‘Game of Thrones’ Revisited: Season Three

By April 21, 2016

Here we are, fellow Throne Geeks…it’s time to face the season that gave us The Red Wedding… and man, that’s a tough one to re-watch…

The third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones (if you missed them, here are our recaps of seasons one and two) is all about scheming, planning, scrambling, and yes, climbing (chaos is a ladder, remember?). Some characters do it with incredible ease and patience (Tywin), others do it with courage and conviction (Dany), and still others try to keep one step ahead only to have the rug pulled out from under them (pretty much all of the Starks). It’s a high impact season where the chess moves take on some serious long-term significance, so it’s easy to see why most people consider it the best season (to date).

First things first – here’s a list of new people and places we see in season three.

  • Astapor/Yunkai (Slaver’s Bay): Missandei, Grey Worm, Daario Naaharis
  • Beyond the Wall: Orell, Tormund (*briefly met him in season 2)
  • The Riverlands: Edmure Tully, The Blackfish, Thoros of Myr, Beric Dondarrion, Qyburn, Locke, Roose Bolton (*briefly met him in season 2)
  • The North: Meera and Jojen Reed, Ramsay Snow (Boo! Hiss!)
  • Dragonstone: Selyse and Shireen Baratheon
  • King’s Landing: Olenna Tyrell (Woohoo!)


Once again, we get many more new characters than we had deaths in season two, but author George R.R. Martin, as well as show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, handled the balance of stories better in this season than in any other (though it helps that so many characters were on very interesting personal journeys that took us to some pretty dark places…and we’re back to The Red Wedding…).

So let’s recap, shall we?

In the aftermath of Stannis’ defeat at the Battle of Blackwater, Tywin Lannister takes firm control of King’s Landing as Hand of the King. No one comes close to matching his heartlessness or his ability to rule – not Tyrion, not Cersei…even Joffrey is cowed by his powerful grandfather (though not so cowed that he doesn’t brutally murder the prostitute Ros…). Not even the gloriously blunt matriarch of the Tyrell family, Lady Olenna, is able to pull one over on Tywin (though she certainly tries as she schemes with her granddaughter Margaery, who is betrothed to Joffrey, to get Sansa married to Loras Tyrell. The plot is revealed and Sansa is, instead, wed to a rather horrified Tyrion. Being an actually decent person, however, Tyrion refuses to sleep with Sansa until she wants him to). Tywin also spends a lot of time writing letters, which becomes important once it’s revealed who he is writing to: he’s made a secret alliance with some of Robb Stark’s supporters…

Speaking of Robb, he is in The Riverlands for the funeral of his grandfather, Lord Hoster Tully (Catelyn’s father). He meets with his uncle Edmure (a fool) and his great uncle Brynden (The Blackfish) to discuss the war and has married a foreign nurse named Talisa (instead of the Frey daughter he was promised to back in season one). Catelyn is being kept under guard after it was discovered she released Jaime under the care of Brienne of Tarth (in order to trade him for her daughters, whom she believes the Lannisters hold captive in Kings Landing). Jaime’s release causes one of Robb’s bannermen, Lord Karstark, to disobey his king and murder two captive Lannister boys in revenge (Jaime was responsible for the deaths of his own sons). Robb then beheads Karstark for treason, and loses nearly half of his army as a result.

Also in the Riverlands is Brienne, “escorting” Jaime Lannister to King’s Landing. After Jaime gets the jump on her by stealing one of her swords, Brienne defeats him in a fight, only to have them both be captured by Locke, a man working for Roose Bolton, one of Robb Stark’s bannermen. Jaime, who is starting to begrudgingly respect Brienne, manages to convince the men under Locke not to rape her (by promising that her father would ransom her with sapphires – a lie), but Locke cuts off his right hand…to show Jaime who is in charge (and because Jaime was acting quite smug, as Lannisters are wont to do). Once at Harrenhal, Bolton has Qyburn (an ex-maester) heal Jaime’s wound and agrees to let him return home to King’s Landing (suspicious…). Before he leaves, Jaime tells Brienne the true story of how he became known as “The Kingslayer” – At the end of Robert’s Rebellion, King Aerys Targaryen ordered young Jaime, a member of the Kingsguard, to go out and kill Tywin (Jaime’s own father), who was just outside the city gates. The “Mad King,” as Aerys was known, then planned to ignite large caches of wildfire around Kings Landing, which would result in thousands of innocent deaths. As the king raved, Jaime killed the pyromancer who would have lit the wildfire, and then stabbed the king himself in the back.

Brienne is troubled by this more humane version of “The Kingslayer” but is not allowed to travel with him as Bolton decides to leave her with Locke at Harrenhal. As Jaime rides out, Brienne extracts a promise from him; to fulfill her oath of returning Catelyn’s daughters to their mother. Jaime ultimately returns for her, however, and saves her from dying in a pit fight with a bear. They then leave for King’s Landing together.


Because the Riverlands are such a “happening” place in season three, we also get Arya, who is, once again, captured (along with Gendry, Robert Baratheon’s bastard son). This time she is taken by the Brotherhood Without Banners, a group of men fighting against both Starks and Lannisters for reeking havoc on the poor countryside. Their leaders, a knight named Beric Dondarrion and a Red Priest named Thoros of Myr, find out Arya’s true identity when The Hound (who fled Kings Landing during the Battle of The Blackwater), another of their captives, recognizes her. After being accused of murder, The Hound kills Beric in trial by combat and, to Arya’s dismay, is released. Only, Beric is brought back to life by Thoros, through his prayers to the God of Light, and it’s discovered that he has been brought back from the dead six times.

Another follower of the God of Light, Melisandre, miraculously finds The Brotherhood’s cave and exchanges bags of gold for Gendry, who she wants to sacrifice because he has “King’s blood,” which she believes will aid in Stannis’ war against all of the “usurpers”: Joffrey, Robb and Balon Greyjoy (whose Ironmen have invaded The North). Though at first imprisoned by Stannis for attacking Melisandre, Davos Seaworth convinces him to spare Gendry’s life. So, instead, the red priestess burns leeches carrying Gendry’s blood while chanting the usurpers names. Davos secretly releases Gendry and after learning to read with the help of Stannis’ daughter, Shireen, discovers a new path for his king to take: north.

In the north Bran and Rickon Stark are on the run, having escaped the sack of Winterfell by Ramsey Snow , Roose Bolton’s bastard son. They, along with Hodor and the wildling Osha, are joined on their escape to the Wall by siblings Meera and Jojen Reed. Jojen can see the future in his dreams and knows that Bran is actually a warg: someone who can enter the mind of an animal. Also in the north is Theon Grejoy, who is a captive of Ramsay’s. In a series of very unfortunate scenes, Theon is tortured (emotionally and physically), partially flayed (the sigil for House Bolton is flayed man), and castrated. He eventually breaks, becomes a thrall to Ramsay, and is re-named Reek

Even farther north are the remaining members of the Night’s Watch, including Samwell, who stumble back to Craster’s Keep after being decimated by the army of the dead. Several brothers mutiny and kill Craster, as well as Lord Commander Mormont, so Sam flees with Gilly (one of Craster’s daughters/wives) and her newborn baby boy. During their flight to The Wall, Sam manages to destroy a white walker using a piece of dragon glass he found at The Fist of the First men (last season). “Sam the Slayer” indeed!


Also north of the Wall is Jon Snow, who, despite acting as a spy amongst the wildlings, falls in love with Ygritte (and breaks his Nights Watch vows by sleeping with her) as they join Tormund and a warg named Orell (who can see through the eyes of an eagle) on a mission to climb over the Wall and attack Castle Black. The King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder, pledges to meet them with his army and “light the biggest fire the north has ever seen.” Once over the Wall, Jon can’t bring himself to kill an innocent horse breeder when Orell tells him to, and so reveals his true allegiance by attacking the wildlings instead. He gets unexpected help from Bran, who is hiding in a nearby tower with his friends and has warged into his direwolf, Summer.

Jon escapes without knowing his half brothers were so close by, and Bran makes the decision to travel north of the Wall to find the Three Eyed Raven, who he sees in his dreams. Osha agrees to take Rickon to Last Hearth (where The Umbers, loyal to the Starks, live) while Bran and the Reeds travel to the Night Fort, an abandoned Night’s Watch castle at the Wall. There, they run into Sam and Gilly who are traveling in the opposite direction. Sam agrees to help them and lets them through the passage beneath the castle to the other side of the Wall. Meanwhile, Jon is pursued by Ygritte, who shoots him with three arrows (though she doesn’t kill him). He arrives at Castle Black to warn them about Mance’s army.

On the other side of the world, Dany has sailed her one ship to the city of Astapor where she meets Ser Barristan Selmy, an old, but legendary, knight from Westeros who saves her life and becomes the first member of her Queensguard. In order to get an army to invade the Seven Kingdoms, she offers a trade to Slave Master Kraznys: one of her dragons for 8,000 Unsullied (highly trained slave soldiers). Once the deal is done, she orders the solders to kill all of the slave masters in the city, and her dragon, Drogon, to roast Kraznys (a dragon is not a slave, you know). After freeing the Unsullied, they agree to fight for her of their own free will and travel with her, and her new interpreter/hand maiden Missandei, to Yunkai.

Once there, she is determined to free that city’s slaves as well, but needs help to do so. She finds it in the form of a sexy (?) sellsword named Daario Naharis, who murders his fellow sellsword commanders in order to serve her. He, Jorah, and the Unsullied leader, Grey Worm, lead the battle against Yunkai and win. As the slaves pour out of the gates, they lift up Dany, chanting “Mhysa” (mother).


Back in Westeros, Sansa has married Tyrion (his prostitute love, Shae, is not happy), Cersei is betrothed to Loras (her father’s idea), Littlefinger has traveled to The Eyrie to marry Lysa Arryn, Arya escapes The Brotherhood Without Banners only to be captured by The Hound, and Robb has convinced his uncle Edmure to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters to apologize for not marrying one himself (and to get enough men to attack Casterly Rock, home of the Lannisters). And so we end up at The Twins for Edmure and Rosalind Frey’s wedding. Despite the Starks being guests under Frey’s roof (something held sacred in Westeros), Robb, Talisa, and Catelyn are brutally slain (and I mean brutally…though is it strange that the hardest part for me was when Robb’s direwolf, Grey Wind, died?). Frey and Roose Bolton made a secret deal with Tywin Lannister (remember those letters?) to commit this act – Frey for revenge and Bolton to become Warden of the North in place of the Starks (who now, as far as most of the country is concerned, is without any male heirs). The Hound, who planned on ransoming Arya to her brother, manages to keep her from the carnage (though later she mercilessly kills a Frey heard bragging about his part in the slaughter).

Whew…that was a lot of ground to cover! Though I do agree that it is the best season of the series so far, season three is not without a few flaws. The show often appears to have trouble getting Stannis’ character right (he’s not always consistent) and was there really a need for so many Theon torture scenes? Nitpicks aside, however, this is some of Dany’s best stuff, and one of my favorite story arcs from any season is that involving Brienne and Jaime, two incredibly complicated and fascinating characters. Oh, and we were introduced to The Queen of Thorns – it’s hard to top that!

Best Episode:

“Kissed by Fire”: For containing one of my favorite scenes in the whole series: Jaime and Brienne taking a bath together…and heaping tons of interesting character development on us (for both of them). Also, The Hound vs. Beric! Robb swings the sword and executes Lord Karstark! Jon and Ygritte get it on! And Tywin lays the smackdown on…everyone (you will get married and you will get married…).

Best Quotes: 

  • “Do you know what the realm is? It’s the thousand blades of Aegon’s enemies, a story we agree to tell each other over and over until we forget that it’s a lie.” – Littlefinger
  • “But what do we have left once we abandon the lie? Chaos, a gaping pit, waiting to swallow us all.” – Varys
  • “Chaos isn’t a pit, chaos is a ladder.” – Littlefinger
  • “If you think this is going to have a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.” – Ramsay Snow to Theon

Best Scenes:

  • Musical chairs at a Small Council Meeting with Tywin, Littlefinger, Varys, Pycelle, Cersei and Tyrion. Could possibly be the funniest scene in the whole series!
  • Dany takes the unsullied and burns the slave masters of Astapor!
  • Jaime tells Brienne the true story of how he became the “Kingslayer.” Damnit, now the guy that pushed a little boy out a window is becoming one of my favorite characters…
  • Petyr Baelish’s “Chaos is a ladder” speech against images of Joffrey’s murder of Ros and Sansa crying over her fate to marry Tyrion as Petyr sails away.
  • The Red Wedding…??

That’s a wrap on season three! Check back in tomorrow and Saturday for our recaps of seasons four and five!

The sixth season of Game of Thrones will premiere this Sunday, April 24th on HBO.

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Rachel Cushing
Rachel is a television editor by day and either a Jedi knight, vampire slayer, or elvish warrior by night. In between she makes time for movies, movies, and more movies (plus a few books, television shows, and then…more movies). When she’s supposed to be sleeping, she writes about movies as well, both here on Geeknation.com and on her own blog. Tweet her @RachelJCushing