March 31, 2013

Game Day

Filed under: Books,TV — DB @ 10:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

The game is again afoot. After a 10 month gap gap—standard practice for a TV series these days, but torturous even though we’ve grown accustomed to it—Game of Thrones returns for its third season on HBO tonight. Game is my favorite current show, and as there has been a lot on my mind about what this season will bring, I thought I’d share a few of my curiosities with others who are also traveling the Kingsroad. Those who haven’t read the books may have some of the same questions I do, while those who have are most likely laughing at us because they know what’s about to happen. For those totally uninitiated into the books or the show, you should stop reading now, because things are about to get spoiled.

When we last left the Seven Kingdoms (and beyond), Stannis Baratheon’s invasion of King’s Landing had been thwarted by the well-timed arrival of reinforcements led by Tywin Lannister and Loras Tyrell. Stannis somehow (I’m not sure how) made it back to Dragonstone and the swirling red cape of Melisandre, who assured him that his victory was still destined. The alliance between the Lannisters and Tyrells, brokered by Littlefinger, was set to grow even stronger as Joffrey agreed to cast aside Sansa and marry Margaery Tyrell. Tyrion was left with a massive scar along his face after nearly being murdered during the battle by one of his own men, on instructions from Cersei. Shae urged him to run away with her, leaving the kingdoms and his god awful family behind, but he couldn’t bring himself to go. She remained with him, and is still serving as a maiden to Sansa. Bronn was removed as head of the Gold Cloaks, but we don’t know much more than that about his status. Varys reached out to Ros with a vague proposition that seems to involve informing on Littlefinger…but to what end?

Elsewhere in Westeros, Robb secretly married Talisa, while Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie escaped servitude at Harrenhal thanks to help from supercool mystery man Jaqen H’ghar. Winterfell was left burned and deserted after an ill-advised invasion by Theon, who betrayed Robb after being shamed by his asshole father and sister. He was knocked unconscious by his own men after the castle was surrounded by loyal northmen, but that was the last we saw of him. Bran, Rickon, Osha and Hodor left the ruined Winterfell to head north toward The Wall, on the instructions of the dying Maester Luwin. Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow and Qhorin Halfhand were taken prisoner by wildlings after Jon couldn’t bring himself to kill the captive redhead Ygritte. Quorin sacrificed himself by loudly accusing Jon of being a traitor and dueling with him until Jon killed him—a ploy to gain the trust of wildling leader Mance Rayder and infiltrate his camp. Samwell had the bad luck of coming across a massive army of White Walkers, though they seemed unconcerned with him as he hid in terror behind a rock. And across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys ventured into the House of the Undying and reclaimed her kidnapped dragons from the über-creepy warlock Pyat Pree.

Let’s see, what else…Catelyn released Jaime and entrusted Brienne with escorting him back to King’s Landing in the hopes of trading him for Sansa and Arya, after Littlefinger lied and told her that both girls were there. For going behind Robb’s back, Catelyn is being held under guard. Stannis’ advisor Davos Seaworth was blown off his ship and into the waters of Blackwater Bay when the wildfire attack was unleashed by Tyrion. Whether he lived or died, we don’t know. The Hound walked away from the battle and told Joffrey he could go fuck himself. He then suggested to Sansa that he was headed north, though she declined his offer to take her back to Winterfell.

That covers most of the main characters, I think. And since the second season ended last June, there had been little buzz or activity to whet our appetite for what’s next. Casting additions for the third season were announced last summer as they came in, and a video introduction with most of the new actors was presented in July at Comic-Con. It didn’t offer a lot, and meant less to people like me who haven’t read the books ahead of the show than it likely did to those who have, but hey, it was something.

Most of those actors are unfamiliar to me, but there are a few I recognize. Mackenzie Crook (Orell) appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, and of course starred as Gareth on the British version of The Office (Gareth = Dwight). Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen Reed) was the lovesick little drummer boy from Love Actually who suggested that he and his stepdad (Liam Neeson) go “get the shit kicked out of us by love.” And there’s Dame Diana Rigg, best known to some as Emma Peel, heroine of 1960’s British spy series The Avengers, or perhaps as Tracy, the woman who wins James Bond’s love (as opposed to the normal Bond girl romp in the sack) in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. To me, though, Rigg will always be Lady Holiday from The Great Muppet Caper.

One character who had not yet been cast at the time of that video was Mance Rayder, but soon enough we learned the part would be played by the great Ciarán Hinds, who comes with the solid HBO experience of having played Julius Caesar on Rome. Another alumni of that underseen HBO series also joined the cast: Tobias Menzies, who played Brutus to Hinds’ Caesar, will be on hand as Catelyn’s brother Edmure Tully. Rigg and Hinds, in particular, are impressive additions to an ensemble of actors that’s as strong as it is large, and Benioff and Weiss shared their thoughts on landing the veteran performers with EW.com

Other than these casting announcements, we didn’t have much to quench our thirst during the hiatus. All’s been quiet on the Westeros front, save for a couple of brief behind the scenes glimpses and teaser spots on HBO with voiceover but no new footage. The first true teaser—with actual scenes!—didn’t premiere until last month on Jimmy Kimmel Live. (This is actually an extended version of the one that first appeared.)

The featured song got immediately stuck in my head, and I mistook it for another Florence + The Machine track, as their song “Seven Devils” was used for one of season two’s previews. Turns out it’s by a group called MS MR, and is called “Bones.”

Anyway, the late February premiere of that preview marked the end of an unusually long wait to see any new material. Usually HBO begins hyping new seasons of its shows with actual trailers a couple of months before they premiere, but this time they dragged their feet like Dany’s khalasar dragged that poor wine vendor behind her horse. Ever since then, however, the hype machine has gone into overdrive. It seemed there was a new spot every day. I was especially partial to this one…

Lions and dragons and bears, oh my…

As evidenced by those trailers, there’s been a lot of tantalizing footage. The word is that this season is going to be pretty amazing…and devastating. Apparently there are some particularly shocking events ahead. In their cover story, Entertainment Weekly described A Storm of Swords—the third book in George R.R. Martin’s series—as GoT‘s Empire Strikes Back…a promising comparison in that Empire is the best of the Star Wars movies, and a worrisome one in that the good guys kinda get their asses kicked in Empire. The series proved early on that it wasn’t afraid to eliminate major characters, dispatching Ned, Robert, Viserys and Drogo all in the first season. Last year’s run was lighter on major character deaths, with Renly and Maester Luwin being the only substantial characters to meet their maker. And some might say Ser Rodrik Cassel. I don’t think Davos is dead, so I’m not including him. But as season two began, I expected fewer major characters to survive. I thought that between Joffrey, Robb, Jaime and Cersei, at least one would die. I now feel like Cersei is safe for a while, but the other three remain vulnerable…along with nearly every other character. And if I’m correctly interpreting the pre-season vibe, this year’s run of episodes will claim a few more significant figures.

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have said from the beginning that their goal was to reach season three. If the show lasted long enough that they could get to events that will occur this season, they would be happy. No problem there. The show’s huge ratings left little doubt that they would make it to this point, and over the next 10 weeks, we’ll see what they’ve been so excited about. They referred early on to an event which they called only the RW scene, saying that to use the actual words instead of just the initials would constitute a spoiler. I accidentally found out what RW stands for, but I’m not sure how much of a spoiler it is, since at this point I still have no idea what it means or suggests. In my naive eyes, the words could be interpreted in a variety of ways. But given how eager Benioff and Weiss have been to depict it on the show, it’s gotta be major. They’ve also hinted about at least one upcoming scene so hard to take that even the crew choked up during filming. Is it this RW scene they’re referring to? In the aforementioned Entertainment Weeky cover story, they won’t even use the initials anymore to describe it. (They must have forgotten that they already used them in past interviews…unless there’s another infamous scene coming up that can be abbreviated for non-spoiler conversations). Whatever this mystery event is, if everyone is being so protective of it and the crew is getting teary-eyed while filming, it probably forebodes death for at least one favorite character.

A Storm of Swords is so densely plotted that this season of the show will only cover roughly half of the book. Benioff and Weiss have said before that they see the show as an adaptation of Martin’s entire A Song of Ice and Fire series rather than a book-by-book take, so the seasons do not perfectly match the books. They do sync up pretty well, but for example, the scenes late in season two involving Brienne transporting Jaime to King’s Landing don’t occur in the second book. When we last see Jaime in the novel, he’s still in his cell, and Catelyn is standing over him and asking Brienne for a sword. Tackling the third book over the course of two seasons will not only allow Benioff and Weiss to take their time and give the rich plot the attention it deserves, but it increases the chances that the show won’t catch up to the books before Martin finishes them. He has two more entries in the series to deliver, and just this week he expressed confidence that he’ll finish the books before the show gets ahead of him. And he’s right that if the timing doesn’t quite pan out, the show can always take a longer-than-usual hiatus. The Sopranos, Mad Men and Breaking Bad have all done it. Sure, fans will be pulling their hair out in anticipation, but we’ve survived such droughts before. Of course, Martin does have to buckle down and stay focused on finishing the series. When HBO announced in February that they had signed a deal with him to develop additional programming, I know I wasn’t the only fan who thought, “Well that’s nice and all….but George, you need to keep your priorities straight and finish these damn books.” One rumored possibility is that Martin and HBO will adapt a series of prequel novellas he’s written. We’ll see if anything comes of it. Deals like this are signed all the time, but they don’t necessarily yield anything, and HBO orders plenty of promising pilots that they then decide not to produce further.

I’m running a bit wild here, so let me bring it back around to the season at hand and what we can expect. I’m of course wondering what will become of Theon. He seems primed to be one of the first casualties, but how will it happen, if it does? The previews above show a quick glimpse of his sister Yara, but there’s been no sign of Theon in any of the commercials. Will he be brought back to Robb, and will Robb be able to go through with killing him?

What about Davos? Where and how will he resurface? I’m also excited to see what unfolds for The Hound. Walking out on Joffrey was an unexpected move, and I’ve noticed that for a minor-major character, he’s been a prominent part of season three’s marketing campaign. His appearance in this teaser, and the fact that he got his own character poster—the kind of privileged exposure usually reserved for the major characters—suggests to me that his story will be an important one this season.

What lies in store for Tyrion? When his father sent him to King’s Landing to fill in as Hand of the King, it seemed to mark a possible new appreciation for the dwarf’s intelligence and skill for strategy. Will that appreciation continue to blossom, or will Tywin resume treating him like the “lowest of the Lannisters”?  Halfman or not, Tyrion stood tall during the Battle of Blackwater, and he deserves credit for keeping the fight against Stannis going as long as it did. What are the chances Tywin will recognize that? And speaking of Tywin, why is he assuming his duties as Hand instead of continuing the fight against Robb? Who will be leading the Lannister forces now, with Jaime still captive and Tywin in King’s Landing?

The previews have shown that Daenerys finally gets hold of an army, and a ship. Will she actually get to Westeros this season and begin integrating into those storylines, or is that still a ways off? And here’s something I’ve been wondering about, though I doubt we’ll get an answer (and it probably isn’t even important): remember that masked woman in Qarth who knew Jorah by name and warned him to protect Daenerys from those who would want her dragons? Yeah…who was that chick, and what’s her story? She seems to correspond to a character from the book name Quaithe, but who is she? How does she know Jorah? Will she eventually play a more important role, or is she a minor character who, like others in Qarth, just seems to know shit?

And what of Robb’s vow to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters? I can’t blame the guy for choosing Talisa over any of the Frey girls, but it’s been stressed that the promise is not to be thrown off lightly. The Stark/Frey marriage wasn’t supposed to take place until the war was over, but will the repercussions of Robb’s union with Talisa be seen this season?

There was also a scene last year in which Samwell, Grenn and Edd discovered a care package buried in the snow: rare arrowheads made of obsidian, wrapped in a Knight’s Watch cloak beneath a shield. There’s got to be something up with that, yeah?

Soon I’ll know the answers to most of these questions, and I’m sure that this season will fly by as fast as the previous two have. There are only 10 episodes per season, which Benioff and Weiss say is the most they can handle per year for a series that has such demanding scope, with its feature film-quality production design, costumes, visual effects and complicated shooting schedule that spans multiple countries and features such an enormous cast. The episodes will each run a few minutes longer this year than in the past, so by the end of the season we’ll have had almost an extra episode’s worth of material. It ain’t much, but I’ll take it.

In these final hours before the premiere, you can amuse yourself with this Game of Thrones death generator (completely random—it doesn’t require your middle name or the street you grew up on to determine your doom—but still worth a chuckle). Then there’s this video that dares to replace the show’s excellent opening credits sequence with the version that might have been used if it were on network TV in the mid 80’s. (The clip says 1995, but I think this is more 80’s than 90’s).

And it was only a matter of time: a Game of Thrones/Princess Bride mash-up.

Last but not least, there’s this. Because lightsabers make everything cooler.

With that, please join me in praying to the old gods and the new, and even to the Lord of Light, that Joffrey will soon die a slow, excruciatingly painful death, and that Tyrion will bitchslap him at least one more time before it happens.


  1. Burncey, you’re a genius. I’m waiting to watch the premier, and this was the recap/teaser I needed to get me ready… Thank you sir.

    Comment by Bryan Davis — March 31, 2013 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

    • Glad to be of service, Your Grace.

      Comment by DB — April 1, 2013 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

  2. Wondering how you accidentally came to learn what RW stands for and what your interpretations of the initials may be.

    Comment by Ryan C. — April 1, 2013 @ 2:51 pm | Reply

    • Spoilers for anybody who might be reading this and doesn’t want to know…

      I don’t remember when or how – it was at least a year ago – but I came upon a video interview with Richard “Robb Stark” Madden talking about an eventual event known as the Red Wedding. I think I also saw it mentioned somewhere in print right around the same time. I’d already heard Benioff and Weiss reference the RW scene by that time, and being gifted with immensely keen powers of deduction, I put the two together. I don’t know if the Red Wedding involves Robb, or if Madden was just talking about it casually as a fan of the books; I’m glad to say that I don’t remember enough about the interview to guess. Anyway, when I hear Red Wedding, it could mean red as in Lannister, red as in the Red God, red as in Melisandre, or just red as in blood, which would make sense if there’s a wedding that turns into a slaughter or massacre of some kind. Either way, all of those possibilities only suggest a general context, rather than a specific expectation of what will happen.

      Even if the latter meaning is correct, I don’t know whose wedding it refers to. Joffrey and Margaery are supposed to get married, but does that actually happen? I also read that Sansa gets married this season….something I wish I hadn’t learned in advance, but again, I accidentally stumbled across it. (I have to say, my experience so far is that the web has been really good about not spoiling what’s to come for those of us who don’t know, but reading almost anything about the show carries the risk of finding out something you’d rather not know, and that’s how I found out about Sansa.) Based on events in the season two finale and last night’s season three premiere, my guess is that she’s going to marry Littlefinger, in some kind of manipulative arrangement he makes that has her believing she’s just doing it for convenience, even though he’ll have something more calculated in mind….of course.

      And maybe it’s another wedding altogether. The only suspicion I have is that it involves Robb, and that’s only because I saw Madden talking about it. But like I said, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Robb already had his wedding to Talisa…but I don’t know how that plays out, or what happens with his pledge to Walder Frey, so it seems possible that the Red Wedding could still involve him. Plus Robb is a character whose death would be a huge blow, so if the Red Wedding involves him getting killed, then the comments from Benioff and Weiss about the crew getting so emotional during the filming of certain scenes (which may or may not even refer to the Red Wedding!) would make sense. But there are lots of characters whose deaths—especially if they happen in a harsh way—could elicit that kind of response from the crew. The death of an innocent little dove like Sansa could do it. Or what if the Red Wedding involves Tyrion attempting to marry Shae in secret, only to have Tywin and his men discover it and then brutalize and kill her in some way while Tyrion is forced to watch? Wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened to him, and knowing how good Peter Dinklage is, watching him watch that could certainly bring people to tears. Then again, that’s probably too “minor” an event. Whatever it is, the way people talk about it…I feel like it has to be a really large-scale occurrence that is shocking beyond comprehension. Shocking because of what happens? Or shocking because of who it happens to? Or shocking for some other reason?

      You see what I mean. From my perspective, the Red Wedding could play out in any number of ways. The name itself doesn’t spoil anything as far as I can tell. Sure, between now and whenever it takes place, new information could come to light that will rob me of my ignorance and make clearer what’s coming. For now though, I remain blissfully ignorant…and extremely worried for several characters….and voraciously eager to find out what it means, and what other crazy developments await me this season.

      Comment by DB — April 1, 2013 @ 6:40 pm | Reply

  3. I haven’t replied until now mostly because this is such tricky subject matter to discuss without spoiling anything. It’s like trying to navigate a battlefield littered with mines. All it would take is just one casual, offhand comment and an intuitive viewer like yourself would be able to read between the lines and figure shit out pronto. So the safest bet is just to keep my lips zipped and refrain from commentary. But I will say this is some extremely thoughtful speculation.

    Now that nearly an entire season’s worth of story and developments have occurred since last you wrote on the subject of RW, have your theories evolved at all? What possibilities have you discarded and what have you further embraced? In other words, WHAT IS YOUR FINAL ANSWER, BRO? Let’s hear some bold predictions as we round third and head home. Answers are nigh!

    I find that coming by this information when you’re steamrolling your way through the books doesn’t exactly allow for conjecture, because you’re so damn wrapped up in shit that you can’t see two feet in front of you. At least, that’s what it’s like for me. So reading your speculative analysis is a way for me to live vicariously through a viewer and experience the excitement of discovery all over again.

    Comment by Ryan C. — May 20, 2013 @ 10:32 am | Reply

    • Well obviously Sansa’s wedding has now come to pass, so that’s not the RW scene…though I watched it all unfold in a state of high anxiety as I waited to see if “something” happened. So that’s one down, three to go, if I’m not mistaken: Loras and Cersei, Joffrey and Margaery, and Edmure and the Frey girl. I’m guessing it will be the latter that turns tragic. After spending so much time on Tyrion and Sansa’s wedding, I doubt another secondary marriage in King’s Landing will be given as much attention, so that’s Loras and Cersei out.

      Edmure, meanwhile, is a minor character, yet his impending marriage has been mentioned a few times now, and we’re clearly going to see it unfold rather than just hear that it happened. Why depict that…unless something’s going to happen there? I think Walder Frey is going to take revenge for Robb’s betrayal. Will they all be killed – Robb, Catelyn, Talisa, Edmure and Brynden? Maybe not, but surely some of them. Just based on the way I’ve seen the Red Wedding mentioned, it’s got to be shocking and tragic, so Robb and/or Catelyn would have to go. Or I suppose he could have Talisa killed in front of Robb, maybe even massacre his army so that he has no resources left with which to fight the Lannisters. He’d have to return to a burned Winterfell in defeat, mourning his murdered wife and with no alternative but to pledge fealty to the king who murdered his father.

      So what exactly will happen I don’t know, but I’m guessing the RW is Edmure’s. And at this point, I’m assuming Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding will take place next season.

      Comment by DB — May 21, 2013 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply to Ryan C. Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: