Game of Thrones: Season 3 Preview

The battle for the Iron Thrones rages on. Here's everything you need to know before the GoT season 3 premiere

Credit: HBO

Daenerys, with an army and her dragons in tow, means business in season 3 of Game of Thrones

Get caught up before HBO’s epic fantasy Game of Thrones returns for a dangerously exciting third season

In the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, there is no rest for the weary. As the war of the five kings rages in the south, north of the Wall an army of frozen undead has risen and is on the move.

In the midst of all this death and destruction, three fire-breathing dragons have been reunited with their rightful owner, who now embarks on her mission to take the Iron Throne that was stolen from her father.

In its third season, the broad strokes of HBO’s Game of Thrones remain as grandiose and complex as ever, but this spring the epic fantasy — which covers roughly half of the third novel in the series by George R.R. Martin — will shift its focus to the inner workings of its characters.

“In many ways this season is more intimate,” says executive story editor Bryan Cogman, who makes sure the storylines stay as true as possible to the novels on which they’re based. “There are a lot more character-driven scenes where you’re really getting under the skin of the characters and finding out what makes them tick. I think on this show that’s as thrilling, if not more thrilling, than the flashier stuff.“

It certainly is for the show’s cast members, who spend most of their production schedule separated by oceans and continents. Rose Leslie, who films her scenes as the young Wildling, Ygritte, in sub-zero Iceland, is eager to see what her fellow cast-mates have accomplished in Morocco, Northern Ireland and Croatia.

“I get very giddy when new scripts come through, and I’m able to see what’s happening,” says Leslie. “I’m so excited because I’ve seen new characters and new sets and new costumes, and I feel that they’re constantly upping the stakes in all those departments.”

Returning to Westeros for Season 3

There are certainly enough characters and storylines to track. As we left the Riverlands in season two, we witnessed Stark matriarch Lady Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) releasing Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) from imprisonment in hopes of trading her hostage for daughters Sansa (Sophie Turner) — who is still in the hands of the cruel and unpredictable King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) — and Arya (Maisie Williams), whom she believes (wrongly as it turns out) is with her sister back in King’s Landing.

“She tells Brienne [Gwendoline Christie] to escort him, hand him over, get the girls and bring them back,” says Fairley. “Unfortunately, her passion as a mother for her daughters has totally clouded her judgment and in the process she has alienated her son Robb [Richard Madden]. It has huge ramifications. At the start of season three she’s very much a lonely figure living inside her own mind.”

Game of Thrones Cast

The cast of characters in Game of Thrones is big as ever, and this season sees even more new faces (Images: HBO)

Jaime’s journey with female warrior Brienne of Tarth isn’t without its own challenges. “What we see on that journey is a very difficult relationship evolving — she is constantly being abused by this man who has absolutely no respect for her whatsoever and who continually degrades her,” says Christie. “She entirely disrespects him too because in her eyes he is a man without honour. He is the Kingslayer, and Brienne follows a very, very strict moral code, which is the knight’s moral code. She has no respect for any knight who breaks it.”

The Starks

Robb, obviously upset by his mother’s betrayal, will face the repercussions of breaking his oath to Walder Frey (David Bradley) to marry his daughter in exchange for letting the Stark army cross Frey’s bridge, instead marrying noblewoman-turned-medic Talisa (Oona Chaplin) for love rather than duty.

And back at the Starks’ home territory of Winterfell, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) still holds the castle under his command, and has pretended to kill young Stark lords Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) and Rickon (Art Parkinson) in order to gain the respect of his own men. Thankfully, the little lords are still in hiding with their unexpected and cunning protector Osha (Natalia Tena) and simpleminded strongman Hodor (Kristian Nairn).

Having escaped from the clutches of Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), Arya Stark is on the lam with Gendry (Joe Dempsie), the bastard son of deceased king Robert Baratheon. When we meet the tiny girl warrior in season three, the gruelling journey is starting to get to her. “She gets a lot more brutal,” says Williams of Arya’s third-season arc. “She’s not so tentative anymore. It’s because she’s seen too much for a young person. There’s definitely no going back and she realizes that she’s not going to get home anytime soon. So she’s not trusting of very many people, things aren’t going well and she’s going downhill. I think she’s a bit of a mess in her head.”

Arya is still equipped with a coin given to her by Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) and his words “Valar Morghulis.” “She doesn’t really think it means anything when she receives it but she hears people speaking — she hears the words ‘Valar Morghulis’ and then thinks maybe this coin is going to mean a lot more than she originally thought,” says Williams. “It does come into its own little use at the end.”

King’s Landing

Back at King’s Landing, King Joffrey has secured a powerful alliance by agreeing to marry the widow of his murdered uncle Renly (Gethin Anthony), young Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) at the urging of his scheming mother Cersei (Lena Headey). It comes as a relief to Sansa Stark, but her respite is short-lived when Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) informs her that Joffrey will never let her leave King’s Landing, as long as she is still valuable to him.

“She gets lower than she’s been in season two and season one because she’s lost all her innocence, yet she still has this hope,” says Turner of her teenaged character. “You could say that she’s a little bit naïve in getting her hopes up and that’s a fault to her character. It just makes it pretty sad watching her.”

After rallying the troops at the battle of Blackwater and being disfigured in the process, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) was last seen wallowing in self pity in the arms of his beloved Shae (Sibel Kekilli), who reaffirmed her love for him and promised to stay in King’s Landing. Should the third season be guided by the novel, however, Tyrion’s relationship to Shae may take some twists and turns when his father demands Tyrion take a wife to form a political alliance.

Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister

Love gets complicated for Both Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister this season (Images: HBO)

The Wall, the Wildlings, and the White Walkers

Behind the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is now a prisoner of the Wildlings, with his captive-turned-captor Ygritte (Rose Leslie) rescuing him from a certain death by letting her fellow Wildlings know that Eddard Stark’s bastard son is of more use to them alive than dead. After a night together in the bitter cold, it becomes obvious that Ygritte is developing feelings for the handsome member of the Night’s Watch.

“I think Jon Snow’s an enigma to Ygritte,” says Leslie. “She can’t quite work him out. I don’t think she’s ever come across anybody like Jon Snow, so she doesn’t understand why he takes himself so seriously. And also, she can’t understand why he hasn’t taken advantage of the fact that they were alone, because I feel like that happened to her many, many times prior to having met Jon Snow. The Wildling men have jumped on her in that way, and all she’s ever known is an aggressive man.”

Leslie won’t comment on the potential of “marriage by capture,” which in the books accelerates their sexual relationship, but hopes fans will be excited by the developments between these two characters. “She’s confused, and she’s terribly intrigued by Jon Snow, and I think that’s of continued appeal to the viewers because it’s a very interesting dynamic between the two of them.”

It’s not all fun and flirting in the cold tundra north of the Wall, and Jon Snow soon meets the chief Wildling, Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds), whose face was concealed beneath a mask in season two. “He’s a natural leader, and I think that Ygritte has a hell of a lot of respect for him,” says Leslie. “He’s also a warrior, and he’s wise. And he genuinely loves the Wildling community.”

Currently threatened by the undead army of the White Walkers, the Wildlings will look to Rayder as the man who will lead them to safety. “The Wildlings are trying to get out of the north. They’re wanting to invade and keep away from the White Walkers because they are coming,” says Leslie. “It is them looking for a better life.”

The Mother of Dragons

In the east, Danaerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and her dragons are finally reunited, and the mother of the fire-breathers has a newfound determination to retake the Iron Throne. Accompanied by her adviser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and a few remaining Dothraki, she sets out to Slaver’s Bay in order to build an army, convinced that she will find soldiers to follow her once they are aware of her — and the dragons’ — existence.

As all characters come into their own as warriors and potential leaders, they will continually have to fight issues of morality. “I think there’s a point where you have to follow your own moral code,” says Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, whose character Jaime Lannister certainly leans more than left of morally ambiguous.

“One of the things I love about this season coming up is that that’s one of the themes that is touched upon.”

And as the trailer states: Death is coming.

“I think season three as a whole is going to be incredibly exciting, and there are going to be twists and turns,” says Leslie. “Viewers are going to be extremely shocked. Beloved characters and loyalties get torn apart and our characters get pushed and tested to the extreme. It’s surprising, even more so than in the prior two seasons.”

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.