Fellow addict, most of the civilised world has felt your pain. You are now entering the third season of this wonderful series, and I'd bet you're pretty much salivating at the prospect. The season 2 finale left us with the prospect of an un-humane wait before we find some answers to the questions that the finale brought up. We could either first learn to read, then buy a wheelbarrow in order to cart home the giant tome that is the written story on which the TV show is based, or re-integrate back in to society until season 3 was released, in which case we could resume our place on the couch, re-learn the number for Pizza Hut off by heart and switch off all mobile devices. Right now I am in the period of re-integration, which is both scary and painful as my pure white skin hasn't known the touch of sun for many months. It is the wait between season 3 and 4, and this is probably where I find you too. In fact with all the re-kindled friendships, new jobs and awkward family events you've encountered since The Red Wedding, you've probably forgotten much of what happened in Season 3. Fear not! My review and recap will now follow.
So you may remember we left Westeros just after the Battle of Blackwater, in which Stannis attempts to storm Kings Landing with a far superior force, only to be stopped by the smallest member of the frankly staggering cast, Tyrion. Tyrion is, for all intents and purposes, still alive, despite a clear cut attempt on his life. He is no longer the hand of the King, yet remains stubbornly in Kings Landing despite the protestations of his love Shae.
Sansa, in all sorts of trouble since Margaery Tyrell blew on to the scene, refuses offers to flee the area, instead being 'freed' by Joffrey but only with a warning from Lord Baelish that Joffrey may still have use for her yet. Robb Stark has become somewhat annoying by this stage. He promised his hand to a women in order for his army to gain passage to continue their march on Kings Landing, but he becomes so taken with Talisa, his new beauty, that he cannot deny his love, despite his mothers protestations. In fact Catelyn is marginalised quite dramatically since her decision to hand custody of Jaime over to Brienne. Robb's love, whilst quite enjoyable for the sappier of the women in the audience, could be misconstrued as weakness, and in such a harsh and unforgiving environment, weakness is not tolerated. Daenerys you may remember escaped the House of the Undying using her dragons, and is now poised to become a force to be reckoned with in the game of thrones. Jon Snow also gains significance, as the White Walkers take centre stage at the end of the final episode, begging the question just how in gods name are the Nights Watch going to stop them?
Season 3 is an interesting prospect, but it will shatter any preconcieved ideas you had about the show. i will leave The Red Wedding and the Starks for the moment. Firstly, lets examine what is happening with Jon Snow, and his yummy new girlfriend. This is a clear indication that we are not watching any old TV series here. The funny thing about Game of Thrones is that in the first 2 seasons, you're sitting there taking notes, because the storylines are so complex and the characters so varied that you're either completely lost, or being yelled at by your friends and family by repeatedly asking 'who is that again? What did he do? Why did she say that?!'. So for the storyline of Jon Snow and the Night's Watch to break off in to two separate entities feels like a clusterfuck. It's not, and the inner strength of Samwell (who reminds me SO MUCH of Samwise Gamgee I'm considering bringing it up with the body that governs intellectual property rights in the US) easily holds this strain together. Again we are treated to such a foreign, dislocating situation with Sam and his new found friend that it is impossible to turn away. The sheer desparation of his circumstance, that he is trying to take care of a woman and her new born child, whilst in the middle of a Siberian winter, whilst being chased by insane ice zombies, whilst trying to cast off the image as the fat, weak soft one of the entire show, is a triumph. When he does come to the party and slay one of these white walkers I stood on my couch and cheered. It's an old method of characterisation. Paint someone as the weak helpless one, then watch them evolve through their experiences and harsh surroundings in to a strong, dominant player. Yet it doesn't feel played out or dolled up. Samwell is so likeable, he becomes one of the only people in the entire show you find yourself rooting for. And with the craziness that is to come, it is nice to have a grounding in traditional values. Sam provides this.
Jon Snow is a as smouldering as a day old forrest fire. He is as hot as a freshly microwaved burrito. He has the sex appeal of Brad Pitt having tender sex with Channing Tatum. The fact that he had never had sex before had me having to change the pillows on my couch, as all the women I was watching the show with orgasmed simultaneously at his inhuman cuteness. It is with relish that we watch his journey that is fraught with danger, trying to convince the Wildings he is one of them. In fact he is so damn convincing (and so ridiculously attractive with those puppy dog eyes) that we all believe him. He has fallen in love, and this will be a beautiful marriage. How we so quickly forget matters of honour and loyalty when a cute little romance blossoms. Yet Jon has a trick up his sleeve for us, and his heart splits in two as he is forced to choose between the women he loves and the oath that he has come to believe in. Despite having few truly show stopping lines, Jon is a fertile story, and there's a nice little twist in store for you.
Well Stannis then. What of Stannis, who was so thoroughly outfoxed by Tyrion at Kings Landing? One of our favourite characters, the blacksmith Gendry, is locked up with Davos, the onion bloke, at the request of Stannis. As if we needed one, Davos serves as the rational voice in this increasingly infuriating story of a man being seduced by the not so seductive dark arts. She may be attractive, but the Red Lady (Melisandre, for extreme historians) is annoying. She manipulates Stannis, who rather than coming across as the strong and powerful man he believes himself to be proves that he is quite weak and suggestable. He is quite ready to do away with his most loyal adviser, Davos, until Melisandre spares his life, spewing something about reading it in the fire. Fire is a constant theme for these two, and if there's something burning you can guarantee one of them will rush over and use it as a basis for murder and mayhem. Davos is spared, and Gendry is set free by him.
You have to love a naked chick who controls the actions of dragons. You just have to. Yet Daenerys was getting annoying. Her catch phrases were beginning to grate, her promise of power and strength rarely shone through, and the way she treated a man clearly enamoured with her, Rhakharo, left the women in the audience clenching, unhappy with the lack of cuteness. This was all until her dragons were captured by that freak in the House of the Undying, who she subsequently burnt to death, freeing herself and making off with a shit ton of gold. Now, we see the Daenerys we were promised. She sets off seeking an army, which might not be such a noble pursuit, but her acquisition gives us the first real 'fuck yeah' momnent. Treated like an idiot by leaders and goons alike, she wins the loyalty of a man who knows very well how to kill, and is significantly more attractive than her bodyguard, and then turns the tables on the Wise Masters (the rulers of Yunkai) by turning their army against them. More than 'freeing' the slaves, she gives them a choice, and a promise of a better future. In hindsight, it's not a difficult decision for them. They could either disperse in to the arid surrounding lands, continue to run a city that relies heavily on slavery to survive, or follow the woman with the dragons, the gold and the ships. Daenerys has her army, and overtakes Stannis and Robb as the most likely to have their bottom on the Iron Throne.
Jaime and Brienne. Brienne and Jaime. The most attractive incest-fancier since Princess Leia, pared with a woman who makes Will Ferrell look like an attractive female. And I know what all you purists out there bleat. Blah Blah Blah George R. R. Martin doesn't let the pursuit of romance get in the way of a damn good story. Well thats bollocks. This is formulaic, even by Hollywood standards. Odd couple thrown together, dislike each other, save each other a few times, grow to care for and respect each other. I saw that once, every single time I turn on my TV. But these two work together. Maybe it is because Jaime is the typical anti-hero. He does bad stuff, yet we root for him.. When he loses his hand, you almost want to cut your own off and give it to him. It's another sensible grounding to the entire season though. Whilst all else goes ballistic, preconcieved notions are demolished and entire storylines abolished, it's nice to know there is a tale of redemption slowly unfolding. He may lose his hand, but the way he grows to respect and protect Brienne is endearing, and you catch yourself going 'aww' when he and Cersei first see each other. Then you remember they are brother and sister. But then you remember they are just actors, and once he has had a bath or two you probably wouldn't mind another sex scene or two.
I've written about the constant, epic, see-sawing battle of this series, the one true conflict that we all are put through as viewers. Who do we hate more, Theon Greyjoy or Joffrey? Joffrey is bad, but he was always bad. From the very first time we saw him, we knew he was a little rodent. Theon, however, won the trust of people we know and respect, and then not only did he completely obliterate that, he went around killing children. So it is with great joy we watch his torture, although this joy turns to slight horrow and disgust, which is a testament to the writers and actors. You do want him to suffer for his sacking of Winterfell, and his fathers almost total uncaring reaction to the death threats are satisfying enough, but it begins to become quite morbid. Ramsey, his torturer, performs some crude, unecessary surgery that reduces Theon to the status of unic. Yet it's the disturbing nature of his torture that concerns us. Maybe it is the post-Guantanamo Bay era, where we've seen movies like The Road to Guantanmo Bay and witnessed people voluntarily going through actual torture procedures that has built up this fear and internal disgust for the practise. Either way, you will be shaken by these scenes.
I will devote the least amount of space to the most boring of story lines. Bran, Meera, Jojen and Hodor are heading North, and intent on venturing out past the wall. Why? Because Bran has weird dreams with crows in them. Look, that might be a crude analysis, but this storyline can't even be saved with the introduction of Sam and Gilly. Hopefully in season 4, if they do actually get beyond the wall, things heat up a little.
Joffrey is more repellant than ever. In season 3 he unfortunately discovers he has a penis, and that that penis becomes rigid when he performs brutish acts upon women, so we are treated to him living out his disturbing fantasies with no fear of reprisal. Thankfully, those around him are intensely aware of his danger to their kingdom, especially after his farcical beheading of Eddard, and both Tyrion and Tywin spend great deals of energy and personal power trying to bring him in to line. Tyrion stands right up to Joffrey during one epic drinking session. In fact the only thing I love more than Tyrion is home made, toasted banana bread with peanut butter and melted chocolate on top. And I am legally married to that combination of foods, so you can see I love Tyrion quite a lot. The little man, despite being ostracised by his family, remains a huge personality and a huge influence on matters. His relationship with Shae is complicated when he is betroved to Sansa and told to create an heir. We know Tyrion though. He stands up to both Joffrey and Tywin, so he damn well won't have sex with a girl who doesn't desire it. Good on you mate.
Now that you're up to date with just about everything else (except that the absolutely stunningly beautiful Margaery Tyrell pursues Joffrey like a hungry tiger pursues a Zebra), we can tackle The Red Wedding. Yep, this one blows 'Twister' out of the water in terms of twists. You kind of knew something was going to go down. Robb Stark was dumb. He married a girl when he promised to marry another. And he was beginning to lose the will of his followers, especially when he began killing them off for the slightest mention of treason. Catelyn was seen in an even worse light. By letting the King Slayer leave her treason was deemed of the highest order, and towards the middle of the season it became clear that sentiment was turning. Yet the way in which the murder unfolded was so unlike the dynamic we have come to expect within the show. Most of what has happened has been barbaric, crude and crass. The Red Wedding was calculated, shrewd and effective. It was also mind boggling. Robb, Talisa and Catelyn are all slain, throwing the entire story and cornerstone of the show in to disarray. The force with which it happens, and the manner in which we are lead along a trail of the marriage is just pure brilliance. This is the first true indication that we are not watching your average TV show. George RR Martin is one sick man, who refuses to place stock in any kind of traditional, romantic version of life, preferring instead to place faith in a dysmorphic kind of justice that picks and chooses who it bestows its riches upon. That a character like Jaime can go some way to experiencing redemption, yet someone like Catelyn, who always acted selflessly and for her family could experience not only death, but the heartbreak before that death of seeing her son and his wife and baby murdered first, is nothing short of sick. But it's brilliant. It's what makes you love Game of Thrones.
Martin, you could argue, has shot himself thoroughly in the foot. But he hasn't. There are thousands of pages of storyline to come that we haven't seen adapted on to screen yet, that haven't even been plucked from the big beautiful brain of his. Season 4. Where do you go when you've seemingly gone everywhere?