Game Of Thrones: Season Three
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RW. To say anymore than those two letters would be to spoil one of the biggest things that you’re ever going to see on your television. Anyone that has already seen the third season of the ever improving and ever amazing Game Of Thrones will understand.
If you thought the first two seasons of the fantasy drama were of unsustainably high quality and full of genuine surprises, then this third season will likely blow your mind. In an effort to keep this review spoiler free we’ll skirt around the specifics, but safe to say that there are at least three jaw droppingly, mind blowingly, brilliant things that happen. To distinguish between scenes, episodes, or arcs would be to give too much away, so ‘things’ is a catch-all. If this all sounds a little vague then you’ll thanks me once you’ve watched these ten episodes. And you must watch these ten episodes.
So what can we talk about? Well, the War Of The Five Kings is still raging, with the major players having varying degrees of influence in this third year. Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister has a more pivotal and meaty role at the patriarch of the ruling dynasty, moving the pawns around the chessboard at will, including his grandson and King, Joffrey. Stephen Dillane as Stannis Baratheon is merely a bit part, albeit seemingly setting things up nicely for more involvement in season four. There’s the handsome Robb Stark (played stoically by Richard Madden), winning battles but seemingly not the war, and Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) skirting the edges of the action.
Whilst the war is the main thrust of the story, as always there are a multitude of other storylines happening, with the cast of characters continuing to grow. The one danger for the show is an overwhelming number of people and places to keep track of, this definitely isn’t a show for the casual observer. Amongst these other threads there’s the rest of the Stark clan, bastard Jon Snow (played with smouldering anger by Kit Harrington) is now north of the wall hanging out with the Wildlings, Arya Stark (the sparky Maisie Williams) meets up with the Brotherhood Without Banners and makes an unlikely partner with ‘The Hound’ (Rory McCann), Sansa Stark continues to live a life of misery in Kings Landing, and Bran Stark continues his journey towards the Wall.
The most thrilling journeys lie with Jaime Lannister, brilliantly played with a previously unseen lightness of touch by Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, and Daenerys Targaryen, with Emilia Clarke growing in stature as an actor with every episode.‘The King Slayer’ travels a huge distance, both from character perspective and across the map. By the final episode he’s almost unrecognisable and that’s a tribute to Coster-Waldau whose performance is note perfect, with his quiet subtlety making the transformation believable. Contrast that with ‘The Mother Of Dragons’ and her transformation from insecure would-be queen, into a freer of slaves and true leader of an army. And, those dragons are getting a little larger… It’s a little tiring lavishing praise on all the actors in this show but Emilia Clarke is yet another fantastic turn. To think she had barely any acting experience before appearing in the show is almost unbelievable.
Other stand out characters this season are the always fantastic Peter Dinklage being fantastic, as always, as the scheming underdog Tyrion Lannister. Michelle Fairley does more excellent work as Catelyn Stark, working her way back into the trust of her son. And all this without mentioning excellent work from Liam Cunningham as Stannis’s loyal seadog Ser Davos Seaworth, the underused Jerome Flynn as Tyrion’s hired sword Bronn, Natalie Dormer as scheming and ambitious future queen Margaery Tyrell, Diana Rigg on fine form as her mother, David Bradley making his mark indelibly on proceedings as Walder Frey, and Jack Gleeson, just the right side of teenage strop, as the fabulously loathsome King Joffrey.
Finally, massive credit must be given to the showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and their teams of writers and directors, who steer a massive cast and crew through a mammoth amount of written material, yet somehow keep the show tight, focused, and must see TV.
Bottom line? This is one of the most thrilling, tense, shocking, and emotional seasons of television ever created. Watch it now.
The picture and audio are of the usual quality for releases these days, the image is clear with excellent definition, the snow scenes are bright, and the night scenes have a surprising clarity. The audio is Dolby Digital, with 5.1 working well, just as you’d expect.
Now, what about the extras? There are lots. ‘Inside The Wildlings’ is a six minute summary of what the Wildlings are, some interesting details about the thought process of how they look, act, and live, with insight from art directors and costume designers. ‘The Politics Of Marriage’ is an eight minute dissection of how marriage moulds the world of Westeros and beyond and it offers nothing more than a literal recap of the politics of marriage within the series. There are the ever present deleted/extended scenes, none of which add anything interesting. There’s a featurette recapping season two for those who have poor memories, ‘A Gathering Storm’. Another slightly pointless extra is the ‘New Characters Of Season 3’ feature that summarises who’s new. If you have time to indulge the commentaries, of which there are twelve in total, there are some interesting tidbits, but some are also slightly slow chatfests between colleagues. The commentaries shed some light on filming techniques, editing, how some sets were built on parking lots, that certain scenes that look like they’re outside are actually soundstages, and the sheer scope of the show with filming in different countries - when not even the director is sure where! To reiterate the opening paragraph, to say much more about the commentaries would give away too many spoilers, safe to say there are tears involved.