Spoiler alert: This article is an indulgent spoiler from beginning to end. Non-book readers who don’t want to know about some of the grislier and more explicit events that will take place in S3, walk away now and keep any (misguided) hopes that you may have, alive.
Filming for season 3 of ‘Game of Thrones’ is well underway. Numerous images have been posted of the various shoot locations around Belfast, including Gosford castle (Riverrun) and Magheramorne Quarry (Castle Black). Eagerly awaited characters, such as Mance Rayder, Beric Dondarrion, Lady Olenna and the Reeds, to name but a few, have been announced and Pyp as well as Barristan Selmy will be returning this season. As 31 March 2013 draws closer, the excited anticipation becomes more palpable.
From cover to cover, ‘A Storm of Swords’ is a series of revelations and gut-wrenching, tear-inducing moments punctuated by stunned gasps and the two questions on almost everyone’s lips are, ‘Will they do justice to my favourite scene? Will they include my favourite scene?’ The changes in S1 were minor and it remained spectacularly true to the book. In contrast, S2 saw a number of deviations, exclusions, bizarre character name changes and storyline alterations. But it’s an adaptation, I’ll reserve my unsolicited opinion, S2 for president.
It makes it tricky to anticipate what’s going to happen in S3 though and, more specifically, the sequence in which events will take place.
Due to the length of ‘A Storm of Swords’, it’s been confirmed by Martin, himself, that S3 will focus on roughly the first half of the book. These are some of my favourite events which, for better or for worse, rattled me to the core and which will/should/could be included in this season:
Dany’s dragons enjoy a barbeque: Dany visits Astapor, a city in Slaver’s Bay, with the intention of purchasing an army of the Unsullied. Fierce eunuchs who know no fear, they’re formidable warriors. They’re not cheap either. But what transpires is priceless. Kraznys (Dan Hildebrand) is the slave trader who agrees to sell the Unsullied to Dany, and the cost: a dragon of the slavers’ choice. Initially, it seems as though the Mother of Dragons is willing to part with one of her children, Drogon. The way the scene plays out is sublime: The Unsullied answer only to their master, so once Dany presents Drogon to the slavers, Kraznys announces that they are bought and paid for, it is done. Dany, the clever minx, declares that they now belong to her. However, Drogon refuses to obey Kraznys and when he points this out to Dany, she responds by saying that a dragon is no slave. She utters one word ‘dracarys’ (High Valyrian for ‘dragonfire’), Drogon releases a stream of dark fire, and a slaver barbeque commences. The Unsullied don’t so much as lift a finger to help their former masters, and so the slavers and their ugly regime go up in flames. Now, Dany’s scenes in the House of the Undying in S2 were slightly disappointing as many of the important prophecies weren’t shown. Perfect execution of this scene will allow the Mother of Dragons to shine in what I regard as one of her finest moments.
Bran takes a walk on the wild side: This isn’t so much an isolated event as it is an ongoing, vital part of Bran’s storyline. Bran, Jon and Arya are wargs – they have the ability to enter into the minds of their direwolves and control their actions. Initially, it happens when they’re asleep. But Bran’s prophetic dreams coupled with his warg/skinchanging abilities spell one thing – greenseer. Like the wise men of the children of the forest, only a handful are destined to become greenseers. Brandon Stark, broken and crippled, is described as the winged wolf, bound to the earth in chains. In his dreams, he’s visited by the three-eyed crow and it urges him to fly. Meera (Ellie Kendrick) and Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) in particular, try to help Bran to open his third eye. Over time, Bran develops the ability to slip into Summer’s skin at will. The Reeds should’ve appeared in S2, but their introduction in S3 indicates that the warg aspect will now feature prominently. Jojen, who has green dreams, believes that the three-eyed crow, who was once a brother of the Night’s Watch and known as the Last Greenseer, will be able to help Bran unlock his full greenseeing ability. While heading North, Bran becomes adept at merging with Summer’s mind whenever he wishes to. It’s during one of these skinchanging episodes that Summer encounters Jon and the wildling party. He kills some of the wildings, giving Jon the opportunity that he’s been waiting for to escape and warn his brothers at the Wall. This is the first time that Bran sees Jon since his fall and, though it’s not exactly an emotional family reunion, the brief encounter had me in tears.
I wasn’t sure if this event would feature in the upcoming season, but Kit Harington recently filmed scenes in his Night’s Watch attire and Josef Altin (Pyp, who remained at the Wall) was in Belfast for a day of filming. This suggests that Jon’s escape and his return to the Wall will be shown. Kit’s broken ankle hasn’t affected filming – it’s reported that he’s wearing a splint and he’s still on crutches. Incidentally, Jon’s scenes at the Wall will call for him to be on crutches after he takes an arrow to the leg. Let’s hope that Kit recovers fully before he has to fly to Iceland for more strenuous filming. It’s likely that Jon’s return to the Wall is where his storyline will conclude in S3.
The Fist of the First Men receives a fatal punch: The whitewalkers and wights descend on the black brothers while they’re stationed at the Fist of the First men and a gruesome massacre takes place. Only a few of them escape with unharmed hides, Samwell Tarly amongst them. It’s while they’re heading for Craster’s Keep that Sam kills a wight –it is by no means premeditated- with the dragonglass dagger (made from one of the dragonglass arrowheads that were discovered in S2). This is the first weapon, besides fire, that can be used to kill these reanimated corpses, so that light at the end of the tunnel is hope and not hellfire. S2 ended with Sam being abandoned in the snow as the grotesque army approached whereas, in the book, the sound of the three horn blasts ironically saved him from being murdered by Chett, a character who was excluded from the series. Despite these changes, there’s no doubt that we’ll see a battle between the whitewalkers and the men of the Night’s watch as well as the resulting carnage. John Bradley (Samwell), James Cosmo (Lord Commander Mormont) and Mark Stanley (Grenn) were in Belfast to film the Night’s Watch scenes and I imagine that this was part of what they filmed.
Sam the Slayer, meet Coldhands: Chaos erupts at Craster’s Keep, during which the mutinous black brothers kill both Lord Commander Mormont and Craster. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of no tears being shed for the latter. Sam flees with Gilly and her son and they set out for a town called Whitetree, but they’re set upon by a group of wights including the recently deceased/reanimated Small Paul. Sam eventually manages to kill him, but the other wights close in around them. It’s then that they’re saved by a mysterious (dead) figure known as Coldhands. He possesses the ability to control ravens and he sets hundreds of them on the wights, affording Sam and Gilly a chance to escape. It’s Coldhands who leads them to the Black Gate underneath the Wall. It’s unsure as to whether or not Coldhands has been cast, many names have been added to the cast list without role clarification. We may see his debut in S3. Alternatively, Sam’s scenes could end with the murders of Jeor Mormont and Craster.
You Know Nothing Jon Snow-Oh-Oooh/The Lord’s Kiss: I sometimes refer to the Jon/Ygritte affair as, ‘The Corruption of My Sweet Summer Child ’. I’ll admit it though, the prospect of a disrobed Jon is enough to heat up even the coldest Westeros winter’s night. In a recent interview with Flaunt Magazine, when asked about nudity, Kit Harington hinted that he’ll do whatever the script calls for. Form an orderly queue, girls. These are the events that have Jon Snow fans salivating. In the Frostfangs, Jon finally comes face to face with the King beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) . He’s permitted to join the wildlings but his failure to inform Mance of the black brothers at the Fist arouses Mance’s mistrust. In an attempt to gain his full trust and convince him that Jon is, in fact, a turncloak, Ygritte tells him that she and Jon are lovers. The wildling eagerly proceeds to guide Jon through his first sexual experience and he tackles it with all the enthusiasm of an overzealous virgin. He doesn’t have much time to lose sleep over his broken vow of celibacy (in fact, he doesn’t have much time for sleep, period) because they go at it like rabbits, regardless of who’s watching, and he becomes an old hand at knowing ‘where to put it’.
People are eager to see this ‘coming of age’ aspect of Jon’s storyline, but it’s one particular occurrence that has the ladies flustered. What do you get when you have a cave, a waterfall and talk of Gendel’s children? The Lord’s Kiss. In a spontaneous, explicit act, Jon – how shall I phrase it – ventures ‘down south’, much to Ygritte’s vocal pleasure. ‘Game of Thrones’ isn’t known for shying away from overtly sexual scenes, therefore, viewers will most likely walk away feeling satisfied (pun so very much intended).
Now seems like a good time to burn a couple of leeches: Poor Stannis, the wretched Iron Throne just won’t allow him occupancy. After the embarrassing defeat at the Battle of Blackwater, he retreats to Dragonstone and broods behind its dismal walls. He also begins to feel that maybe R’hollor, the Lord of Light, isn’t the best religious course. But Melisandre, the Red Priestess, engages in a bit of flame-gazing and she puts into effect a back-up plan that involves burning three leeches. As ineffective as it may sound, the leeches contain the blood of Edric Storm – one of Robert Baratheon’s many bastards. Melisandre wanted to sacrifice Edric, believing that his royal blood would wake the dragons from the stone. Thankfully, both Stannis and Davos would’t hear of it, therefore the leeches had to suffice. As she burns the leeches, she utters three names: Balon Greyjoy, Joffrey Baratheon and Robb Stark. Now I’m not saying that dark magic was at work; what I am saying is that they all die shortly afterwards. Because of this. This scene is chilling when you understand what the fruits of the ritual will be.
Events at Dragonstone have been filmed or are still in the process of being filmed. A few weeks ago, Carice Van Houten (Melisandre) tweeted that she was on her way to Dragonstone. In addition, Kerry Ingram and Tara Fitzgrald have been cast as Shireen Baratheon and Selyse Baratheon respectively, the daughter and wife of Stannis Baratheon. What’s interesting is that there’s been no casting news for Edric Storm. I confess that, when I first heard Iwan Rheon was to play ‘the boy’, I thought of Edric Storm as Stannis always refers to him as ‘the boy’. However, it’s the general consensus that Iwan will be playing Ramsay Snow/Bolton, Roose Bolton’s bastard, who should have made his first appearance in S2. Therefore, if Edric hasn’t been cast, this event will probably be portrayed differently. It’s my sincere hope that this is included, it’s a great demonstration of the seemingly innocuous, subtle acts that Martin includes, acts which often have monumental outcomes.
The Hound Vs. the Lightening Lord: I love Sandor Clegane. Crass, irate and murderous though he may be, if you get close enough without being hacked to death, I reckon that a hug is all he needs. Arya may want him dead, but I find myself wanting to give him a cuddle. After the Battle at Blackwater, he flees King’s Landing and his next appearance is when he’s brought before Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), the Lightening Lord, to answer for his crimes. Beric was once the Lord of Blackhaven, but is now the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, a group of outlaws who fight against Lannister rule, and there are many tales of his demise, each tale very different from the other. He declares that, if the Hound was simply following Lannister orders, and if he’s not personally accountable for his crimes, the Lord of Light will spare him. What follows is shocking: The two engage in a mortal trial by combat and the Hound kills him. A few moments later, he reappears, weary, but very much alive. It comes to light that Thoros of Myr, The Red Priest (Paul Kaye) and a follower of R’hollor, has the ability to resurrect the dead.
It’s believed that The Brotherhood Without Banners’ scenes have all been filmed. Philip McGinley who plays Anguy, an extremely skilled archer and crucial member of brotherhood, tweeted a ‘tearful farewell’ to the brotherhood and Maisie Williams (Arya) a few weeks ago.
The Red Wedding: Everybody loves a wedding. Is that the adage? Whoever coined the phrase hadn’t heard of GRRM’s definition. Calmly drop the words ‘Red Wedding’ in the presence of a Robb Stark fan, and you’re bound to be the recipient of a glare or two. It’s not the first or last disastrous ceremony to take place in ‘A Storm of Swords’, but it is the most brutal. Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies), Catelyn’s brother, marries Walder Frey’s daughter, Roslin. But Walder is still sulking over the fact that Robb Stark broke the agreement to marry one of his daughters when he married Jeyne Westerling a.k.a Talisa Maegyr instead. Walder turns to Tywin Lannister and, together, they hatch a plot most vile. In one of the bloodiest events to take place, Walder Frey has his small nation of sons slaughter Robb, Catelyn and their retinue at Edmure’s wedding. Catelyn is forced to watch her son die and she executes one of Walder’s less than mentally capable sons, Aegon Frey, before her throat is slit. Robb’s direwolf, Grey Wind, is also killed, but Walder isn’t ready to crack a smile just quite yet. It’s said that he places the direwolf’s head on Robb’s body – the final heartbreaking act.
It’s possible that these scenes have already been filmed as there were rumours of filming at the Paint Hall. Hundreds of extras were called in and the women were given elaborate hairstyles. Are those the sounds of wedding bells and chilling screams?
In order to go out with a bang and leave viewers rabidly desperate for more, I suspect that S3 will end with the Red Wedding or hereabouts.
Very briefly, here are some other S3 events that I’d like to touch on:
- The wedding of Sansa Stark to Tyrion Lannister has been filmed. This wedding, which is every bit the nightmare for the once idealistic Sansa, should gently ease us into the spirit of future ceremonies.
- We know that Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) will be returning this season, but we also know that his true identity is kept a secret, even from readers, for some time. After he escaped from King’s Landing, no one knew what the former knight of the Kingsguard’s fate was. When the old, but surprisingly strong and capable Arstan Whitebeard enters into the service of Daenerys Targaryen, no one suspects his true identity, although Jorah Mormont, who can’t accept his friend zone status, is suspicious of every man. He doesn’t believe that Arstan is who he says he is. It’ll be interesting to see how well they’re able to hide his identity and whether or not he’ll be recognized by viewers. The book relies on what the imagination will conjure, based on the description given. Without visuals, it’s easier to conceal his identity until the moment it’s revealed.
- It’s been confirmed that Lino Facioli (Robert Arryn) and Kate Dickie (Lysa Arryn) will be returning to S3. Events at the Eyrie only occur in the latter half of the book, so I can only speculate as to what they’ll be returning for. Perhaps they’ll show the correspondence between Catelyn and Lysa. Catelyn sends ravens to her sister to inform her that their father is dying. Even in his delirious state, Hoster Tully is desperate to see Lysa, and it sounds as though a secret weighs heavily on him. Lysa doesn’t respond to Catelyn’s pleas, but it’s possible that we’ll see what her response is. We may even see Petyr Baelish and Lysa make arrangements for their future nuptials. It’s doubtful that they’ll make mention of Sansa’s intended marriage to Robert Arryn in this season.
- One of the relationships that I’m most looking forward to seeing more of is the one between Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth. His utter disdain towards her evolves into respect, admiration and a degree of caring. Jaime undergoes quite a significant transformation, both physically and mentally. Vargo Hoat orders Jaime’s sword hand to be cut off and this forces him to confront who he is, in light of no longer being able to fight and perform as a knight, a role which has defined him for most of his life. Jaime has always been a favourite of mine and it’s going to be beautiful to see a more tender, sincere side to him. My ultimate chest-clutching Jaime and Brienne moment, however, will most likely be featured in S4
- The long awaited appearance of Mance Rayder and the army that he’s assembled in the Frostfangs is bound to be spectacular. He’s the number 1 public enemy of the Night’s Watch and he leads a great host of wildlings, giants, mammoths and all manner of fantastical creatures. Ciarán Hinds was cast as Mance Rayder and other members of his wildling party, such as Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), were also announced. The scenes beyond the Wall have yet to be shot in Iceland.
These are just a few highlights of what promises to be an outstanding season. Cast announcements and confirmation have been a good indication of events that we can expect to see. It also relays the message that additional scenes may be included and that they won’t necessarily follow the book’s sequence of events. While we can hope for a purist approach to S3, it’s guaranteed to be enthralling either way.