Only thirty days left until the Game of Thrones season 6 premiere! Time is flying now and the #GoT50 countdown is helping with our impatience. Today we begin season 3 in our rewatch, with another guest writer and WotW regular taking the wheel. Please welcome Greatjon of Slumber! -Sue the Fury
The first word spoken of Game of Thrones Season 3, said by Samwell Tarly as he flees the massacre at the Fist of the First Men, sets the tone for “Valar Dohaeris,” where almost every significant conversation is dominated by discussion of familial relations.
For Sam, a man who grew up with a harsh, steely father who withheld his love (a familiar situation in Westeros), his need for a connection with his brothers in black comes from a desire for structure, even it’s one that was forced upon him – and one that we shall see makes him feel a measure of betrayal after Edd and Grenn ran from him when they heard the three blasts that signaled the advance of White Walkers at the close of Season 2. And the open of season 3 does him no favors on this front, as the brother in question has had his head removed and carefully – and bloodily – placed in his hands.
Several of the early scenes of the episode make clear the importance of strong family connections and show the efforts of various characters to seek or strengthen connections through the evocation of family ties, no matter how tenuous, and do just as much to undermine those connections, no matter how strong.
We meet Mance Rayder, a character who was first mentioned in the first season of the show. Now self-styled “King Beyond the Wall,” he makes it clear to Jon Snow that he considered the deceased Qhorin Halfhand his “brother,” and notes to Snow that he, too, was betraying his “brothers.” Those same brothers are the ones now trudging back to the Wall after the arguably disastrous plan by Lord Commander Mormont – latter referred to, in the fourth season as “our father” by Jon – to take 200 members of the Watch north to see what was the cause of the flight south by Wildlings and the strange occurrences and disappearances north of the Wall. But Mance Rayder, just as the more venal Karl, Rast and others later on, enjoyed that brotherhood when it was convenient to him, and abandoned it when it no longer served his purposes.
Cersei Lannister, just the same, quietly and plaintively announces behind a locked door that it is “your sister” when she visits Tyrion, who is understandably wary of seeing her after the plot to have him killed at the Battle of the Blackwater failed. With him still alive, she of course seeks unity with her brother against their common foe, their father, Tywin, even though throughout the rest of the season she would forever seek to undermine Tyrion.
The centerpiece of the episode, arguably, is the difficult, strained conversation between Tywin Lannister and his son Tyrion, who has been dispatched from his duties as Hand of the King, now instead living in an antechamber with nary anyone to visit him other than his squire, Podrick, and the newly-knighted Bronn.
Tywin Lannister, as masterfully played by Charles Dance, uses familial ties as a cudgel, stressing the importance of living up to the Lannister name without providing guidance that would help Tyrion understand his position better. Tyrion as a result remains entirely self-taught, relying on his wits, in what makes him ultimately much like his father. His admonishment of Tyrion for expecting some kind of recognition or even a visit after sustaining injuries in the battle is sting enough, but what’s worse is him hearing that he would rather be “consumed by maggots” than give Tyrion Casterly Rock, which the latter sees as his birthright.
Several other conversations also suggest familial ties – Davos Seaworth, returned to life, speaking of his son with the always-welcome Salladhor Saan; Petyr Baelish tempting Sansa with discussion of her mother and sister; Roose Bolton’s mention to Rickard Karstark of the latter’s desire for revenge.
The episode closes with the reintroduction of Barristan Selmy, having been absent from the show since season 1, as he pledges his service to Danaerys Targaryen, by evoking the memory of her ancestors, saying years ago he “failed to protect her family,” vowing not to let the same happen to her.
• This episode features a rare conversation between Shae and Ros, with the latter speaking of the difficulty of rising in the world for “girls like us.” It’s a nice moment for Esme Bianco.
• One doesn’t hear enough commentary on just how devastating Mormont’s decision to bring several hundred men north of the Wall. By the looks of the group gathered in front of Sam, it appears to only be about two dozen left, and even that might be generous.
• The wight menacing Sam (at his most helpless and useless) is of course taken out by that most Thrones-ian of plot devices, “Deus ex Direwolf.”
• Classism in play: Meryn Trant dismisses Bronn as an “upjumped cutthroat, nothing more.” Bronn nails it with Trant: “A grob in fancy army who’s better at beating little girls than fighting men.”
• Sansa sums it up pretty well: “The truth is either horrible or terribly boring.”
• We get yet another mention of the Mountain, noting that he and the Lannister forces have been running from the Northern armies since the Battle of Oxcross. The lack of presence from the Mountain undermines his eventual reintroduction down the road.
Mance Rayder, Tormund Giantsbane, a de-helmeted Rattleshirt, Qyburn, a Giant!, the ominous occurrence known as “Tywin Lannister writes letters,” the Tower of the Hand, Missandei, and Kraznys mo Nakloz (and the first ever connection to “Deadwood”).
A wight, courtesy of Jeor Mormont’s torch, about 200 members of the Night’s Watch (offscreen!), Jaremy Mallister (already dead), one freaky-ass looking manticore.
There was also a Rains-themed option:
And this one paying tribute to the fiery duel to come.
“Two hundred Northmen slaughtered like sheep.” Valar Dohaeris. Beautiful Death by Robert M. Ball