'Game of Thrones' Season 3 Premiere Recap: The War Has Just Begun

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"Game of Thrones" ep 304
Anyone got a ship? Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is looking for one. She and her dragons are looking to go across the Narrow Sea to claim her birthright.

The Episode "Valar Dohaeris" in a Nutshell:

What happened:

  • Jon Snow meets Wildling leader Mance Rayder

  • Daenerys arrives at Astapor to buy a slave army

  • Margaery Tyrell makes power plays in King's Landing

Body count: Around 200

Nudity count: 1

Dragon sightings: 3

New people and places:

  • The city of Astapor
  • Wildling warrior Tormund Giantsbane
  • Wildling leader Mance Rayder
  • Naathi servant Missandei
  • Slave owner Kraznys

Tyrion Lannister's best line: "You must be proud to be as funny as a man whose balls brush his knees."

What's the deal with … Littlefinger's plan for Sansa? What does the sneaky man want with her?


Winter is here, and it looks like it's going to be a brutal one. The Season 3 premiere of "Game of Thrones" doesn't feature a ton of fireworks; instead, there's a lot of political intrigue, chess moves, and positioning. The Battle of the Blackwater may be over, but the war for the world has just begun.

North of the Wall: Sam and the Night's Watch

Last we saw the Night's Watch, they were headed for a clash with an army of White Walkers. Guess the men didn't fare well, since we open with a terrified Sam Tarly running as fast as he can (which isn't very fast). He comes face to face with an ax-wielding zombie, but is saved by Jon Snow's direwolf Ghost and then fire from his Night's Watch brothers. The Lord Commander Mormont asks if Sam sent the ravens -- his only job. He hangs his head in reply. Get it together, Tarly! Mormont orders the troupe to return to the Wall to warn the rest of Westeros.

[Related: Kit Harington, Rose Leslie, and John Bradley on Love, Death, and War in the North]

North of the Wall: Jon, Ygritte, and Mance Rayder

Ygritte's party of Wildlings leads a wide-eyed Jon to their humongous camp, which boasts some humongous giants within it. "Have you never seen a giant, Jon Snow?" Ygritte snarks. (You know she totally wants to make out with him.) "When they're angry, I've seen them pound a man straight into the ground like a hammer to a nail."

Inside Mance Rayder's tent, Jon kneels before a red-haired warrior, but the real Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) comes over laughing. He's impressed that Jon killed Qhuorin Halfhand, but why does he want to join them? To be free, Jon answers, but Mance isn't having it. Finally, Jon says that he saw a White Walker at Craster's Keep, and that the Lord Commander already knew about them. "I want to fight for the side that fights for the living," Jon says. That seems to convince Mance enough that he orders Jon some new clothes. Spiffy!

[Related: The Cast Talks About Meeting and Working With Ciaran Hinds]

King's Landing: The Lannisters and Tyrells

How far Tyrion Lannister has fallen. As he examines his scar in a less-than-luxurious room, Cersei comes knocking. He's wary; after all, his sister is likely the one who ordered a soldier to try to kill him during the Battle of the Blackwater. Cersei wants to know what he plans to talk to their father about later, and after sparring a bit, she leaves.

Who's more clever? Watch the conversation between siblings Tyrion and Cersei: 

At his meeting with Tywin, Tyrion needles his father about not coming to check up on him. And he'd like a little gratitude for leading the battle. "Jugglers and singers require applause. You are a Lannister," the new King's Hand drawls. Then Tyrion asks to be named heir of Casterly Rock, which makes Tywin see red. "To teach me humility, the gods have condemned me to watch you waddle about," he snarls, "But neither gods or men will ever compel me to let you turn Casterly Rock into your whorehouse." Awww … poor Tyrion. Where's Shae to give him a hug?

[Related: How Kit Harington's Lost Keys Almost Derailed 'Game of Thrones' Season 3]

She's with Sansa, watching ships in the harbor. Littlefinger approaches and lets her know that he has a plan for getting her out of the city: When he leaves for the Eyrie to propose to her aunt, Lysa, he'll take her with him. Sansa promises not to say a word. While they talk, though, Ros warns Shae that Littlefinger is not to be trusted. Interesting … whose side is Ros on?

Down in the city slums, Joffrey watches as his bride-to-be, Margaery Tyrell, leaves her sedan chair and enters an orphanage. Seems she's doing a little image control for herself and the royal family. Joffrey looks impressed. Later at dinner, after Cersei makes a comment about Margaery's revealing outfits, he praises her charitable work. That just makes Cersei look like she sucked on a lemon.

Dragonstone: Davos, Stannis, and Melisandre

Marooned on a tiny rock island, a sunburned Davos Seaworth flags down a ship. It's captained by his friend, Salladhor Saan, who reports that Stannis is a broken man after the battle. He sees no one except Melisandre, who's burning people alive.

[Related: What Does the 'Game of Thrones' Cast Really Look Like?]

Davos heads to Dragonstone to talk some sense into his friend, but Stannis looks defeated and sad. When Davos draws his dagger against Melisandre, the would-be king orders his guard to take the captain to the dungeon.

Astapor: Daenerys, Jorah, and the Dothraki

On a ship bound for Astapor, Daenerys watches her three dragons flit about the sky. They're growing, but not fast enough.

She needs an army, and in Astapor, they'll find the best in the world -- the Unsullied -- but Dany isn't sure about using slaves.

In Astapor, she meets with slaver Kraznys and his slave interpreter Missandei. She translates High Valyrian to Daenerys explaining how the Unsullied soldiers are trained. To prove how tough and unwavering they are, Kraznys slices a nipple off one man, who doesn't flinch. (Ouch.) He's got 8,000 Unsullied to sell; Dany says she'll think about it.

As she and Jorah walk along the docks, Daenerys spots a cute little girl, who rolls a ball over to her. The ball opens up to reveal a hissing scorpion creature. It's about to strike when a hooded figure stabs it. He then chases after the little girl, who's a warlock, but she disappears.

[Related: Emilia Clarke Was Not the First Choice to Play Daenerys Targaryen on 'Game of Thrones']

The mysterious man reveals himself to be Ser Barristan Selmy, former head of the Kingsguard. He pledges to serve Daenerys and follow her as she claims the Iron Throne. Daenerys looks pleased.

Odds and ends

  • Robb Stark's gotten so cold: First thing he does when his army arrives at the ruins of Harrenhal is order his mother Catelyn to be locked up.
  • Bronn's getting a raise (though Tyrion doesn't even know how much he pays the sellsword in the first place).
  • It was both amusing and gross to see the Dothraki (who've never been on a ship) hurling all over the ship's deck.
  • Did anyone else think that Dany could totally understand all the insults that Kraznys was making about her?
  • At the end of the episode, there was a tribute to Martin Kenzie. The cinematographer died in July after battling cancer.

Watch a preview of the next episode:

"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 PM on HBO.