Episode 3 is all about adjusting to one’s new role in life, as Danaerys, Eddard Stark, and Jon Snow make their presence felt in their new environs.
Thrones has done a very good job at making Danaerys an interesting character despite not giving her copious amounts of screen time. Even when she has screen time, she often stands with a frightened, somewhat vacant look on her face until Khal Drogo sexes her up.
Last episode saw Danaerys asserting herself in the bedroom (or, bed tent, as it were) and here in "Lord Snow" we see her making an attempt to learn the language of the Dothraki in order to assert herself with the tribe.
Importantly, Danaerys makes it known that she wants to learn how to act like the khalesi (the wife of the khal), a clear assertion of her decision to embrace this new life with the Dothraki that her brother has forced her to live.
There’s a great scene between her and her brother Viserys (who looks like the love child of Lucius Malfoy and Pete White), the wretch of a human being who’s completely willing to whore his sister out to reclaim the throne of Westeros. Danaerys has ordered the caravan stopped so she can wander into the brush and look vacantly at tall grass, and Viserys stalks her down to give her a verbal thrashing when he believes she’s giving him orders, but one of the Dothraki tribesman steps in and Indiana Joneses his whip around Viserys’ throat.
Danaerys orders the warrior to stop but says nothing when the same warrior orders Viserys to walk instead of ride when the caravan begins moving again.
Ser Jerah Mormont, the exiled soldier from Westeros who’s made himself useful to the exiled royals (funny how that works) is growing important in Danaerys’ life, and when the news is let out at the end of this episode that she’s preggers, Jorah departs for places unknown.
Director Brian Kirk (and Tim Van Patten before him) continue to effectively use the dragon eggs given to Danaerys. While not the force of any episode (or even any scene beyond their introduction), the eggs are always around Danaerys in the Khal’s tent, sitting among lighted candles, looking like expensive future collectibles. Much like Danaeyrs, the eggs have gained a real sense of power without doing much but being there.
On the other side of the Narrow Sea, Eddard Stark and his two daughters (Sansa and Arya) are adjusting to life in King’s Landing. For Sansa, this means getting a doll from her father that she doesn’t want. For Arya, this means pouting and stomping. She’s seemingly mad at the world for the events in "The Kingsroad," but where Ned failed to connect with eldest daughter, he does a much better job connecting with his youngest.
Ned explains that Sansa was put into an impossible position by the Queen and that duty dictated that she could not tell the truth and make Prince Joffrey (her future husband) look foolish. Arya (the real stand-in for us in the program, giving contemporary ire at these old customs) can’t believe her father would allow Sansa to marry such a horrible person, and the look on Ned’s face says what his mouth will not: that he doesn’t know how he can allow this, either.
Ned has noticed Arya’s sword, Needle (a gift from half-brother Jon Snow), and allows her to keep it. He seems amused by Arya’s sword and her knowledge that using the blade properly means “sticking people with the pointy end,” so he arranges her to be taught by swordsman Syrio Florel. Ned watches silently from the doorway as Syrio instructs Arya, but his look of amusement turns sour as the lesson continues and he sees Arya’s attentiveness to Florel’s lessons.
It’s a downer of an episode for Ned, as he grumpily stomps around the castle, meeting the people he’ll be working with as the Hand of the King. He’s astounded that the kingdom is 6 million gold pieces in debt, with half of that amount owed to Sir Tywin Lannister, the father of the Queen and her sister-loving brother, Jamie. Stark is furious at the idea of holding a games competition with the kingdom in that much debt.
The best moments in the episode come from the contentious chats between Stark and Jamie, and then later between Cersai and Joffrey. The writers use this spat to deliver some history: Jamie killed the former King Aerys Targaryen (the Mad King, Viserys and Danaerys’ father) in the back. The Lannisters were apparently crown loyalists until the end and Stark lets Jamie know that he does not trust him, regardless of the debt they all owe him for killing the former King.
The brief exchange between mother and son Lannister is deliciously evil, too.
Cersai insists that a now-reluctant Joffrey will marry Sansa, but appeases him by assuring her son that he need only see her on formal occasions and to knock out heirs to the throne. “If you want to filk painted whores,” she tells him in one of the creepiest mother-son chats you’ll see, “you can filk painted whores.”
Joffrey further cements himself as a Right Little Bastard by giving his mother a vision of his reign as King, telling her that he would raise a King’s Army and serve him instead of allowing them to serve their regional lords. Cersai councils him on why this is a bad idea politically but Joffrey is red-hot at the thought of wiping out the Starks, and Cersai is not displeased with that notion.
Up north in Winterfell, We hear a really creepy tale from Old Nan about the white walkers and Bran --
Wait. Just a bit on this. When the Brits say "walkers" in this show it sounds menacing and ancient, yet when Americans around me say "walkers" it sounds like walking aids and Florida. The beauty of accents. Carry on.
Bran lost the ability to walk and the ability to remember seeing Cersai and her brother having sex. Win some, lose some.
Up at the Wall, Jon is learning more about the not-so-nice men who make up the Night’s Watch. He easily bests them in sword drills and has nothing but contempt for them. When they gang up to take him down a notch, Tyrion Lannister interferes, letting them know that he can tell the Queen on them, and letting Jon know that the other young men of the Watch are not all thieves and bastards, or that their thievery is not without merit. One of the men involved in this back room justice was assigned to the Watch because he stole some bread to feed his starving sister, and his punishment was either to lose a hand or join the Watch.
Tyrion’s interference allows all of the men in the room to see each other in a different light, and at the end of the episode they have started to work together and Jon has taken a leadership role.
I have a feeling I will say this for every episode, but Peter Dinklage’s performance as Tyrion is completely captivating.
Even in quieter moments when he’s urinating off the top of the Wall or simply watching Snow and the Watch bond over fighting drills, he brings an amused wickedness to his performance.
The one part of the episode that fell flat with me was Catelyn Stark’s arrival at King’s Landing, where she delivers news of the Lannisters’ role in Bran’s fall. It’s a quick visit and it doesn’t add much, although we do see her and Ned give each other a proper emotional goodbye this time around. We learn from her visit that the blade used by the assassin who failed to kill Bran belonged to a man who battled for Catelyn’s hand (and still loves her), but lost it to Tyrion Lannister.
Who plans to stop by Winterfell again on his way south.
"Lord Snow" is a very good episode where not a lot happens. That’s a good sign. If you can watch and enjoy an episode where narrative development is sacrificed to give more screen time to developing the individual characters' personalities, well, that’s a very good thing indeed.