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Game of Thrones’ Season 3 promises plenty of shocks and surprises

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Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is back, and all’s right with the world—well, not exactly.

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Game of Thrones
Sundays, 9 p.m., HBO

As bombastic and grandiose as it can be, HBO’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones often moves its plot forward by inches, so I was looking forward to seeing some real momentum in the show’s third season, which premieres this week. I’d heard from fans of George R.R. Martin’s source novels that the third in the series, A Storm of Swords, is the most exciting, and this season is set to adapt about half of that book. I had the chance to watch the first four episodes of the season, and up until the end of the third episode, the show maintains the deliberate, occasionally plodding pace that characterized the first two seasons.

That’s not necessarily a criticism—one of the best things about Game of Thrones is the way it takes familiar elements of fantasy fiction and blends them with realistic character development and political maneuvering. That continues in the third season, but there’s also an increased emphasis on the show’s supernatural elements, with giants, dragons, the zombie-like white walkers and a particularly creepy deadly scorpion creature showing up in the first episode alone. The third episode ends with a gruesome twist, and the fourth episode’s climax features one of the most impressive (and seriously badass) set pieces of the entire series.

The third season also showcases outstanding work from new or relatively new cast members (see sidebar), especially Natalie Dormer as queen-to-be Margaery Tyrell and Diana Rigg as her no-nonsense grandmother. Add those to the continued excellence of Maisie Williams’ Arya Stark and Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen (source of that amazing fourth-episode climax), and this season is shaping up to be an excellent showcase for the series’ strong female characters.

Readers of Martin’s books probably already have a good idea of how interesting things are going to get this season, but for me, delving back into this world (despite some initial difficulty re-sorting out the huge number of characters) offered a chance to be surprised and mystified. I hope the rest of the season will prove as effective.

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