Game of Thrones “Valar Dohaeris”

Game of Thrones S3E1 “Valar Dohaeris”

Season premiers in Game of Thrones have never been the most exciting episode their respective seasons have to offer but they always provide important groundwork to build the rest of the season upon. “Valar Dohaeris” is no exception to the rule as we reestablish where we are with most of the characters, sacrificing depth for quantity. To its credit, very few people sit this episode out so we do have a lot to talk about including Jon nailing an interview, a return to political drama in King’s Landing, and Dany gaining an ally. And away we go.

We start the season off with a cold open (quite literally). Off screen, the white walkers have launched their attack on the night’s watch at the Fist of the First Men. Back on the screen, it seems as though Sam has decided to run instead of fight. He sees a fellow night’s watch man in the distance and runs to him only to see that he’s dead and a wight is on its way towards him. Before the wight can attack him, Ghost makes his triumphant return and holds the wight off long enough for Mormont to set the wight ablaze, ending the threat. Now we see that the battle was a massacre. The night’s watch started this expedition with a few hundred men while the survivors only number a few dozen. Mormont berates Sam for not sending the ravens south to warn of the walkers and realizes they have to walk back to the wall and warn everyone themselves. After a season long expedition, it’s time to return to Castle Black.

Keeping things beyond the wall, we’ll check in with Jon. Ygritte and the Lord of Bones have successfully taken their prisoner to the wildling camp and it’s apparent this is no ordinary war camp. Women and children are spread all throughout the camp and the latter category takes the opportunity to pelt Jon with rocks and snowballs seeing that he’s a crow. Jon is taken to King Mance’s tent and mistakenly kneels to the wrong man. The wrong man, Tormund Giantsbane gets a chuckle out of Jon kneeling and calling him “your grace”. Afterward, Mance reveals himself to Jon and tells him that the free folk don’t kneel because they don’t recognize nobility by birth. Even as king, he was chosen by his equals. After that small lesson on Free Folk etiquette, Mance turns his attention to Jon, asking him why he wants to join the Free Folk. Jon cites his disgust at Mormont knowing what Craster does to his sons and doing nothing about it, saying he wants to fight for the side who cares about the living. Mance seems to be sold and tells Jon he’s going to need a new coat. And let the spy games begin.

Keeping things outside the Seven Kingdoms, we head over to check in with Dany. She along with Jorah and the rest of her khalasar are on their ship en route to the slave city of Astapor. Pondering where they’re going to get an army, Jorah suggests the Unsullied, a group of men that have been dehumanized to the point of extreme loyalty. Dany doesn’t much like the idea of buying an army but Jorah says she’ll never get a huge khalasar like she wants without already having strength, and the Unsullied provide her best and quickest chance to get strength. Convinced, Dany decides to take a look once they dock at Astapor.

While impressed at the loyalty of the Unsullied, Dany is very unpleased at everything that goes into making men into Unsullied. When their owner, Kraznys mo Nakloz tries to make a point of how loyal they are, Dany is shocked to see that not only does the unfortunate selected Unsullied not yell in pain from losing a nipple, he even thanks Kraznys for allowing him the opportunity to serve him. Kraznys only speaks Low Valyrian so his translator, Missandei informs Dany that 8,000 Unsullied are up for sale but she must make her decision by tomorrow. Dany departs.

While talking over her next move with Jorah, neither of them notice a cloaked figure following them. They were lucky that this man was following them though, as a warlock from Qarth disguised as a small girl attempts to assassinate Dany. The cloaked man kills the highly venomous manticore and reveals himself to be Barristan Selmy, the legendary knight that Joffrey dismissed from the kingsguard back in season one. He then pledges loyalty to Dany and asks for a position in her queensguard. After a whole season off, it’s good to see him back in the swing of things.

“Valar Dohaeris” confirms that no one from season two’s starring cast died as we see Davos on a rock on Blackwater Bay, badly injured from the wildfire explosion. Davos desperately yells with all his might when he sees a ship off in the distance and is lucky that the ship belongs to his pirate friend, Salladhor Saan. Davos confirms that his son died and Salladhor says many people thought the same of Davos. Salladhor gives Davos an update on Stannis and it’s far from pleasing. Stannis locks himself in his castle all day, listening only to Melisandre who has taken up burning people alive. After some arguing, Davos convinces Salladhor to sail him to Dragonstone. Davos makes his way to Stannis, along with Melisandre. Davos and Melisandre blame each other for Stannis’ defeat and when Melisandre brings up Davos’ son, Davos loses his temper and tries to kill her. Stannis orders his guards to take Davos to the dungeons. From potential hand of the king to a prisoner. That’s quite the fall for Ser Davos Seaworth.

At Harrenhal, Robb and his men are eager to fight but don’t get one. Tywin and the Lannisters have now recognized that Robb is extremely skilled in battle and have adopted a new strategy, run before Robb can attack and bide their time gaining allies and replenishing their numbers. The strategy seems to be working as Robb mentions that morale for his army is at an all time low. Before leaving, Gregor Clegane ordered the slaughter of all of their prisoners. Robb finds one survivor though, a man named Qyburn. Talisa quickly gets to work, tending to his injuries as we end this brief check in with Robb and his crew.

In King’s Landing, Tyrion sends Podrick to go fetch Bronn but before Bronn can get there, Tyrion has to entertain different company, his sister. Cersei has heard that Tyrion is meeting with their father and wants to make sure he won’t say anything that makes her look bad. It’s not a super productive conversation and she leaves just as Bronn arrives. Bronn and Tyrion take a walk and Bronn reveals that he is doubling his fee as he’s been knighted for his efforts in the battle. Ser Bronn of the Blackwater is gaining an enjoyment of the finer things in life and knows that Tyrion can afford the pay raise so he insists on it. Down to zero allies, Tyrion has no choice but to pay his friend double.

Tyrion makes his way over to Tywin who is busy with hand of the king duties. Tyrion asks his father for a little recognition for his efforts in the war and Tywin angrily tells him that Lannisters don’t insist on being rewarded for things they’re supposed to do anyway. Tywin doesn’t think Tyrion did anything anyway when it’s revealed he knows about Shae and assumes Tyrion was just sleeping with her the whole time he was hand. Tywin also threatens to hang the next whore he finds with Tyrion. That’s not particularly good news for Tyrion’s relationship with Shae.

This father son conversation gets even worse when Tyrion asks for his birthright, Casterly Rock. Tyrion has a point, Jaime has given up his right to hold lands by serving as Kingsguard, leaving Tyrion as Tywin’s heir. Tywin destroys any notion that Tyrion is his heir, calling his son a punishment from the gods to teach him humility. Tywin only acknowledges Tyrion as a Lannister because he has no way of proving he’s not. Tywin is all about the Lannister legacy and in his eyes, having Tyrion be heir to Casterly Rock would drive their reputation into the ground and he tells Tyrion he has absolutely zero intention of ever giving him Casterly Rock. After that disappointing result, Tyrion leaves.

Off by the docks, Sansa and Shae are playing a game when Littlefinger stops by to talk to Sansa in private. He tells her that he is close to finalizing an assignment that will have him leave King’s Landing and that he will be able to take her if she is ready to leave on a moment’s notice and keep it quiet. While he tells her this, Ros talks to Shae and we see Ros is moving up, she’s now Littlefinger’s assistant. She tells Shae to watch out for Sansa, especially when Littlefinger is around her. Good advice because we know Littlefinger is a sketchy man and he has already caused much grief for the Starks, which makes this plan of helping Sansa a little confusing. This is definitely one of the more unpredictable story lines we have going on right now.

Lastly, we check in with the queen regent, Cersei, and the queen to be, Margaery. Cersei is surprised at Margaery’s way of doing things. Margaery surprises Joffrey when she orders her litter to stop and pays a visit to the orphanage, providing support for the orphans. This is a bit of a shock for Cersei as the only way she knows how to rule is to rule with fear. Margaery inspires love in her people and that’s something that Cersei has never or ever will be able to grasp. She can hardly have a peaceful dinner with her son as she and Joffrey trade insults over dinner with Loras and Margaery, who are in perfect agreement and unison. Something tells me Cersei isn’t going to like the ever expanding reach and power of House Tyrell in the capital.

Other Thoughts

Winterfell’s Stark sigil on the title map is gone now, replaced with smoke. Can you believe the Starks all lived there as a happy family in the first episode? We’ve come a long way.

Jon sees an actual giant at the wildling camp. That’s pretty cool.

Dany’s dragons are growing quite fast. Not war weapon size yet, but they’re getting there.

Missandei actively pondering if she should translate Kraznys’ foul language to Daenerys was pretty funny.

Was curious to see what happened with Theon after the mutiny against him in “Valar Morghulis”. Hopefully that gets answered next time.

The show got a little meta about the books when Cersei hears a rumor that Tyrion’s entire nose was cut off in the battle. Doesn’t happen in the show but he does lose his nose in the book.

Valar Dohaeris much like Valar Morghulis, is a High Valyrian saying. It translates to “all men must serve”. Valar Dohaeris is the common response to Valar Morghulis so clever nod there to make the two episodes named after those sayings go back to back.

Quote of the day comes from Bronn, speaking the truth when he runs into Ser Meryn outside Tyrion’s chambers. “You’re better at beating girls than fighting real men”. We’ve seen Meryn beat Sansa a few times but actually fight men, maybe once. Point to Bronn.

“Valar Dohaeris” gets the viewer up to speed on the happenings of much of the main cast as we prepare for what should be yet another exciting season of Game of Thrones. 

Grade B- 

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