Game of Thrones 3.01 "Valar Dohaeris" Review

A tv review article by: Dylan Garsee, Nick Hanover

 

Game of Thrones HBO Logo

3.01- "Valar Dohaeris"

 

Nick Hanover: So, Dylan, it's been a year since we last reviewed Game of Thrones. And in that time a lot has happened. I moved in with a White Walker that I have now banished, and you continue to live with an elongated version of Tyrion who is somehow not quite as funny. And the world of Westeros has moved on, as well. 

I'm not entirely sure how long after last season's finale this season's premier actually takes place, but like the premiers before it, it quickly and efficiently gets us up to speed and readies us for what you've promised me will be a season that will stab me in the heart. So where do we start with our discussion this week? Tyrion's sad family affairs? Jon Snow's snowiness? Daeny's continued education on the fetish culture of Westeros?

 

Game of Thrones Valar Dohaeris Margaery

 

Dylan Garsee: So Game of Thrones premiered against the finale of The Walking Dead, and if my facebook/twitter was any indication, those were the only two shows on Sunday. Since the show started with what feels like a big cheeky wink to the the fans of TWD that skipped the finale, specifically a zombie chasing Samwell Tarly, let's start there.

Now, we watched this in a big group on Sunday night, and when Samwell showed up on screen in all of his nasty neckbeardy annoyingness, someone in the group said "Oh, I'm happy he made it out of last season alive." As someone who has read the books, no, you are not. Oh my god, Samwell is so boring and annoying, and reading his chapters in the books was a chore for me. So, I was worried from the get go of this episode. However, I think the writers and producers feel the same way, because we were quickly torn out of the Samwell plot and brought up to speed on America's favorite dreamboat that always looks like he just smelled a dirty diaper, Jon Snow.

 

Game of Thrones Valar Dohaeris Jon Snow

 

Nick: Even Samwell's compatriots were irritated that Samwell was still alive. The exchange about the ravens was both hilarious and depressing: "YOU HAD ONE FUCKING THING TO DO" is what literally everyone's face said. Still, Snow isn't much better. I know we were supposed to be worried for him in the land beyond the wall, but his IMPORTANCE is so awkwardly telegraphed every time he's on screen that at this point I assume that he could get eaten by a dragon and still be fine. I will say that this aspect of his plot has more potential for holding my interest, though, because at least we get to see what the other King of the North is up to and who he's assembled, which we now know at least includes real fucking giants.

Dylan: Jon will get much more interesting as the season progresses, and thankfully Kit Harrington strikes the perfect balance between charismatic and completely frightened, so his transformation this season will be interesting to watch. I am sad to report the "You Know Nothing Jon Snow"-count is still at zero, though hopefully that will change soon.

Nick: I'll have to take your word for it, but given how dull Snow is in general, it wouldn't be difficult for him to become more interesting. Mance Rayder, however, managed to live up to the hype and then some. I especially liked Snow's immediate snafu with mistaking one of his lackeys for the man himself.

 

Game of Thrones Mance Rayder Valar Dohaeris

 

Dylan: Snow's ability to turn the situation on its head so quickly was a small but important piece of character development that I'm happy was pulled off so well. I can't wait to see how they handle the story of the Wall and beyond this season.

But everyone knows the best part of every episode of Game of Thrones is the opening credits. I'm very upset that they didn't adopt the Anamanaguchi cover of the theme song as their new opening.

Nick: They're obviously saving the Anamanaguchi cover for the retro Game of Thrones brawler that's coming out, where you play as Bran controlling Hodor as they traverse through the wilderness. 

Dylan: Oh yeah, duh. How silly of me to forget that.

Nick: After the business with Snow and the Wall, we did at least get a more surprising return with the reappearance of Davos, who is pretty beat up but seems to be reinvigorated with a new sense of purpose, namely getting rid of our favorite Shadow Babby factory, Melisandre.

 

Game of Thrones Davos Valar Dohaeris

 

Dylan: Poor Davos' face... Also, someone at the viewing party finally said whatI have been saying for the past year: Davos looks exactly like Nick Offerman. But with less fingers.

Nick: And less face, now. Davos might be the saddest character on a show full of sad characters. He's a smart guy who unfortunately lets loyalty get in the way of that intelligence, and his belief that he could somehow walk back into Stannis' land and talk him out of shacking up with a crazy fire obsessed lady was pathetic even before the news that Stannis and Melisandre have spent their post-Blackwater time lighting people on fire.

Dylan: "Baby, take me back! I know I done you wrong, but I can change! Please don't have your scary Tori Amos-in-a-prom-dress puppet master set me on fire!"

Nick: I don't quite understand what Davos thought would happen in that situation. When has Stannis ever shown affection for anything?

Dylan: I think all Davos wants is for Stannis to play catch with him in the backyard, just once.

Nick: Even that would be a disaster, since Davos is missing most of his important fingers.

 

Game of Thrones Valar Dohaeris Davos Melisandre

 

Dylan: [This sentence is where Dylan would have made a joke about that, but as he was writing it, realized it would be a huge spoiler]

Nick: That means Davos is either going to lose more fingers, or he does, in fact, play some kind of game of catch with Stannis in the near future.

Dylan: A Song of Ice and Fire is actually a prequel to Moneyball.

Nick: But really, Stannis and Melisandre are obviously up to something, and given Daeny's port journey, I still feel like she may eventually be involved. Stannis lacks resources at this point, but it's clear that he has no intention of leaving the Game of Thrones to the other players just yet, and Melisandre is the biggest wildcard operating right now. 

But on the Daeny note, she likewise wound up in an awkward situation, except hers centered around the removal of nipples instead of fingers. Daeny's experiences last season were at times humiliating, and it's clear that she intends to take action now rather than letting that happen again, so now she's in the market for soldiers, which brought her to one of the douchiest characters Game of Thrones has ever introduced, a black market slaver/super soldier breeder who conveniently used another language to talk smack about Daeny. Am I the only one who expected Daeny to reveal that she understood everything he was saying before having one of her pets devour the guy's balls?

 

Game of Thrones Daenerys Valar Dohaeris

 

Dylan: No, because Daeny has always needed a translator. Remember, she's like 13 years old. Even though she's a badass and has dragons and is always dressed like she's an extra in the "California Love" video, she's still very inexperienced. Confidence goes a long way, but she knows very little.

Nick: Sure, but she picked up on Dothraki pretty quickly. I did enjoy the translator's suave remixing of what the seller was actually saying. I have to admit that I'm concerned that Daeny is now looking at acquiring mindless, castrated, sociopathic soldiers, though, rather than building up an army of loyal followers. Daeny's greatest strength has been her ability to inspire those who follow her and I'm worried that this ploy may backfire, especially since the seller is obviously not trustworthy.

Dylan: ~~~~~~REPOST THIS IF UR A STONG UNSULLIED SOLDIER WHO DONT NEED NO NIPPLE~~~~~~

Nick: PLZ SEND PICS! G RATED ONLY NO DICKS THNX

Dylan: pls responde

Nick: I do wonder if there might be a connection to Varys here, too. Or is that too much of a coincidence?

Dylan: I could tell you, but then you'd kill me.

Nick: Probably. I do appreciate that the nudity this episode was equal opportunity, though, even if the direct result was a nipple amputation.

 

Game of Thrones Valar Dohaeris Nipple

 

Dylan: I think it's time the world knows my fetish: I'm super into nipples that have been cut off.

Nick: If this episode had also featured a Jack White cameo, Dylan would almost certainly have died from excitement.

Dylan: Jack White is too busy being on better shows, like American Pickers.

Nick: Ser Jorah, however, was not quite as excited as Dylan. It seems that the rift between him and Daeny is growing and I'm a little worried for his future, particularly since he's one of the few likable, redemptive characters on this show. I suspect we'll soon see him leaning on his former slaver contacts, which is where I'm hoping the pirates that Stannis has pissed off will come into play.

Dylan: It'll be interesting to see Ser Jorah and the relationship with the newly re-revealed MUFUKIN BARRISTAN SELMY.

 

Game of Thrones Barristan Valar Dohaeris

 

Nick: I know you said that they kind of rushed Barristan's entrance here and in the books it was drawn out much longer, but holy shit was I happy to see Barristan. We spoke last season about my suspicion that he was one of the figures going around pillaging Lannister lands, but I'm much happier to see that he has instead wound up in Daeny's camp.

Dylan: It's great because it's the beginning of the various stories coming together. As much as this show is praised for holding all of these different plot threads, eventually they're going to have to come together. And they finally are.

Nick: Plus his entrance was just cool as shit, as he stalked a demon child through the market, intercepted her Hellraiser-esque trap and blew everyone's minds in the process. I'm glad to see that Daeny's attack on the warlocks hasn't gone unnoticed, either, and this clearly establishes that they may continue to be a problem for her.

Dylan: I do love that they detail of the attack stayed from the book. It was a beautiful scarab that turned into a scorpion. Because it was magical or something. I forgot.

 

Game of Thrones Scarab Valar Dohaeris

 

Nick: Between Daeny's adventures in general and Jon Snow's trip to the world beyond the wall, it seems that this is going to be a much more fantastical season, which I'm both excited for and worried about. I'm excited because last season was extremely focused on King's Landing and other keeps and towns and it's good to get some variety, but I'm also a little worried about how the show will be able to keep it up budget-wise. Granted, everything we saw in this episode was pulled off well, so hopefully I have no reason to be hesitant.

Dylan: They could get their budget decimated to season 4 Community levels and I'd be happy, because my favorite aspect of the show (so far) is the relationship between Bron and Tyrion, and we were treated to a heaping helping of them.

Nick: Bron and Tyrion continue to be two of the greatest characters on the show and that's thanks in large part to the chemistry they have with one another. I was concerned that there'd be less Bron this season due to Tyrion's downfall, but luckily Bron was back, albeit at a higher price point, which seems to partially be due to Tyrion's knack for interrupting his sex life. As hilarious as that scene of Bron getting cock blocked was, it very quickly led into an extremely tense standoff between Bron and the typically douchey Lannister guard, who were functioning as chaperones to a terse Cersei-Tyrion meeting.

 

Game of Thrones Tyrion Bron Valar Dohaeris

 

Dylan: While the Cersei-Tyrion confrontation was super tense, it doesn't even come close to the Tywin and Tyrion meeting.

Nick: Oh god no. The Cersei-Tyrion meeting was basically an appetizer.

Dylan: Can I get a what what for "unsolved father-son issues"?

Nick: I think it's only a matter of time before Tyrion separates himself from the rest of the Lannister clan. Tyrion is too clever to not notice that the remaining Lannisters have a very different vision of the future than he does, and without Jaime there to act as a buffer, he's without an ally in the family. Interestingly enough, we didn't get much of an idea of what Varys is up to at the moment, but I imagine any Tyrion secession would involve him.

Dylan: While all of last season was Tyrion's rise to power, this season will be his fall.

 

Game of Thrones Tyrion Valar Dohaeris

 

Nick: From a television perspective, Tyrion is a perfect fit as a lead character. He functions extremely well as an audience surrogate, because he's got a handle on what's going on up to a certain point, but in many ways he's as in the dark as we are. He's also one of the only basically moral characters left on the show, and in this episode, he was shown exactly how weak that actually makes you in the real world.

Dylan: But I love Game of Thrones because there is **no** lead. Tyrion is a great audience surrogate, yes, but if the show were to ever make him a lead in the same sense that Don Draper is the lead of Mad Men, the show would instantly fall apart. What makes great art is denial. You as the audience can't always get what you want. And I love that restraint that this show brings.

Nick: Right, but Tyrion is symbolic of that denial, he's routinely denied what he wants. It's interesting, though, that's he been less quick to adapt to that than Sansa has, who was shown in this episode to be fully aware of the severity her situation even if she isn't quite sure yet what to do about it.

Dylan: That's exactly how she is in the books, and I'm happy you picked up on that.

Nick: Sansa's short arc in this episode also gave us a glimpse at where Shea stands now and she seems to be somewhere in-between Tyrion and Sansa's level of awareness, in that she still feels she's owed something but she's sharp enough to get that she's likely in danger, even though she wasn't there for Tywin's threat.

 

Game of Thrones Sansa Valar Dohaeris

 

Dylan: ...how do I respond without spoiling anything...This is going to make reviewing the season very interesting.

Nick: This is just going to be a whole season of you taunting me with your knowledge of the future.

I do have one thing that I know we'll be seeing, since it was in the second book, and that's the frog people that accompany Bran, which I can't wait for. Bran was notably absent here, but we did get to see Robb stopping by to survey the carnage at Harrenhal, which Gregor Clegane has abandoned and filled with the corpses of Northerners.

Dylan: It's good that the rest of the world is catching up on hating Robb, because holy crap he was a pooper this episode, imprisoning his mother all like that.

Nick: To be fair, she put him in an especially difficult position, and even if he understands why she did what she did, he really can't go easy on her.

Dylan: But Catelyn!

Nick: It's not as though Catelyn isn't aware of what the consequences would be for her actions. She willfully chose to face those consequences because she believed it would bring what's left of her family back together. Only unfortunately for her, she was unaware of how fractured her family now was.

 

Game of Thrones Winterfell Valar Dohaeris

 

Dylan: They need to change the Stark family motto to "God, we're dumb"

Nick: "Please, just chop our heads off already."

Dylan: "You know what, we kind of do deserve to die, don't we?"

Nick: These season premiers are always a bit tough because they basically function as catch-up for the prior seasons and a sampler of what to expect going forward, but all in all, I felt this was a good premier that left me excited for the chaos that is certainly coming. What'd you think, overall?

Dylan: Too long?

Nick: Ah, yes, those extra 10 minutes. You weren't a fan of the extension?

Dylan: I didn't really notice the expansion, because your prison-esque house doesn't have any clocks.

Nick: That is by design. If we knew how long our Playstation All-Stars bouts really went on for, we'd both shut down from depression.

Dylan: Well, you do make a great point.

Nick: So what are we giving this premier?

Dylan: It's always been difficult to rate the premieres, so I'm giving it a 4. The Tywin/Tyrion scene was beautifully heartbreaking, but the absences of Jaime and Arya were surely felt.

Nick: I can get behind that. I'm sure that lack is by design, though, so I'm confident that we'll see a swift escalation in the stakes from here on out.

Dylan: Oh, we for sure will.


Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on twitter @garseed.


Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he's the last of the secret agents and he's your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Comics Bulletin, where he reigns as the co-managing editor, or at Panel Panopticon, which he started as a joke and now takes semi-seriously. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd rants about his potentially psychopathic roommate on twitter @Nick_Hanover and explore the world of his musical alter ego at Fitness and Pontypool.

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