Game of Thrones "Valar Dohaeris" Review: Parents Just Don't Understand

By Tim Surette

Apr 01, 2013

Game of Thrones S03E01: "Valar Dohaeris"

The people of Westeros may be buckling down for a years-long winter full of misery and White Walkers, but our winter was INSUFFERABLE. It was sooooooooo long! And the wait for Game of Thrones Season 3 made enduring it even harder. I'd like to see Westeros put up with what we just went through; then they'll have something to complain about. Those guys didn't have to wait for Game of Thrones. We did.

But we did it. We endured three months of cold weather by wrapping up in our Game of Thrones Snuggies, sipping hot cocoa from chalices, and re-enacting "Blackwater" with some strategically sewn burlap sacks, a kiddie pool, and sparklers. And now the glorious day has arrived. Game of Thrones is back.

Season 3 has all the makings of an epic 10-hour saga thanks to its source material. A Storm of Swords is the best book of the series so far, according to a survey of me. It's so overflowing with shocking turns of events that the mega-tome (1,216 pages in the paperback) is being split across Seasons 3 and 4. There will be blood, there will be boobs, and there will be tears. Sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday night, if you ask me. 

So settle in, grab a snack, and let's review what happened in the Season 3 opener, "Valar Dohaeris."


It's worth noting that the season started off with the sounds of clanging metal, war cries, and then the sound of people dying
 over black. And standing out above all of that were what I believe to be the shrieks of White Walkers! Is this foreshadowing? Something that happened between seasons? Just a mistake by some editor who's probably since been fired? Or just the sounds of that beheaded guy in the opening scene getting his head cut off?

"We have to warn them, or before winter's done, everyone you've ever known will be dead." —Lord Commander Mormont

The last time we saw Samwell Tarly, the bumbling pork pie was our last line of defense against an army of White Walkers, wights, and other things that go bump in the cold. Personally, I didn't like his chances. I wouldn't like Sam's chances against an ice cube tray. 

He must have run in the opposite direction of the Frozen Army, because in the opening scene he was all alone. That is, until he happened upon one of his Night's Watch brothers in a few pieces. And where there are Night's Watch members in pieces, there are White Walkers, and sure enough, one came barreling down on Sam. But like a furry white Batman, Ghost shot through the blizzard and tackled the WW because he's a badass, the creature was set aflame by Lord Commander Mormont, and Sam lived another day to fall in love with inbred women and stuff his face with haggis. (Note to A Song of Ice and Fire sticklers, I do not know if Westeros actually has haggis. But I'm going to take some artistic license here, so if I get a minor detail wrong, let's please just let it slide. Also, haggis is awesome. Feel free to substitute dove pie if it helps.)

Mormont didn't give Sam so much as a, "You okay, lad?" before asking him if he'd dispatched the Westeros equivalent of a Tweet in sending ravens to warn EVERYONE about the crapstorm that's about to hit. Sam blew it. If a wight breaks down your door and tears you to shreds, you can curse Sam while you bleed out. Way to start the season off on a downer of a note, Game of Thrones. I thought Season 3 was all minstrels and lemon cakes and happy times!

"In your heart, all you crows want to fly free..." —Ygritte

Staying up north, Jon Snow had leveraged the murder of Qhorin Halfhand (at Qhorin's request, to allow Jon to infiltrate the Wildlings) into a tour of the Wildling campgrounds, and things were looking pretty standard with tents and dudes walking around in bone armor and OHMYGOD A GIANT! A real life special-effects-created giant! The first real eye-popping scene of Season 3 was a winner, and the special-effects team got it so right. That giant looked GOOD, and I only saw it on a barely DVD-quality advanced screener, I can't wait to see Stretch in high definition.

Jon almost peed himself at the sight of the big guy, and Ygritte picked up on his greenness and did what Ygritte does best: She made him feel uncomfortable. Seven Gods, I love Ygritte. She told Jon that the more you stare at a giant, the more likely they'll Little Bunny Foo Foo you and bop you in the head so hard that you'll end up driven into the ground like a railroad spike. And then she left with the slightest playful smile on her face. It was the best TV smile since Carrie Matheson's on Homeland, and now it's time for Jon to take off the Night's Watch cloak and hit that or get out of the way because she's hot stuff.

Jon was eventually escorted through a hail of rocks thrown at him by Wildling brats (hey jerk kids, your fathers are all dead so there!) to Mance Rayder's tent, where he mistook the red-bearded Tormund Giantsbane for the King Beyond the Wall. Way to make an impression, Jon. Giantsbane was so obviously not Mance. Didn't you read the books? Mance did come out eventually, and it was Ciarán Hinds! He asked Jon to explain why wanted to bail on the Night's Watch, and Jon actually gave him a truthful answer: He wants to be on the team that will fight the White Walkers instead of hanging out with celibate rejects who turn the other way when a man hands his newborn babies to the White Walkers. It makes you wonder how much Jon still has invested in the Night's Watch, and how much of this ruse could actually seep into him permanently. I mean, Mance has GIANTS and is totally okay with sex! And as if those two facts weren't enough on their own, who wouldn't want to have sex with a giant if the opportunity arose? Stay with Mance, Jon, and get all your kinkies out.

"I serve the one true king... Stannis Baratheon!" —Ser Davos Seaworth

I don't know if you guys remember that little skirmish in Blackwater Bay last season, but one of the unanswered questions to come out of that scuffle was: Where's Davos? When we last saw the salty sea smuggler, he was getting blown backward off his vessel by an explosion, right after watching his son immolate in a brilliant chartreuse cloak of wildfire. But it'll take more than a green fireball of death to sink this guy. 

SPF-starved Davos was one volleyball shy of Castaway, drying out on a rock in the middle of the lonely sea. It wasn't 'til a passing ship saw him that Davos flapped his arms like a jumping-jack champ, and when some unidentified sailors rowed up, Davos faced the biggest trivia question of his life after broadcasting that he serves the one true king of Westeros. Now, you have to understand, the "one true king" thing is a pretty touchy subject. "Which king?" the sailors asked. Do-or-die time, Davos. Answer correctly, and be pulled out of the ocean to live. Answer incorrectly, and *game show buzzer sound* be left on the rock OR killed on the spot. Did he:

A) Wimp out and say Joffrey Baratheon-Lannister, because Joffrey won the battle and these guys were most likely to be Lannister supporters?

B) Stick to his guns and his last shred of honor and say Stannis Baratheon, the man he did serve in the battle, even though Stannis got his butt kicked, and even though these sailors probably weren't part of Stannis's crew?

C) Do anything to stay alive and offer to be their sex slave, never to sit comfortably again? 

Davos may be missing part of his hand, but he's still got all his honor and went with B. That's just who Davos is. If you aren't on board with Davos, then you don't know a cool dude when you see one. Davos is the man.

Thankfully, the men in the boat belonged to Davos's friend Salladhor Saan, the dread pirate who wanted to get into Cersei's pants more than he wanted riches. Salladhor gave Davos the SITREP on Stannis, and it wasn't good. He's still feeling the whip cracks from Melisandre, who's decided to burn anyone who speaks against her. I loved Salladhor's casual line about being married four times, btw. It ain't easy being a pirate.

This was followed by a fantastic scene where Davos visited Stannis and Melisandre, one that we can all relate to. We've all known someone who's fallen under the spell of a wicked significant other, and here was Davos watching Stannis continue to do exactly that. Davos warned Stannis that Melisandre is bad news, but Melisandre followed up with what the internet calls "woman logic": Stannis lost the battle because she wasn't there to help the troops. Because Davos wouldn't allow her to accompany Stannis in battle. Ohhhhh, so Blackwater is Davos's fault now, is it!?

Davos didn't take kindly to bearing the blame for thousands of men getting their skin burnt off and drowning at the same time, and he lunged at Melisandre. It was a good effort, but all it did was get Davos thrown in the Dragonstone dungeon. The Starks, Targaryens, and Lannisters get most of the attention on Game of Thrones, but I find the Davos-Stannis-Melisandre triangle to be one of the strongest current storylines. And come on, that "Warrior of Light" jam is awesome, and the Melisandre remix edit is even better.

"She freed Jaime Lannister. The Lannisters robbed them of their sons, she robbed them of their justice." —Robb Stark

I'm not going to pretend that I know everything that's going on in this thread, but from what I gather, the Mountain went to Harrenhal and slaughtered a ton of Robb's men. And old big beady Rickard Karstark seems to think Jaime Lannister was responsible for it? Either way, Robb is pretty upset that his big catch, Jaime, was set free by Catelyn, when he could have been tortured as payback for the loss of about 200 men. It was pretty harsh of Robb to send his mom to the clink, but in Robb's eyes, Catelyn done goofed when she sent Brienne to swap Jaime for Sansa and Arya. Okay, let's move on.

"Thanks to father..." —Cersei and Tyrion Lannister

It was the typical Lannister lovefest back in King's Landing as Tyrion's valiance at the Battle of Blackwater was rewarded with a room downgrade and the stripping of his Hand of the King title. First it was Cersei who pestered him about what Tyrion was going to tell Tywin because she's a snake and thought Tyrion might tell Tywin that Cersei ordered Ser Mandon Moore to kill him during the frenzy of Blackwater. We still don't know whether Cersei ordered the hit, but Varys seemed convinced that it was her and really, would you be surprised? Cersei's good at two things: fucking her family and fucking over her family. And Tyrion doesn't want to get between those thighs, so that leaves only one option for Cersei.

Tyrion eventually did see his father, and it. did. not. go. well. This was another fantastic scene thanks to Charles Dance owning it as Tywin and Peter Dinklage perfectly taking the abuse like a champ. This is going to be a hard sell to you guys, but I totally understand Tywin's position here (I don't agree with it, but I see it). He's got Jaime, the golden boy of the Kingsguard, and Cersei, an icy queen who knows how to rule in the Lannister way. And then there's Tyrion, the imp who drinks thrice his weight and surrounds himself with whores. Tyrion is nothing but a disappointment to his father, so of course Tywin isn't going to give Tyrion Casterly Rock. Who would ever think he would, even if Tyrion did save King's Landing? Tyrion is the black sheep of the family; he's not as handsome, he's not as strong, and he's not as much of a dick. 

What I don't agree with is the constant blame on Tyrion for killing Mama Lannister during his birth. Tyrion was just trying to come into the world, man! And here's my disgusting and possibly offensive theory on why Tywin hates Tyrion so much: Tyrion killed his mom because mom's vagina wasn't big enough to let him out without tearing her into pieces, right? And the reason her opening wasn't big enough is that Tywin wasn't man enough to make it that way, if you know what I'm saying. So every time Tywin looks at Tyrion, Tywin's reminded that he has a small penis, and that pisses him off. BOOM. Case closed. Oh come on, it's obvious Tywin has a small penis, that's why he acts the way he does.

I'm not gonna lie, I lit up when Joffrey came on screen. I love the guy. And I love Jack Gleeson's performance as Joffrey. It's PERFECT. Give this kid an award, please. Anyone who musters up that much hate at least deserves a Golden Globe. They give those to anyone, right?

It's fair to say that Margaery is basically Princess Di, right? She's literally walking through piss and shit to visit orphanages and offer them help. What a saint! But is this a PR campaign? Remember what she told Renly about doing anything to become queen? Is she so power hungry that she's willing to mingle with disgusting, good-for-nothing orphans? Anyway, if it is a PR thing, it's a convincing one. "You should be proud of your dead dads!" That's either really sweet or really sinister.

Joffrey met Margaery for dinner (late as usual, chump), and he entered with a zinger: "At what point does it become treason to waste the king's time?" HAHAHAHA, Joffrey. Go write for Jay Leno. Anyway, the dinner hadn't even started before it became so obvious that this proposed marriage isn't going to work. She's into orphans, and orphans are into throwing their poo at Joffrey. It could help the image of the royal family if they get hitched, though, and maybe that will be what convinces Cersei to allow it. Also: Ser Loras, come on, we all know you wanted to comment on Cersei's gown and her shoes. Just go ahead and be fabulous, no judgments here. 

Elsewhere, Shae gave me more reason to hate her. She has no imagination! Even Sansa looked great by comparison. C'mon Shae, loosen up a bit, you idiot. I do not like Shae, not one bit. Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish showed up to talk to Sansa, and let her know that she should be ready on a moment's notice to leave King's Landing because he'll take her to a far away land. And no one will care. Sansa is of zero use at King's Landing. Her dad's dead, Winterfell is ashes, and her family is trying to kill the king. If I were Sansa, I wouldn't wait for Littlefinger. I'd start swimming for Dorn. 

While Littlefinger was chatting with Sansa, Shae and Ros had a hoe-to-hoe chat about starting from the bottom but sucking their way up to the middle. Shae doesn't think they share the same background, hinting more at the possibility that she may not just be a lowly whore. We still don't know her true origins; all we know is that she's the worst. Ros is the best, though. That's a slut you can take home to mom. She's smart enough to have picked up on Littlefinger's curious interest in Sansa, too, and might give us a little foreshadowing about what's to come. Remember, Petyr had a huge crush on Catelyn, and if you can't bag the mom, go for the daughter. (Note: Do not actually do that, that's kind of gross.)

"I need an army." —Daenerys Targaryen

First, let's recall how Dany looked at the beginning of Season 2:

Characters from Les Miserables would be all like, "You filthy! Look at that lip blister! Is she a damn chimney sweeper? This is not a look befitting the Queen of Dragons, this is a look for the Queen of Coal Mining."

And now, check out how she looks at the beginning of Season 3:

Dannnnnnnnnng, girl! Dany is looking is 'specially fine! What a difference a season makes! I'm no Tim Gunn, but she is making it work! The simple blue top plays off her eyes and perfectly complements her hair! Look at that necklace that doesn't even clip together, it just hangs there through the power of physics! Someone find me one on Etsy, please. Even the briny air of the Summer Sea can't touch her elegant yet casual platinum 'do! The girl is rocking it and should be on the cover of Cosmo with 10 tips on how to please your horse lord. Who knew that Game of Thrones would be the only thing to ever get me interested in fashion? I'm wearing a grocery bag for pants and water wings, yet now I find the time to comment on a blouse? Just more proof that this show loves the little details.

This show also loves dragons, and what an entrance for Drogon (the black one). Side note: Has the show actually named the dragons yet? Or are they still just "Dragon 1" and so on? Either way, very cool decision to start off with a reflection of Drogon and pan up to get the real deal. It was another scene that I can't wait to see in high definition, especially Drogon's fish fry at the end. 

After spending one season with Dany needing respect and respectful love-making from her husband, and another season with Dany needing a boat, in this season Dany needs an army. So Ser Jorah Mormont took her to the slave city of Astapor in search of one. But the sea-ride to get there wasn't sitting well with the landlubbing Dothraki, and I can only imagine horsemeat tastes even worse coming up than it does going down. I'll have to ask an IKEA shopper. (Topical humor.) Yet these Dothraki ignored their thalassophobia to follow Dany, and Dany seemed pleased. Jorah was dubious, saying they won't truly be hers until she proves herself strong. Well, how about a face full of dragon breath, Jorah? Would that be strong enough? Sheesh! 

Dany arrived in Astapor to browse the city's Unsullied, an army of slaves so well-trained that not even an impromptu nipplectomy can make 'em flinch. These guys are total badasses AND baby killers! But getting them won't be easy. Slave-trading asshole Kraznys mo Nakloz was the non-English-speaking used-car salesman, and it afforded the show a bit of humor as he and his translator Missandei (new cast member Nathalie Emmanuel of Hollyoaks) mixed their signals about what to tell Dany. Score another win for the costume department for Missandei's boob gown, and did you notice how the wind was doing everything it could to flip that dress over her head? Of course you did, pervert.

Dany isn't too keen about the Unsullied being slaves, nor is she down with the baby murder that's involved in admission into the ranks or the slave driver who treats them like blocks of brie that you can just slice a piece off of. You can see where this is going already, can't you?

Anyway, just because Dany was miles away from Qarth (worst city EVER) didn't mean that she was far from danger. Those warlocks who drink way too many blue raspberry Slurpees went after Dany again, taking the form of a playful child in need of a haircut and using a puzzle box where the prize inside was a deadly scorpion-ish thingamabob. But before the bug could stick her, it got stuck itself by a mysterious cloaked old man, who later revealed himself to be the one and only Ser Barristan Selby! I love this guy! He's like the Westeros version of Stephen Lang or Jack LaLanne! Old people rule! 

Dany enjoyed a pretty good start to the season, because we should all be honest with ourselves and admit that her storyline in Season 2 was pretty lame.


Each week, I'll rank the episodes of Season 3 from best to worst. But remember, these are just my opinions! Feel free to post your own in the comments!

This week: "Valar Dohaeris" was definitely the best episode of the season so far! Like, totally better than any of the others. I didn't have any problems with the episode at all, and thought it did a good job of reacquainting us with the series and setting the table for the season. There was no Bran, no Arya, no Jaime, and no Brienne (did I miss anyone major? And don't say Lancel). But we got some great arcs with with the folks we did have, except for Robb and Catelyn's brief appearance. If Game of Thrones wanted to fit all its characters into one episode, each episode would have to be three days long. I prefer more complete arcs contained within an episode instead over weekly short glimpses of everyone. And hey, GIANTS.

1. "Valar Dohaeris" (Episode 1)
The season premiere found Tyrion wondering why he wasn't getting dap for saving King's Landing, Jon getting pledged into the Wildling fraternity, Davos pissing off his friend's girlfriend, and Dany shopping for an army. 


– FYI, I've only read slightly into A Feast for Crows (Book 4) because I didn't want to get too far ahead of the show, especially knowing that I'd be covering it for So while I know what happens in A Storm of Swords and therefore most of Seasons 3 and 4, I don't know what will happen beyond that and I'd like to keep it that way. 

– Everything is out of order! But I don't have any qualms with that.

– I kind of wanted to see the prologue from the book (some members of the Night's Watch plotting treason) play out. I got super into it when I re-read it. I wanted to see Chett and Small Paul!!!

– Was anyone else disappointed that Mance wasn't strummin' some tunes? I always thought his musicianship was a big part of the introduction of his character. He was way more unassuming, which made the shock of him being the king that much more effective. On the show, he was just sitting in the corner and there was very little misdirection. This Mance appears to be less of a charmer.

– Nice nod to what actually happened to Tyrion in the books when Cersei said she heard he'd lost his nose. But I don't blame them for keeping Tyrion intact, that Dinklage is just too handsome to mess up.

– It's a good thing they made Messandei older in the show, because she's like 10 years old in the book and if a 10-year-old was wearing THAT dress, Chris Hansen would be a regular on the GoT set.

– The reveal of Ser Barristan as Dany's savior was great, because hey, SER BARRISTAN! But in the book, I loved that we didn't know Ser Barristan was the guy who saved her until way later, since we couldn't "see" him. We spent a few chapters with this mysterious old man before we knew it was Ser Barristan because Dany didn't know who he was, and (I believe) Ser Jorah was MIA at the time. The show had no option but to reveal it right away because TV is a visual medium.

Comments Policy: Please, no book spoilers in the comments section. Anyone caught posting a spoiler will get a visit from Mario Lopez and/or a ban from this site. Just be cool.

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  • Dirk13 May 28, 2013

    Also, correction article writer, Bran was totally in this episode? Do you not recall that scene in the whorehouse near the beginning where Pod (wait, Pod still works for Tyrion?) comes urgently to get Bran to which Bran replies "if you interrupt my sexing any further, you will die."? Honestly at the angle they stopped at, my response would have been the same, no wonder he asked for double the money.

    Also, you were forgetting someone important, well technically anyway. Theon! I mean, ok, he may be out of commission sort of, but as far as we're aware he's not dead (has not moved onto any episodes beyond the first one yet mind you, but consider this response apt for when this review came out originally :P) .

  • FamilyDutyHonor Feb 12, 2014

    (Late to the party, I know) Bran and Bronn are two different characters; Bran- Ned Stark & Catelyn's middle son that was crippled by Jaime Lannister. Bronn- Tyrion's unsavory sells word.

  • Dirk13 May 28, 2013

    The " Melisandre remix edit" was deleted from youtube. What was it? Is it anywhere else?

  • Nightvoice Apr 23, 2013

    A great show that I can recommend to any adult. But any parent who would allow their children to watch this show is a person I'd never want within 100 yards of my children. That's the kind of parent that would bring home hardcore porno DVDs for their kids or sneak them into adult bookstores and that's not a parent. Woe to HBO for marketing this show to kids!

  • artica Apr 08, 2013

    That was an awful review! Sloppy and sexist bs - get someone else to write please!

  • JayAtkinson Apr 07, 2013

    Did I really see below somebody say Tyrion and Tywin's scene was pointless? Seriously? How can any scene that combines the awesome talents of Charles Dance and Peter Dinklage be pointless? I just watched this scene a few minutes ago and I am still in awe. There is so much to love and behold, in the acting and the dialogue, not to mention the many nuances to both if you care to look or remember. This scene has given me even more appreciation of the conversations between Tywin and Arya. Because there he was, talking with a servant, what he perceived to be a commoner and knew to be a Northerner (and therefore an enemy), and yet he still treats her with more fondness and kindness and respect that he treats his own son.

    I have always said that Game of Thrones is a show (and book) about perception. Each character seems different depending on which set of eyes you are looking through. This is the moment you truly see Tywin through Tyrion's eyes, and get a firm sense of the abuse that he has had to suffer probably all his life. Not slight belittling around the war-council table. Not with begrudlingly amiable like when he offered him the Hand of the King role, because he was already thinking of Jaime as a lost cause. No, this is full-on Bastard Tywin at his truest and most abusive worst, and through that we also see a new side to Tyrion. A man known for his quick wit and never at a loss for words forced into silence in the face of his Father, struggling to find his tongue at the start of the conversation and throughout. And even when he does, his sarcasm and remarks have none of their usual confidence and bite. And it isn't just in words, where Tywin bears a look of disgust, hate in his eyes, the pain and disappointment is etched on Tyrion's. Maybe it is not out and out tearful like with Shae at the end of season two, but it is there, amid the stoic mask years of similar abuse has taught him to adopt. This was fine work and great performances by both actors and amazing writing. We've seen Tyrion vulnerable before, but this was Tyrion at probably one of his lowest ebbs, the ebb he has been stuck on his whole life: as a man who wants (almost) nothing more than to be loved and respected by his Father, who knows he will never get it and yet remains hopeful each time an opportunity or encounter arises---be it after successfully fixing all the pipes and plumbing in Casterly Rock or saving King's Landing from invading forces---only to be crushed yet again. But as they say about people at their lowest, the only way is up. This is the moment I believe Tyrion sees that even moving Heaven and Earth wouldn't win his Father's approval, and starts him down the path to come and hopefully to the realisation that perhaps his Father's approval is not approval he should have ever wasted time seeking.

    Given all of that, how can anyone call it pointless?

  • ElRob Apr 05, 2013

    I thought the episode was pretty weak, on the whole, just a collection of "where are they now" vignettes, with Robb and Catelyn's the most pointless of the bunch.
    I liked Daenerys's scenes, also the incomparable Charles Dance as Lord Tywin and the brief appearance by Stannis and Melisandre (Carice Van Houten rocks, see "Black Book" and you'll see what I mean).
    I'm not excited at all by Ciaran Hinds joining the cast. I actually didn't care for him as Julius Caesar in Rome, to be honest, and I reckon his performance here will be more of the same. Fortunately Mance Rayder isn't a terribly important character, in my view, so it shouldn't have too much of an impact.
    I hope they find more for Oona Chaplin's character to do, she's foxy and a nice variation from the books.
    Winter is coming!

  • danricherson Apr 03, 2013

    I have a feeling that Ceran Hines (sp) will do exactly what he did when he played Caesar in HBO's Rome, and be AWESOME! This was just the first glimpse; and obviously he's gunna be a bit more reserved and cunning with a "crow" new to the camp.. Inside the little tent, he's all business, and very capable of reading people, and I do believe that he will have a big part in completing the manipulation of Jon to fully turn him into a Wilding. We got a LOT to come from Mance Rayder, I bet..

  • danricherson Apr 03, 2013

    Best line of season 2 was Barriston

    Barriston: Have no fear, sers. Your boy king Joffrey is safe, no thanks to any of you. Even now, I could cut through the five of ya as easy as a dagger carves cheese

  • NadaAlAnbar Apr 03, 2013

    the giant did look great ('',

  • danricherson Apr 03, 2013

    Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell) is basically playing the same role as she did when portraying Anne Boleyn on The Tudors.... manipulate the King.... and while it worked for Anne Boleyn initially, it didn't end to well; she kinda lost her head shortly after becoming Queen..... (was there a pun in there) ha :)

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