WARNING: If you’ve not finished Season 3 of Game of Thrones yet kindly return to whence you came – this is no place for you. I’ll be discussing some major plot points, and there’s nothing worse than having the series spoiled (trust me, it sucks).
A couple of months ago I reviewed the first episode of the season and proclaimed “This season promises to be the best yet” – but has it lived up to my expectations?
The ambition of the show has reached a new height, both in terms of the breadth of the story and the budget they’ve had to realise it. Whether or not this has improved the show is up for debate, and in my eyes this season has been the weakest yet. My view might be a little warped. This is the first one I’ve watched from the perspective of a book reader, and with the exception of Podrick Payne’s (Daniel Portman) ascendance to the status of sexual demi-god I’ve known which plot twist is coming next.
There have indeed been some stunning twists; some of the most memorable moments in the books have cropped up in the past few months: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) sacking Astapor with the Unsullied, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) clambering up all 700 feet of the wall and most memorably, the destruction of the Stark cause at hands of the Freys and Boltons at the Red Wedding.
Much has already been written about the wedding, so I won’t spend too much time on the plight of Robb (Richard Madden) and Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), but how can I ignore it? It was probably one of the most stunning pieces of television ever aired. There were certain aspects that I felt were lacking, the replacement of Robb’s loyal bannermen with nameless extras for instance, but it was still executed incredibly. The friends I watched it with were disappointingly unaffected by it, but there are some cracking reaction videos on Youtube. (See below). The death of Ned Stark seems far away by now, but the Red Wedding is a brutal reminder that in Westeros (as in the real world) the righteousness of one’s cause does not ensure success, or even a dignified end.
Despite the presence of some amazingly bloody moments, the season was probably the slowest yet. The reason for this is simple; it only covers the first half of the third book, A Storm of Swords. It is without a doubt the most interesting of the five books (hurry up and read it, you’ve no excuse anymore) and simply could not have been done in ten episodes. To split the book in half was the only option, but it does mean that much of the show has been spent building up plot lines, without much of a payoff. For instance, other than his wall based adventure, Jon Snow has spent most of his time gazing hornily at Ygritte and pouting into the middle distance – much of his more interesting ventures have been saved for next time.
In all fairness, the slowing of the pace has opened up room for some characters to receive the attention they deserve, the development of Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) being a good example. There were however, a selection of scenes which I felt were unnecessary, and took attention away from more interesting areas. I would have traded most of Theon’s unsettling torture scenes for some more time with the Tyrells any day – Olenna’s (Diana Rigg) biting world-weary sarcasm and Margaery’s (Natalie Dormer) well poised charm were far more interesting than watching Theon (Alfie Allen) losing various vital body parts.
Despite a few missteps, I can’t criticise the writers too much. It is no easy task to adapt the slowest half of a book into ten hours of television, whilst simultaneously springing one of the largest and most sickening plot twists in the history of fiction. Season 3 may not have been the best yet, but it has still been a brilliant experience.
Everything is in place for an awful lot of shit to go down next season; with the loss of Robb Stark and his army, the game of thrones has been shifted in a totally different, and even more interesting direction. Season 3 has retained the startling high quality of the series, but in the long run it will probably be remembered as a launch pad for the forth. My only issue is that we have to wait another entire year – I want my next fix of pert medieval boobage now dammit!