Halftime continues with our Game of Thrones recaps in preparation for the release of season eight on Sunday, April 14. Here is our recap of season three.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third season of Game of Thrones
This season includes the scene that even people who have never watched Game of Thrones know about: the Red Wedding. Season three is still the show’s highest-rated season by critics on rotten tomatoes, and hopefully, once you’re all caught up you’ll remember why.
Episode 1: Valar Dohaeris
The season opens with Sam Tarly (John Bradley) coming face to face with a wight before being saved by the rest of Night’s Watch. Meanwhile, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) pledges his loyalty to the King Beyond the Wall, who doesn’t quite trust him. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) made it to the other side after the Battle of Blackwater Bay with a large scar but little else, and when he tries to negotiate for a reward for his services to the crown, he gets brutally put down by his father.
Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham), charred and mourning the death of his son, confronts the Red Lady (Carice van Houten) over her burning prisoners and even tries to stab her, which is to little avail because Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is on her side and sends Davos to the dungeons. Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) gets a solid fan in King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is out here getting her dog-sized dragons to grill fish in mid-air (and deciding to buy a slave army in Astapor). She survives an assassination attempt thanks to Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney), former Kingsguard Commander to Robert (Mark Addy), who pledges himself to her. While all this is happening, Robb (Richard Madden, of Bodyguard) arrests his mother for freeing Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).
Episode 2: Dark Wings, Dark Words
Lord Karstark (John Stahl) is upset with Robb for taking his army to Riverrun for Catelyn’s (Michelle Fairley) father’s funeral. This furthers the sense of frustration within the ranks from his men that really started when he wouldn’t execute Jaime Lannister. Bran and Rickon are presumed dead by Robb and Catelyn when they hear that Winterfell has burned to the ground. Jaime and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), who are headed to King’s landing on order from Catelyn, have a cool sword fight on a bridge before they are interrupted and taken prisoner by people from Roose Bolton’s bannermen. Arya (Maisie Williams), Gendry (Joe Dempsie), and Hotpie (Ben Kawkie) meet the Brotherhood Without Banners, led by Thoros of Myr, and are given little choice but to follow them. The party runs into the Hound (Rory McCann) at an inn, who recognizes Arya. Jon Snow meets a warg for the first time, and realizes that there will come a time when he has to oppose the Night’s Watch. Bran and Rickon meet Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Meera (Ellie Kendrick), with the former claiming to be a warg. In King’s Landing, when questioned by Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), Sansa (Sophie Turner) eventually breaks down and says some of her true thoughts on Joffrey
Episode 3: Walk of Punishment
Edmure (Tobias Menzies) gets yelled at by Robb Stark for being a bad military commander. Daenerys makes a deal to buy 8000 unsullied men and the unsullied in-training, as well as getting Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) as a gift, in exchange for a dragon. Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) is told he will be sent to the eerie to wed Lysa (Kate Dickie), so Tyrion is made Coinmaster, which is a bad position in general, but especially because Westeros is broke. Jaime steps in to try to prevent Brienne from being raped, and he loses his hand (!!!). The King Beyond the Wall decides to send Jon and others to attack the weakened Night’s Watch from South of the Wall. The surviving Night’s Watch arrives at Craster’s Keep, where Gilly (Hannah Murray) has a baby. Melisandre leaves Dragonstone saying she needs the blood of a king. Weird, but everything about this chick is weird. During all this for the past few episodes, Theon (Alfie Allen) has been getting brutally tortured. Now he believes he has a friend. I’m just going to leave it at that.
Episode 4: And Now His Watch Has Ended
Theon believes he is escaping only to end up right back at the hands of his torturer, Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). What a twist, honestly, I don’t think they get enough credit for that. Craster’s Keep erupts into a fight because the men are starving, and Craster dies. Then, the Night’s watch turns on Commander Mormont (James Cosmo) and kills him and anyone on his side. Sam, Gilly and her son run away. Tyrion is trying to get intel on how Cersei (Lena Headey) tried to have him killed, but Varys (Conleth Hill) instead tells him about how he became a eunuch (hint, it’s creepy) and tells him to be patient. The Brotherhood, Arya, Gendry and the Hound all hang around in a cave and the Hound is sentenced to trial by combat for his crimes. Margaery tells Sansa she can organize marrying her to Loras (Finn Jones), thus finally saving Sansa from this nightmare of a life.
Danearys, though I wouldn’t recommend using her as a model in politics or business, double crosses the masters of Astapor by taking her army and her dragon, saying the infamous “a dragon is not a slave,” in Valyrian, revealing she knew what they were saying all along. What a queen. She asks the slaves to slay their masters, and they do. She offers them freedom and then departs Astapor with her new army.
Episode 5: Kissed by Fire
Barric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) sets his sword on fire to fight the Hound. Hello Lord of Light! He also gets brought back to life. Which religion should you believe in is a good f*cking question in this show—they each (almost) have their moments. Gendry tells Arya they should separate, and when she tells him she could be his family, he tells her one day she could be his lady.
Meanwhile, Jon is giving intel on the Night’s Watch. More interestingly, he sleeps with Ygritte in a cave. In a scene that will be remembered by television-watching adults everywhere, she appreciates him eating her out. I don’t know how to say that any classier. Roose Bolton now has Brienne and Jaime, and he tells Jaime that Cersei is fine and has his stump cleaned up by a doctor. Robb sentences Karstarck to death for killing Lannister children, creating upset in the ranks. Robb then decides to attack the Casterly Rock, but he needs Walder Frey (David Bradley) to do so (is this the beginning of the end, or have they been on a crash course since episode one and none of their decisions mattered? Honest question). We meet Stannis’ kid, Shireen (Kerry Ingram), super sweet despite being disfigured by greyscale, and she befriends Davos. Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) is introduced as the leader of the unsullied. Tywin decides to screw over his children, Sansa, the Tyrells, and—well—everyone really, by marrying Sansa to Tyrion and Loras to Cersei. What a piece of work.
Episode 6: The Climb
Bran’s adventures continue but there’s nothing incredibly noteworthy. Jojen continues to warg and have visions. As they prepare to climb the Wall, Ygritte tells Jon she believes he’s still a man of the Night’s Watch, and that he better not betray her (she says it with more colorful imagery, including cutting appendages). Jon and Ygritte survive the climb despite their rope being cut and they’re closer for it. Melisandre finds the Brotherhood, scares Arya, and takes Gendry with her. Robb agrees to marry Edmure to one of Frey’s daughters, as he should have. While Edmure isn’t happy about it, Catelyn’s uncle gets him in line. Tyrion announces to Sansa, who just went on an awkward date with Loras believing they were all but engaged, that he will be her husband instead. Joy all around honestly. Ros (Esmé Bianco) is brutally killed, but we saw that coming since the first time Joffrey had a prostitute in season two. Theon’s torture scenes are brutal—just awful. Littlefinger gives a now well-known speech about chaos being a ladder to Varys in the throne room, before leaving for the Eerie. Jon and the Wildlings make it to the top of the Wall.
Episode 7: The Bear and the Maiden Fair
Jon and the Wildlings are on the other side. Bran decides not to go to Castle Black, even though he could see Jon there, because he wants to find the Three Eyed Raven more. Catelyn is the only one worried about Frey, and Robb finds out Talisa is pregnant. Joffrey is schooled by Tywin, what else is new. Melisandre tells Gendry who his father is. Theon gets a threesome before his penis is cut off. Brutal. Arya escapes the Brotherhood but is kidnapped by the Hound, they go off together. Daenerys tells the Masters at Yunkai, a new slave city, that if they don’t surrender they’ll suffer the same fate as Astapor. When inside, she has a fight with a representative when he says they won’t surrender their slaves. Jaime promises Brienne he’ll free the Stark girls when he is freed by Roose Bolton and allowed to go to King’s Landing, even though she isn’t. He changes his mind, however, and turns around to go back to get Brienne, who is in a pit gladiator-style with a bear.
Episode 8: Second Sons
Daenerys enlists the Second Sons sellswords in order to take Yunkai, even though they are obnoxious, gross, and just the epitome of male energy. Behind her back, they decide she isn’t worth the trouble and plot to kill her by sending Dario (Ed Skrein, later replaced by Michiel Huisman), but he turns up while she’s taking a bath later with the heads of his two buddies, saying he’d rather work for her. Davos learns to read from Shireen, and Stannis offers to release him if he doesn’t cross Melisandre, which Davos does immediately. Sam manages to kill a White Walker with the dragonstone dagger, saving Gilly. Cersei explains the origins of the song “The Rains of Castamere” as the story of how House Lannister wiped out House Rain as a warning to Margaery. Hmmm. Joffrey makes the wedding even more humiliating for Tyrion and Sansa with his usual dick-ish behavior. Tyrion sleeps on the couch, and he and Sansa agree not to ruin each others’ lives. Melisandre sleeps with Gendry because she can, then puts leeches on him to get blood out. Stannis then throws three leeches into the fire saying the names of Robb Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, and Balon Greyjoy. I wonder what that could mean.
Episode 9: The Rains of Castamere
Bran and the gang are camping out in a windmill where the Wildlings catch up to a farmer who identified them as outsiders earlier on. Jon had let the farmer escape when he distracted Ygritte from taking a shot. At the Wildlings sudden arrival, Hodor starts to freak out and Bran does a warg-like thing where he enters Hodor’s mind to calm him down, even though we know that wargs can normally only do that with animals. Jon escapes from the Wildlings when he is unable to pass their test of loyalty and kill the farmer, leaving the Wildlings with a lost advantage and Ygritte with heartbreak. Bran tells Rickon and Osha that they need to leave for safety. Dario promises that he can get Daenerys’ army into Yunkai, despite Selmy’s disagreements, and then he follows through and the sexual tension between him and Daenerys is obvious. Then there’s Arya and the Hound, who are so close to reaching her family. They arrive just in time for the Red Wedding, where Roose Bolton betrays the Starks to help Walder Frey kill her brother Robb, his wife, her mother Catelyn, and their loyal soldiers.
I mean it wasn’t even a season finale. It’s arguably the most important episode for the show, if not for the storyline, because nothing like that had ever really been done on television. The mass murder of a clan? Sure. But the killing off of young main characters and their unborn child in a massive plot twist at a wedding? I mean, this cemented Game of Thrones as legendary and made the bold move of scrapping an entire story arc they had been developing from the beginning. The willingness of the creators to kill beloved characters in this scene is one of the things that Game of Thrones is known for, and this episode came to be the ultimate example of that.
Episode 10: Mhysa
After the Hound saves Arya by knocking her unconscious and getting her out, they see Bolton looking on as Robb’s army is killed and his body is paraded with his direwolf’s head on. We discover that Tywin Lannister was responsible, and Roose Bolton is Warden of the North as a reward for his treason. Tyrion and Sansa are on the same page about revenge for five minutes, which is promptly reversed when she finds out about her dead family. Joffrey is psyched that Robb and Catelyn are dead, and Tyrion prevents Sansa from being further emotionally persecuted by him. Bran and Sam meet up before each going their own way on opposite sides of the Wall, which was fun because we rarely get happy meetings/reunions on this show. Ygritte shoots three arrows into Jon, an official breakup. However, he manages to make it to Castle Black on his horse. Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan) allows Gilly to stay at Castle Black, and Sam sends out messages saying that the Night’s Watch needs serious help. Davos gets one of these letters and asks Stannis to help. He also sets Gendry free, a nice moment.
Arya goes nuts when she overhears some men who are proud of killing her family, and with the Hound’s help kills them. Jaime makes it back to King’s Landing and Cersei. Theon takes on a new name, Reek. It’s been a full season of this torture in the background. His father Balon (Patrick Malahide) and sister Yara (Gemma Whelan) receive his dick in a box. Yara sets off in an attempted rescue mission against her father’s wishes. The slaves of Yunkai make Daenerys their queen and mother and carry her around, which really looks more dramatic in the show than it reads on paper.
I think this is one of the best seasons of Game of Thrones, even aside from the Red Wedding. Daenerys starts to fully come into her own on this show, no longer the wife of a king or a beggar queen, but a queen who by the end of the season is loved by her people—a large people too. She has decided to stand for something and does not want the Iron Throne blindly. Arya also comes into her own in this season through her interactions with the Hound. She comes so close to reuniting with her family, but when she kills out of rage in the last episode we see a new side of Arya, a possibly disturbing one, that foreshadows much of her upcoming story. This is the season that rehabilitates Jaime, who is one of the show’s most interesting ‘neither good nor bad’ character now, but experiences a lot of that transition from ‘awful’ to ‘maybe decent’ here. Tyrion was a lot less interesting because his job leaves less for him to do, but he still has some good moments with Tywin. Jon is not as interesting as he will be, but his relationship with Ygritte is fun to watch and important to whom he becomes. Bran is always in the background trudging along, going to his quest.
The word “brutal” sums a lot of this up, from Theon’s torture, to Jaime’s hand, to the Red Wedding… it’s a lot of bad with very little good. The only provider of this good is Daenerys, and even then she’s still inflicting brutal punishment. In my opinion, this season of Game of Thrones is the one that cements it as incredible television, and masterfully lays the groundwork for future seasons.
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