We’re going to try a different tack this week. After the enjoyment we had writing a Fast Six review in tandem, we wanted to try this out with television shows we watch as well. So please let us know if you enjoy this more than our typical weekly reviews, as we are considering a more permanent shift to this format for things we both watch. With that being said, I’ll take the lead:
I thought Season 3’s conclusion was fine–it was mostly about tying up loose ends and setting up Season 4. We finally find out (as I predicted) that Roose Bolton’s bastard son Ramsay Snow was the one sadistically torturing Theon, or excuse me, Reek. Benioff and Weiss must have made the conscious decision to save the bulk of the Greyjoys’ plot for next season, but wanted to check in every so often to make sure we didn’t forget who Theon was. Perhaps this was a necessity given they’re working with a 1000+ page book and can only cover so much in 10 episodes, but I still think it was stupid to go through the charade week in and week out without understanding why he was being tortured. Finally it is revealed that Bolton, the new Steward of the North, wants to get all the Iron-born out of the North without having to fight them. Apparently threatening Balon with further dismemberment of his son is the best way to get this to happen, which also seems stupid. To me, Bolton’s actions look more like an invitation to fight rather than a threat to leave or else. Of course, that’s exactly what happens, as while it may have worked on that asshole Balon, fortunately for Theon his sister, Yara, still sees him as a Greyjoy. This sets up both the Greyjoys and Boltons to be bigger players in Season 4, which I welcome. Buckeye, were you satisfied with the Theon story arc this season?
DO NOT DISCUSS THE BOOKS WE HAVE NOT READ THEM.
Buckeye: I could not have been more dissatisfied with the Theon story arc this season. I’ve mentioned before in my responses that much of what happened to Theon this year came across as the show spinning its wheels. I have no idea how his torture at the hands of Bolton’s bastard is handled in the book (i.e. whether George R.R. Martin kept readers in the dark for as long as us viewers were kept there), but it is pretty clear to me that the entirety of Theon’s story could have been swiftly dealt with in one episode. No need to string us along; we could’ve been just fine with a shot of Bolton’s kid eating the sausage, and then Theon sans sausage, with his sister then manning some Ironland ships.
But I don’t want to complain too much, because Theon’s story was a weak link in an otherwise much-improved season. There was continued strong work from my favorite characters, like Tyrion and Tywin (though they kind of got lost in the shuffle towards the end), and the Khaleesi quit whining about her dragons and actually had some maneuvering to do. Now she has an army and a bunch of freed slaves that worship her, and three men vying for her affections. Among the improvements was Stannis, the fire lady and Davos; the show finally got around to granting Stannis some humanity and letting some actual sunlight into Dragonstone, where only Melisandre’s fires had burned. But, Kyra, I think the most gratifying character development occurred with Jaime, and given what we’ve seen him suffer I could really empathize with the poignant moment he shared with Cersei. You’ve written a lot about Jaime this year, would you say he made the season if not necessarily the season finale (since he was barely in it)?
kyra: Without a doubt in my mind the best characters on the show are all Lannisters. Charles Dance brings the authoritarian Tywin to life in a way that keeps me mesmerized every time he is on screen. Joffrey, as I’ve said already, is the greatest villain in television history. He wanted to feed Robb’s head to Sansa on his wedding night for fuck’s sake! Game of Thrones has a habit of not letting any character keep the same fortune or misfortune for too long, and this year had Jaime working slowly back from the very bottom. While he wasn’t a major feature of the final act of Season 3, I did think reuniting with Cersei was a soft, understated, but fitting conclusion. Jaime still has the swagger that the masses know and love him for, but he has matured a great deal since being captured by the Starks. Thus he doesn’t barge in with a witty, vulgar remark. Rather, this is a moment of relief he has been picturing for so long–to lay eyes on the woman he loves once again–that all he can muster is her name. I hope Benioff and Weiss look to this storyline, both in the time devoted to it and the way it developed, as a paradigm for how to handle their characters down the road.
Tyrion is probably the fan favorite on the show thus far, and he also came a long way this season, just not by as much literal distance as Jaime. Let’s not forget that Tyrion was at a very low point when this season began: he had been scarred during the Battle of Blackwater in an attempted murder orchestrated by his nephew (although he thinks it was his sister at the time), stripped of Hand status when Tywin came, and was living essentially in a barn–very unbecoming for a Lannister. Over the course of the season Tyrion, like Jaime, matures, albeit at the hands of his father. He is charged first with being Master of Coin, and later with being master of Sansa Stark. In the finale, Tywin illustrates a number of lessons for Tyrion in the Small Council Chamber. Firstly, that power does not necessarily follow the one who wears the crown. Secondly, that family name is the only important commodity, and one worth sacrificing personal desire for. Tyrion fights back at this charge, pointing out it’s easy to say that when you’re making all the decisions. Tywins response is obvious: he would have killed Tyrion had he not valued the Lannister name so highly. Tyrion pretty much already knew this I would think, but for some reason it seems like this time it really hit home. Although he may hate to admit it, Tyrion is cut from the same cloth as his father. Despite early protests, he married Sansa for the good of the family (and it was nice to see them getting along well in the finale until the Red Wedding reveal). He embraced his new job for the good of the family. His numerous rejections of Shae’s offer to flee King’s Landing also indicate his strong loyalty.* Tyrion had some internal struggles this season, and some great arguments with Joffrey, so overall I thought he also had a successful Season 3 campaign.
*I’m also interested to hear from you Buckeye if you think that Tyrion sent Varys to deliver the diamonds to Shae. My feeling is that Varys did this on his own because for some reason he actually has an interest in protecting the realm. Shae doesn’t seem to think so though.
Cersei did not have much to do this season, as she’s been pretty marginalized by Joffrey’s impending marriage to Margaery. Her influence on big picture events has almost fully waned, and I doubt she’ll be able to control Loras given his perverse predilections. Cersei admits in the finale that she is pretty depressed, and if not for her kids she would probably kill herself. Of course, this is before Jaime returns so we’ll see what happens next season. Buckeye, any closing thoughts on the Lannister clan?
Buckeye: I certainly agree that the Lannisters constitute the most compelling and charismatic characters on Game of Thrones. I remarked to our friend Shep that sometimes, I wish the show would only focus on the intrigue at King’s Landing (though I wouldn’t complain for a Khaleesi sighting or two). Shep rightly pointed out to me that limiting the series’ scope to the capital wouldn’t have worked this season, though (or in any part of any season save the final episodes of Season 2), because while the Small Council members and their confidantes talk, talk, talk, their discourse mostly takes the form of action outside the capital. That doesn’t make Tyrion’s guile, Tywin’s commanding presence, or Joffrey’s impersonation of Salome any less deliciously satisfying.
I remember earlier this year I voiced some problems with a scene that many praised, the one where Tywin laid into Tyrion and refused to acknolwedge Tyrion’s role in defending King’s Landing. The takeaway was clearly that in spite of Tyrion’s good deeds, not even Tywin, from whom Tyrion gets his pragmatism, would see in an imp a mind that towers over most everybody; I still felt that even Tywin, who knows the inner workings of things, should have seen past his son’s physical handicaps. I stand by that, but I very much enjoyed last night’s scene between the two; Tywin came across more as a stern and fatherly mentor rather than petulant and ignorant.
Now, though, there’s more reason for some, particularly Sansa, to mistrust Tyrion–his name. The irony of their marriage is that Sansa has no idea that she is lucky to have Tyrion, that of anybody in the capital he is, and has been, the person best suited to look out for her safety (this extends to Shae, now, too). But when Sansa first learned of their arranged nuptials, she at first (like Tywin) only saw a dwarf; currently, she sees a dwarf and a member of her family that helped murder her brother and mother.
With regards to your question of whether Tyrion had Varys attempt to convince Shae to leave, I think I side more with you than that theory. Varys has also acted like a mentor to Tyrion this season, and as far as I know is the only person in a position of power to fully recognize his talents. Varys admitted as much last night, but has done so at other times as well. My fear is that Shae’s decision to reject Varys’ offer will have dire consequences, for her, for Tyrion, and for Sansa. Do you portend any doom and gloom to follow from that decision–or for anybody else on the show?
kyra: The doom that awaits the characters of Westeros is well encapsulated by Melisandre of all people, who correctly points out that the story of petty kings fighting over a silly iron throne pales in comparison to the undead army beyond the wall. The true battle lies with them. Now they just have to convince the other armies to stop fighting each other. That should be easy.
As for other predictions, I do think that the three names Stannis cursed will be people who die. That leaves Balon and Joffrey. I don’t think Joffrey is going anywhere until much later in the story, and this last episode, as I said earlier, sets up the Greyjoys as big players next year, so I think Balon is dying at some point in Season 4. Theon will have to experience some sort of redemption next year also. There’s a reason he didn’t die this season–he must have some payoff way down the road.
In King’s Landing, there are still two weddings on the agenda: Cersei-Loras and Joffrey-Margaery. Cersei seems very certain her wedding will not go through, but as far as I know she has zero leverage. Nothing seems to be standing in the way of Joffrey’s wedding except that it feels like it’s not close to happening. I have no basis for that, just sayin. Also generally, more Tyrells next season!
Joffrey can only be controlled by his elders for so long. How many times have we had public or near-public instances of Joffrey being ridiculed, him staring incredulously at the act of defiance, only for the situation to be dissolved by Tywin or someone else? At some point Joffrey is going to refuse to give in, and heads will roll. Sadly, I don’t see Tywin making it much further.
I see Arya and The Hound turning into the Jaime and Brienne of this season: a fun duo to watch both interact with each other and kick the asses of their enemies. I think there are many more murders in Arya’s future.
Speaking of Brienne, where does she go from here? She’s come with Jaime to King’s Landing and I expect he does not want to see her go. Will he try to appoint her to the Kingsguard? Surely Tywin wouldn’t allow a woman to hold that title. The subject of Brienne is rife for conflict. Rife I say!
Finally, there is the titular character, the Mhysa, Daenarys. She’s only in one scene, but it’s enough to show both that she is adored by her people and she is not a far off god-like figure to them. She walks through the masses confident she will be unharmed, and is rewarded with crowd surfing like a rock star. I’m happy to see Dany’s power growing, as she appears to be the most reasonable of all those seeking the throne, but she is still so far away that I imagine her storyline next year will mostly involve Daario and Jorah competing for her affection while Barristan and Jorah bicker over their respective roles at her side.
Missing Character Count: Baelish; Bronn; Blackfish (who obviously has some part to play otherwise would not have been kept alive by George Martin).
kyra: Is this the first time we’ve had characters from disparate storylines actually converge? Bran and his crew run into Sam and Gilly, and Jaime finally gets back to King’s Landing.
Buckeye: It’s gotta be the first time in a while, at least since the Starks headed south to King’s Landing. The show treads dangerously, I think, by working this way, but it’s done well to keep me interested in most of the characters though they largely remain disconnected. We’re all waiting for the day when Dany crossed the Narrow Sea, of course, but I don’t foresee that anywhere near on the horizon.
kyra: Did anyone else think Roose Bolton was going to kill Walder Frey?
Buckeye: This didn’t actually occur to me last night, but now that you mention it, I’m almost surprised it didn’t happen. Walder Frey is only going to be a thorn in Roose Bolton’s (and the Lannisters’) side going forward, because he’s incapable of being anything else.
kyra: Where is Gendry going? Absolutely no idea what’s gonna happen to him.
Buckeye: Good question. But I can guarantee you he’ll make it there alive. Otherwise there’s no way the show would bother mentioning that he can’t swim. My final question: what happens to Ygritte now? She’s the big loser once Jon Snow reveals his true allegiance; her comrades in Mance Rayder’s army have lost trust in her, and Snow heads back to the place where he maintains an ostensible oath of celibacy. It’s hard to imagine a state of the world where she comes out in a better place.
kyra: I struggle to be invested in Bran’s story because there’s just so much we don’t know. It’s hard to cover in any depth. Here’s a random observation though: doesn’t Meera Reed look exactly like Theon’s sister?
One final comment: of the many things I love about Game of Thrones, possibly its best aspect is its general unpredictability. Not only is no character safe, but new characters show up and old ones become more crucial without any prior notice. Benioff and Weiss did a better job this season of targeting those we care about the most, which makes the withdrawal I’m experiencing right now that much more painful. 2014 can’t come soon enough.