Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Game of Thrones: Season 3

Warning: The following review contains heavy spoilers for season 1 and 2 of Game of Thrones, and very light spoilers for season 3.

Based upon the celebrated fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones has received nothing but critical acclaim since kicking off its first season in 2011. Now, right before season 4 officially kicks off, fans (or potential fans) can nab season 3 in all of its bloody glory. And why not? It's the best season so far of what is possibly the best TV series on the air since The Wire.

Season 3 kicks off right where season 2 left us with the various intertwining storylines. In the wake of the battle of Blackwater and the failed attack by Stannis Baratheon, the Lannisters have once again cemented their hold on the Iron Throne, and in doing so turn their gaze towards House Stark, the only house that may be deemed a threat to their power. These segments of the season make for some of the best, and this is mostly down to the brilliance of Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister. The power shift he witnesses is pretty severe, as even after taking part in the battle of Blackwater (and having the facial scars to prove it!), he is dropped as the Hand of the King, and merely tossed aside by his family. This growing tension within the Lannisters hits its breaking point during episode 8, Second Sons, as Tyrion's growing displeasure with his house of birth is thrown into the spotlight.

Over at Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon is contemplating his failed siege at Blackwater, which was mostly down to the Lannisters use of “Dragon's Breath”; a green fiery substance that, if used properly, could have destroyed Kings Landing itself. Now, with a greatly reduced army, Stannis turns to Melisandre, as his belief in the Lord of Light is tested. Stannis' problems are only further aggravated by his advisor Ser Davos, and his utter contempt for Melisandre after his son was killed at Blackwater, a siege that which Melisandre practically instigated. Personally, Stephen Dillane as Stannis Baratheon is the shining star of season 3. His inner turmoil between his friend Davos, his young daughter and the almost poisonous Melisandre is fantastically conveyed almost entirely in his eyes. Technically the Iron Throne should be his, due to the fact that Joffrey is the merely a child of incest between Jamie and Cersei Lannister, and this, even more than his family, is his driving force.

Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow meets with Mace Rayder, leader of the wildings. Though his intentions are to protect the Night's Watch, Jons plan on going undercover into the wildings army hits a snag when he begins to develop emotions for Ygritte. Jon's tale is completely cut off from the rest of what's happening in the series, but despite this disconnect, ends up being one of the most interesting storylines, and ultimately comes to a head near the end of the season.

Across the narrow sea, Daenerys Targaryen continues her quest to capture the seven kingdoms. Thought dead or worthless by many of the big players in “the game of thrones”, Daenerys is without a doubt soon to be the biggest force to be reckoned with. With her advisor Jorah Mormot at her side, Daenerys must now find herself an army to lay siege to Kings Landing. This army come in the form of the “unsullied”, an army of men that have been brought up from birth as pure fighters. However, with their cruel master unwilling to sell them, she may need to depart with her Dragons in order to continue with her plan. Daenerys story, much like Jon's, is very much far removed from the ongoing power struggle between the Lannisters, Starks and Stannis Baratheon. But season 3 only proves that she is a massive player in the game, and one that will ultimately strike hard and fast. Played by Emilia Clarke, Daenerys' story in season 3 is pretty captivating, and will no doubt be one that ultimately pays off greatly. While season 3 is just another slow step forward for Daenerys' character, the wait may be worth it.

And lastly, the Starks. What can be said about the Starks? Jon was sent off to the Night's Watch, their father was beheaded at Kings Landing, Sansa was captured and abused by King Joffrey, Bran and Rickon barely escaped the fall of Winterfell and Rob, after taking command of house Stark since the murder of his father, has been battling an ever losing war. But their woes haven't even begun, as with season 3 comes the most traumatic time for the Starks. I won't go into detail of course, but episode 9 “The Rains of Castamere” strikes a blow to house Stark that will be felt for generations, and the episodes climax makes for possibly the most gut wrenching scene in TV history.  Then again, at least Arya manages to have an adventure with some woodland people, a group who definitely make for the best new character additions to the show.

Overall Game of Thrones season 3 is the best season yet, and that's saying a lot. I didn't think it could get better than season 2, but here we are. Filled to the brim with drama, romance, bloody action, political intrigue, beautiful and lavish locations and more stand-out performances than most Hollywood films, this season is absolutely perfect.

Game of Thrones season 3 sits atop the Iron Throne with a 5/5, []

Denis Murphy

Game of Thrones at CeX

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