Winter hasn’t arrived yet, but the atmosphere seemed just as icy in Game of Thrones as the show opened its third season with everyone hating on each other. The premiere reacquainted us with all our favorite Game of Thrones characters from across the realm and introduced us to new faces as well—most notably Mance Rayder, with Ciarán Hinds playing the King Beyond the Wall. Thrilling and sophisticated, Game of Thrones delivered a top-notch episode that assured viewers of the dynamism that awaits in its upcoming season.
HBO’s Game of Thrones is a TV mega-hit—perhaps the largest production on television right now, with some 30 lead characters and an extensive ensemble cast of more than 200. Its premiere drew a record-breaking 6.7 million viewers, not to mention “the largest swarm of users ever to download the program at once,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Anyway, for those of you unfamiliar with Game of Thrones, it follows various noble families within the mythical land of Westeros, all of whom seek control of the Iron Throne. There are the Starks, rulers of northern Westeros, while the cold-blooded, blond-haired Lannisters rule the southern capital and control the Iron Throne. The Lannisters hate the Starks (and vice versa) and will stop at nothing to subjugate the family. Meanwhile, across the sea, Daenerys Targaryen, newly reinforced with her baby dragons, schemes to reclaim the throne that once belonged to her father; up north, beyond the wall (which separates Westeros from an arctic frontier) a dormant evil threatens the existence of the entire realm.
The premiere begins by reminding us of this northern evil, opening the scene with a Night Watch ranger narrowly escaping decapitation by a White Walker, creatures which are kind of like frozen zombies. And since winter is coming in Westeros, the threat of the Walkers is amplified; members of the Night Watch (a hodgepodge military order) predict the White Walkers’ infiltration into their realm upon the change in season.
A whole lot of stuff happened during last week’s episode, but perhaps the most compelling development in the episode, one pervading Stark and Lannister interactions, was the increasing intra-family hostility and hate. We see this play out between Robb Stark and his mother, who is punished as a traitor after releasing an enemy. Yet perhaps the most depressing scene is when fan favorite Tyrion Lannister (played by Peter Dinklage) demands “a little bloody gratitude” and affection from his father after his injury in battle. In response to this and his son’s request for some landholdings, Tywin Lannister reacts coldly and cruelly, calling his son an “ill-made, spiteful little creature full of envy and lust” and accusing Tyrion of singlehandedly killing his mother in childbirth. In short, he avows never to give his son any land or titles. With each additional criticism, Tyrion’s normally impenetrable composure crumbles, and we see him leave his father’s chamber depressed, scared, and essentially isolated from every member of his family. It is not simply family against family anymore in Westeros, but every man for himself.
Among other things, this intra-family enmity and the rising threat of White Walkers made last week’s episode great—not only plot-wise but also in terms of character development, giving the actors myriad opportunities to shine and show off their skills. If you’re not already a fan, I highly recommend you watch Game of Thrones. If not for the amazing quality of the show, watch at least a few episodes simply because it’s a cultural phenomenon in and of itself.