Sunday, June 9, 2013

Realizing How Split I Am On Westeros: Game Of Thrones Season 3 Has Mixed Results.

The Good: Character development, Direction, Acting by some of the talents, Performances
The Bad: Half he characters either do not develop or get killed off, Most of the performances are well within the actors’ established ranges.
The Basics: Game Of Thrones Season Three continues a series of shifting political alliances in a fantasy setting that is a mix of a fantasy and politically realistic setting.

Last night, my wife and I had a rare night where we went to bed somewhat upset; that is an exceptionally rare thing because we make an effort not to go to bed angry or upset ever. Last night, though, we argued about Game Of Thrones. We have been watching the show quite a bit and my wife has gotten into the books quite a bit. I realized that I have an antipathy toward Game Of Thrones, much like the lack of obsession I had with the Netflix program House Of Cards (reviewed here!). The response to many of the points I raised with my wife was for her to explain how things were detailed in the novels. Fundamentally, my issue comes down to the idea that, by the middle of Season Three of Game Of Thrones, I find myself not caring one wit who rules over Westeros.

Westeros is the fictional kingdom that is the fantasy setting of Game Of Thrones. The show lacks the themes and sense of genocidal consequences that The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (reviewed here!) had and I realized that the show does not excite my imagination and sense of wonder the way that the DragonLance novels of my teenage years did. I realized that, until the latter half of the third season of Game Of Thrones, none of the characters resonated enough with me where I cared who sat on the iron throne and ruled over Westeros. And, in fact, one of the characters who had the most going for him in that regard is part of the bloodbath that results before the season is over. With so many characters and situations going on in the ten episodes of the third season of Game Of Thrones, coming off the twenty episodes of the first (reviewed here!) and second seasons (reviewed here!), that I only have a real investment in a single character whose rise comes in the last five episodes is problematic.

A big part of the problem comes from the defiance of the established plot at the outset of season three. The second season of Game Of Thrones climaxed with a major force – the White Walkers – headed for the Wall, which should have warranted a massive follow-up and been a significant part of the plot of the third season . . . but it was utterly dropped (a single White Walker pops up late in the season). To me, this would have been like the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine cliffhanger “Call To Arms” (reviewed here!) being resolved with “You Are Cordially Invited” (reviewed here!). Add to that that there are plot threads that are inserted throughout the season that do not actually develop, they simply continue. Chief among these is the plotline featuring Theon being tortured.

Picking up almost immediately after the second season finale, “Valar Dohaeris” finds Jon Snow captive of the wildfolk. To save his life and attempt to save Westeros, he allies himself with the King Beyond The Wall, Mance Rayder. In King’s Landing, Tyrion confronts his father about the lack of respect he has faced, even after his sacrifices in the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Margaery helps the people in King’s Landing, much to the annoyance of Joffrey. Meanwhile, Daenerys arrives at Astapor where she is rescued from a demon child and makes an unlikely ally. Robb Stark arrests his mother for releasing Jaime Lannister, which has had tragic consequences,

“Dark Wings, Dark Words” continues the plot of Bran dreaming of the three-eyed raven. Sansa confesses to Margaery and Lady Tyrell how Joffre treated her and Margaery begins a dangerous courting with the little psychopath. Rob Stark learns the fate of Winterfell and Bran meets a boy from his dreams who makes explicit what his powers are. Jojen and his warrior sister join Bran and his small band of escapees. Arya and her band make it to what appears to be a safer location as prisoners of the Brotherhood as Jon Snow allies himself with the wildmen army in hopes of being on the winning side in the coming war.

In “Walk Of Punishment,” Arya and the last surviving bastard of Robert Baratheon continue on with the Brotherhood after they take The Hound captive. Tyrion takes over as Master Of The Coin and begins to study the secret history of Westeros in the ledgers of the kingdom. Jaime protects Brienne after they are captured. Stannis has to accept his high priestess leaving for a time while Daenerys negotiates for 8000 slave warriors. For his troubles, Jaime, gets his hand amputated.

“A Now His Walk Is Over” has Varys working with Lady Tyrell to get Sansa out of King’s Landing. To that end, Margaery pitches that Sansa marry her brother. Seeing how the people have come to love Margaery makes Cersei deeply uncomfortable. As the men of the Knight’s Watch continue their retreat, they make it back to the loathsome Craster’s home. Farther away, Danaerys claims her role by taking command of the Unsullied.

“Kissed By Fire” finds Jaime and Brienne being delivered to Lord Bolton where Brienne is set free and Lannister has his amputated stump dealt with. Tywin makes marital demands of Tyrion and Cersei after Tyrion effectively negotiates with Lady Tyrell for half the wedding expenses of the upcoming wedding. Arya is shocked when the Hound is able to defeat Beric in combat, which allows him to be set free, though Beric is resurrected after the Hound slays him, much to her surprise. Following an act of mutiny within his ranks, Robb metes out justice on one of his allies and loses a large portion of his forces as a result.

Jon Snow is returned to the forefront in "The Climb." There, Jon Snow and his companions make it to the Wall, where they begin a dangerous climb of the ice wall. Tyrion and Cersei commiserate about their forthcoming weddings and Tywin lets Lady Tyrell know about the arrangement. Tyrion breaks the news to Sansa and Arya is upset when the Priestess comes for her friend.

In “The Bear And The Maiden Fair” Robb brings his forces toward the territory owned by Frey, which he passed through in order to get one of his most significant military victories, but where the price of passage was him marrying one of Lord Frey’s daughters. Seeking to make amends, he agrees to let his uncle marry one of Frey’s daughters and he puts the war on hold to make the wedding happen. After Daenerys arrives at Yunkai, she negotiates with the local lord for the slaves the city has and is turned down. Tywin flexes his muscle with Joffrey and Jaime decides to go back into danger to rescue Brienne.

The White Walkers finally return to the narrative in “Second Sons”. Gendry finds himself at the mercy of the Priestess who wants his blood after Stanis releases his trusted lieutenant from the dungeon. Daenerys gets an unexpected ally at Yunkai and the wedding of Tyrion and Sansa occurs. Arya learns that the Hound is not out to kill her. Fleeing south still, Samwell and his companion run into a White Walker with somewhat surprising results!

“The Rains Of Castamere” finds Bran realizing his true power in a near-miss with Jon Snow and his raiding party. As Daenerys’s forces take Yunkai, Robb Stark and his mother participate in a wedding at the Twins that changes everything for the Starks.

The season goes out with a bang with “Mhysa.” This deals with the fallout of the Red Wedding and Bran displaying his powers. Tyrion and Sansa get to know one another better. Daenerys consolidates her position and Varis tries to buy Shay off so her absence might allow Tyrion to reach his full potential. As Arya travels with the Hound, she gets her first taste of blood and Stanis gets bad news from the Wall that refocuses his priorities.

The third season of Game Of Thrones continues the ascent of Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. Dinklage gets to play a new level of sorrowful as Tyrion finds himself on the outside for much of the season. Dinklage also has a mastery of playing ironic and calculating and he makes the viewer care about Tyrion.

The surprise performance comes from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Coster-Waldau plays Jaime Lannister and in the third season the character is wounded and disregarded. After playing the role arrogantly for two seasons, Coster-Waldau is given the chance to soften and humanize the character, beyond the lines he is given and he lives up to the expectations one might have for him.

Those two roles are the exceptions to the rules with Game Of Thrones Season Three. Instead, most of the performances are like Jack Gleeson, who plays Joffrey. Joffrey remains a psychopath and Gleeson is not given much of a chance to expand how he plays the role because the character fundamentally does not change.

Ultimately, the third season of Game Of Thrones puts most of the characters in different places than they were in prior seasons, but it does not fundamentally alter who the characters are or how they interact. That makes it good escapist television, but lacking in an overall statement that is compelling for the longterm.

For other current shows, be sure to check out my reviews of:
New Girl - Season 2
Happy Endings - Season 3
The Walking Dead - Season 3
Arrested Development - Season 4
House Of Cards - Season 1
True Blood - Season 5


For other television season reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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