|courtesy of HBO
Much of the problem with reviewing certain cable shows on an episode by episode basis is in the very nature of their structure. Episodes do not necessarily have a beginning, middle and end in the traditional standalone television episode sense so much as their seasons as a whole tell one huge beginning, middle and end. Such is the case with Game of Thrones, which is still in the very beginning stages of setting up the action of this third season. The storylines in “Dark Wings, Dark Words” could have worked very well if HBO decided to blend all of the storylines from both episodes into one two-hour season premiere event but instead they end up feeling less important compared to the ones featured in “Valar Dohaeris”. We finally get our fill of Bran, Arya, Jaime and Brienne while honing in on who is quickly becoming the MVP of the season thus far, Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell.
In the North
The episode begins with Bran, who has another one of his abstract running/wolf/three-eyed crow dreams. After attempting to shoot the crow, he is told, by a boy around the same age as him, that he cannot shoot the crow since Bran himself is the crow. Later, as Bran and company continue their march towards the Wall, they discover that the boy from Bran’s dream is following them, along with his sister Meera. The boy reveals himself to be Jojen Reed and strikes up a friendship with Bran after revealing that he too is a seer/warg. Jojen believes Bran to be very special and had been searching for him for ages. I expect Bran’s powers to be of great use in the future, especially when they reach the Wall. The series has secluded him to very secondary storylines since being pushed out the window in the first episode so I’d like to see him featured in a major way this season. Though I worry that with even more characters being introduced he will eventually become lost in the shuffle again.
In the Riverlands
America’s favorite Stark returns in this episode running from Harrenhal with her loyal, if cowardly, sidekicks Gendry and Hot Pie. Arya shows her bravery yet again after men from the Brotherhood Without Banners shoot at the trio, facing them directly with her trusty sword. Led by Thoros of Myr, the group commends their bravery in escaping from Harrenhal and takes them to safety at an inn. Eating what will likely be their last meal in a while, Arya and company attempt to leave the inn but they are soon stopped when The Hound is captured and brought into the inn, who recognizes Arya immediately. This is a slightly convenient plot device but Arya’s struggle to escape to the North has been one of the more compelling storylines in Game of Thrones so I don’t necessarily mind that her journey has been made complicated yet again. The girl has been through so much at such a young age that I wonder if she could comfortably live a peaceful lifestyle ever again.
Also in the Riverlands
It is a testament to the strength of Catelyn Stark that she is able to get out of bed in the morning after all of the shit she’s been through. This is what kept running through my mind when she hears word that her father Hoster Tully has died in addition to her home in Winterfell being burned to the ground. With Bran and Rickon allegedly nowhere to be found, she breaks down in front of Robb’s wife Talisa, blaming herself for the horrible misfortune of all of her children. With all of her children out of reach minus Robb, who blames her for letting Jaime go, Catelyn literally has no family to rely on. Michelle Fairley is often left unnoticed in a show filled with scenery-chewing actors like Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey, but her quiet strength is fascinating to watch. It’s a different kind of energy compared to most of the characters but I hope she gets recognized come awards season.
Speaking of scenery-chewing acting, Natalie Dormer is excelling thus far as the manipulative, power-hungry young Queen-to-be Margaery Tyrell. She takes Sansa on a visit to her [Margaery’s] grandmother Lady Olenna (played by Dame Diana Rigg) to discuss King Joffrey. Sansa reluctantly tells them that he is a monster, to which Margaery bluntly replies “Oh, that’s a pity.” It always makes me nervous when Sansa tells people how she feels about Joffrey, even though everyone basically knows how much of an asshole he is. She has to be careful that what she says might be heard by the wrong person or else she’ll join her father on the chopping block. On a quick note, I just want to give a shoutout to Dame Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna, who essentially acts as Dowager Countess of Westeros. I’m not sure if this will be a recurring role this season or if this is a one-and-done deal but I very much enjoyed her bluntness.
Back to Margaery, her scene with Joffrey in his room is one of my favorite scenes thus far in the season. The way she subtly manipulates Joffrey using her feminine charms is fantastic, especially since we see the boy King in a compromised state. She convinces him to let her use his hunting weapon, and, in a particularly great (symbolic?) moment, she aims the weapon at Joffrey’s reflection in the mirror, smiling a devilish grin. Technically, Margarey is not a new character this season but her bump in storyline and her assertive quest towards power has turned her into one of the most compelling women on the show.
Beyond the Wall
There is less of a focus on this storyline than in the premiere, but we still get some interesting scenes, especially from Sam. He is still an outsider among the Night’s Watch, with many either ridiculing or pitying his falling behind. The Lord Commander chides the taunters and tells them that no man gets left behind. Poor Sam. He wasn’t meant for this and everyone knows it, but I’m still hoping he can come into use in the future. Elsewhere, Jon Snow and the wildlings (potentially great band name, by the way!) stumble upon a man named Orell, who has the same powers as Bran. Orell tells them that he has seen the Fist of the First Men, a landmark at which a great battle took place. This wasn’t a particularly engaging storyline but I did like the interconnectedness of seer/warg powers between Orell and Bran.
In the Crownlands
The Odd Couple returns in a big way in “Dark Wings, Dark Words”, which sees them (Jaime and Brienne) continuing their trek to King’s Landing. Along the way they are seen by a farmer who does not visibly recognize Jaime, despite the pair’s suspicions that he might go tell someone. After a swordfight between the pair, their worst suspicions are confirmed when a group of bannermen come and take Jaime captive. I like the pair’s complementary chemistry so I hope this isn’t the end of their interactions.
Somewhere else (?)
The 7th and final storyline comes from Theon, who is being tortured by unknown men who ask him why he burned down Winterfell. Theon tells them everything but they continue to painfully torture him. Later, a young man acting as a double agent promises to free Theon at the end of the night. As I’ve said about many characters in this episode, poor Theon. The poor kid will never gain the acceptance of his father no matter how much he tries.
Phew. Seven storylines later we reach the end of the second episode, with even more characters introduced, the rumblings of new plot developments and an ever-expanding fantasy world. We’re still in the very beginnings of what is sure to be an epic season(s) so it’s hard to knock the show for not being particularly exciting. In the meantime, let’s be patient for all of these storylines to come to a head within the coming episodes.
MVP: Natalie Dormer