Game of Thrones is a series driven by story — a giant tapestry of a story encompassing hundreds of characters, a long time span, multiple wars and a huge geographic reach. It’s epic in scope — so huge, in fact, that there’s little time for such trivia as character development, theme, or figuring out where episodes should begin and end.
The vast majority of GoT episodes cut briskly from one character to another, and from one locale to another, sometimes never returning after we spend a few minutes with Jon Snow or Arya Stark. The result is a feeling of constant momentum, but that momentum is an illusion because the plot actually advances glacially. And when a show is so dependent on plot — when that’s all there is — a lack of forward motion is a big issue.
Compounding the problem is that GoT has shown itself capable of greatness in individual episodes, notably with season one’s “Baelor” and season two’s “Blackwater,” the latter of which set a high mark thanks to a narrowed focus and consistent tone (and big budget). Those episodes transcended George R.R. Martin’s source material, while the majority of episodes merely try to keep pace.
Once a show has proven it can be great, it’s hard to accept mediocrity. It would be like if after “The Suitcase,” Mad Men spent most its episodes following Harry Crane and Ken Cosgrove diligently working on ad campaigns, with Don Draper providing the occasional supervisory note of encouragement.
So with season three of GoT premiering last night, let’s check in and see what actually happened in this episode, and whether we saw any notable movement.
Spoilers from S3E01, obviously, coming right up.
Here’s what happened on Game of Thrones this week:
- Jon Snow met the King Beyond the Wall, and they chatted amiably for several minutes.
- Sansa looked at some boats.
- Tyrion Lannister learned, once again, that his family does not care for him much.
- Robb Stark happened upon the scene of some action, which had occurred off-screen prior to his arrival.
- Daenerys added one person to her army. Also, a scorpion tried to bite her.
- Davos learned that Stannis Baratheon is still a dick.
- Margaery was nice to some poor people — if GoT plays their cards right, this story could be as fascinating and wonderful as Boardwalk Empire’s “Margaret opens a health clinic” arc. Their names are even similar!
- Dragons caught, cooked and ate fish.*
And that’s what happened on Game of Thrones this week!
* Sarcasm aside, this was awesome. More baby dragons, please!