Game of Thrones "Dark Wings, Dark Words" Review: Characters Welcome

Game of Thrones S03E02: "Dark Wings, Dark Words"

So... this Westeros place, and the surrounding lands across its seas, is one pretty darned big neighborhood. We have a general idea of the world in which Games of Thrones takes place; it's cold up north, there's great wine down south, and somewhere in the middle there's a fancy chair with pointy things sticking out of it that everyone wants. And boy oh boy, it's chock full of people! Enough people that a dozen battles can spill the blood of hundreds of thousands and you'd still be elbow to elbow with Westerosi.

So get used to expanding your contacts list as the series goes on. Despite already boasting a cast of characters so large it practically needs its own actors guild, you will continue to encounter even more people, and the second episode of Season 3, "Dark Wings, Dark Words," was a veritable meet-and-greet. We met the Queen of Thorns, Thoros of Myr, Jojen and Meera Reed, plus a bunch of others whose names we may never get.

But that's just about all "Dark Wings, Dark Words" was, as the early episodes of Game of Thrones continue to set the table for the massive stories Season 3 has to tell. Game of Thrones doesn't have the advantage of making typical television episodes—episodes with a consistent theme and a beginning, middle, and end ("Blackwater" has really been the only exception so far)—since the source material is already written and showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss are sticking to the general pace of the book. This makes Game of Thrones easier to digest if you think of it as a 10-hour movie instead of an hour-at-a-time weekly appointment, so we'll have to do our best to remember that as we dissect each episode.

But what all this boils down to is a cowardly preface for my next statement: This was not exactly an exciting episode, especially if you judge Game of Thrones episodes according to the amount of nudity or blood spilled. But like a beachfront restaurant that sells $15 club sandwiches, GoT has a lot riding on its scenery, and this show continues to look amazing as it brings Westeros to life. Do I care that everyone kept their clothes on and no one lost a limb in a swordfight? Not really, because there's a lot of fun to be had in just watching the show and studying how it positions characters all over the board and weaves them into new situations. So while "Dark Wings, Dark Words" was light on instant gratification, it still offered plenty in the way of escapism. Nothing else on television right now feels like a vacation the way Game of Thrones does.

So fill up your flagon of Dornish wine, and let's reviewcap what happened in "Dark Wings, Dark Worlds." 

"We don't get to choose who we love." —Jaime Lannister

There are probably still a lot of you out there who don't like Jaime Lannister, but I'm here to tell you that he's one of the best characters in the series. Come on, how long can you hold a grudge against a guy just because he pushed a kid out a window? The statute of limitations on that should be two weeks at best. In addition to his fine swordsmanship and luscious locks, Jaime also happens to be a world-class roaster, and our first introduction to Season 3 Jaime could've been billed as The Jaime Lannister Insult Power Hour, as he unleashed jabs and barbs into Brienne's humorless facade, where jokes go to die. Here's a sampling of some of his best, aimed at both that she-beast and the late, dainty Renly:

"Giant tow-headed plank." "Humorless mute." "A week's journey with you and she'll order you to fall on your sword." "I would have noticed your dour head smacking into the archways." "The little tulip." "He preferred curly haired girls like Loras Tyrell. You're far too much man for him." "It's a shame the throne isn't made out of cocks, they'd have never got him off it." "You move well for a great beast of a woman." 

It's the Don Rickles of Westeros, ladies and gentlemen! The Jeffrey Ross of the Kingsroad! The Triumph the Insult Comic Lion of King's Landing! Jaime Lannister, everybody! His tongue is sharper than his sword, his wit cuts deeper than his blade, and he fucks his sister. Only in Game of Thrones

And boy does he hate being reduced to a mere bargaining chip. Brienne reminded us what's been going on with some exposition: She's bringing Jaime to King's Landing in hopes of swapping Jaime for Sansa and/or Arya. But Jaime is a recognizable fellow and the road to King's Landing is long, so when a pleasant traveler wished them well on their journey and Jaime told Brienne it'd probably be a good idea to slit the guy's throat so he couldn't tell anybody he'd seen them, we could all guess what was coming. 

It wasn't long before men from House Bolton, a subsidiary of Stark Enterprises, appeared to snatch them up at the end of the episode. Remember, Brienne and Jaime have no allies, and ironically, it may be worse for Brienne's mission if she and Jaime are wrangled by those who support Robb, as they'll just throw them back to the wolves. If they'd been picked up by lions, at least they'd have a free ride to their destination. But it was that nice traveler who sold them out to Stark bannermen, just as Jaime suspected. Nice "told ya so" look by Jaime toward Brienne at the end there.

But their misfortune bodes well for us as viewers. With Jaime and Brienne nabbed by Bolton men, it sets up a situation where the two will share a common enemy. They'll have to put their differences aside and work together in the perfect Odd Couple sitcom setup (but keep the insults coming, please). 

"I didn't ask for black magic dreams." —Bran Stark

Well, well, well! It looks like Bran spent the off-season in the Enchanted Forest of Puberty, because the Stark rugrat has become quite the teeny-tiny man-child since he left the impromptu BBQ of Winterfell! His soft features have angled out, his voice has sunk an octave, and that mop-top of his has almost reached a Ramones length. Unfortunately, he's still Bran the Boring. Sorry! It's true.

At least, he'll be boring until we figure out what all his darned dreams about the three-eyed raven mean. And Game of Thrones doesn't appear to be in any hurry to tell us. The lanky new kid, Jojen Reed, dream-told him, "You can't kill [the raven], you know, because the raven is you." Well thanks, now I'm even more confused. Obviously Bran is wielding some cool power, it just won't make any sense until he learns to control it. It's like seeing teenage Spider-man wake up with webs in the front of his underwear. Figure it out, Bran! We're waiting! 

But at least Bran's storyline will now include the Reeds, Jojen and Meera. Jojen is like Bran a few years from now; he's got more control over "the sight," but he's not doing us any favors by not explaining what it means to have it. He said that Bran can see things in the past or things that are happening far away, but so far all we've seen Bran do is dream that he can walk again and chase birds. "Dark Wings, Dark Words" didn't offer much of a look at either of the Reeds—we still know very little about them—but at least they stand to add some personality to Bran's storyline. Between Bran, Osha, Hodor, and Rickon, we're looking at a pretty boring party. And that's one thing I felt like this episode did really well: The new characters it introduced instantly added some intrigue, and that definitely goes for the confident Jojen and Meera. Heck, Jojen totally Beastmastered Summer into mellowing out. How cool was that?

"I'll tell you anything you want!!!" *whimper whimper* —Theon Greyjoy

Does anyone know what was happening with Theon? Last I remember, he'd gotten knocked out by his own men back at Winterfell after his Howard Dean-ish speech, and now he's on a rack getting a sadistic mani-pedi? I have to assume that the man behind Theon's current plight is Ramsay Snow, the bastard son of Roose Bolton who was sent to Winterfell by his dad (with Robb's blessing) because he was the only one in the area who could check in on Theon's rebellion. More proof that it's Bolton men? It looked like Theon was on the same contraption that appears on those awesome House Bolton flags. Anyway, a pretty crummy situation for Theon, but don't pretend like you don't enjoy it, because Theon is a total prick. But Theon might get out of it, as his sister sent a man to help him get out... or did she!?!?!? I say keep sticking things in Theon for at least two more episodes.

"I like you, but if you're playing us false, it won't be hard to kill ya." – Mance Rayder

This busy episode only gave us one quick scene with Jon Snow (sorry ladies!), and all we really saw was a dude with his eyeballs stuck in the back of his head wArging out as he looked through the eyes of a bird to scout the territory. This means we also saw only a little of Ygritte (sorry me!), but she still gave Jon the business by incredulously asking him, "What, you've never met a warg?" Jon, please get on that quick so I can live vicariously through you.


"Of course if you don't stop, you'll probably die, too." —Dolorous Edd

Mance's warg saw lots of "dead crows," and in the next scene we found out why: They group is on one of the worst walks ever. Beaten down and exposed to the elements, the Night's Watch was headed south again and Samwell was having none of it. So the little piggy oinked out a few "woe is me" moans about being left behind while Grenn and Dolorous Edd verbally smacked some sense into him. Even Lord Commander Mormont got in on the action, FORBIDDING Sam to die. It was close to being that scene in Airplane where everyone lines up to slap that woman in the face during her freak-out. In the end, Mormont told the jerk who was harrassing Sam (I think Mormont called him Ross?) to look after Mr. Tarly, which may be worse for Sam than when he was alone. Again, quick scene, not much to talk about other how awesome Dolorous Edd is. 

"Will I be wearing manacles when I lay my father to rest?" —Catelyn Stark

Arguably having the worst day of everyone was poor Catelyn, who received bad news and then worse news when she learned that her father had died and Winterfell was toasted extra crispy and also her two youngest sons are missing. She's still in the doghouse for releasing Jaime, and now this? It sent her into a major funk and when Talisa tried to talk to her about anything, she launched into a guilt-ridden confessional about how when Jon Snow was a baby, she'd wished that he would die, and then Jon came down with Baby Pox. Whoops! But Jon lived, and Catelyn swore to be a mother to him. She must have had her fingers crossed, though, because she ended up being a terrible parent, and she attributes all the bad stuff that's happening to her now to the fact that she broke her promise. Catelyn is one bad raven-mail from banging her head with pots and pans until she knocks herself unconscious. She needs a hug, badly, but Robb can barely look her in the eye. Uplifting stuff, Mr. George R.R. Martin!

Meanwhile, Rickard Karstark threw a dagger at Robb when he said, "I think you lost this war the day you married her," meaning Talisa. Maybe, Rickard. But he WON the war for Marrying the Hottest Woman in Westeros, so try looking at it like that. 

"That's what intelligent women do... what they're told." —Joffrey "Bonehead" Baratheon-Lannister-Jerkface

Joffrey Baratheon may be the most hated person on television, but I think we can all agree that the world is a better place when he is on television. He's endlessly entertaining, whether he's trying on blouses or scowling at his mother. Jack Gleeson absolutely kills it as Joffrey, and yes, I will say this every week. He's an asexual brat king who's only concerned with treating the countryside like his own private anthill to stomp on. Cersei asked him what he thought of Margaery, and even though sexy Margaery regularly walks around King's Landing with her tits hanging out, all Joffrey could talk about was how joining their houses meant he'd be able to squash the opposition easier. Joffrey only cares about the bottom line, not Margaery's bottom. 

And as it turns out, Joffrey's lust for power is only making it harder for Cersei to convince him that Margaery isn't a good fit for him. She slut-shamed Margaery about her skanky attire, complained about Margaery's concern for the normal people of King's Landing, and reminded Joffrey that Margaery previously married a traitor in Renly. Joffrey's reaction? "Shut up, mom!" 

Cersei's attempts to sway Joffrey took a major hit in a fantastic and totally weird scene between the brat king and his new slut queen. Joffrey asked her about her past relationship with Renly, and then Margaery launched into the truth: Renly was gay and only willing to have drunken butt sex with her! This show! What!? I don't know whether Game of Thrones knows how gay people work, but I'm pretty sure gay people are in love with the same sex, not butts. Anyway, that allowed Joffrey to make his stance on gays clear: He'll kill 'em all. Westeros, you have found your Westboro Baptist Church. Next, I assume he'll be protesting the funerals of soldiers who died in the Battle of Blackwater Bay. 

But wait! There's more! Joffrey spent the entire scene stroking his new crossbow like a phallus, and it wasn't until Margaery expressed interest in killing things that Joffrey got a boner for her. Absolutely perfect. Foreplay for Joffrey is pulling the legs off spiders. Good luck with that, Margaery. You won't get pregnant without sporting a couple black eyes first. Cutest couple in Westeros? They get my vote. 

"I try to know as many people as I can, you'll never know which one you'll need. ... Alright yes, I fucked her once." —Tyrion

Very little Tyrion tonight (PUN INTENDED), and frankly I didn't really see the point of his scene unless it was foreshadowing that Tywin is about to kill Shae, which is fine by me. Tyrion's lady friend was waiting for him in his chambers, despite the fact that she's not allowed in there (Tywin has enacted a "no girls allowed" rule). Shae was worried about Sansa and Littlefinger, but then she freaked out on Tyrion when he said Sansa was a looker and that he'd once errrr twice bedded Ros (fact: EVERYONE has bedded Ros, it's no big deal Shae). Clingy much, Shae? Then she went down on him! Well okay then! 

"Yes, all Lannisters are lions. And when a Tyrell farts it smells like a rose." —Olenna "The Queen of Thorns" Redwyne-Tyrell

Regardless of what you think of Sansa, you have to admit that over the course of the series, she's improved a LOT. She's still a dumb teenage girl ("Ewwwww Littlefinger is soooo old!"), but she's also earned our sympathy because of the position she's stuck in. She's a ghost in King's Landing, vestigial royalty looking for a purpose. What she needs are friends, and I don't mean that idiot handmaiden Shae. But who would have thought that one of her best buds would be an old wrinkled woman with a tongue sharper than Valyrian steel?

Before we talk about the Queen of Thorns, though, let's focus on Sansa's great teenage-girl moment with Ser Loras "The Knight of Flowers" Tyrell. Apparently her gay-dar is completely busted, and Sansa crushed all over Renly's former lover, reminding him that he gave her a red rose at the Tournament of the Hand. If you recall that scene, Loras made goo-goo eyes at Renly while handing the rose to Sansa. But poor Sansa thought he was flirting with her, and he didn't even remember a thing. Haha. He's the Knight of Flowers, Sansa. Does he need to be labeled the Knight of Calvin Klein Tighty-Whities, Body Scrubs, and Showtunes for you to pick up on it?

Loras was leading Sansa to sup with Margaery and her grandmother, the awesome Olenna "Queen of Thorns" Tyrell, one of my favorite characters in the series. This old clucker ain't rollin' over for nobody! She instantly laid down the law about how it be: Everyone else is boring, and she's awesome, so you should listen up. Her son? An idiot. Her husband? A moron. Renly? A loser. I want to spend the rest of this series sitting on her knee and listening to her rip everyone else to shreds. I'll admit I expected Olenna to have the same dour demeanor as Maggie Smith from Downton Abbey, but former Bond Girl Diana Rigg plays Olenna a bit more matter-of-fact, making the character's so-over-it personality more effective since it's not entirely her essence. She insults people without effort, like it's an ingrained part of her, rather than making a big point of it. Kind of like Dolorous Edd and his natural knock for persistent pessimism. Anyway...

Olenna and Margaery brought Sansa over for cheese because they wanted the scoop on Joffrey directly from someone who'd been "fortunate" enough to spend some time with him. And it was AWK-WARD. Do you tell the woman who will soon have the power to cut your head off that her fiance is a dog-slaughtering, woman-beating, masochistic brat? Or do you look pretty and lie your ass off? Sansa gave the latter a shot, but Olenna saw right through her fibs, opening the door for Sansa to just let it all out and tell the truth despite the fact that disparaging the king is punishable by death. 

It was Olenna and Margaery's reactions that showed Sansa she was in good company. They both just shrugged their shoulders and said, "That's a shame." It was a wake-up call for Sansa, who's spent her life thumbing through Westeros Tiger Beat magazines and crushing on every lad in a suit of armor. Sansa is still holding onto the idea of romance among royalty, but the Tyrell ladies know it's a business. Margaery's already been passed around like an old T-shirt from supposed king to supposed king, and Olenna's content enough to see her granddaughter become queen as long as she can get some cheese, like right now. 

Great work by Sophie Turner and director Daniel Minahan in this scene, by the way. 

"What in Seven Hells are you doing with the Stark bitch?" —Sandor "The Hound" Clegane

Our first look at Arya this season found her in a typical Arya situation—that is, in a real crummy predicament. Can't she just get shoved into lockers or pantsed at school assemblies like other kids? Instead, she's on the run with Hot Pie and Gendry because she murdered her way out of Harrenhal, trudging through dangerous thick woods without GPS and only a yet-to-be-seen river as a landmark. When I was her age, a bad day meant spilling chocolate milk on my NES controller.

Gendry and Hot Pie should know that trouble seems to follow Arya, and while trekking through the forest they met the Brotherhood Without Banners, a group of men who are tired of all the "rightful king" talk and who just want to roam the countryside and protect it through outlawin'. They're led by Thoros of Myr (the great Paul Kaye), a charming fella who took a shine to Arya's spunkiness (and probably figured she was worth something to someone). That hunch was confirmed when men from the Brotherhood stumbled into an inn with a captive Hound, who outed Arya as a Stark. Bad doggie!


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:
"Dark Wings, Dark Words" didn't make as much of a splash as the premiere (dragon count: ZERO), but it did expand the series' roster with the introduction of some snappy new characters. The show did a particularly good job with Thoros of Myr, making him a lot spicier than he is in the book. But not a whole lot actually happened, resulting in a slow episode where the high points were some good conversations (and the conversations were great, so no big complaints there). It was an enjoyable hour, but better than the premiere? I don't think so. 

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. 

2. "Dark Wings, Dark Words" (Episode 2)

We saw Arya, Jaime, and Bran for the first time in the season. But the most exciting parts of the episode were the introductions of the Queen of Thorns, Thoros of Myr, and the Reed super siblings. And we may as well mention that Joffrey got a boner from imagining Margaery killing things, that pervert. 


– Due to questions regarding what constitutes a spoiler from the books and what's okay and what's not okay to talk about, I'm abandoning the "Book vs. Show" section from last week. I encourage those who WANT to talk about the differences between the two to open up a post in our Game of Thrones forums. Please keep the comments section free of spoilery info from the books, out of respect for those who are only watching the show.

– No Dany this week, and she was sorely missed! I need to know whether that Unsullied soldier's nipple crater got infected! 

– Two episodes in and no Varys yet? Conleth Hill is arguably the best actor in the cast! Let's get him some screen time next week, Game of Thrones, or I'm gonna be sad.

– Are you bored, in the vicinity of New Orleans, and male with dark, curly hair and a beard? Then this Craiglist posting might be for you. (Warning: not canon!)

– Are you okay with no dragons, no giants, no deaths, and no nakedness? Or do you need more action in your Game of Thrones?

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom

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