Monday, 31 March 2014

Game of Thrones Season 3

With Game of Thrones’ fourth season just a few days away, and I having just finished the finale, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the third, which concluded last year.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out what Season 3 of Game of Thrones will be remembered for – the Red Wedding, coming in Episode 9 – “The Rains of Castamere”. It’s the episode that rocked the internet and had a great impact on everyone who was watching the show, even those like myself who had read the books and knew what was coming in advance. It was partly why I put off the ninth episode for as long as I did – I’d watched the majority of the third season earlier in the year – I just didn’t want to put myself through that again. However, The Rains of Castamere was very well executed that allowed for a great penultimate act, even if Mhysa, the season finale, did not live up to Episode 9. But that was to be expected of course – and the end result of Season 3 is still incredibly awesome to watch, with the characters having come a long way since the start of Season 1 and easily are among the most well developed characters on TV. Arya, Jamie Lannister, Robb, Bran – everybody has changed since the beginning.

The third season itself primarily centres on the Lannisters in Kings Landing. The Battle of Blackwater from Season 2 has left the Lannisters with a firm grip on the Iron Throne with Stannis Baratheon’s defeat. However, despite forming a new alliance with House Tyrell, the Lannisters feel threatened. Tyrion has been removed from power by his father – no longer Hand of the King, and Jamie is attempting to return home with female warrior Brienne of Tanith.

Despite the large amount of the third season being Lannister-centric, we of course get vast amount of attention focused on the Starks – who are effectively the closest thing that the viewer has to main protagonists in this show. After losing the support of Walder Frey (David Bradley) due to Robb’s (Richard Madden) marriage, which broke the promise of Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) – the Starks are losing the war despite the fact that Robb has not yet lost a single battle. Robb has to not only deal with several members of his army losing faith in the new King of the North, but also he has to contend with a collapsing relationship with his mother, and the rumour that the youngest Stark boys – who remained in Winterfell, might be dead, killed when Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) laid waste to the land that he once called a home.

In reality though, the youngest Stark boys are alive. Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) continue their journey North with new allies in the Reed siblings, Jojen (Thomas Sangster) and Meera (Ellie Kendrick). Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) meanwhile, is on her way home to Robb and her mother – whilst Sansa (Sophie Turner) still remains a captive, tormented by Joffrey (Jack Gleason) in King’s Landing. Beyond the wall, John Snow (Kit Harrington) seemingly betrays the Nights Watch, joining Mance Rayder’s army – whilst elsewhere, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Melisandre (Carice van Houten) are reeling from the defeat at Blackwater, and Across the Narrow sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) continue her quest to conquer the Seven Kingdoms.

Phew. That’s a lot of plot. Needless to say if you’ve jumped into Game of Thrones with Season 3, everything will be a confusing and you’ll not understand what’s going on. So it’s probably best to go back and watch the series from the start (and trust me, it’s worth it) before reading this review. Now with that out of the way, let’s get stuck into the review proper.

With the cast as scattered and as numerous as it is, you can’t have all your favourite characters in one episode. My personal favourites from this season were Tyrion and Arya – but everyone has theirs, and it’s great to watch how these characters develop overtime as you should be fully aware that nobody is safe. For those who haven’t read the books the show remains incredibly unpredictable – and the end result allows for a fantastic watch, proving that the creative team have kept up their pace throughout the entire series – and there’s not a single episode that I feel like I could give below a 3 star if I were reviewing each episode individually. However, despite this - Season 2 felt like the weakest (aside from an excellent Blackwater episode) and as a result, Season 3 was a massive improvement.

The show also benefits from the added confidence from the producers, with more money put into the series allowing for more ambitious and greater visuals, with several stunning CGI sequences. With several notable new additions such as the aforementioned Reed siblings, the show really manages to successfully incorporate these characters into an already crowded storyline, without it feeling like there’s one character too many.

The storyline also improves and starts moving forward over the Narrow Sea with Daenerys. Her character arc is better in Season 3 than in previous seasons and Emilia Clark’s acting meets the qualities needed, with the end result allowing some of Daenerys’ scenes being the most interesting of the series – even if her moments in Mhysa seem underwhelming compared to what she had in previous seasons, with a translation scene early on in the season being one of the highlights.

And Now His Watch Is Ended is one of the higher quality episodes of Season 3 – and arguably, one of the greatest of the series – having a fantastic mix of complex storytelling, action, pace and development. Whilst the second half of the season is more inconsistent than the first, with several filler episodes including a George RR Martin penned episode The Bear and the Maiden Fair – that unfortunately doesn’t live up to the expectations set by his previous episodes – Blackwater among them, Season 3 on the whole remains a much more positive experience in terms of quality than Season 2.

On the whole, Game of Thrones’ third season is a great success. With the fourth season just days away there is no doubt that I will be tuning in to watch it, and I’m glad that I managed to get up to date on the series. Much like Season 1 and 2, this comes highly recommended.

VERDICT: 4.5/5

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