Sharpening your blade for ‘Game of Thrones’

The nights of an Erie winter are dark and full of terrors, so put on your blackest Night’s Watch cloak and cuddle your direwolf or dragon – HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” returns for its season-three premiere at 9 p.m. Sunday, March 31.

This season, the TV series will cover approximately one half of George R. R. Martin’s 1,000-page tome – “A Storm of Swords” – the third entry in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Martin released the first book “A Game of Thrones” in 1996, the fifth entry in July 2011, and is planning on finishing two more books to conclude the saga.

HBO premiered “Game of Thrones” in April 2011 with D.B. Weiss and David Benioff attached as the show’s creators. The events of Martin’s first novel fit neatly in to the 10-episode first season, while the fit was a bit tighter for the second novel – “A Clash of Kings” for season two.

Martin is a consultant for the television series, but Weiss and Benioff have allowed the author to pen the screenplay for one episode in each of the first two seasons. While he enjoys the finished product and considers it a success, Martin has publicly said that “Game of Thrones” is Weiss and Benioff’s project.

On the surface, Martin’s words are a reassurance to Weiss and Benioff to take the necessary creative liberties to edit Martin’s ballooned universe – for instance, Westeros’ Seven Kingdoms have nine major houses and more than 80 minor houses plus the hierarchies of the Free Cities on a different continent.

The two show runners have exercised their creative authority in the first two seasons, including eliminating surplus characters, scenes or even elevating minor characters to a higher number of scenes to retain their relevancy or award an actor his billing.

With the subtle differences between book and TV series in mind, what should the TV audience expect from season three of “Game of Thrones”?

 

Beyond the Wall

Where season two left off:

Jon Snow and Ygritte reached the fringes of the wildling camp, or the “Free Folk” as they call themselves.

Jon proved himself to be a turncloak by killing his mentor, Qhorin Halfhand, and is now ready to meet the King-Beyond-the-Wall, Mance Rayder, a former member of the Night’s Watch, just like Jon.

Season two’s concluding scene boiled Samwell Tarly and the rest of the Night’s Watch in hot water, as an undead horde of White Walkers advanced upon the encampment. Can the tattered brigand vowed to man the Wall and guard Westeros save themselves?

 

What to expect:

Weiss and Benioff shouldn’t mess with any of the story here.

Their only choices are how best to switch between multiple perspectives and how to truncate the story and leave an effective cliffhanger.

But be excited for the introduction of the King-Beyond-the-Wall and the host of wildlings marching on Westeros.

 

In the North

Where season two left off:

Bran and Rickon Stark, their two direwolves and their two servants Hodor and Osha have escaped the ruins of the razed Stark seat at Winterfell. The rest of Westeros believes the two boys to be dead at the hands of Theon Greyjoy, now a captive of the northerners who arrived at Winterfell too late.

 

What to expect:

According to casting news, the Reed siblings, Meera and Jojen, will join the exiled northern princes (the Reeds were introduced in “A Clash of Kings,” after all). Look for Bran to search for the meanings behind his dreams of the three-eyed crow. Weiss and Benioff seem to be getting this story back on track.

 

In the Riverlands

Where season two left off:

Robb Stark – the King in the North – might be undefeated in battle, but he’s losing the war.

His host is caught in the Riverlands, away from their northern country, which is slowly being conquered by the Greyjoys. Robb has also married, but not to his betrothed Frey bride, an agreement brokered between the King in the North and the swords of House Frey.

Robb’s mother, Catelyn Stark, has released Jaime Lannister – infamous for his nickname, the Kingslayer – to be returned to the Lannisters in King’s Landing in exchange for her daughters Sansa and Arya.

How will Robb’s army react to Catelyn selling their prized captive for two girls, and will the Lannisters agree to treat with the crown’s rebels?

After escaping Harrenhal, Arya Stark rides off with her pals Gendry and Hot Pie. Will she return to her mother and Robb?

 

What to expect:

Look for new faces Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr and the other outlaws of the King’s Brotherhood, who serve neither the Starks nor the Lannisters, but defend the common folk. Also take note of the polar relationship between Kingslayer Jaime Lannister and female knight Brienne, his captor sworn to deliver him safely to the exchange of the Stark girls. Catelyn’s brother Edmure Tully has also been cast for this season, and we may finally get to see the Tully castle at Riverrun.

 

In King’s Landing and Dragonstone

Where season two left off:

Tyrion Lannister received no gratitude for orchestrating the defense of King’s Landing against Stannis Baratheon. Instead he received a ghastly cut across his face and a demotion from the office of the King’s Hand.

Now, with King Joffrey betrothed to Margarey of House Tyrell instead of her, Sansa Stark is free from marrying a monster.

But with the Lannisters firmly in control of the throne, will they still treat Sansa as a hostage?

After the failed siege of King’s Landing and the burning of his fleet, Stannis Baratheon has retreated to Dragonstone.

Will the red priestess Melisandre and the power of her god, the Lord of Light, restore Stannis from this defeat, or ensnare him further in her wiles?

 

What to expect:

No casting news to speak of; everyone on the “winning” side of the Battle on the Blackwater has a piece of the throne. The Tyrells, however, are just as wealthy and powerful as the Lannisters, so keep track of the two houses butting heads. And don’t miss one second of Peter Dinklage’s Emmy-winning performance as Tyrion Lannister.

 

In the Free Cities

Where season two left off:

Having rescued her dragons and sacked Qarth, Daenerys Targaryen continues her quest to return to Westeros and reclaim the Iron Throne, which her family had ruled for centuries.

To do that, the Khaleesi will need an army bigger than her handful of Dothraki and sworn defender, Ser Jorah Mormont.

 

What to expect:

Daenerys’ storyline has received the most tinkering by Weiss and Benioff. They’ve killed off characters in the show who are still alive in the books. Several characters are still waiting to be introduced, too, with more on the way. But look for Daenerys to finally get some teeth and become a force to be reckoned with.

 

Remaining Questions

1) With the size of “A Storm of Swords,” Martin left much out in regards to the seafaring Greyjoys, who received plenty of screen time in the show’s second season. The author mentions them in book three and returns full force in book four, but will Weiss and Benioff extract Greyjoy material from the fourth novel and implant it in season three? The casting lists and trailers seem to suggest as much – Alfie Allen, playing Theon Greyjoy, is still on the first-billed cast list.

 

2) With “about half” of the third book’s material to work with, where will season three of “Game of Thrones” end? And, more importantly, will each subplot feel concluded, or just cut short?

 

DAN KUBACKI

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