Season Three of “Game of Thrones” proved once again that there is no safe place in the wild, wanton, and wooly world of Westeros. We had the usual amount of intrigue, sex, betrayal, sex, bloodshed, full frontal nudity, magic, sex… all with 50% more dragons. More after the jump (btw, spoilers abound)
In the North
Jon’s attempt to infiltrate the Mance Ryder’s army goes swimmingly at first. He earns the trust of the King Beyond the Wall, the respect of Wall Climber extraordinaire Thormund Giantsbane, and wins the heart (and the bed) of fiery red-head (like there’s any other kind!) Ygritte. Things go south quickly, though; and by the end of the season we learn Hell hath no fury like a red-head with a bow. Jon ends up escaping back to the Castle Black, but not before Ygritte puts three arrows in him.
Jon’s brothers in arms fare no better, as their first encounter with the White Walkers ends with many dead(ish) crows. They manage to stumble back to Craster’s Keep, but a faction of the hungry, vagabond Rangers revolt, killing Craster and Lord Commander Mormont and sending Samwell, Gilly, and Gilly’s infant son fleeing into the cold. Samwell proves resourceful, though, finding his way back to Nightfort, and killing a White Walker with the Dragonglass he found back in Season two. Samwell ultimately gets back to Castle Black and, with the help of Maester Aemon, alerts the world to the danger of the White Walkers.
Jon’s actual brothers, Bran and Rickon, have their own adventures in their flight from Winterfell. They meet the mysterious Jojen Reed and his sister Meera, and Bran discovers his destiny lies behind the Wall. He also discovers his dreams of walking with the wolves are only the beginnings of his powers, as he learns to possess Hodor in a moment of panic, and uses the direwolves Summer and Shaggydog to help Jon fight off the wildlings. By the end of the season, Rickon and Osha head towards the home of a Stark ally, and Bran, Jojen, Hodor, and Meera set off beyond the Wall.
Elsewhere, (turns out it’s in Roose Bolton’s house, the Dreadfort) Theon Greyjoy, found a bit of karma at the hands of Bolton’s deranged hobbit of a bastard son Ramsey. The sick bastard actually made us feel sorry for Theon, and by seasons end Theon is missing a pinky and a set of naughty bits (which Ramsey sends to Balon Greyjoy). Theon’s pops showed why he’s on the perennial short list (along with Tywin Lannister) for Worst Father in Westeros by shrugging and essentially saying I have no son. No worries, though… looks like big sis Yara is heading to the rescue.
Things appear to be looking up for the Lassiters. Tywin moves quickly as the new Hand to the psycho-brat King Joffrey, forging alliances, making deals, and in general keeping the king on a short leash. The engagement of Joffrey to the sexy, scheming Margaery Tyrell seems a match, as she proves as adept at handling the little creep as she does establishing her brand of a kinder, gentler monarchy. Even poor little Sansa Stark sees a little daylight, striking up a deep friendship with Margaery, who suggests the poor lost little wolf would make a great wife to boy-toy Loras, and could find a home in the Tyrell house of HighGarden.
Alas, this is “Game of Thrones” and Sansa is a Stark, which means any happiness can last no more than an episode. Tywin puts the kibosh on any wedding plans, orders Tyrion to marry (and impregnate) Sansa post-haste – and just to make sure no one is happy, orders Cersei to marry Loras. Sansa doesn’t know she actually got the better end of the deal, since Tyrion may be the only Lannister with a soul, and isn’t afraid to protect her from the predations of the brat King.
The Riverlands and the Wilderness
Actually it turns out Tyrion isn’t the only Lannister with a soul, as we discover sister-screwing, kid pushing, general all-around douchebag Jamie actually has a character beneath that Lannister veneer. Released by Catelyn in an effort to reclaim her daughters, Jamie and Brienne of Tarth find themselves captured by Roose Bolton’s men, led by the sadistic Locke. In the course of the season, Jamie loses a hand, saves Brienne twice (once from rape, once from becoming bear food), and we learn his betrayal of the Mad King (for which he earned the name “The King Slayer”) was not the opportunistic actions of a man trying to save his own ass, but true heroism as he saved Kings Landing from the fiery genocide the Mad King had planned in defeat.
Another former bad guy shows there’s more beyond the scars when the Hound shows up. Captured by the Robin Hoodian “Brothers without Borders” at the same time that Arya was a “guest”, he’s given a trial by combat against the apparently immortal Belric Dondarian. The Hound prevails, nearly chopping the grizzled warrior in half; but everyone is surprised when Thoros, the red cleric, brings him back to life through the power of the Lord of Light.
The Hound is released, but turns up a few days later when Arya, frustrated by the promise-breaking she sees with the Brotherhood, and just wanting to get home, flees right into his arms. She’s soon surprised to find he has no intention of taking her to Kings Landing, but rather is taking her to meet her mother and brother in the house of the Freys.
Unfortunately, the house of the Freys is the last place they want to be. While King of the North, Robb Stark and his mother Catelyn are there, they don’t know they’ve walked into a plot twist so shocking, it eclipsed Ned’s beheading in season one as the penultimate Game of Thrones moment and spawned an entire internet meme.
The Northern Army had won every battle, but ultimately lost the war the moment Robb Stark broke his vow to the Freys and married Talisa in season two. Walder Frey is not the forgive and forget sort, and bolstered by the turncoat Roose Bolton, lured Robb Stark up to his home under the guise of an alliance, and proceeded to murder every last Stark (and lots of Tully’s), including the pregnant Talisha, Robb, and Catelyn, whose last-ditch effort at bargaining for her son’s life ended with a sliced throat and a pool of blood.
Dragonstone and Dragon Queens
Meanwhile, Stannis is licking his wounds from the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Davos, who lost a son to Wildfire, returns to his side, but is quickly imprisoned when he attacks the Red Priestess, Melisandre, whose blood sacrifices to her god don’t sit well with the Onion Knight. Melisandre has decided a sacrifice of Kings Blood will be required for Stannis to take the throne, and finds Robert’s bastard, Gendry amongst the Brotherhood. Davos manages to buy the young king some time, asking for proof of the power of the “one god” and perhaps gets it with Robb Stark’s death. It’s still not enough for Davos, and he helps Gendry escape, returning to Stannis to face the music. He’s sentenced to death, but gets a reprieve when Melisandre reads Samwell’s warning from Castle Black and realizes that is where Stannis should be.
And all the way across the sea, Daenerys Targaryen knows exactly where she should be, and has an idea how to get there. With the ever faithful Ser Jorah by her side, and saved from a warlock plot by the sudden appearance of former Kingsguard Barrister Selmy, she needs an army and ends up in Astapor, home of “The Unsullied,” slave warriors prized for the skill in battle and unending discipline. Horrified by the way these warriors are created, she still agrees to purchase all of the warriors in exchange for one of her dragons. In perhaps the most exciting scene in the season, and one in which we see Dany is learning how to play the game, she turns the tables on the slavers, ordering her newly purchased army to kill all the former masters and freeing every slave. She then lays siege to Yunkai, another slave city; and passes up a chance to sail for Westeros in favor of freeing those imprisoned within the city walls. Along the way, she steals the heart of charismatic sell sword, Daario Naharis, who becomes one of her captains. Ser Jorah, Daario, and the Unsullied captain, Grey Worm manage to sneak into the city, open the gates, and lead a slave revolt, and win the day. The season ends with the former Yunkish slaves filing out of the city gates, embracing their liberator to the plaintive calls of “Myhsa” (Mother).
There’s so much to look for in season four! Can Dany be a ruler as well as a conquerer? Will Lady Stoneheart make an appearance? Will we see a royal wedding? What will Bran find behind the wall? What will Yara find when she enters the Dreadnought? Can Castle Black be defended, and what will the Night’s Watch do without a Lord Commander? How much higher will Petyr Baelish climb the royal corporate ladder? Will Sansa ever accept her marriage to Tyrion? And what’s Arya going to learn from the Hound? We’ll find out, starting April 6th at 9 PM!