As good as the first two seasons are, I think that seasons three and four are the pinnacle of Game of Thrones for me. There are just too many unforgettable moments spread over these twenty hours of television that Game of Thrones manages to surpass its own high watermark. I’m sure that one of the key factors in the success of series at this point is that the third book in the series, A Storm of Swords, is perhaps George R. R. Martin at his absolute best. It’s a time while he was driving the story forwards before he seemingly lost his way to excessive description and chronic writer’s block.
Anyway, Game of Thrones Season 3…
There are so many things that are right with the third season that it’s almost hard to know where to start. There are some really defining character moments as well as enough to drive the overarching plot forwards.
Bran Stark finally gets to start out on his quest, rather than hiding in the crypt at Winterfell. Bran’s meeting with Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) takes him on a journey to travel north of the wall to find the Three-Eyed Raven. It’s the meeting with Jojen that really encourages Bran to embrace his strange gifts, as he begins to understand what it means to ‘warg’ into animals (and Hodor) and attempt to understand his visions.
Something that really comes to the fore in Game of Thrones Season 3 is a trend for near-misses – characters that we desperately want to see reunited just miss each other by mere moments. The two that spring to mind in this season are both related to Bran and Jon Snow. First, as Bran and co hide out from the Wildlings with Jon just outside, and then again as Jon returns to Craster’s Keep to bring justice to the mutineers and Bran is just out of sight in a barn. It’s a trick that GRRM, Weiss, and Benioff seem to enjoy pulling throughout the series.
In a series full of huge moments it’s the journey of Jaime and Brienne that really packs the most far-reaching punch. It’s a strange thing to say, but it seems like having his sword hand removed was the best thing that could have happened to Jaime Lannister. Well, it might be that or it could be Brienne’s influence, but who can say for certain. There have been sparks of conscience but this season is really the first time I started to think about Jaime as a sympathetic character. We finally get to see just how he feels about being labeled ‘Kingslayer’ for most of his life, and how it has affected him. The scene between Jaime and Brienne is a real high-point in an already great season.
Elsewhere, Jon’s undercover mission finally comes to an end, after scaling the wall. One good thing about his return to the Night’s Watch is a slight reprieve from the catchphrase that keeps on giving: ‘You know nothin, Jon Snow’. I actually liked Jon and Ygritte together but I think I’d have happily taken an arrow or two if it meant I didn’t need to hear that again.
Two of my favourite characters in the entire series are Littlefinger and Varys, they’re two sides of the same coin; master manipulators doing their best to influence the game. One of them has only himself in mind, the other is acting in the interests of the wider world. They also play off each other brilliantly. The two finally have a (relatively) honest conversation about the realm and what they both want. If nothing else it speaks about chaos being either a ladder or a pit (‘waiting to swallow us whole’). As time moves on the series becomes more about spectacle and grand fantasy moments, but at its core are wonderful character moments like this.
After spending a season trudging around the desert Daenerys finally begins to take some action. Ser Barristan Selmy resurfaces and pledges himself to her cause, and then if that wasn’t enough she finally gets her hands on a real army – The Unsullied. It’s not just the army that’s important though, the way that she takes it shows some real cunning, determination and ruthless efficiency. It’s a great moment in the season and one that I thought would mean Daenerys is well and truly in the game of thrones. The fact that it takes another four seasons for her to properly join the game is neither here nor there.
Game of Thrones Season 3 also marks the start in earnest of Ramsay Bolton’s sadistic torture of Theon, and Ramsay’s rise from ancillary baddie to a super-powered arch-villain of incredible skill, strength and cunning.
I’ve tried to delay as long as possible, but I really can’t prevent myself from talking about the Red Wedding any longer. It’s the highest and lowest point of this season and one of the most brutal reminders that the world of Westeros isn’t fair. It marks the end of Robb’s rebellion and a temporary hold to the Stark family as he’s betrayed by Roose Bolton and Walder Frey. It’s an absolutely shocking moment, even for someone who has read the books. Everything that I imagined when reading seems hugely amplified onscreen, even without the inclusion of murdering a pregnant Queen Tulisa. Aside from being deeply unsettling, the Red Wedding has left me with something else. Whenever I hear or use the word ‘mother’ I am compelled to say it in a Robb Stark accent. Oh, we also get another great near-miss as Arya is so close to reuniting with her family only to have her dreams shattered at the last minute.
Best new character: Without question, it’s Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), aka the Queen of Thorns. She has the sharpest tongue in all of Westeros and every moment she is on screen is an utter joy. Who else could get away with asking Tywin Lannister if he was ever a part of ‘two boys having a go at each other underneath the sheets’?
Saddest death: I’m going to go off script here and say that the Red Wedding doesn’t contain the most upsetting death in this season. While it is utterly horrific, it’s got nothing on the betrayal and murder of Jeor Mormont in episode three. He gave his life to the Night’s Watch and he cared about all of his men no matter their background. To be murdered by them in such a horrible fashion was the ultimate act of disrespect.
Best resurrection: Season three contains one of my favorite scenes of the entire series, in episode six (“The Climb”), when Melisandre catches up with Thoros and finally gets a proper demonstration of the Lord of Light’s power when Beric is resurrected for a sixth time. I love the scene that follows as Thoros recounts the first time that he brought his friend back, he wasn’t trying to do it, he just felt the loss of his friend and did the only thing that he knew.
Best break-up: When Jon Snow and Ygritte finally go their separate ways it’s a little more dramatic than your average break-up. Instead of being angry, throwing things and calling him a dick over his treachery Ygritte decides to fill him with as many arrows as possible. Firm but fair.
Oli has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. He has a PhD in Computer Science and he writes articles about TV, film and, very occasionally, science.