The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of S3:E1 – ‘Valar Dohaeris’

By MJ Snow on Apr 4, 2013 to Game of Thrones

On Sunday we returned to Westeros for the premiere of the third season of Game of Thrones. My first impression of the episode 1 was one of disappointment. Slow to start, it never really seemed to take off, never really delivering the punch that one would expect from a season premiere. After another viewing or two, really analyzing the episode, I think there were some definite good points that deserve recognition. Sadly, there are also some frustrating moments and even some incredibly unnecessary scenes thrown into the mix. I’ve included some opinions from twitter and tumblr to support the good, the bad and the ugly of Season 3, episode 1.

The Good     


  • The Lannisters rocked the house in the season premiere. The exchange between Tyrion and Lord Tywin is pure gold. (Pun totally intended.) Charles Dance’s delivery of Tywin’s scathing insults is so good, I got chills. Peter Dinklage is masterful as always, in his ability to show Tyrion’s pain without saying a word. This scene is brilliant, pretty much straight out of the books, showing us that George R.R. Martin’s work stands up on it’s own, not needing any embellishment from the writers at HBO. I’m always surprised when an original scene is well done, however, the dinner scene between Cersei, Joffrey, Margaery and Loras was well written and well-acted. I’d really love to see more of Loras, as I strongly believe that Finn Jones has got a lot to offer.  Lena Heady continues to hit it out of the park with her portrayal of Cersei. Her facial expressions and body language are just right, and the delivery of her lines is flawless. While I was initially concerned at the casting of my one true queen, (I love Cersei) Lena won my heart and I highly approve! This scene was fun to watch and helped to showcase the dynamics between both Cersei /Joff and Cersei/Margaery really well.
  • Davos Seaworth has survived the Battle of Blackwater and Season 3 finds him rescued  by the Lysene pirate, Salladhor Saan. The ever loyal and reliable Davos is perfectly portrayed by Liam Cunningham and Lucian Msamati is a treat to watch as he brings the charming pirate to life. This is a highlight of the show and it only gets better when Davos arrives at Dragonstone to meet with Stannis. Whether they’re friends or foes, the Davos/Stannis chemistry is so good, they should have their own spinoff series. I know many people are seriously looking forward to more interactions between these two.
  • One of the more memorable scenes in episode 1 took place in Astapor and featured Daenerys negotiating the purchase of an army with Kraznys mo Nakloz, one of the city’s slavers. I was truly impressed by Dan Hildebrand who played Kraznys, speaking only in Valyrian, a language that was created specifically for the series. It’s entertaining to watch him colorfully disrespect and insult Dany, and to see how his translator Missandei relays his comments to her in much milder language. The Unsullied are a eunuch slave army who are trained to the point of unquestioning obedience and who have no fear of pain or death. To prove this, Kraznys slices off the nipple of one of the soldiers, a truly cringe-worthy moment. This scene follows the books every closely and is very well done.

‏@FYWinterfell  Good episode! …little disjointed but good nonetheless! #nextweekNOW #GameofThrones

@LadyAreti Couldn’t expect better premiere! Thank you @GameOfThrones for not letting me down! #GameOfThrones #GoTStatue

@HarleyHorcrux I’m so happy. I love you #GameOfThrones you are my sun and stars.


The Bad


  • Yet again in Season 3 we continue to be forced to watch Carice Van Houten massacre the role of Melisandre. I’m at a loss to understand how anyone can stomach her portrayal of Melisandre as some kind of badly played Disney version of an evil queen. Writing aside, there is no hope for this character. I can’t do anything but shake my head sadly, any time she appears on screen.
  • The scene in which Bronn visits the brothel gives us our weekly dose of needless nudity. I’m not a prude, by any sense of the imagination and I am certainly not against the show using nudity when it’s necessary to drive the plot. HBO, however, seems to feel that naked whores are needed in each and every episode, despite the fact that they have been widely criticized for their overuse of the unclothed.
  • Robb Stark’s visit to Harrenhal had book readers wondering if the writers think that adding another location would be too confusing for the television viewers. It’s beginning to seem that everyone in the series will make a stop there at some point. When in doubt, send them to Harrenhal. That should work! The Introduction of Qyburn at this point in the storyline is surprising. While here, Qyburn seems to be the sole survivor of a mass killing of prisoners by The Mountain and his men, in the books he was a member of the Bloody Mummers, a group of sellswords also known as the Brave Companions. The Mummers are, in fact, a brutal and dangerous company, which leads us to wonder whether Qyburn will be a “good guy” or a “bad guy” as the story progresses. HBO’s version certainly sets him up to have a grudge against the Mountain that Rides.

@StephaniLafitte  disappointing @HBO #GameofThrones

@Jaffo  Surprising finale for Walking Dead. Unsurprising slow first episode of Game of Thrones.

hotteela -The whole episode way just slow moving to me, it didnt have a spark for any scene #GameofThrones


The Ugly


  • While the dinner scene that Maragery appeared in with Cersei and Joff fit quite well into the episode, the scene in Flea Bottom was not only unnecessary, but also a bit ridiculous. Whether or not you enjoy Natalie Dormer’s version of Margaery aside, the Margaery of the books is not a philanthropist, rather she leans more toward selfish family gain. HBO, watching Margaery giving out hugs and toys to orphans of war is not going to make us love her. Perhaps Miss Dormer ‘s contract demands a certain number of minutes or lines per episode. I can’t see any other reason to have included this slow, boring scene into the season premiere.
  • Barristan Selmy’s reveal so early on in the series  feels like a prime example of HBO dumbing down the story for the television audience. While it was great to see Ser Barristan alive and well, it was a huge disappointment to book readers that the writers neglected to have him arrive in disguise as Arstan Whitebeard, the servant to a eunuch by the name of Strong Belwas. Belwas was an interesting character and many fans of the novels are extremely upset at his elimination. Also, Dany doesn’t immediately trust Selmy, and he remains in disguise while he proves his loyalty to the Khaeesi. In Sunday’s episode, Daenerys gave us the impression that she is thrilled and ready to accept Ser Barristan immediately. I’ve read several times over the last few days that Barristan in disguise wouldn’t work for TV, as the audience would recognize his actor, Ian McIlhenny. I find that kind of insulting, to be honest. First off, Arstan Whitebeard had a long white beard. That would help to disguise McIlhenny somewhat. Isn’t that what the makeup department is for? Second, who cares if the audience recognizes him? We know lots of things that the characters don’t know. It would serve the story better to have a slow reveal for Dany’s benefit. And I think the audience would have been perfectly capable of handling the ruse.
  • Perhaps the worst part of the night was the scene that began with Sansa and Shae sitting at the harbor, watching the ships come and go. This was a scene fabricated by the HBO writing team, and sadly, it shows. First there is Sansa. Those who know me will tell you that I’m an extreme Sansa fan, however, the HBO version of Sansa is practically unwatchable. By this point in the series, we should be seeing a Sansa who is growing wiser and more mature. Instead we’re presented with a whiny, petulant child. The lines Sansa speaks in this scene could not possibly be more out of character. Even Shae looks like she’d rather be anywhere than playing games with this little fool. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by HBO’s Shae. Her depth and intelligence are in stark (pun intended once agian) contrast to Sansa’s brainless pouting. They are joined by Petyr Baelish and “Ros,” the token whore fabricated by HBO to take up valuable screen time that could feature characters that matter. The thought that Baelish would be out for a stroll with one of his whores is laughable. That he would be spending time having a chat with Sansa in full view of all of King’s Landing and Varys’s spies is unlikely. That Ros could serve in some kind of advisory capacity to Baelish is downright ludicrous. Shae and Ros break off for a little bit of prostitute bonding while Sansa asks Petyr to take her away from King’s Landing. I have to imagine that the script reads: “Torture the audience by inserting a yet another gratuitous Ros scene here.” I’m not sure what’s worse, the time wasted on Ros or Sansa’s character assassination, but thank goodness for Petyr and Shae, or the scene would be entirely unwatchable.

@MeanieStranger  #GameOfThrones S3 Ep1 should have been titled: GOT for Dummies – Let’s explain everything super slow with tiny words. >;=]

@RoryLOV3  After all the S3 premier reviews I had hope that it was at least going to be halfway captivating I kept walking away from the  Never out of earshot but I looked at the tv so little. Sometimes I think they just don’t understand the characters at all.

@JRichter44  RIP Arstan Whitebeard #NOONEUNDERSTAAANDS

Grandmasterofsplendidhappiness – I’m sorry, I don’t think I will never be able to not dislike Ros for being a made up character that takes away screen time from real characters, and that most of her scenes seemed to serve the purpose of fucking up Littlefinger’s character (oh, and showing boobs)…

only-the-cold “Basically, this scene is an insult to Sansa’s character development. In the season 2, she was growing slowly but she WAS growing. Now she’s back to who she was in season 1. They ruined her in a few minutes, i’ve got to say that it’s quite impressive.”

Game of Thrones fans are passionate about what they love, and we’ve all got an opinion. What did you think of Season 3, Episode 1? Love it? Hate it? Let us know in the comments below!

Here’s a preview for Episode 2:

MJ Snow is a Canine and avian behavior specialist by day; a role player, blogger and writer by night.  A long time George RR Martin fangirl and Game of Thrones Addict, MJ spends way too much time in Westeros. MJ is the founder of The Snow Keep, a short story and fan-ficiton blog and The Brothers Clegane, a Sandor & Gregor Clegane tribute blog, she also co-curates several other Game of Thrones themed blogs.

MJ on Twitter  Google Plus

Leave a Reply

14 Comments on "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of S3:E1 – ‘Valar Dohaeris’"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Why so hard on poor, Show!Sansa? I don’t think they ruined her. TBH, it doesn’t seem they gave her much to do. I don’t think her wishing to escape, which is basically what that entire game was about, did any damage to her character. It’s not as if she had stopped wishing for those things in the books by this time. I don’t really see any difference between Book!Sansa & Show!Sansa at this point in the story “That Ros could serve in some kind of advisory capacity to Baelish is downright ludicrous.” Why is this ludicrous? It was made pretty… Read more »

Considering that Petyr made veiled death threats against Ros last season, it is ridiculous that now she’s suddenly his top whore and confidant. She does absolutely nothing to enhance his storyline or anyone else’s. She just useless filler material for a story that doesn’t even need it.

As for Sansa, she is no way irrelevant politically. The Lannisters wouldn’t be holding her hostage and using her as bargaining chip/marriage suitor for political gains. Sansa Stark is a very valuable commodity, hence the reason Littlefinger and everyone else is interested in her.

He made a veiled death threat against her b/c she was refusing to work and a client walked out angry. However, BEFORE that she was shown to be the Mistress/Madam/Manager/Supervisor/Instructor. She instructs the men & women in the brothel and it is she who addresses the guards when they burst in. Do you think any other in Petyr’s employe would’ve enjoyed such a velvet warning? Also, if you’re going to send women to the king, you’re going to send your very best, your favorite. And also, also, every pimp is going to have a “bottom girl” point blank & period.… Read more »

I agree with this review in it’s entirety ESPECIALLY the part about Sansa. I think people need to re-read the series if they think that this HBO Sansa is anything like book Sansa. I’m pretty shocked that people are disagreeing with the reviewer on that point, although pointless Sansa hate is common, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

The dumb cunt strikes again. Take your review and shove it up your fat ass you cum guzzling moron.

If you have a personal dislike for the writer of this article, it’s too bad you don’t keep your thoughts to yourself instead of making yourself look like a fool. What an idiot you must be.

Ehhhh…The fact that Sansa is your favorite character in the books just makes me realize you have a completely different opinion of what a good character is than me so I can’t really see where you’re coming from at all…Sorry…

I agree with everything you’ve said, except the part about Sansa.


You clearly didn’t read the sansa part of the books carefully. She was a whiny bitch until she joins Littlefinger at the Eyrie. Go re-read the Sansa chapters in book 3, because the season premiere perfectly portrayed her characters still whiny personality. You interpreted the TV scene correctly, but not the book. She was in no way mature in book 3. You’re visualizing her as she is in the 5th.

Actually, Sansa is not in book 5 at all. I read the first book about 17 years ago, and have been reading and re-reading the series pretty obsessively ever since. I’ve got a very clear picture of Sansa’s progression, as she is my favorite character in the series. That’s precisely why I’m so upset to see what a train wreck HBO has created with her character. I also just finished a re-read of book 3 before the season premiere and no, the HBO Sansa is not even close to the book Sansa.

I don’t really mind the show Sansa. Though I can’t say I was particularly interested in the book Sansa. She seems about right so far. Basically just in the background, a little bratty but also pitiable because of the shit shes going through at 14yrs old. I can understand your frustration at her not glowing the same way she did in your mind / the books. I think Sansa is like.. #10+ on HBO’s list of “who to worry about getting perfect”. She gets about the same screen time as Bronn on the show! So yeah, I can understand it… Read more »

I really enjoy a review that dissects an episode down like this. It’s a shame there’s more bad/ugly outweighing the few positive golden nuggets per episode. I think the fact that Tyrells are feeding the populace and saving them from starvation is more then enough to portray the “good will” angle. The whole orphanage scene was pointless.

I’m mostly content to allow that the season opener was intended to set the stage for the more exciting episodes to come this season. I also agree with GraceAlexander that Margaery (and the Tyrells in general) is deliberately trying to win over the people (something which the Tyrells do in the books). One thing that did irritate me, though, was completely skipping over the battle with the wights on the Fist of the First Men. I get why they did it, probably budget reasons, but given that that was what they choose to leave us with as a cliffhanger, I… Read more »

I agree with almost everything you said – except the bit about Margaery. She’s no true philanthropist at all – the entire thing was planned. She understands perfectly that winning the common people over positions her to take over as queen since Joffrey has utterly alienated them. I saw it as part of her master plan to unseat Cersei. I don’t think HBO is trying to make her more likeable – quite the opposite. She’s devious as hell.

The same thing is what sprung to mind immediately when reading it. Margaery even has that slimy PR person smile on the whole time in this episode. Also, Ros is a conglomerate of various prostitutes in the book, not something that has been conjured from thin air, while she is pretty much pointless in that particular scene.
The episode was not all bad, but it felt a little like a prelude of some sort, just a lot of people meeting each other, either for the first time or again after an absence. A bit of an extended water-cooler moment after holidays…


Find an HBO Series

More HBO

Subscribe to HBO
Countries HBO Is In
Watch Game of Thrones Online
Watch Westworld Online
Watch Confederate Online
Watch Silicon Valley Online
HBO Premiere & Air Dates
True Detective Streaming
Other Streaming Television
HBO Boxing Live Stream
Game of Thrones on DVD & Blu-Ray
Watch Cinemax Online