Winter is coming? Nope- it’s well and truly here. That reassertion of Game Of Thrones’ long-running foreboding motto is perhaps one of the most central elements of note in its blockbuster Season Three. Moreso than that, though, we’ve seen a host of dramatic changes to the series’ status quo in the past ten weeks, with the second half of the Spring run proving to be particularly significant in terms of game-changing moments for our supposedly reliable Starks and Lannisters.
For the sake of keeping those fans who’ve yet to catch up happy, there’ll only be a few spoilers of note here in order to allow the reviews some specific detail, but sufficed to say that those uninitiated have a hell of a ride ahead of them. Without further ado, let’s recap Episodes 5-10 of Game of Thrones Season Three, with a general verdict on Season Three as a whole present and accounted for below this list…
- KISSED BY FIRE (4/5)- Episode 5 set in motion some of those big aforementioned changes, including an intriguing new relationship between Arya and the Hound and of course a marital relationship to come for Tyrion and Sansa. Although plot threads such as Jaime’s capture and Robb’s ongoing military mistakes didn’t make much progress here, Kissed By Fire nevertheless featured a believable romance for Jon and Ygritte and packed its fair share of cunning surprises.
- THE CLIMB (4/5)- Perhaps the only truly weak element of Episode 6 was in fact where it shared its titular namesake- the climb of the Wildlings over the lumbering Wall of the North. Despite a great turn from McKenzie Cook among this group, the narrative itself felt rather drawn-out. All the same, the compromises made by Robb in order for his Stark-Frey alliance to survive and indeed Tyrion’s dealings with neighbouring factions in King’s Landing were great material, again producing a solid if unspectacular sixth instalment.
- THE BEAR AND THE MAIDEN FAIR (3/5)- This was most certainly one of the instances where the writers of Season Three seemed to tread water. From the uncompelling ‘developments’ in the stunted Danaerys arc to the equally unimpressive developments with Melisandre and her dark arts, there was no shortage of filler content here. Thankfully, business in King’s Landing was booming, with Tywin, Tyrion, Shae and Joffrey all on hilarious and thus darkly effective form once again.
- SECOND SONS (3/5)- It’s strange that considering Episode 8 was the instalment to house Sansa’s wedding to Tyrion, there was little of substance going on here beyond Joffrey’s rather terrifying stated intent to assist in the ‘bedding’ of her should his dwarf uncle fail in his duties. Beyond that and an interesting White Walker cliffhanger (which again ultimately amounted to little), there was a lingering sense that the production team were simply waiting out the next week’s game-changing episode.
- THE RAINS OF CASTAMERE (4.5/5)- And low and behold, we’ve reached the almighty game-changer of Season Three. While not quite as memorable as Season One’s penultimate, funereal Baelor or indeed as epic as Season Two’s penultimate blockbuster epic Blackwater, The Rains of Castamere was still a harrowing and often tormenting second-last instalment with which to initiate Season Three’s end. Sufficed to say that when Harry Potter’s David Bradley initiates an act of war after which nothing can be the same again, it’s difficult not to feel that Game of Thrones in its entirety has changed as a result, for better or for worse. Other than the visceral final scene, there’s little here that’s going to change the world, hence Rains not earning the full 5* score, yet it can’t be denied that the final scene was perfectly handled!
- MHYSA (5/5)- Now this is how you finish off a season. Packing a hilarious and yet extremely emotional scene between Tywin, Tyrion, Joffrey, Varys and Cersei to open, this epic finale just got better and better as we had big developments for Theon Greyjoy, Jon Snow, Samwell Tarly, Sansa, Arya, the Hound and so many beloved characters. Danaerys even had a bit of interesting content to round off the season with, and her arc should prove very compelling to see develop next season. Here’s hoping that Mhysa is just the beginning of a whole new quality benchmark, as this could mark a massive shift in the quality paradigm of what’s to come.
Overall, then, Game Of Thrones Season Three hasn’t quite been as consistently impressive a run as the incredible 2012 season. Perhaps that’s simply because (the first half) of George R.R. Martin’s novel A Storm of Swords isn’t quite so compelling as its predecessors, or perhaps the best of the show was exhibited last year and thus will never again be matched. The latter interpretation of proceedings is a rather morbid stance to take, especially given that Season Three remained a gripping run for fans and newcomers alike.
What this season has lacked in adventures that raise the bar for episode quality as Blackwater did- And Now His Watch Is Ended and Mhysa the only episodes this time around to earn the 5* score- it has made up for in consistently surprising cast performances. Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion remains the shining highlight of it all, yet the actors and actresses behind characters such as Cersei, Joffrey, Margery, Robb, Catelyn and Ygritte in particular must all be commended for other highlight performances of the run. What Season Three has arguably proven above all is that while Game Of Thrones can undoubtedly balance its various narrative arcs with aplomb, and indeed should continue to do so in its 2014 run, equally it doesn’t have to on every occasion, and perhaps if the writers chose to stick with an individual strand of the narrative on infrequent occasions next time, then Season Four can bring the show back up to its rightful throne of the best US drama in current existence.