Game Of Thrones 3.01 “Valar Dohaeris” TV REVIEW
Writers: David Benioff, DB Weiss
Director: Daniel Minahan
THE ONE WHERE Jon Snow switches sides; Daenerys goes shopping for an army; Tyrion wants respect from his father (it doesn't go well); Ser Davos confronts Melisandre (that doesn't go well either) and some poor chap gets his nip cut off.
VERDICT First off, may we offer a hearty “Welcome back!” to Game Of Thrones ... although this episode is hardly an action-packed season opener designed to keep us on the edge of our seats. Instead, it's basically an hour of television filled with characters bitching about each other, delivering exposition and glaring a lot. You'd be forgiven for thinking that you'd tuned into a soap opera, although Game Of Thrones would obviously be the best soap opera in history. There's so little action, in fact, that a ten-second confrontation with a multicoloured scorpion comes as a huge treat. Let's hope the rest of the season isn't quite this peaceful!
Thankfully, we do get a gorgeous little scene with the three dragons soaring around a ship, diving into the sea and coming up with fish – watch how one of them stops in front of Daenerys, throws a fish in the air, roasts it with its breath and then swallows it whole. Apparently mythological reptiles enjoy showing off for their mummy. Who knew? Great FX, too, although that's always a given on this show.
The fact that “Valar Dohaeris” mainly consists of talking doesn't hurt it too much, particularly when many of those scenes are so compelling. Watching Cersei and Tyrion having a conversation is like watching two cats stalking around each other in someone's back garden; watch how the actors constantly move round the room, neither anxious to turn their back on the other, or even get within striking distance. The dialogue is bitchiness personified, too. Cersei's cutting: “You're a clever man. But you're not half as clever as you think you are,” is met with, “It still makes me more clever than you.” Ouch! It hurts because it's true. Take that, Cersei!
The scene between Tyrion and his father is just as tense, even though they barely move. The strikes here are verbal, with Tywin clawing his son using nothing more than words. Charles Dance and Peter Dinklage are both magnificent here, with Dance portraying Tywin's viciousness so perfectly that we can only hope that the actors went and had a pint afterwards to clear the air. Tyrion is so desperate to win some kind of recognition from his father – pointing out all his brave deeds during the battle – but all he gets as a response is, “Jugglers and singers require applause. You are a Lannister.” You can almost see him crumple in two. There's nothing he can do to make his father proud, so why is he even bothering? Poor Tyrion. We get the feeling he won't take this rejection well...
After season two's terrifying finale with the White Walkers, it is a little disappointing that we don't get to see them again here. It would also have been nice to see what Arya and Brienne were up to. But hey, good things come to those who wait. Or horrible things, given that this is Game Of Thrones .
WELL, YOU DIDN'T THINK THAT THROUGH AWARD Davos has seen how powerful Melisandre is with his own eyes, and in case he's forgotten, he also gets a solid warning from Salladhor Saan earlier in this episode. You'd think he'd be a little more cautious when in her presence, but no: he slags her off, tries to stab her and gets dragged away to a dungeon. She doesn't even bat an eyelid. Honestly, Davos, did you only have stupid pills to eat while you were stuck on that rock?
CAN WE JUST TAKE A MOMENT HERE... To appreciate these fantastic FX-filled landscapes? It's so wonderful to see fantasy images like these in television shows, rather than merely as the background for computer games or on the covers of books.
NAKED TRUTH We see naked boobs a mere 14 minutes into season three. I'm not sure how that compares to previous seasons (I should grab a stopwatch and do some research) but it's still pretty impressive. There's no male nudity, however, unless you count the nipple-removal. And we could all have done without that. [Shudder]
BEARD OF THE WEEK Kristofer Hivju as Tormund Giantsbane. A magnificent hairy effort, sir!
BOO, JOFFREY! Our rancid little king doesn't really do anything evil this week, but it's very gratifying to see him too scared to get out of his carriage, while Lady Margaery wanders around with a grin on her face (and crap all over her skirt) without a care in the world. Bonus points for feeding the cute orphans, too.
( WEBSITE EDITOR’S INTERJECTION I liked the giant. )
DID YOU SPOT? The end credits for Game Of Thrones feature a Dragon Unit and a Wolf Unit.
Tormund Giantsbane: “'Your Grace'? You hear that? From now on, you'd better kneel every time I fart!”
• New episodes of Game Of Thrones season three are currently airing in the UK on Sky Atlantic, Mondays at 9pm. Check out our SFX Book Of Game Of Thrones , a 180-page guide to the TV and book phenomenon, which is available now!