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Game of Thrones Review: Battle Scars

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Viewers may have cheered a trip back to Westeros on the Game of Thrones Season 3 premiere, but the returning favorites we caught up with on "Valar Dohaeris" were stuck on a very different kind of trip tonight:

Guilt.

Indeed, the fallout from the events of last season - the battle at Blackwater, the freeing of Jaime Lannister by Catelyn Stark, the killing of Qhorin by Jon Snow - weighed heavily on all involved, both emotionally and, as evidenced in the photo below, physically.

How will these figurative and literal wounds play into upcoming decisions, actions and events? We have a ways to go before we find out. But a few hints were dropped on the premiere and, with such a loaded cast, it's easiest to run them down character-by character...

Scarred Tyrion

TYRION: The most beloved, the most layered and, of course, the most scarred. He saved King's Landing in the incredible "Blackwater" and his reward is a disfigured face, tiny quarters, relegation to irrelevance and a father who is cursed to "watch him waddle" forever.

Yeah. That chat with Tywin had to sting a little.

Imbuing this unexpected hero with every ounce of pain and sarcasm Peter Dinklage was at the top of his game as usual. But will Tyrion ever have the chance to return to the top of his, given the state of those around him?

He told Shae last season that he didn't want to make a run for it because he liked playing the games of Westeros. He liked out-manipulating Varys, out-thinking his sister, out-leading Joffrey. What Tyrion lacks in brawn he more than makes up for with brains - and he knows it. And he takes pride in it. And in one brief conversation his father stomped all over it, making Tyrion feel smaller than any dwarf joke ever could.

His mother died giving birth to him, it's the ultimate guilt trip that Tywin tosses at his son any chance he gets. It's the only way anyone has found so far to shut Tyrion up.

Easily the most enjoyable of all Game of Thrones characters, Tyrion is now faced with a journey back to importance, which ought to make for a fascinating watch, largely because he's so intertwined with King's Landing itself. Unlike...

DAYNERYS: Game of Thrones Season 2 was a lost run of episodes for this Mother of Dragons. She lost her children, she craved a ship, she fought off some magic and she ended up back where she started: with her dragons, on her way to King's Landing.

But at least she made some real progress in that venture this week, coming across a group of slaves and standing along with the audience for the most gruesome GoT scene to date: nipple, meet knife.

What will I be if I own an army of slaves, Daenerys wondered, preempting a potential guilt trip and proving that there still is a soft side to this hardened widow warrior. But now she has multiple loyal men fighting alongside her, willing to kill bugs and destroy all that stand in her path to the throne.

Daenerys has always felt especially far removed from the main action, but her storyline on the premiere offers hope that her wandering days are over. It's full throttle now to the seat on which she rightfully belongs. Unlike...

JON SNOW: Even farther removed that Khaleesi from the backstabbings and actual stabbings around King's Landing Jon Snow came face-to-face with Mance Rayder. An overbearing and frightening Mance Rayder, worthy of all the hype and fear that surrounds his name back at The Wall?

Not really, not upon first meeting. Ciaran Hinds played the character as more pragmatic than anything, attempting to understand Jon Snow more than intimidate him. Why does this young man wish to switch teams? Because he wants to "fight for the side that fights for the living."

It's meant to be a lie couched in some truth from that one baby-stealing incident... but it's safe to assume there's more validity in that statement than Jon Snow cares to admit. Might he be feeling guilty about associating with anyone who would allow such a scenario to have taken place? Will his undercover mission cause him to question his loyalty? To consider himself more of a Wildling than a Wall Watcher? That's the main question viewers should be asking themselves.

JOFFREY: I should really title this section Margaery, huh? Ms. Tyrell made the quite the impression on her betrothed, daring to - GASP! - not just interact with the townspeople, but to help them, to learn more about them, to offer them her assistance.

Is Margaery truly this magnanimous? Does she truly wish to rule because she yearns to empower the peons? Or, in a far more likely set-up, is she simply a politically savvy future Queen who comprehends the pros of cozying up to those beneath her, as opposed to cowering like a certain boy King?

It's also worth noting Cersei's quip about Joffrey's "bravery," or lackthereof. There are major chinks in this family armor, something Margaery is sure to notice and play to her advantage.

Elsewhere, Sansa yearns to escape; Davos is headed to the dungeons; and Robb Stark is still angry at his mother, while lamenting the lack of any real battles between his men and the King's army.

However,, as is so often the case on such a dense series, these storylines were merely touched upon. Game of Thrones is so epic in scope that many times we just spend a moment or two with certain characters, bouncing around the Seven Kingdoms and never feeling especially entrenched in various storylines.

But "Blackwater" proved how it's all worth the wait, that there's a payoff at the end and producers understand sometimes you need to focus entirely on the fight for the throne itself. The bloody, no holds-barred, who-will-possibly-die-next battle for the throne, that is. So let's all celebrate that the path there is no longer coming, it has returned.

NOTE: TV Fanatic will be reviewing Game of Thrones as a television show. We ask those who have read the books to please refrain from spoiling anything for viewers. Thank you - and comment away!

Review

Editor Rating: 4.2 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (140 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Fifty

Finally I have read all the novels and come here and find out there is no novel approach!!!! Wuz up with that??? Anyways, loved the scene Tyrion with father (awesome again Peter Dinklage) and Dany's slave scene was ok too.There are some changes as Richard mentioned....hm..we'll wait and see how they affect the season.

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For what could have been shown and sadly, what was, this episode was very disappointing. Since there is so much to show, this was 10% of the whole season. Its too bad that they do not give fans 12 or more episodes per season, as some things; such as, Strong Belwas, the mystery of Selmy, Dany knowing what is said, are jumped over. Even sending Cat away was like done by whim, not substance. This may have been the worst episode and given the status of buildup and season premiere, it was weak.

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I came to the series first, and have started reading the books. I'm totally a fan! Knowing that all characters wouldn't get air time during the first episode (impossible), I felt the need for Arya. Other than that the Tyrion/Tywin meeting was awesome! Dany & the dragons (fishing scene), and the slave Army scenes were great! Joffrey's new wife has major smarts & plans! I'm thrilled there are new episodes to watch!

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As a true fan (of the novels and the show), I was so happy that the wait was finally over, that I was generally willing to overlook certain weaknesses and flaws of the show. But I was rather disappointed that we didn't see Arya in this episode, since Valar Dohaeris is strongly linked to her storyline. She should have appeared in this episode. Other than that, scenes beyond the Wall don't really do it for me - everything happening beyond the Wall is depicted so intensely in the novels, characters and stories have so much strength and power - the show just doesn't do them justice.

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Is anyone at TVFanatic doing the "novel approach" reviews this year? :)

Snakethecritic

★★★☆☆TV Polite Premiere Didn't force any of the arcs. As standalone episodes this show will average 3-4 stars. As a series it's one of the best if not the best.
Game of Thrones
SigilBent Spoon
MottoSlow story yet character pleasing HboGo I�U .

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I am still wondering what the heck was Ghost doing with the Night's Watch ??! He is supposed to be with Jon until he sends him away which is not now at all.
And I am a bit disappointed that there was no suspense surrounding the reveal of Ser Barristan Selmy or the showdown between him and Jorah. As said in the review, I think that each storyline was rushed and that's a bit disappointing. Maybe there is so many things to happen this season that they do not want to waste any time with unnecessary suspense. In the plus side, I love the actor playing Roose Bolton. He has the scary translucent eyes ^^

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It's Davos, not Stavros. I do wish we had Strong Belwas and the mystery of Arstan Whitebeard. And they did not allude to the fact that Danaerys knew everything Kraznys was saying, being that she knows High Valyrian.And what happened to Sam the Slayer?

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I had been hoping for a bit more action, but in hindsight, I thought maybe it needed to go slowly at first to get everyone back in the game. I have read all the books, and was expecting more. But as any reader of Martin knows, patience is a requirement, since we do have to wait YEARS between books!

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Not there best !!!!!!!!!!!!