Overall, my basic feelings about Episode 3 are “Same old story,” by which I mean far too little story. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s look at the episode’s structure.
The episode begins quite strong. In the opening scene we see Catelyn’s father’s body put out on the water and immolated. While it’s too long for a scene that doesn’t give us much new information, I appreciated that the entire thing unfolded with no dialogue. Even better, a scene immediately follows in which Robb actually discusses the war, which I’ve been begging for since the beginning of the second season.
Next comes the meeting of the King’s Council, another solid scene. The silent seating arrangement bit at the beginning felt new and interesting if also too long, and good interplay between Lannisters is always fun to watch.
The first scene between Jaime and Brienne also plays out nicely, with a good change in their dynamic and situation. Next up, a surprisingly moving scene between Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie. At this point we’re 15 minutes in, and I’m very pleased. Important things seem to be getting set up in each scene and we’ve been spared any annoying or absurd dialogue.
Unfortunately, it is at this point that the episode begins to take a slow downturn in quality. Catelyn speaks to her Uncle Blackfish about her father and her concerns for Bran and Rickon. It’s not a bad scene, but it’s just not a very good scene, and I think it should be. Specificity of emotion is key to interesting characters, and Catelyn’s speech is a perfect example of non-specificity of emotion. She’s sad and a little guilty. That’s all I know. What a range of other emotions a mother who believes her sons to be dead would feel!: rage, terror, instability, etc. I just don’t find her sitting on a window ledge looking sadly at a sea to be moving or interesting. This may seem like a minor point, but I think given the fact that Game of Thrones is ranked with some of the truly great shows of all time, this is a good example of why that praise is undeserved.
Then a scene with Talisa. Useless characters, no plot. Moving on. Beyond the wall, Mance Rayder makes a decision that seems like it will lead to an honest-to-God real plot point! The idealistic side of me prayed that plot point would come later on in the episode; naturally, we never see them again. At Craster’s, the complete frustration begins. Craster has no men, few arms, and is an awful human being. Why does the Knight’s Watch keep coming back to him? What does he have to offer? Why do we need two minutes of him talking about his pig and other completely nonessential information? Why do we need another completely flat and unmotivated romance between Samwell Tarly and Gilly? I guess that’s George R.R. Martin’s fault. But four totally boring minutes have led up to the mid-point of the episode, where we should begin seeing more things happening and less setup.
But the lion’s share of what proceeds is just more set-up. Without giving too much away, Theon’s story somewhat goes somewhere, but we’re still left with no idea what his situation is, and yet another new character is forced down our throats. The show’s two most boring main characters, Stannis and Melisandre, have a completely vague conversation about something that may be important at some point in five or six episodes.
Daenerys’ scenes come with some interesting new dynamics, particularly in the decision-making process now split between Ser Jorah, Selmy, and an increasingly self-confident Daenerys. However, more new characters are jammed down our throat, everything takes too long to play out, and nothing really happens. Also, what’s with that guy who keeps calling Daenerys a slut? What is wrong with the writers of this show? Why are they so fascinated with people saying “Slut, cunt, piss, shit, cock, etc.”? It’s like the show was written by little twelve year olds who just learned how to swear.
This episode hits bottom and most perfectly epitomizes the twelve year old mindset of the writing in by far the most infuriating Tyrion sequence the show has ever had, beating out last week’s bizarre conversation with Shae. The plot is this: as Tyrion is settling into Baelish’s office, Podrick keeps checking Ros out. Tyrion gives him some money to spend on her. He returns to him and Bronn having had sex with Ros and tells them she didn’t make him pay. Tyrion and Bronn beg him to tell them what he did to pull off this amazing feat. That’s it. That’s the plot. No scheming from Tyrion. No…anything of substance. I can’t express what a bizarre, awful waste of the show’s headlining character it is. It’s sequences like this that force me to partially hate the show.
At the end of the day, what’s the important thing that happens in this episode? Something somewhat important happens with Jaime and Brienne’s story at the very end. It’s quite surprising, well-done, and exciting, and I have no complaints about the scene itself, but overall, the episode once again failed to feel like it mattered at all.
Benioff and Weiss, get your act together.