Okay, I'll say it: The third episode of Game of Thrones, "Lord Snow," wasn't as strong as the previous two in terms of sensationalism. If Game of Thrones is going to succeed, viewers need to understand that not every episode is going to feature tons of the stuff we love: gore, monsters, girl-on-girl straddling. "Lord Snow" was mostly a bunch of people talking. But that isn't a bad thing.
One concern going into this show was how it would handle its many different characters and locations. "Lord Snow" was the first episode to really have to deal with such a vast landscape: Ned is now in King's Landing with Arya and Sansa; Bran and Robb are still at Winterfell; Catelyn is on her way back to Winterfell after last night's solo trip to King's Landing, Dany is still far, far, away; Jon is at The Wall with a bunch of new characters; and Tyrion is currently at The Wall but already on his way out. With all these pieces moving around the board, no one character is going to get lots of undivided attention. This is a course in Advanced Ensemble Casting, and shouldn't be attempted by those not ready for it.
Thankfully creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are pros, and given the source material, they're doing a great job with it. With all the new characters Episode 3 introduced—Varys, Renly, Petyr Baelish, Lord Mormont, Syrio, etc.—there was little time for primal fornicating, freeing of heads from necks, or lupine acts of violence. But Game of Thrones is primarily about its characters, with really cool bloody bits thrown in to rouse the occasional fist pump. And all this characterization is important; you can't be happy or sad over a character's death unless you knew the character. (Seriously, don't get too broken up over Lady, we barely knew her.)
Last night we learned that King Robert can be a grumpy slob. Currently, he's disgruntled over blonde-haired Lannisters being everywhere he turns—especially that dandyfop Lancel! Gods, I hate that kid for no reason other than his Dutch Boy haircut. Where are all the Baratheons, in fact? Only Renly appears to share the king's name. Robert's children appear to favor Cersei over their dad. Robert certainly doesn't seem overjoyed to be sitting around King's Landing cooped up with only tales to tell of adventuring.
That said, "Lord Snow" introduced us to a few new characters and gave us some closer looks at those we've already met. Renly, Robert's younger brother, seems like a good chap. At least that's what we hope, given the warm embrace between he and Ned.
Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, played by The Wire's Aidan Gillen, is employed as the King's treasurer—or Master of Coin, if you want to get nerdy about it. He appears to be a worthwhile ally based on his position and his devotion to Catelyn, but I will never fully trust a man with that kind of facial hair. Never put your faith in someone who wears the notorious "evil twin" version of a goatee. I'll shake hands with him if it means I don't have to pay a cover charge at his pleasure houses, though.
Varys, the creepy round bald guy, is also valuable, because he's like the internet of Westeros. Need to know something? Anything? There was no Google or Bing back then. Instead, you Varys'd it.
None of the Stark children appear to be happy with their new situations, especially Bran and Arya, though Bran has more right to be snappy now that he's crippled. Arya is still battling the idea that she needs to be a lady, and Ned hiring the services of swordsman Syrio was a sweet thing to do—even though it almost looked as though he regretted the move once it reminded him of the viciousness that comes with wielding a blade.
Meanwhile, Dany and Khal Drogo have moved on to cuddling, and Drogo is like, so whipped, dude. (Well, he's not as whipped as Viserys, thanks to Khal's bloodrider.) Gone are the days of animalistic pr0n dreams; now it's all Dany talking about her day and blah blah blah. And this is exactly what we wanted to see from her. She's more comfortable, and instead of whining about things, she's taken an active interest in learning how to be a Khaleesi. It's a stark contrast to Viserys' stance on the whole situation, which is something along the lines of "You savages need to lead me to victory and don't bother me again." We have to wonder how many times Viserys will get away with this kind of behavior before he's disemboweled by a bored Khal Drogo. Or does sharing the same blood as the Khaleesi earn him a few Get out of Jail Free cards? Now that Dany's pregnant, she's embracing the Dothraki way even more. But why did Ser Jorah respond the way he did when he learned of her pregnancy? What did he have to go do? Cry in a bush?
Jon's off at The Wall playing the role of new kid at summer camp, and he's almost ready to call his parents to come pick him up and take him home. It's cold, he's surrounded by lowlifes, and his peers like to hold sharp objects to his neck. But Tyrion gave him a little pep talk, and now he's using his knowledge of the sword to win the good graces of the lords and his new brothers in black.
The episode's most dramatic duh-duh! moment happened when Littlefinger revealed that Tyrion was the last-known owner of the blade used in Bran's a.ssassination attempt. Was Tyrion involved in the plot to slit little Branny's throat? Are Jaime and Cersei off the hook in that mystery? Who tried to k!ll Bran!?!?
One thing "Lord Snow" did wonderfully was give old people a chance to scare us silly. Old Nan, the wrinkly woman who was sitting at Bran's bedside, didn't take no guff from the child and proceeded to creep us all out with tales of the White Walkers. Maester Aemon up at The Wall did the same, when speaking with Tyrion. With their words and their loose skin and the escalating spooky score in the background, the elderly laid it down heavy and delivered a serious message: Something wicked this way comes. And the wicked always seem to be fond of the winter.
If you're still on-board with Game of Thrones after "Lord Snow," you've passed the first test and while likely enjoy the whole series. Those who're hungry for more blood, humping, and other sins, don't worry; there's plenty of that coming, too.