, but if you prefer to enter the new season entirely cold, stop reading right now).
As you may remember, season two ended with Jon Snow (Kit Harington), separated from the rest of the Night Watch, a captive of the wildling Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and her companions, a dire situation he tries to turn to his advantage by infiltrating the army of Mance Rayder (new series regular Ciaran Hinds), the King Beyond the Wall. He’ll face some interesting challenges this season, such as discovering that Rayder isn’t the lunatic he imagined. More pressing, his covert presence in this army is largely contingent on maintaining a credible relationship with Ygritte, and doesn’t his Night Watch vow call for him to be, you know, celibate?
Far away, Dany has emerged from the brutal crucible she underwent in season two looking every inch a queen. Unfortunately, she still lacks an army, but as she and the loyal Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) pursue that goal, joined by new ally Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney), she’ll blow a hole in the sexist notion that women don’t know how to negotiate (and how!).
Elsewhere, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) still looks like the smart horse to bet on in the fight for the Iron Throne, but he remains distracted by how his younger siblings are scattered to the wind, apart from sister Sansa (Sophie Turner), who continues her perilous life in King’s Landing at the pleasure of her insane ex-fiance, King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).
Speaking of that royal jerk, his newly betrothed – Renley Barantheon’s widow, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer, The Tudors), whom we met at the end of last season – quickly emerges as one of the most fascinating characters of the new season. Her public demeanor is self-effacing and benign (think Princess Diana of the Seven Kingdoms), yet she has been schooled by her very cunning grandmother, Lady Oleanna (the magnificent Diana Rigg), so she may be far more formidable than she appears (I’m not being coy here. I’ve seen four episodes of season three and I can’t tell for sure where that story line is going).
As for the rest of Team Lannister, with golden boy Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) still in captivity and getting some harrowing life lessons, siblings Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Cersei (Lena Headey) compete like squabbling teenagers for the approval of their martinet father, Tyrwin (Charles Dance).
Amazingly, despite its vast canvas, the storytelling remains a model of clarity. I worry that at some point this ginormous chronicle may spin out of control, but in its third season, Game of Thrones remains one of the most gripping weekly hours on television. Don’t miss it.
HBO’s epic mega-hit Game of Thrones returns for its third season on Sunday, March 31, and if you’re like me, you’ll want to refresh your memory as to the complicated events and conflicts that have led us to those new episodes, via HBO Home Entertainment’s release today of the show’s complete second season on five discs.
The beautifully engineered set is flush with special features, but first, a brief overview of the drama itself, which opens in the politically charged aftermath of the season-one murders of both King Robert Baratheon and his right-hand man, Eddard “Ned” Stark. Currently sitting on the Iron Throne as monarch of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is vicious young Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson), whose nightmarish reign is threatened by widening (and accurate) rumors that he is actually the incestuous spawn of Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and her twin brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
The late King Robert’s sane and gentle-natured younger brother, Renly (Gethin Anthony), has wide popular support in his quest to unseat Joffrey and claim the throne, but Renly’s ruthless older brother, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) sees himself as the rightful heir and has aligned himself with a powerful priestess who commands dark magical powers. To the north, Robb Stark (Richard Madden), Ned’s son, has united his own strong army hellbent on protecting the autonomy of Winterfell and its environs, while his half-brother, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), ventures north of The Wall to investigate unnerving rumors that a new leader has arisen among the unpredictable wildlings of that region. Far to the east, Daenerys “Dani” Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) reaches the oasis city of Qarth, where she guards her three dragon hatchlings and plots her own return to power.
Back in King’s Landing, it falls to little Tyrion Lannister (Emmy winner Peter Dinklage), the true moral voice of Game of Thrones, to find some way to protect Joffrey’s subjects from his sadistic whims and keep his unstable nephew from permanently tarnishing the reputation of the Lannisters.
Things come to a head in episode 9, wherein Tyrion leads Joffrey’s army in a desperate defense of their city against a massive army that is bolstered by sorcery, a taut hour scripted by Game-master George R.R. Martin himself.
You’ll spend more than nine hours just watching the events of the story as they originally aired on HBO last season, but you can easily invest even longer exploring the dragon’s hoard of special features included in this set. As the story unfolds, an in-episode guide lets you click and get background information on the characters, locations and background of the scene you’re watching, and each episode also includes audio commentaries by various members of the creative team, along with cast members including Dinklage, Clarke, Harington and Alfie Allen, whose rash, hotheaded Theon Greyjoy has a major storyline of his own.
There’s also a roundtable discussion in which Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) and Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth, a new character) join Clarke, Harington and Headey for a chat offering a behind-the-scenes perspective on the season, as well as a short documentary on the staggering logistics that went into creating the Battle of Blackwater Bay in episode 9. You’ll also find a fascinating feature on the religions of Westeros, which begin to assume greater prominence during this season, a comprehensive interactive guide called “War of the Five Kings” that will help you follow the complex political and military forces at work, and an engrossing section called simply “Histories and Lore,” 19 animated histories detailing the mythologies of this world as told from varying perspectives of the characters themselves. The only downside of these supplementary material is that you’ll find yourself falling down the proverbial rabbit hole and losing several hours before you know it, so be sure to set aside adequate free time before you start exploring.