'Game of Thrones' Season 3 premiere recap: 'Valar Dohaeris'

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Winter has finally arrived, and so has Daenerys Targaryen. When Season 3 of "Game of Thrones" begins, the mother of dragons is acquiring the most feared slave soldiers in the world to prepare her assault on Westeros. Fortunately for her, those who are actually on the Iron Throne are so mired in their own problems that they don't realize that there could be unknown outside forces threatening to take their kingdom away from them.

Of course, there is an even greater threat to Westeros than Dany: the White Walkers. Only those north of the Wall know the wights exist, much to the chagrin of Lord Commander Mormont. It's up to the men of the Night's Watch to warn the people they are sworn to protect about the undead warriors, and also fend off the assembled Wildling army. As the saying goes, you either win or you die.

Here's what happened in the world of "Game of Thrones" in the Season 3 premiere, "Valar Dohaeris":

North of the Wall:

Season 2's finale, "Valar Morghulis," ended with an epic reveal of the White Walkers descending on the men of the Night's Watch at the Fist of the First Men. With a cliffhanger like that, it's no wonder that Season 3 picks up right where Season 2 left off. Samwell Tarly is lost in the snow trying to find his fellow Brothers, and after hours of walking is rescued by Lord Commander Mormont and the remaining Night's Watch men. When Mormont learns Sam never sent ravens to warn those at the Wall of the White Walkers, he realizes they need to beat the undead warriors south to warn Westeros of what's coming.

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Even farther north of the Wall, Jon is led by Ygritte to meet Mance Rayder. The former Night's Watch member and current King Beyond The Wall needs to approve of Jon before the undercover Brother can be accepted by the Wildlings. After accidentally confusing Mance with a man named Tormund Giantsbane, Jon explains the "reason" he's defected. Viewers know it's so he can ingratiate himself with the Wildlings in anticipation of their attack on the Wall, but Jon claims it's because he discovered that Lord Mormont had known about the White Walkers for years. He tells Mance he wants to "fight for the side that fights for the living," which seems to be enough to convince the Wildling leader of Jon's decision. Still, it seems doubtful that that's the only test he has for our favorite Stark bastard.

In Dragonstone:

Davos Seaworth might have been defeated in the Battle of Blackwater, but he -- fortunately -- did not die. The Onion Knight is rescued in the premiere by his friend Salladhor Saan, the pirate he enlisted to help Stannis Baratheon fight the Lannisters at King's Landing. Salladhor is happy to find Davos alive as most had assumed he was dead, but is angry that Stannis didn't have the victory at Blackwater that Davos had assured him. When Davos asks Salladhor to bring him to Dragonstone to see his king, the pirate initially refuses.

It turns out that Stannis has become even more enraptured by Melissandre in the time Davos was away. Not only will he see no one but the red priestess, but he also has been burning alive every person she says is an enemy. Davos convinces Salladhor to bring him to Dragonstone nonetheless with the promise that he will kill Stannis's lover.

If only it were that easy. Melissandre has convinced Stannis, who doesn't seem to care one way or another that his longtime friend Davos is alive, that the reason he lost at Blackwater was because Davos made him leave without her. Stannis seems a bit pissed off at Davos by this, so it's no surprise that the eldest Baratheon allows Davos to be imprisoned by his guards after Davos tries and fails to stab Melissandre with his dagger. Maybe Davos should have listened to Salladhor's advice this time and stayed far away from Dragonstone.

In King's Landing:

Tyrion Lannister definitely misses being Hand of the King. Now that his father has retaken the role, Tyrion is relegated to his quarters to heal after Ser Mandon Moore's attack during the Battle of Blackwater. It's fair to say that he's moping, and that he is annoyed Tywin Lannister hasn't come to visit him yet. He goes to meet with his father, much to the chagrin of his sister, and thus ensues the best scene in all of "Valar Dohaeris."

tyrion-bronn-pod-game-of-thrones-premiere.jpgIt's no secret that Tywin doesn't care for his youngest son, but he's never made it as blatantly clear as when Tyrion asks to be made Lord of Casterly Rock. "I would let myself be consumed by maggots before mocking the family name and making you heir to Casterly Rock," Tywin replies.

When Tyrion asks why, his father states, "You ask that? You who killed your mother to come into the world? You are an ill-made, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust and low-cunning. Men's laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors since I cannot prove that you are not mine. To teach me humility, the gods have condemned me to watch you waddle about wearing that proud lion that was my father's sigil and his father's before him. But neither gods nor men will ever compel me to watch you turn Casterly Rock into a whore house."

Talk about a burn. No wonder Tyrion turns on his heel and leaves the second Tywin threatens to hang the next whore he finds in Tyrion's bed. Hopefully Tyrion doesn't take that threat lightly, and keeps a close eye on his lover Shae.

As for King Joffrey, he's got more than he can handle in his bride-to-be. Margaery makes a pit stop at an orphanage during one of their processions through Flea Bottom. There she hands toys out to the children whose parents were killed during Blackwater and tells them Joffrey is their savior. He does not seem to know what to do with Margaery, which will likely lead to some interesting confrontations later in the season.

The first of those takes place at a dinner attended by Margaery, her brother Loras, Joffrey and Cersei. Margaery arrived in a gown that exposed her waist, quite different from the metal-plated one Cersei was wearing. Cersei sees the way Margaery plays her son as a threat and, based on the way Joffrey is responding to his fiancé, it's for good reason. Then again, if anyone can control Joffrey it's likely a good thing.

Rounding out the stories going on in King's Landing is Sansa's meeting with Littlefinger. While she and Shae are playing a game guessing where the ships in the harbor are heading, Petyr Baelish approaches and teases Sansa with the prospect of being able to take her away from Joffrey's clutches. While he's speaking with the eldest Stark daughter, Ros cautions Shae to make sure Sansa is protected from the Master of Coin.

With the King of the North:

robb-game-of-thrones-premiere.jpgRobb Stark arrives at Harrenhal to find the destruction that the Lannisters have left behind. He still is furious with his mother Catelyn for releasing Jaime Lannister in Season 2, and freely admits that both he and his men are itching for a fight with the Lannister army. At Harrenhal, Robb and his new wife, Talisa Maegyr, find one man left alive. His name is Qyburn, and we'd advise remembering him in future seasons. This definitely isn't the last you'll see of him.

Across the Narrow Sea:

Daenerys might have defeated the warlocks in Qarth, but she's still without an army. Season 3 picks up with the Mother of Dragons heading to the slave city Astapor to potentially purchase some of the slave masters' Unsullied, an elite force of ruthless fighters. Her dragons have grown since Season 2, and they look gorgeous as they fly around her ship.

When she arrives in Astapor, Dany is greeted by Kraznys mo Nakloz, one of the city's slavers. He and his translator, Missandei, introduce the Khaleesi to a group of Unsullied who have been standing in the sun without food or water for days in anticipation of her arrival. It is revealed through the use of subtitles that Kraznys, who speaks Valyrian, has no respect for Dany, as he constantly insults her and calls her a "whore." This probably isn't the wisest choice, as Dany has proven in the past that she is not a woman to be trifled with.

The fact that the Unsullied are slaves offends Dany, and Jorah Mormont asks Kraznys if the men fear death. To prove how strong the Unsullied are, Kraznys picks one slave and cuts off one of his nipples -- the episode's most graphic moment -- and the soldier thanks him for it afterwards. Kraznys then brags that each Unsullied is tasked to kill one baby to complete his training. Dany is understandably turned off by this, noting that Kraznys' 8,000 Unsullied mean there are 8,000 dead babies in Astapor.

Kraznys only gives Dany one day to make her decision, and as she leaves the meeting with the slaver, she notices a little girl running through a market. Though she is talking with Jorah, Dany follows the girl and doesn't notice a cloaked man trailing behind her. He shoves the Targaryen heir when she goes to accept a gift from the girl and the item falls to the ground in front of her, revealing a scorpion. The girl ends up being a trick of the Qarth warlocks, and the man who saved her is revealed as Ser Barristan Selmy, former Lord Commander of Robert Baratheon's Kingsguard. He served the Targaryens before Robert took over the throne, and it turns out that he headed to find Dany after Joffrey dismissed him from the Kingsguard at the end of Season 1.

"I was sworn to protect your family. I am Barristan Selmy, Kingsguard to your father. Allow me to join your Queensguard, and I will not fail you again," he tells Daenerys. Needless to say, she looks thrilled at the newest addition to her entourage.

Fun facts:

- "Valar Dohaeris," the name of this episode, means "all men must serve" in High Valyrian. It is the traditional response to "Valar Morghulis," which means "all men must die." "Valar Morghulis" was the name of the Season 2 finale.

- Cersei's comment to Tyrion about hearing his nose had been chopped off is a nod to what happens to his character in the George R.R. Martin novel "A Clash of Kings." During the Battle of Blackwater, book-Tyrion actually does lose a portion of his nose. Fortunately for Peter Dinklage, the character only gets a scar in the TV series.

- In the novels, Ser Barristan is first introduced to Daenerys as "Arstan Whitebeard," the squire to a eunuch named Strong Belwas. This happens in at the end of "A Clash of Kings," the book Season 2 is based on, and Barristan's true identity is kept a secret until the next book, "A Storm of Swords." That sort of twist wouldn't play out as well in the TV series, as viewers would easily realize that actor Ian McElhinney played both Barristan and Arstan. (RIP Strong Belwas, we hardly knew ye.)

Photo/Video credit: HBO