Game of Thrones Revisited: 3.02 Dark Wings, Dark Words
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Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed TV series by David Benioff and DB Weiss and developed from the best-selling series of novels by George RR Martin, has become a cultural icon. The tentpole of HBO's programming with a stellar cast and mix of medieval-style political drama and war with a healthy dash of fantasy, Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences worldwide. And in 2019, the show will come to a dramatic end in its final run of feature length episodes. In the lead up to season eight, I explore every episode leading up to the final battle for Westeros and the rest of the world. As we continue into season three, new characters Ramsey Snow and Olenna Tyrell make their debut in the series...
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven...
The second episode of season three spends much of its time with characters that were absent or had minimal screen time in the season opener and feels like an extension of Valar Dohaeris in that respect. It is less of a continuing story and more of a scene setter; while it doesn't quite reach the excitement of the former, Dark Wings, Dark Words is another confident episode.
This is an important episode for Bran; free of Winterfell his eventual transformation into the Three-Eyed Raven takes a step closer with the introduction of Jojen and Meera Reed. The strange bird haunts his dreams while his present flits between the journey through the North and his time in Summer's body. It is also an episode that establishes the term 'warg'; not only does Jojen share a similar trait, jumping from his human body to animals, but we also meet Mackenzie Crook's white-eyed Orell, who scouts for the Wildling army through the eyes of a encircling bird.
It's interesting how subtly Game of Thrones brings in the more supernatural elements to the show - the dragons didn't appear until the end of season one, the undead fully at the end of season two and now there are these elements, which helped to enrich the show, without abandoning the Medieval-style drama of political intrigue, sex and violence that attracted its viewers with the promise of something more than the usual brand of 'high fantasy.'
Talking of violence, this is not an episode for the squeamish as we learn of the fate of poor, pathetic Theon. His torture, the screws in his hands and feet as he lies prostrated in the rack, are some of Game of Thrones' more nastiest elements, though the worst is still to come. Iwan Rheon's Ramsey Snow, who will emerge as one of the show's most vile villains, makes his debut in the most underhanded and subtle way possible, posing as a servant sent by his sister, offering to help Theon escape while the guards' attention are turned. Knowing what is to come, it's a cruel trick indeed; the books avoided this part of Theon's journey into Reek, but the series chooses to embellish every part of that horrible journey, whether you want it or not.
Arya, Hot Pie and Gendry also cross paths with Paul Kaye's delightful Thoros of Myr and the Brotherhood without Banners, that play a big part in the third season. Arya's fierce determination and skill with a sword is enough to impress Thoros to give them a hot meal, leading to the surprise return of the Hound, who finds himself bound and imprisoned by the Brotherhood after fleeing the battle of Blackwater. Arya's discovery adds a new twist to her journey, while it's great to see Rory McCann's Hound in a different environment from his original role in King's Landing.
The capital city offers new delights, not least in the debut of Diana Rigg's fierce matriarch Olenna Tyrell. The scenes with her, Margaery and Sansa are wonderful, Rigg delivering just the right amount of sharp wit to cut to the heart of the situation while remaining loveable in her own right.
Natalie Dormer continues to make a strong impression as Margaery too; the scene where she visits Joffrey in his chamber is full of tension. Remembering the crossbow incident from season two, this is her first glimpse at the real monster Sansa alludes to and here Dormer portrays wit and cunning as she navigates her future husband carefully, disarming him with pleasant self-put downs and admiring the crossbow as she plays into narcissistic, violent tendencies by feigning delight at hunting animals for pleasure. Both Tyrells add something to the King's Landing scenes in this and future episodes.
There are still moments with favourite characters like Tyrion and Jon (though Daenerys is absent, waiting for her big moment in a couple of episodes' time). But the other big scene surrounds Brienne and Jamie, who really are starting to develop a fun dynamic as they spend more time with each other.
Jamie is able to open her eyes to the harsh reality, calling her out on her adoration of Renly and proving himself right that the innocent passer by really was going to shop them in to the Northerners. After a dramatic duel on the bridge, they find themselves captured by Roose Bolton's men, events that will bring them closer together and change Jamie forever.
Dark Wings, Dark Words is another solid scene setter, following the same early season pattern of revisiting characters in their new settings, introducing new characters and looking back on recent events that have changed the show. It isn't an episode that will stand out for many, but the fact that it gives the debut of Diana Rigg's Olenna Tyrell is enough to make it a notable entry in the Game of Thrones' canon.