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TV Review: Game of Thrones Returns Sunday on HBO with “Valar Dohaeris”

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Off to Westeros for Game of Thrones‘ third season. Premiering tonight on HBO, the high fantasy drama series based on George R.R. Martin’s epic novels picks up right where it left off at the end of season two.

The new season, which covers about a third of Martin’s third novel Storm of Swords finds the battle lines re-drawn after Stannis Baratheon’s (Stephen Dillane, John Adams) failed siege of Blackwater Bay. Stannis now licks his wounds at Dragonstone where Melisandre (Carice van Houten) is burning those who disagree with her. Stannis broods, horrified that he has murdered his own brother Renly in pursuit of the Iron Throne, but Melisandre assures him that his an ordained pursuit and that in the end it shall be worth it.

Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is north of the wall, and having killed the Halfhand, begins endear himself to the king north of the wall Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) in a dangerous “behind the lines” effort. It is Rayder’s help he (and the Night’s Watch) will need to protect everyone from the White Walkers, whom all fear now that they appear no longer mythical.

 

Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion Lannister (played by the fabulous Peter Dinklage), who saved the throne from Stannis’ seige at the end of season two with the ingenious use of “wildfire,” has been rewarded by being stripped of his role as Hand of the King. Relegated to spare and tiny digs while recovering from his battlefield injuries, Papa Tywin (Charles Dance) hasn’t even come to see him. Finally granted an audience with the new King’s Hand, Tryion tries to confront Tywin about his rightful place amongst the Lannister lions. The scene is one of the best in episode one as Tywin’s unrestrained disdain of his youngest son is bravely borne by Tyrion, who will never stop trying to win his father’s approval. If Tryion’s brilliance at the battle of Blackwater Bay have not gained the respect of the cold, ruthless Tywin, I suspect nothing will henceforth!

Although he was never a favorite character of mine in the first few novels, Tyrion has endeared himself to me with Dinklage’s intelligent, vulnerable performance, creating, perhaps one of the series most noble characters. His Tyrion is easily the character for whom I root most heartily as the seasons pass. I am completely with his lady Shae on this!

On the other hand, sister Ceresei (Lena Headey) continues to play ruthless bitch, although one can hardly blame her. She realizes that as a woman, she has very little power, and she endeavors to make the best use of it she can. And with her somewhat psychopathic son Joffrey sitting upon the Iron Throne, she has her hands full trying to have even a small influence over the cruel brat-king. And with Tywin in the house as King’s Hand, what will be her place? Will she, like Tyrion be cast aside?

Jaime Lannister is being taken home to King’s Landing courtesy of Catelyn, who freed him for the promise Sansa and Arya’s return. In the custody of Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), Jamie makes life miserable for his female knight-escort, who is by turns both exasperated and bemused. However, I sense in Jaime a growing attraction and respect for the statuesque Brienne, and their banter is clever and enjoyable. Jaime, whom I really detested in season one, is really beginning to grow on me in season three.

Joffrey has taken a keen interest in Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer, The Tudors), and I would say “poor girl,” but she seems to know quite what she wants and how to get it. But where that leaves the no-longer-betrothed (thank God) Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is anyone’s guess. Lord Petyr “Littlefinger) Baelish (Aidan Gillen) wants to escort her home to Winterfell. As long as she stays within Joffrey’s orbit, her life, he insists, she is not safe. But should she trust the shifty, patently untrustworthy Littlefinger, whose allegiances seem to change with the wind? On the other hand, he certainly has a soft spot for Sansa’s mother Catelyn (Michelle Fairly), whom he has known since they were both children. He sees much of Catelyn in the young Sansa, but should she be flattered or worried about that?

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.