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Game Of Thrones 3.02 Dark Wings, Dark Words REVIEW

TV REVIEW If you go down to the woods today…

Game Of Thrones 3.02 “Dark Wings, Dark Words” TV REVIEW

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Episode 3.02
Writer: Vanessa Taylor
Director: Daniel Minahan

THE ONE WHERE Theon is tortured, Bran and Arya meet new companions on the road and Margaery manoeuvres herself closer to King Joffrey. Meanwhile, en-route to King's Landing, Jaime and Brienne run into trouble...

VERDICT They really should have called this episode “Dark Wings, Dark Woods”. No less than three major characters (Bran, Arya and Jaime) all make new acquaintances while out in the sticks. An unfortunate coincidence, perhaps, but no matter, for this is another excellent instalment – and one that's given an extra dose of pep thanks to the appearance of Dame Diana Rigg.

Yes, the eternal Mrs Peel debuts as Lady Olenna, grandmother to Margaery Tyrell (swoon) and every bit as sharp. Whether it's her grumpy bitching about useless relatives, or her deadpan, “Oh, that's a pity,” in response to a tearful Sansa, she’s an instant standout. In fact, going on the basis of this episode, Tyrion may soon have some competition for his position as the most quotable character on the show. Game Of Thrones is often witty, but rarely laugh out loud funny. With Olenna around, it's both.

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Not that Margaery is pushed to the sidelines. “Dark Wings, Dark Words” confirms her position as one of the game’s most adept players. The scene where she meets an armed and angry Joffrey is stomach-knottingly tense (we all know Joff's fondness for violence towards women, after all), but she neatly disarms him – literally and figuratively – and works her way into his affections. That it meant selling out Renly's secret (and feeding Joff's homophobia) barely seemed to register. Cersei may be casually dismissive of her, but it's clear that behind Margaery's innocent smile lies an expert manipular. Plus, did I already say, swoon?

Olenna didn't hog all the laughs. Somewhere in the wilderness, Brienne and Jaime were slogging their way towards King's Landing. Without access to his sword, Jaime has resorted to his deadliest weapon – his wit. The tide of insults heading Brienne's way is relentless – though asking if she "fancied" Renly jarred a bit. Even though the two characters apparently hate each other, there's a sizzling chemistry developing between them. Still, he's a snake that King Slayer, and I wouldn't trust him for an instant. Some great performances from Gwendoline Christie and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who continue to find new subtleties to their characters.

Elsewhere, Bran finally got some decent screen time. And blimey, he's grown! There's no hiding the fact that Isaac Hempstead-Wright has noticeably aged – especially in the dream sequence that sees him hunting the three-eyed raven. It's in this dream that he first encounters Jojen Reed. Interestingly, both Bran and Osha are quite accepting of the fact that his dreams are supernaturally charged now, and no one seems particularly surprised when Jojen pops along in the flesh and confirms this. Combined with Jon Snow meeting his first Warg (or so he thinks, if the hints about Bran are correct), the magic quotient is definitely up this year.

The Reeds themselves make for a shifty, but intriguing, pair. It's too early to tell where their loyalties lie, but the fact that they have come specifically to find Bran, and the implication that the young Stark's powers are growing, suggests that we're finally going to get some answers to this mystery.

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Meanwhile, Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie (no, honestly that's his name!) run into trouble when they bump into Thoros of Myr. Refreshingly (and despite being played by Paul Kaye, who tends to play utter bastards) he turned out to be relatively honourable. You wouldn't want to cross him, sure, but at least he kept his word. And then the Hound had to show up and blow her cover... Things could get very bad for Arya now – unless, perhaps, his soft spot for Sansa works in her favour.

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Lots happened this week. Too much, perhaps? Certainly it's a shame that Tyrion had only a single brief (though hilarious) scene with Shae. And it would have been good to see more of Theon – he's gone from sacking a city to being betrayed, horribly tortured and rescued (by Misfit 's Iwan Rheon, no less) in about 10 minutes of actual screen time. There was also some noticeably wonky CG around Summer the direwolf. Still, it feels churlish to niggle about an episode that managed to pack so much humour and intrigue in, while also casually dropping in an off-screen cameo from Sean Bean (here's hoping that's hinting towards a glimpse at Robert's Rebellion...), Catelyn's remorse at her ill-treatment of Jon Snow and Anguy's startlingly cool archery display.

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BEST LINE It's an endlessly quotable episode – particularly some of Jaime's insults. But in honour of her debut, and because it made this reviewer snort with laughter, it's Dame Diana Rigg...

Lady Olenna: “Once the cow's been milked there's no squirting the cream back up her udder, so here we are to see things through.”

Will Salmon

• Read our other Game Of Thrones season three reviews

• New episodes of Game Of Thrones season three are currently airing in the UK on Sky Atlantic, Mondays at 9pm.

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Will is a freelance film and TV journalist, whose words have appeared in publications including GamesRadar, Total Film, SFX Magazine, The Quietus, and the Radio Times. He is also a podcast producer, and runs the cassette music label, Modern Aviation. Will is also a former Future journalist, working on Special Editions for the Future Film Group, the Comic Heroes magazine, and others.