So, here in Brooklyn, winter came. It was long and cold and, therefore, kind of great. And now winter seems to have left. But who cares about Brooklyn? Brooklyn doesn’t have phosphorescent green wildfire. Brooklyn doesn’t have armies of castrated men who don’t even flinch when their nipples are cut off. Brooklyn doesn’t have dragons. No, those things are only in the world of Game of Thrones. And so finally, FINALLY, the best kind of winter has come again. And this winter is so much better than real winter because this winter has dragons. Oh, did I mention dragons already? Yes? Well, I will be mentioning them again and again because dragons are everything, including the best thing about this episode because, as happens with many season premieres, our first trip back to the Seven Kingdoms was heavy on plot exposition and light on action. By action, I mean sex and violence. Sex and violence were surprisingly lacking, but there’s time for all that. Oh, there’s time.
So where did we leave off at the end of Season 2? Well, we left off all over the place. There were White Walkers and warlocks and direwolves and wildling women like Ygritte who said, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” (Only she said it more like, “Yeh knah nuthin’, Jon Snuh”, and it was incredible.) Let’s not retrace our steps. Let’s move forward, like the intrepid viewers that we are. Forward like the ravens that Samwell Tarly sent from behind the Wall to warn the people of Westeros that the Others were on the move. Oh, wait. Samwell didn’t send the ravens? Oh, shit.
That’s how we open anyway. On Samwell Tarly in the cold, dark, swirling white wasteland of the land behind the Wall. All Sam’s friends are dead. Very, very dead. And Sam is almost killed by a zombified Wight before he is saved by a combination of Ghost, Jon Snow’s direwolf, and fire. The fire is wielded by Ser Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, who doesn’t look too excited to see Sam.
Mormont asks him, “Did you send the ravens? Tarly, look at me. Did you send the ravens?
Samwell shakes his head. He did not send those ravens.
“That was your job, your only job.”
Everyone’s pretty disgusted with Sam, which is unfair but understandable. They’re all headed back to the Wall now though because, Mormont acknowledges, “We have to warn them or, before winter’s done, everyone you’ve ever known will be dead.” Ominous!
And, scene. The credits roll and it’s a map of the known world and some things are the same but some things are different. Because, oh, no! Winterfell is smoking and smoldering. This is because it was totally destroyed last season. So it’s old news, but it’s still sad. We also see some new places with names like “The Shivering Sea” and “The Gulf of Grief” and “Slaver’s Bay.” George R.R. Martin really seems to have fun with names.
So first we check in with Jon Snow who has made it to the Wildling camp, where he is being brought before Mance Rayder, the “King Beyond the Wall.” Also, in the wildling camp, are giants. Or there is a giant. He is big. Jon Snow stares, which is just what I’d do too. Ygritte scoffs at him because she is hilarious and amazing. “First time you’ve seen a giant, Jon Snow?” She warns him not to stare at them too long, lest he make them angry, and get “pounded straight into the ground like a hammer to a nail.” I would watch that.
But so, Jon is brought before Mance Rayder and Tormund Giantsbane and is asked to defend his choice to abandon the Night’s Watch. At first Jon tells them that he just “wants to be free” but, seriously, that’s the stupidest thing they’ve ever heard, and they’re like, No, really, why are you here? Jon decides to tell them that he was upset about old incestuous Craster who fed his baby sons to the White Walkers and had a deal with the Lord Commander. Jon was offended by this, on an ethical level. That is enough for Mance Rayder, who is maybe a man of ethics? Unclear at this point, although he is played by Ciaran Hinds, who has a great big head and I just like him.