A selection of wonderful moments from the third season of Game of Thrones.
3.1 Valar Dohaeris
Best moment: The introduction of Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall.
Why? The beginning of Game of Thrones’ third season aligns with the start of a new book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Storm of Swords. Doing so means that a whole host of new characters are introduced to various plotlines in the show. The Boltons come further into the fold in the Riverlands, as do the Tyrells in King’s Landing following the Battle of Blackwater. Beyond the Wall, we’re introduced to Mance Rayder, the king of the icy region. After his capture by the wildlings in the final stretch of season 2, Jon Snow is brought before Mance by Ygritte. There he is introduced to the man dubbed “the King Beyond the Wall” and members of his troupe, including Tormund Giantsbane. The scene is particularly crucial to the establishment of the values within the freefolk community — the values that Jon Snow learns to live by and come to define significant parts of his character in later seasons. Without Mance, it’s safe to say that Jon Snow would not be the man he is as he marches beyond the Wall in the final shot of the series.
Honourable mention: Ser Barristan Selmy saves Daenerys and comes into her service.
3.2 Dark Wings, Dark Words
Best moment: Margaery Tyrell works her magic on Joffrey with the crossbow.
Why? Nobody played the game like Margaery did. Introduced in season two as Renly Baratheon’s wife, she declared her intentions to be “the queen”. And once the Battle of Blackwater was over, she really came into her own as a lady of the court in King’s Landing, attempting to get her claws into Joffrey. This scene is a masterstroke of hers as she teases his sadism and begins to wrap him around her finger, using his infamous crossbow as a prop to seduce him, almost, into believing she’s as ruthless as he is. She can see through people and she can detect their innermost desires, and she uses that skill wonderfully in this episode-defining scene. It was something of a relief when Margaery swept into the capital, not only because her presence enraptured Joffrey and saved Sansa from what would have been a torturous marriage, but because she was someone who knew how to play the game whilst being someone who was worth rooting for.
Honourable mention: Jaime attempts to escape from Brienne before the two are captured.
3.3 Walk of Punishment
Best moment: Jaime Lannister has his sword hand severed by Locke.
Why? This is the moment Jaime Lannister became Jaime Lannister. Before this, the version of Jaime we’d seen was simply an act — an arrogant, insufferable disguise meant to distract from the person he was underneath. Afterwards, we see who he is within — a complex man with real emotions and a moral code after all. In an attempt to save Brienne from sexual assault by Locke’s men, he attempts to bribe them with promises of valuable sapphires from Brienne’s home island of Tarth, only for Locke to respond with a swift swing of his blade, removing Jaime’s sword hand and everything that came with it. With his sword hand gone his reputation as one of the finest duellers in the land evaporates. No longer can he insult people and throw his weight around, secure in the knowledge that he could beat any man who challenged him. It’s brutal, but this is when Jaime learns how to be a person.
Honourable mention: Hoster Tully’s awkward funeral, and introduction of the Blackfish.
3.4 And Now His Watch is Ended
Best moment: Daenerys Targaryen sacks Astapor and takes the Unsullied as her own.
Why? Oh, man. ‘And Now His Watched is Ended’, like ‘Blackwater’ and ‘The Old Gods and the New’ before it, is another one of those episodes of Game of Thrones that provides a wealth of dramatic moments to choose from. As it is, I’m opting to write about the climactic scene, as Daenerys Targaryen brilliantly double-crosses a slaver, takes the Unsullied for herself, and wipes out a good portion of those upholding the cruel systems in the city while doing so. The incredible epicentre of the scene is the moment Daenerys reveals to Kraznys that Valyrian is her mother tongue and that she has understood his insulting language all along. She roasts him alive, takes command of the Unsullied, and burns the rest of the place down in an exhilarating, cloud-pleasing rush of fire and destruction. Of course, with season eight in mind, it’s worth noting that this scene is part of the number of incidents that made Daenerys feel powerful and justified whenever she used brute force to increase the size of her armies, but for this one moment she at least chose a target who deserved her anger.
Honourable mention: Lord Commander Mormont is murdered by the Night’s Watch in a mutiny at Craster’s Keep.
3.5 Kissed by Fire
Best moment: Jaime Lannister reveals the truth about why he had to kill the Mad King.
Why? After losing his hand and jumping into our hearts, Jaime Lannister completed his transition from arrogant arsehole to someone who was gravely misunderstood when he confessed all to Brienne in the hot baths of Harrenhal. Delirious and weak from his severed hand, he recounts the story of how he was forced to kill the king he served while said king ordered his guards to burn down King’s Landing. It’s a devastating monologue that completely changes the way we, and Brienne, view Jaime. As he reaches the end of his tale he collapses in an exhausted heap into Brienne’s arms. As she calls for help, she shouts that the “Kingslayer” is in need of medical assistance. He responds in a withered voice that his name is “Jaime”. From that moment on, Brienne and Jaime are a completely different pairing with a deeper understanding of one another, and Jaime especially is given layer upon layer of depth and complexity as the show continues.
Honourable mention: Beric Dondarrion is resurrected by the Lord of Light.
3.6 The Climb
Best moment: Littlefinger delivers his famous “Climb” monologue to Varys.
Why? ‘The Climb’ is one half of a pair of mid-season episodes that slow season three down to a near stop. Other than Jon Snow’s climb with the wildlings, this is a quiet hour. It is home, however, to the finest explanation of the eponymous “game of thrones” that the characters play in this story. As Petyr Baelish subtly reveals to Varys that he’s had Varys’ spy Ros murdered by King Joffrey, he continues into one of the series’ most memorable monologues. Written by series creators David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, it displays an astute understanding of George R. R. Martin’s source material and justifies their creation of this show in an instant. Ever since this episode aired, Baelish’s words have rightly been used as a frequent descriptor of what Game of Thrones is all about, and is fondly remembered as one of the series defining moments.
Honourable mention: Jon and Ygritte reach the top of the Wall and look out upon the North.
3.7 The Bear and the Maiden Fair
Best moment: Tywin Lannister confronts Joffrey in the throne room.
Why? Completing the pair of episodes that slow season three down to a near stop is ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’, which sees characters waiting in the disquiet in order to best prepare themselves for the events that will surely follow. This episode is best remembered for being the one that arguably inspired a thousand Jaime and Brienne fanfictions, but Tywin Lannister’s brutal takedown of Joffrey in the throne room is one of many brilliant exchanges between the pair. Expressing dismay that his small council meetings have been moved to the Tower of the Hand, Joffrey is of course told by his grandfather that they could move the meetings back to a more convenient location if Joffrey could be bothered to attend them. An interesting observation from this scene, however, is that Joffrey rightly raises concerns about Daenerys and her three dragons. Tywin dismisses his concerns as nothing more than “curiosities” but, awful as he was, Joffrey was right to be worried about the Dragon Queen’s intentions.
Honourable mention: Jaime rescues Brienne from the bear pit in Harrenhal.
3.8 Second Sons
Best moment: Samwell Tarly uses a dragonglass dagger to kill a White Walker.
Why? At this point in the show, the White Walkers were a complete mystery. We had no idea where they came from, we had no idea what their intentions were, and we had no idea how the realm of men could ever hope to stop them. All of that changed in an instant when Samwell Tarly, under attack from a lone Walker who had come to claim Little Sam from Gilly, stabbed the beast in the shoulder with a dragonglass dagger. The dagger reduced the monster to icy dust, arguably saving the realm in that moment. This scene didn’t answer every question we had about the demons from beyond the Wall, but it did offer a sliver of hope for the living and provide a huge clue about their origins. Add in that it is one of the most intense scenes in the entire third season, and arguably the whole show, and you have yourself looking at ‘Second Sons’ finest event. I’m still haunted by the crows chasing after Sam, Gilly, and Little Sam as the episode cuts to black.
Honourable mention: Tyrion and Joffrey’s feisty confrontation at Tyrion and Sansa’s wedding.
3.9 The Rains of Castamere
Best moment: The Red Wedding.
Why? One of the defining moments not just of Game of Thrones but of 21st century television as a whole. The moment that converted a tonne of non-believers into superfans. The moment everybody remembers but wishes they could forget. The moment this fantasy genre show jumped well beyond its audience and into the wider sphere of pop culture. The moment some viewers leapt off the ride and refused to ever climb back on. That, ladies and gentleman, is the Red Wedding.
Honourable mention: Jon Snow escapes from the wildlings.
Best moment: Tywin sends Joffrey “to bed without his supper”.
Why? Tywin Lannister was known for his ability to win any argument by using words and presence alone. Earlier in the season he had already reminded King Joffrey that the small council would happily move its meetings if Joffrey would bother to attend them, and in the finale he comes out on top again in this brilliant war of words between the pair. As Joffrey celebrates the death of Robb Stark, Tywin and Tyrion cut him down to size during an intense exchange that ends with Joffrey seething and Cersei escorting him from the room. The defining line from this scene is Tywin’s cold and sarcastic but truthful remark that “Any man who must say, ‘I am the king’ is no true king. I’ll make sure you understand that when I’ve won your war for you.”
Honourable mention: Bran, Jojen and Meera meet Sam and Gilly at the Nightfort.