Jul 17, 2014

[TV] Game of Thrones: Season 3

So I'm still playing catch-up with theses reviews of the Game of Thrones TV series and now we're finally at the third season - a particularly memorable one when you think about it. And as he go deeper and deeper into this rather epic tale of the kingdoms of Westeros and beyond, one has to consider just how much has changed.

This third season of Game of Thrones was pretty eventful and featured one of many key scenes that book fans have known about for some time and in many ways had been looking forward to seeing how it would be depicted on-screen. But at the same time I think book fans were more eager to see how TV fans would react to key events in the season.

More than any other season of the show, I think this third season really polarized the TV fan base and also drove a large social media debate about the nature of spoilers and all that fun stuff. And more than anything else, it really just shows just how powerful this piece of television is. It may not be perfect and everyone may not like it equally, but it's certainly doing something brilliant on television.

Synopsis: Game of Thrones is a fantasy drama series created David Benioff and D.B. Weiss for HBO. As is well-known by now, the TV series was based on the Song of Ice and Fire books written by George R.R. Martin. This season generally covers events found in A Storm of Swords.

After the Battle of Blackwater, the Lannisters have secured their hold on King's Landing and thus the Iron Throne. Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is set to be married to Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), a strategic decision that brings the power of the Tyrell's to bolster the strength of the Lannisters as well. But Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) was now feeling the harsh reality of his role in the defense of the city being all but forgotten with the arrival of his father (Charles Dance), the true Hand of the King. In contrast, the Starks aren't doing too well in the war given the weakening of support from the Freys because of Robb Stark's (Richard Madden) marriage to Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin).

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) continues her journey of survival with Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) and they eventually cross paths with the Brotherhood Without Banners. Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) continue their journey North, but now joined by the Reed siblings. Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is the tortured slave of Roose Bolton (Iwan Rheon). Jon Snow is now trying to be all undercover with the Wildlings under Mance  Rayder (Ciarán Hinds). And Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clark) is now trying to truly begin her journey to conquer the Seven Kingdoms.

Okay, I know that seems like a very sloppy synopsis up there. Plus it's not even complete since there are other side-plots of relative importance. But the basic message is this - the focus of this season is pretty much the core conflict in Westeros between the Lannisters and the Starks. And while there are still important things happening beyond the Wall or even across the Narrow Sea, but in the end it's about the rather public war between those two houses. And yes, things will be generally resolved in that regard within this one season.

The other bits are still relevant enough, but they understandably take a bit of a backseat compared to the primary narrative focus of things. Yes we love Arya and her continued growth into a very strong albeit sometimes scary character. Yes, we're looking forward to seeing Daenerys eventually come into her own and become a true contender when it comes to vying for control of Westeros. But we can't give everyone equal focus and some people even have trouble with all the names. So in order to survive this season, I advise you continue to keep tabs on the Lannisters and the Starks more than anyone else.

I want to cite Michelle Fairley's performance in this season as Catelyn Stark. Her character has truly gone through a lot with the death of her husband in the first season and the belief that her two youngest sons were dead as well. With little to no information on her daughters, she strikes a bargain with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and frees him in the hopes that he'll bring her daughters back to her - an oath that is shared with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), another great example of a character brought to life beautifully through brilliant acting.

Versus all other seasons thus far, I feel that this third season did a tremendous job of really moving the whole narrative forward more than anything else. Sure, in other seasons a lot of stuff certainly happened, but it was this third season that felt like it had the most focus and it really wanted to make sure that the characters got to somewhere meaningful. And by the end of the season, I'm sure you'll feel (or felt if you've already seen it) that feeling of stunned silence as you take in all the shifts in the status quo.

And I suppose it helps a lot that we have so much emotional resonance with more of the characters by now. Sure, folks have been dying in every season but the traditional television narrative flow has taught us to invest in certain lead characters and want to see them succeed. This season truly capitalized on the shared emotional investment of the audience and it certainly cashed in. And it was a great way to make the most of what they had in terms of the fan base, quite frankly.

The third season of Game of Thrones is a marvel in itself and one that you cannot venture into without the right sense of focus or the steeling of your heart. You know that this show is pretty liberal in terms of deaths and you need to remember that, well, All Men Must Die. Thus the season gets a solid 5 wonderful bonding moments between Jaime and Brienne out of a possible 5.

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