Season Three begins not with the normal opening sequence but with a cacophony of sounds – shrieks, shouts, clanging swords, unearthly growls. As daylight illuminates the scene, we see Samwell Tarley running for his life in the blizzard-like North. He comes upon a fellow crow from behind, but as he walks around to the front he sees that the man has been decapitated. Just then, an axe-wielding wight comes at Sam.
Ghost to the rescue! Jon’s direwolf attacks the wight and pulls him back away from Sam, slowing him down. The wight keeps coming, but is burned before he can get to Sam. And who saved Sam? None other than Lord Commander Jeor Mormont! What a welcome sight. But when he asks Sam if he sent the ravens, to warn of the white walker attack, Sam sadly has to shake his head. Mormont is furious, it was Sam’s only job. He orders the men to go back to the Wall. They have to go back to warn the people of Westeros, if they don’t “everyone you’ve ever known will be dead.” So, no pressure.
Time for the title sequence. Winterfell is in ruins and a new location is highlighted, Astapor. Astapor is one of the three great city-states of Slaver’s Bay, and a port for ships traveling between Qarth and Westeros. It is also the home of the Unsullied, a group of notoriously fierce warriors.
Jon Snow is getting his first view of Mance Rayder’s camp. It’s huge, and I’m not just talking about the giants that live there. So, the strange things that are reported to live north of the wall — not just rumors! Jon stands out like a goth kid at a Bieber concert and everyone is muttering “Crow” when they see him and a few lob some objects in his general direction.
Jon is taken into a tent to meet Rayder. There is a red-headed, bearded man and some other men in the tent. The Lord of Bones tells them he thought they might want to question Jon. Ygritte tells them that Jon killed Qhorin Halfhand and wants to become a free person. This gets the red-head’s attention. He asks Jon his name, and Jon, raised among nobility, bends his knee as he presents himself. The men laugh. They don’t kneel to anyone up here. A man comes from the back of the tent. He recognized Jon’s name. “So you’re Ned Stark’s bastard.” He thanks the Lord of Bones for the gift and tells him he can leave. Jon is face to face with Mance Rayder.
Rayder wonders if it’s Ygritte that’s made Jon want to desert the Night’s Watch. Rayder introduces the ginger as Tormund Giantsbane. With the introductions out of the way, Rayder gets down to business. Why does Jon want to defect? Jon tells Rayder a true story – how he saw Craster leave a new born baby boy for one of the white walkers to take and how when he told Commander Mormont, he already knew. He says he wants to battle the white walkers, fight for the side that fights for the living. Rayder is convinced and he goes off to wardrobe to find something less emo-y for Jon to wear.
Bronn is at one of the nicer brothels with a very attractive, very seductive young lady and things are moving right along quite nicely when Podrick comes in. Bronn suggests that Podrick should just turn around and pretend he never interrupted, but Podrick is insistent. “Lord Tyrion sent me.” Bronn’s response is priceless, “I will murder you boy.” But Podrick presses on, “He said it was a matter of life and death.”
Tyrion is looking at his reflection in a mirror, unfortunately a fairly distorted mirror that can’t help his already fragile ego at the moment. There’s a knock on the door and it’s his sister Cersei, “the queen,” she adds. Tyrion looks through a peephole and sees that she’s brought guards with her. He refuses her entry but she reminds him that if she wanted to kill him, she wouldn’t let a wooden door stand in her way. Well, that’s sweet.
He grabs an axe then lets her, and only her, in. She said she’s happy to see his face isn’t as bad as she’d heard (she had heard he had lost his nose – that’s what happens when you cheat and read the book first). She tells him how the rebels got what they deserved thanks to their father. That cuts Tyrion deeply, his father is getting all the accolades for the victory. Cersei tells him she’s heard that he’s asked to speak to their father and she’s curious why. Tyrion is more curious why his father hasn’t visited him once since he was wounded.
Cersei is worried about what he plans to say to Tywin. She recalls back when she was nine, Tyrion told their father how she had put another girl’s eye out in a fight. She wonders what slander he has planned this time. Tyrion is intrigued by how concerned she is, what is she worried about in particular (oh, that she tried to have him killed, perhaps?).
Bronn and Podrick come to Tyrion’s door and encounter the two knights Cersei had brought with her. Bronn is not intimidated by the two, especially in light of the fact that he has been newly knighted himself. Yes, you can now call him Ser Bronn of Blackwater.
Bronn asks Tyrion why he called for him and Tyrion mentions that with people trying to kill him, he needs protection now more than ever. But Bronn complains that he’s grown poor protecting Tyrion, this despite the new title and his brief but lucrative run as Commander of the City Watch. Now, he says, his pockets are empty. He needs more money. They bicker about it, but you know Tyrion will give in.
Davos survived the Battle of Blackwater, but he is badly injured. He is stranded on a rocky islet in the middle of the ocean and he sees a ship coming his way. He stands up and signals, but thinks the ship is too far away and doesn’t see him. Then he hears a horn. They see him! Four men come from the ship on a small lifeboat, but they have some questions for Davos. Who is he, where does he come from, what king does he serve. He says, the one true king of Westeros, Stannis Baratheon. And the man asking questions smiles, and throws Davos a rope.
When Davos gets back to the ship, he sees his old friend Salladhor Saan, the pirate who sent thirty ships to sail with Stannis’ fleet. Saan tells him that they all thought he was dead. He’s alive, but his son Matthos is dead, he saw the wildfire take him. Davos understandably feels horrible that he led his son to his death, but Saan tries to comfort him. Davos learns that Stannis survived as well and has returned to Dragonstone. Davos asks Saan to take him there, but Saan is not keen on the idea. Stannis is a broken man who sees no one but the red woman, there is nothing for Saan there. Melisandre has been wreaking havoc on Dragonstone, burning alive any of Stannis’ men who dare say anthing against her calling them “servants of the darkness.” I don’t know why this seems to make the whole thing even worse, but Saan adds that she sang to the men as they burned.
Davos is nothing if not stubborn. He still wants to go to Dragonstone, to help Stannis and to stop Melisandre. He says he can go there and carve her heart out, but Saan let’s him know how that scenario might play out…and in both examples, Davos ends up burned to death. Davos plays the friend card, he asks pretty please, he’s pulling out all the stops to get Saan to agree.
Roose Bolton discusses tactics for a siege on Harrenhal, currently under the control of Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane (after Tywin left to return to King’s Landing). Harrenhal has recently been granted to Littlefinger by the king, but the Stark forces don’t know that. Robb does not think there will be a need for a siege, there is nothing there for The Mountain to defend. Roose thinks that he’ll defend whatever Tywin Lannister tells him to, but Robb is frustrated. The Lannisters have consistently run from him, avoiding facing him in battle since Oxcross. The victories that the Stark army have won have been relatively small. Meanwhile, the Lannisters are now joined with the Tyrells and have recently dispatched Stannis Baratheon. Robb had his men proceed directly into Harrenhal.
They go inside the gates and it is far worse than Robb imagined. Abandoned, hollowed-out ruins with flies buzzing hundreds of dead bodies. Rickard Karstark says, of what they’re seeing, “200 Northmen slaughtered like sheep.” Roose promises the debt will be repaid, for them and for Karstark’s sons. Rickard is unconvinced. “They rot in the ground while their killer runs free.” But Roose promises that they will catch the Kingslayer, saying that his best hunters are after him. They better be good, we’ve seen Brienne in action.
Catelyn is there to witness the slaughter and she recognizes one of the dead as Ser Jeremy Mallister, one of her father’s bannermen. So perhaps it’s starting to hit home for her what helping Jaime Lannister escape has cost them. One of the dead starts coughing and says, I’m not dead yet, and turns out he’s correct. His name is Qyburn.
Say what you will about Tywin Lannister. He treats his children, especially his youngest, reprehensibly, he is callous and unforgiving and obsessed with power. But the man has very nice penmanship. He’s writing a letter whilst said youngest, Tyrion, is waiting progressively impatiently. It’s just another of Tywin’s little head games. Tyrion makes pointed small talk, about the position his father now holds that he had held quite recently. Tywin mocks Tyrion’s tenure as Hand of the King, focusing solely on having heard that Tyrion brought a whore with him to King’s Landing.
Instead of recognizing what Tyrion did as Hand of the King, how he tried to control Joffrey and make decisions good for the family, Tywin continues to stick with the picture he has in his head about Tyrion – that all he does is sleep with whores and drink with thieves. It’s insulting and hurtful and Tyrion tries to sweep it away with a joke. But then he stands up for himself, telling his father how he organized the defense of the city. He wants some acknowledgement, a “good job,” a “nice work,” anything. But you don’t get those when you’re a Lannister.
But it gets worse. Much, much worse. Tyrion tells his father (and I use that term loosely, as in sperm donor) that he wants Casterly Rock. He is Tywin’s heir and Jaime cannot marry or father children (aside from the three he has wink wink) since he took the gold cloak, so the family home should be Tyrion’s by right. Tywin doesn’t just say no, he says in the most painful way possible that Tyrion is undeserving of the name Lannister, of wearing the Lion sigil, of being in the family and that while he has to endure him, he will never, ever, ever let Tyrion have Casterly Rock. In a show filled with gratuitous, over-the-top violence, that was a particularly brutal scene.
Sansa and Shae are sitting near the docks of the bay watching the ships roll in, then they’ll watch them roll away again. Sansa is playing a game where she creates interesting stories of where the various ships are coming and going, but Shae is not interested in playing. Littlefinger walks up and asks if he can speak with Sansa alone.
Littlefinger tells Sansa that he saw Catelyn recently and she’s very eager to see her daughter. He also lies to her about Arya, or at least lies by letting her think he knows where her sister is and that she’s fine. He offers to help Sansa leave King’s Landing. He will be traveling on the King’s business in the near future and he could take her with him, but she has to be ready to leave at the drop of a hat.
Ros comes up and talks to Shae. Ros mentions that she grew up in the shadow of Sansa’s father’s castle. Ros knows that she and Shae are not that different and she comments on how far they’ve both come, considering where they started. Shae pretends not to know what she’s talking about. Ros gives Shae a warning which seems appropriate, to watch out for Sansa around Littlefinger.
We hear dragons screeching and see Dany’s three dragons flying around the ship that is taking her to Astapor. They are growing bigger and are now able to capture and flame broil their own food. But they are not yet big enough for Dany’s purposes.
Jorah tells her they’ll be in Astapor by the night. The Unsullied are said to be the greatest soldiers in the world, according to Jorah. But Dany adds that they are slave-soldiers, not free men and she’s not happy about going there to buy slaves. Meanwhile, there is a lot of seasickness on the ship as the Dothraki do not do waves. Dany is hoping that many more will follow across the “poison sea” to support her, but Jorah says, not until she proves her strength to them.
Davos is back on Dragonstone. Sad music foretells a less than triumphant return. He walks in and greets Stannis, who looks utterly defeated. He says what everyone tells Davos these days, “I heard you were dead.” Davos asks to speak to Stannis alone and, with Melisandre standing right in front of him, Stannis says we are alone. So not a good start for Davos. He tells Stannis that he continues to believe in him, he is the rightful king, a good and honorable man. Here comes the but… Why is Stannis allowing men to be burned alive?
Melisandre defends the practice. How would Davos punish infidels? Davos tells her that he doesn’t kill people for worshiping different gods, if he did, he would have killed her long ago. She wonders where Davos’ anger comes from. She didn’t kill their men, in fact, she could have saved them. But Davos convinced Stannis not to let her join them at Blackwater. She repeats what she told Davos’ son as he went off to fight, “death by fire is the purest death.”
She’s pushed Davos far enough. He grabs his dagger and is about to kill her, but he is stopped by Stannis’ guards. He screams, she’s evil, she’s the mother of demons. He’s certainly right about the latter, since he was there for the demon birth. But Stannis has Davos taken away locked in the dungeon.
Joffrey is being carried through the narrow streets of Flea Bottom in King’s Landing in a king-mobile when suddenly the procession stops. He is told that Lady Margaery asked them to stop. She gets out of her carriage and walks around the streets with the regular folk. She goes to talk to some orphans and we’ve just seen the first example of the political photo op. She goes on to tell the orphans that their fathers all fought to save the city, so they will be taken care of. Not since Lady Diana has there been a royal this beloved. She’s a rock star.
It’s dinner at King’s Landing and Joffrey is his usual obliviously self-absorbed ass. Cersei is put off by her future daughter-in-law and suggests that the cleavage-baring Lady might want to cover up and avoid a chill, but Margaery is quite comfortable, thank you very much. She compliments the queen on her lovely, if decidedly reinforced, gown and Cersei suggests Margaery may start wearing more protection if she intends to frequent Flea Bottom again.
Cersei mentions how last time they passed through that area, Joffrey barely escaped with his life (you’ll remember the cow pie incident in episode 2.06). Joffrey says his mother exaggerates. Cersei gets in a little dig, saying not everyone has his bravery. She goes on to question the wisdom of dealing with the commoners, but Margaery has done this sort of charitable thing before in Highgarden and she’s happy that the Tyrells can bring in extra supplies to help the poor. Joffrey sides with Margaery and Cersei fumes.
Dany looks out at the city of Astapor. When she and Jorah come ashore, they are given a tour by the Kraznys mo Nakloz, one of the Good Masters. He does not speak the common language and so speaks to them (in low Valyrian) through a slave/interpreter. He shows them the Unsullied, the famed warriors. They have stood where they are without food and water for a day – they will stand until they drop, such is their obedience.
Note the difference between what is said to the interpreter at times and what she relays. (Interpreter saying, Dany speaks no praise to keep the price down). The interpreter tells Dany about the Unsullied. They begin their training at age five, going from dawn to dusk every day. Only one boy in four survives the training. They fear nothing. Jorah suggests even the bravest man fears death and when the interpreter translates that for Kraznys, he tells her to tell the old man “he smells of piss.” She asks, really? And he says, are you an idiot, of course not. He goes on to call Dany an ignorant whore, knowing his interpreter will leave that out.
He then puts on a demonstration on just how unique the Unsullied are. He cuts off one’s nipples and he does not flinch. It’s no big thing, they’ve already cut off worse than that. And the Unsullied have done worse to others. To earn their shields, they must go, find a newborn, and kill it in front of its mother. Baby-killer Janos Slynt would have fit right in. He says this final test makes sure there is no weakness in the Unsullied. Dany asks how many he has to sell, and it’s 8,000.
While Dany and Jorah discuss whether she should buy the soldiers, a little girl runs around them playfully with a ball. Dany smiles and engages with her, while we also see an ominous figure in a monk’s cowl lurking nearby. The girl rolls the ball towards Dany, she picks it up, and the girl gestures to her to open the ball. Just then, the hooded figure comes up (with a dagger in his hand) and wrests the ball away from Dany. The man is grabbed from behind by Jorah as Dany falls to the ground, her face inches from the orb. The ball opens and out crawls some huge scary-looking insect. It runs at Dany, but is impaled by the man’s dagger. It is a manticoreThe little girl opens her mouth, and its blue like the warlock in Qarth. She runs and disappears, only to reappear nearby.
The man who saved Dany is Barristan Selmy! We haven’t seen or heard about him since he was demoted and replaced by Jaime Lannister as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard right after King Robert died. Selmy had been kingsguard to Aerys Targaryen and served him loyally until Robert’s Rebellion dethroned him, and he became Kingsguard for the new king. Jorah knows all about Selmy and tells Dany that he is one of the greatest fighters the Seven Kingdoms has ever seen. Selmy says he has been looking for Dany to beg her forgiveness for failing to protect the Targaryens, who he had sworn to protect. He gets down on one knee and asks to join her Queensguard. And cut to black.
Jon (to Mance): If I’m a traitor, then you are too.
Tyrion (to Cersei): It’s not slander if it’s true.
Cersei: You’re a clever man. But you’re not half as clever as you think you are.
Tyrion: Still makes me more clever than you.
Bronn: You’ve given me a taste for the finer things. And if yiou want me to carry on protecting you, you’ll need to pay more.
Tyrion: I thought we were friends.
Bronn: We are. But I’m a sell sword. I sell my sword. I don’t loan it out to friends as a favor.
Tyrion: How much?
Bronn: I’m a knight now. Knights are worth double.
Tyrion: I don’t even know how much I’m paying you now.
Bronn: Which means you can afford it.
Talisa: You’re lucky to be alive.
Qyburn (surrounded by two hundred dead bodies): Lucky?
Cersei: A bit of a comedown from chamber of the Hand. But then I don’t suppose you need much room.
Tyrion: Grand Maester Pycelle made the same joke. You must be proud to be as funny as a man whose balls brush his knees.
Tywin (to Tyrion): Jugglers and singers require applause. You are a Lannister. Do you think I demanded a garland of roses every time I suffered a wound on the battlefield?
Tywin (to Tyrion): I would let myself be consumed by maggots before mocking the family name and making you heir to Casterly Rock.
Tywin: Why? You ask that? You who killed your mother to come into the world. You are an ill-made, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust and low cunning.
Shae: Why should I make up a story when I know the truth?
Sansa: Because the truth is always either terrible or boring.