Each season of Game of Thrones begins slowly, meticulously plotting the groundwork for the latter part of the season. Season 3 has been no exception thus far, with the first two episodes carefully arranging the pieces on the board, presumably to start sweeping them off later in the season. "Dark Wings, Dark Words" introduced quite a few new pieces, and placed some of our favorite characters in pretty interesting -- and dark -- positions.
That's not to say that "Dark Wings, Dark Words" was eventful. The episode had a relaxed pace, instead dealing with the relationships between many of the characters. "Dark Wings, Dark Words" introduced some of our favorite characters into the season while briefly checking in with some of the story threads from the premiere. It felt like the second part of the season premiere rather than an episode unto itself, but that's not a bad thing; it's all about overall plot progression with Game of Thrones -- how episodes function by themselves is less important.
But there were some great moments in "Dark Wings, Dark Words." Perhaps the best was the introduction of Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg), the brutally honest matriarch of House Tyrell. Whereas Margaery (Natalie Dormer) has become an expert at flattery and manipulation -- just look at how easily she put Joffrey into her pocket with that crossbow scene -- Lady Olenna has no time for it. She speaks her mind, and she wanted Sansa (Sophie Turner) to speak hers about Joffrey. Turner delivered a fantastically conflicted performance in the garden party scene -- her traumatized reluctance to betray her true emotions only made her eventual admission that Joffrey is a "monster" all the more satisfying. But after that cathartic outpouring of emotion, Olenna's reaction was just, "That's a pity." She's not scared of the boy king, and neither is Margaery. Definitely the most delightful Joffrey put-down since Tyrion slapped him around in "The Kingsroad." The Tyrells are quickly becoming more of a threat than the Lannisters, it appears.
The other Stark sister ran into some new threats as well. Arya (Maisie Williams), while running away from Harrenhall with Hot Pie and Gendry (Joe Dempsie), ran into the group of marauding warriors known as the Brotherhood Without Banners, led by the red priest Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye). (Before they're caught, Hot Pie and Gendry criticize Arya for using Jaqen poorly, humorously reflecting the complaints of some fans.) Thoros, while threatening the three children with physical violence, seems to be somewhat amused by them, and decides to let them go after sharing a meal. And they would have been let go, too, if the Hound (Rory McCann) hadn't been captured by the BwB and blown Arya's cover. Regardless of how he screwed Arya over at the end of the episode, it's great to see the Hound back. He manages to be one of the show's best characters, despite his limited appearances; it looks like he'll be around for a bit longer at the very least, giving Arya's storyline some direction (and making it loads more interesting).
Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) also made his first appearance of the season this episode, continuing on his journey to the wall with Osha (Natalia Tena), Hodor (Kristairn Narn), and Rickon (Art Parkinson). Like his sisters, Bran meets some new faces; siblings Jojen (Thomas Sangster) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick). There's something mysterious about the siblings, particularly Jojen, who popped up in some of Bran's three-eyed crow dreams. Finally, the plot is addressing Bran's supernatural experiences. The fact that the series introduced its first warg (someone who can project their consciousness into an animal's body) this episode might hint that this is what Bran is up to.
The final major plotline of this episode deals with Jaime and Brienne. Though Jaime antagonizes Brienne and constantly brings up some moral quandries that her mission entails, she is stoic -- until he steals her sword and attempts to fight her. Though Jaime is probably a better knight than she is, he's weak and chained -- and rather easily defeated. That's too bad, too, because his defeat comes just in time for the pair to be captured by bannermen of House Bolton. We knew getting him to King's Landing couldn't be that easy.
There are a lot more quick scenes in this episode -- check out the stray thoughts below for some of my favorites -- but these events formed the episode's backbone. "Dark Wings, Dark Words" actually seemed like a stronger opener for the season than "Valar Dohaeris" -- it introduced a variety of exciting new characters and gave direction to a lot of characters whose plotlines could have meandered. Season 3 is still in its groundwork-laying phase, but it's proving to be a very interesting one indeed. B+
- Catelyn's never been the most likable character, but her conversation with Talisa (Oona Chaplin) just made her less sympathetic. I can't help but remember her snarling at Jon to leave when he came to bid the unconscious Bran goodbye. I don't care who his mother is; if he's grown up with your children and loves/is loved by them, it takes effort to not at least like him. It's not like he's Theon.
- Theon's having a rough day. I really hate it for him; I've always been sympathetic toward the guy. As none of his torture scenes are actually depicted in the books, I'm interested to see how this storyline develops (though in any case, it's nice that Alfie Allen has something to do, even if it is just to scream in excruciating pain).
- Also, despite having little to do this week, I'm happy that Mackenzie Crook is now on the series (as the wildling Orell).