What makes Game of Thrones so great is also what makes it so frustrating.
George R.R. Martin has created such a dense world that it's a thrill to simply sit back and watch it all unfold, as characters plot life-altering decisions, battles are waged and unlimited blood is lost. Many boobs are also shown.
But with so many storylines to serve, the show often drops in and out of various parts of the Seven Kingdoms, making it difficult to become truly invested in any ongoing arc. Consider:
The Game of Thrones Season 3 premiere concluded with Dany's adventure, as she ponders a slave army and gained an important new ally.
Subsequently, in "Dark Wings, Dark Words?" Dany was nowhere to be found.
Instead, we caught back up with Arya and Bran, each on their own journey to be reunited with family members, each meeting very different obstacles along the way.
Arya's tough facade was quickly broken down by the Thoros from the Brotherhood Without Banners and her identity was outed next, sniffed out by a captured Hound. Probably my favorite storyline of the hour, this one provided more than just an update on Arya and her two pals. It propelled it forward.
It also gave Oliver Queen serious competition for Best Archer on Television.
Bran, meanwhile, met two of many new characters who jumped into the fray this week: Jojen and Meera Reed. Aside from making all Love Actually fans feel very old (yes, the former is portrayed by drummer extraordinaire, Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Jojen delved deeply into Bran's brain. Literally.
Both these young men possess the power of prophetic dreams. Jojen has been searching for Bran. He holds him in very high esteem. He sees him as a savior of some kind, a hope that comes back to the mystical three-eyed raven.
For non-readers of the book series, this is all very vague and opaque, words and teases cloaked in mystery and in the supernatural. But there was also movement on Bran's front, a feeling we're at least headed somewhere important.
The same can't really be said of our stops North of the Wall. Jon Snow continued to wander a bit and bond with Mance. Samwell could barely stand up. Everything remained really cold and dour and felt awfully far removed from the fight over the throne. The momentum of an episode always seems to stop when we spend time with Snow.
Fortunately, there was Olenna Tyrell to perk us right back up.
She referred to the iron chair as "ugly." She yearned for some cheese. She gave Sansa the sage advice that "once a cow has been milked, there's no squirting the cream back up her utter."
In short: she was totally awesome.
And Margaery appears to be proving me wrong. Last week, I figured her stop to care for the townspeople was some kind of political move, some way in which she was looking ahead and realizing that an appeased lower class could only help her and Joffrey keep it down.
But there's clearly more to Margaery. She isn't playing the people. She's playing the king. She now knows he's a "monster," but did she ever really doubt it? Yes, she seems power... but for nefarious purposes? She's a wily one that, Margaery, and as Cersei hilariously pointed out, she doesn't wear a lot of fabric on most occasions. Nothing wrong with that.
Elsewhere: Theon was tortured for information and Tyrion anything but tortured by Shae. The latter pair will be keeping its eye on Sansa and whatever Littlefinger may have in mind for her, while Theon... well, it's hard to say he didn't deserve all of what he received this week.
As always with Game of Thrones, there was far more to like than dislike. This broad world is a captivating one. But I missed Dany. I could watch a show based entirely on Brienne and Jaime, whether they're fighting with their words of their swords. And I am curious where everything is headed.
I just wish we didn't sometimes take so many detours along the way.
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