Attending any premiere requires some dressing up, but when the premiere is for a series as beloved as Game of Thrones, special effort is required. Thus for the screening of Season Three of the HBO series, I felt it necessary to tattoo the word âGameâ? in thick red lettering on my right cheek, âThronesâ? on the other, and âofâ? on the tip of my nose. Then to finish the look, I obviously needed the sword, not to mention the axe, and the robe, and the beard, and a limited edition Game of Thrones pencil case.
Of course, even if any of this were true, I still wouldnât have been the biggest obsessive in attendance: for starters I hadnât built a papier-mÃ¢chÃ© dragon or carved a shrine to Sean Bean into my chest with a paperclip like some fans had. In most instances, such unashamed fandom is difficult to comprehend, although not in this case, as Game of Thrones is more than deserving of the acclaim it has received.
What sets it apart from similar TV series is largely the writing, by both the author of the novels that the series has been adapted from, George R. R. Martin, and by the showâs writers. There are no one-dimensional love interests or ham-fisted lines of dialogue, and storylines arenât resolved through unexplainable fantasy.
Ultimately the strong characters are at the forefront of the showâs success, which makes the Game of Thrones universe appealing to even those who are unfamiliar with the fantasy genre. Of course, when the writing is good and the characters are well defined, the acting naturally benefits as well, particularly in the hands of an already fine cast.
As Charles Dance (who plays Tywin) put it during the Q and A part of the evening: âIt means you can put all your energy into making the character believable, rather than thinking: how am I going to make this bloody awful line work?â?
Fortunately, although not a hugely dramatic instalment, the opening episode of Season Three, âValar Dohaerisâ?, is packed full of great lines. As always, Tyrion is on top form, particularly during his interactions with his sister, Cersei.
âYou know youâre not half as clever as you think you are,â? she tells her brother in one early scene.
âThat still makes me much clever than you,â? he responds.
In spite of his ever-biting wit, though, Tyrion is not in high spirits. He wants his reward for the part he played in the Battle of the Blackwater, but his father, Tywin â Tyrionâs replacement as Hand of the King â refuses to listen to his plea. In one verbally explosive scene, Tywin makes it plainly clearly that he will always resent his son for his wifeâs death during childbirth.
In the far North, meanwhile, Jon Snow is brought before leader Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) in an attempt to earn the trust of the King-beyond-the-Wall. And across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen arrives in Slaver’s Bay with adviser Ser Jorah Mormont with the intention of forming an army.
With Daenerysâ dragons adorning so much of the promotional material for season three, it came as no surprise when the creatures made their very brief appearance on screen. Like much of the episode as a whole, their cameo was a mere teaser more than anything else: a small indication of what might happen later on in the season. But it was at least a satisfying teaser, as much as it set the tone for whatâs come, and for everything that was left unexplained, there were certainly a few moments in the episode to really get the heart racing.
One of these scenes subjected the audience to what can only be described as a colossal nipple twister: an act of visual torture that had even the hardcore Game of Thrones fans looking anywhere but at the screen. The cast discussed the other really gruesome scene, which featured an entire castle of dead warriors lying in a bloody mess, after the episode had finished.
âIt was a great crack, actually,â? said Michelle Fairley (Lady Catelyn Stark) of shooting the scene. âIn between takes youâre able to go and talk to them and say, âDo you want a tissue?â When youâre doing scenes like that you need to break the energy somehowâthe depression. You have to have a laugh. Thereâs no social hierarchy in Game of Thrones, so everyone mucks in.â?
In addition to the gore, the subject of another Game of Thrones staple was also raised: nudity and sex.
“Well, I got a no-nudity clause so I always get to keep my clothes on,â? Fairley said, stifling a laugh. âThe producers put it in, not me!”
But the Q and A was mostly dominated by talk of the role that women play in the series.
âTo support the male characters you need to have equally strong, if not stronger, women,â? said Gwendoline Christie, who plays the warrior Brienne of Tarth. âThey constantly have to change, and so thereâs nothing stagnant about them.â?
Speaking of a previous scene in which the character of Jaime Lannister makes derogatory remarks about her characterâs appearance, Christie commented: âBeing a 6 ft 3 woman, I’ve encountered that kind of abuse since I was 14 years old.
So being able to take that into a public forum, I felt that I might challenge some notions of prejudice, and if it could change one person’s mind set about how they regard people outside of conventional norms, then I might actually be justifying my existence as an artist.â?
By the time the cast were done with their far too short Q and A, the premiere, and soon enough the evening, was over. The episode may have only been a short snippet of what we can expect from Season Three, but it was certainly enough to get the audience talking; and if there was something that everybody could agree on it was this: itâs great to finally have Game of Thrones back on our screens.
Game of Thrones Season Three begins Monday 1 April at 9pm on Sky Atlantic HD