‘Game of Thrones,’ Season 3: Episode 1 Recap
Game of Thrones Season 3 debuted on HBO last night. Even following the success of the Lord of the Rings movies, it's still a minor surprise that the epic faux-medieval fantasy series is one of TV's biggest buzz shows, appointment television right up there with Mad Men and Walking Dead. One reason why: It's another example of the heavy metal aesthetic's slow penetration of mainstream culture.
That's right: The masterful, intricate, high budget ensemble drama is metal as fuck. It's about leather clad, longhaired dudes kicking ass. It's about dragons breathing fire. It's about Warlocks who look like Dani Filth. It's about poseurs who need a good thrashing. It's about warhammers and shredded flesh and hot women who will drop you with a single strike. It's about pagan religions and raiding Vikings. It's about raw power and bloody steel. Just like metal, Game of Thrones has a little magic going on, but there's a lot more graphic violence.
Season 1 was very metal. But Season Two was only moderately metal: Massive, badass action often took a backseat to interpersonal drama and political machinations. Then, right when it seemed like the show was going to go all Black Album, Season 2 ended with epic explosions, a skull-splitting battle, and a horde of undead advancing on a legion of hesher-looking dudes who were all dressed in black and collectively known as The Night's Watch. Shit's about to get real, y'all.
So, to that end, every Monday morning, Noisecreep will bring you Heavy Metal Game of Thrones Reviews. Let all the other sites go on about how wonderful the acting was and how exquisite the set design was and how delightfully intricate were the week's parallel themes.
Watch Game of Thrones' Opening Credits Done Heavy Metal Style
Each episode will be reviewed by D.X. Ferris, who has read all five of George R.R. Martin's current Song of Ice and Fire novels on which the show is based, watched each episode of Seasons One and Two at least three times, and is neglecting the Walking Dead season finale so he can file this review in a timely manner. (He also went to high school with a guy who had a band named Rayder way before the books came out.) Tune in every Monday morning for the only Game of Thrones review that matters.
SPOILER POLICY: Once you dive into the world of Game of Thrones - the show or the books - you're in for some unpredictable, shocking twists. So please don't ruin them for any new fans or casual readers. If you really need to reference one of the major future developments, please try be as vague as possible, and clearly label them SPOILERS.
Watch Game of Thrones Season 3 Trailer
Episode 3.1, "Valar Dohaeris"
"Valar Dohaeris" means, in one of the show's many invented languages, "All mean must serve." As Bruce Dickinson once sang, "Tell me why I had to be a Powerslave." Here's why: Even in a fantasy series, the world is a complicated place. And whether you want to scrounge a single bellyful of food or hold on to your safe spot in a castle, everybody has to do something they don't want to do. And this week, from the first cold moments, none of it's fun or awesome.
Blackness and zombie screams fade in sunrise's first rays, and a straggling undead meets his end yet again, this time consumed in fatal flames. Elsewhere, in a camp full of guys who look like members of Amon Amarth, with names like Lord of Bones and Giantsbane, a bastard greets a rebel king named Mance Rayder. They decide they can do business.
Cut the far South, which looks a little like Huntington Beach on a nice day. The Imp - a scarred dwarf with a thing for whores and thieves- sits there as his dad tells him he's a waste, which many a metalhead can relate to. In a far-flung fortress called Dragonstone, a red-haired black witch burns men alive. And she sees through a salt-scarred pirate who's on a seek-and-destroy mission. In a different corner of the kingdom, yet another rebel king takes a ruined castle populated with corpses, doing so without effort, but not without cost.
Back at the beach, a sleazy pimp puts the moves on an underage girl. One whore tells another, essentially, "Hello from the gutter." A prissy king cowers in his litter as his queen embarks on a mission of mercy in an orphanage covered in skeleton pentagrams.
On the other side of the ocean, beating dragon wings scrape the western sea, and a fish is roasted alive, with people to follow, surely. Yet another queen with a suspect dye job surveys an army of certified killers unafraid of death and impervious to pain. She meets an unlikely assassin, then an unlikely savior.
Cruel men wield power mercilessly, and we see a world that is, in some ways, much like ours. Whether they know it or not, everybody's at the same festival; they're just watching different bands. And we haven't even seen most of the better characters yet. The episode is over, but the show hasn't even started.
Decapitated corpses: 1
Death by fire: 1
Dudes walking around wearing a giant skull as a helmet: 1
Skeleton pentagrams: 3
Offscreen body count: 200
Onscreen corpses: Around 20
Actual body count: 1
Rating: Definitely Metal. Nothing much happens, but if the season is a ten hour movie, then this first episode is the equivalent of the first ten minutes of a conventional flick. In musical terms, "Valar Dohaeris" is the album intro, a slow build of demonic whispers, chug riffs, and the winds of war.
D.X. Ferris is the author of 33 1/3: Reign in Blood, the first English-language book about Slayer. He writes the webcomic Suburban Metal Dad and runs Pentagrammarian.com, the world's only full-contact, metal-oriented grammar & usage website. He hates Joffrey, and he doesn't care if the actor is supposed to be a nice guy in real life.