What Game of Thrones Season 3 MUST Get Right (Spoilers)
Warning: This article contains massive spoilers from A Storm of Swords and, by extension, season 3 of Game of Thrones. Read no further if you haven’t read the book and want to be surprised.
In only two seasons, Game of Thrones has established itself as not only a worthy adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s beloved fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, but one of the best drams on TV in its own right.
With sky-high expectations for season 3, here are some things the show’s creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, as well as the show’s caste of actors, have to get right in order to meet the high standards of their source material, as well as their own outstanding work so far.
In the first installment of what will be a weekly feature leading up to the season premiere on March 31, I will focus on Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Enjoy, and feel free to sound off in the comments section below.
1. Make Jon Snow’s Character Evolution Plausible
One of the difficulties in adapting a series of novels with so many major characters is that every caste member must be a skilled enough actor to carry the show at certain points. Kit Harrington has certainly done a good job portraying Jon Snow thus far, but he is not quite on the same level as brilliant actors like Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Sean Bean (Eddard Stark), and even lesser known talents like Conleth Hill (Varys), Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister), and Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister).
In all fairness, Harrington has grown into his role. He has excellent chemistry with Rose Leslie, who portrays the bastard’s Wildling love interest Ygritte. Their scenes last season provided some much-needed levity to a depressing narrative and showed that both actors possess good comic timing.
However, in A Storm of Swords, Jon Snow’s role is more central to the narrative than in the past two seasons. Consequently, the role will be more demanding. Snow’s central dilemma – whether to join the Wildlings or live up to his vows as a member of the Night’s Watch – will require a far greater degree of subtlety and finesse than Harrington has displayed in the past.
At the very least, he will need to broaden his range of facial expressions to accommodate an increasingly complex character. He must seem sufficiently conflicted to make his role as a double agent plausible and extremely charismatic to justify his ascension to Lord Commander of the Night’s watch. Unlike in the books, we don’t know what he’s thinking, so Harrington must compensate by saying a lot with his body language and dialogue.
So far, Game of Thrones has portrayed Snow as considerably more naive than in the book. Therefore, it will be a challenge for Harrington to make his transition into a wise leader feel organic. Hopefully he’s up to the task.
2. Nail the Red Wedding and the downfall of the Starks
One cannot talk about A Storm of Swords without referencing this horrific, yet pivotal event. In a sense, it marks the end of the first phase of A Song of Ice and Fire, wrapping up the whole “King in the North” narrative to make way for the introduction of new characters and plotlines in subsequent installments.
Killing off Robb and Catelyn is bound to result in a backlash in the short term, much like the decapitation of Eddard Stark did in season 1.
For this reason, it is crucial that the director, writers and actors not only pull off the scene in a memorable, heart-wrenching fashion, but also lead up to it in a manner that is surprising in the moment but feels thematically inevitable in retrospect.
With Ned, the writers had the advantage of audience members unaware of Martin’s propensity to kill off beloved characters, much less central protagonists. At the start of Season 3, however, everyone is primed to expect major character deaths. It will be a difficult balancing act to foreshadow the Red Wedding without telegraphing it.
Finally, the audience has to be sufficiently invested in Robb and Catelyn Tully for the event to have tragic weight. With this in mind, the less cheesy love scenes between Robb and Lady Talisa, the better.
By the same token, Robb’s execution of Rickard Karstark must not be an afterthought. It is one of the key moments in his character development, making it clear that, like his father, he places a higher value on honor and justice than prudence. This is part of what leads to his downfall, and the consequences of his noble, yet foolish decision must be apparent to the audience.
3. Turn Jaime Lannister into a sympathetic antihero
Thus far, George R.R. Martin and the Game of Thrones writers have shown a remarkable capacity to make characters that should be utterly despicable sympathetic. Tywin Lannister’s touching relationship with Arya humanized the former in a way that’s quite remarkable considering his dastardly deeds. The same goes for Theon Greyjoy, a fan favorite last season.
Still, Jaime Lannister will be a tall order. If anything, he’s more unlikable in the show than in the books, having murdered a fawning cousin with his chains in order to stage a failed escape attempt. Picking a fight with Ned Stark that would lead to the character’s downfall back in season 1 also didn’t do much for his reputation.
Brienne of Tarth (and the loss of a certain appendage) will be the keys to his redemption, but it will be a challenge to execute such a drastic transformation over the course of a season. Fortunately, they have two excellent actors to work with in Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie, who managed to establish wonderful chemistry in season 2 with relatively little screen time. Their relationship must continue to be compelling and moving if viewers are to forgive the Kingslayer’s many transgressions.