The Detroit Tigers may have opened against the Yankees last week, but “Game of Thrones” opened season three with everyone against each other. The episode scoured the reaches of the realm, reacquainting us with mostly familiar faces and introducing us to a few new dangerous ones — like Mance Rayder, (played by the familiar Ciaran Hinds, “Rome”), the King-Beyond-the-Wall. The return of the much-loved series drew a record-breaking 6.7-million viewers for its premiere — and deservedly so. It seems the “Game of Thrones” magic bears no signs of running out, recently renewed for a fourth season.
Game of Thrones
Season three premiere
Sundays at 9 p.m.
The third season opens with Sam (John Bradley, “Anna Karenina”), the bumbling Night’s Watch ranger narrowly escaping decapitation by a white walker. As an added element of danger to the already monstrous creatures, audiences discover death for a white walker can only be achieved by fire. Setting the stage for a winter that is not only coming, but already here, Lord Commander Mormont (James Cosmo, “Sons of Anarchy”) orders the group to march south: “We have to make it, we have to warn them or before winter’s done, everyone you’ve ever known will be dead.”
After killing his comrade to prove his status as a deserter — think “Harry Potter” ’s Dumbledore and Snape — Jon Snow is led into the wildling camp to be assessed by the Free Folk’s leader. The camp is busy, filled with children, fighters and even giants. Snow arrives to the tent of the wildling leader, Mance Rayder. The former Night’s Watch ranger interrogates Snow, yet finally offers to get Snow a new cloak — one that will match his new loyalty.
Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, the golden-haired queen Cersei (expertly portrayed by Lena Headley, “300”) reminds fan-favorite Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, “Entourage”) just how dangerous she really is, while lady Margaery (played by the sweet-faced Natalie Dormer, “The Tudors”) teaches boy-king Joffrey (Jack Gleeson, “All Good Children”, playing GOT’s perhaps most hated character) a new, humane way to rule. The imp encounters his father and new Hand of the King who only has harsh words for him. Tywin (Charles Dance, “Common Ground”) breaks his son nearly impenetrable composure, and we see Tyrion depart from the room scarred by their interaction. Viewers find Cersei just as manipulative, Tywin just as cruel, and a down-and-out Tyrion just as determined. Growing older and more beautiful with every episode, Sansa (newcomer Sophie Turner) begs the shifty and selfish Lord Baelish (Aiden Gillen, “The Wire”) to help her find freedom.
The Iron Islands, the Stormlands and the North are in open rebellion, and Robb Stark’s men are itching for a battle. The Lannisters keep running, strategically prolonging war while tiring the northern army. But Daenerys (Emilia Clarke, “Spike Island”) is itching for battle as well. Her dragons are growing, but not fast enough. Her loyal Dothrakis follow her across the “Poison Water” to Astapor, a city situated on the shores of Slaver’s Bay. Here she seeks new followers for a price, yet realizes she has not escaped old enemies — the warlocks from Qarth have not stopped hunting her. She escapes another brush with death at the hands of Ser Barristan Selmy (played by the silver fox Ian McElhinney “Hamlet”), the Lord Commander of the former King’s Guard. Exiled by Joffrey in season two, he has searched the realm to pledge his allegiance to Daenerys.
Game of Thrones always packs a lot — a lot of characters, a lot of action and a lot of locales — into its episodes. But for devoted fans, the third season opener was a perfect starting point to launch what will surely be a dynamic third season. Winter is here, war — between men, between kingdoms, between beings — is here. Aptly titled “Valar Dohaeris,” which translates to “all men must serve,” it appears this season no character will be spared from the terrors and games that will plague them all.