Game of Thrones: Season 3’s Top 12 moments
James R | On 30, Mar 2019
Two words loom over the whole of Game of Thrones Season 3: Red. Wedding. But before that traumatic, violent, shocking climax changed Westeros forever, the third run of HBO’s fantasy is packed with memorable milestones in the unfolding political web of back-stabbing, murder and back-stabbing that only continues to get more and more complex.
With the eighth and final season coming at 2am on Monday 15th April, we count down by looking back at some of the show’s best bits (in no particular order), season by season. The re-watch is dark and full of memorable moments.
1. Tywin vs. Olenna
In a world of constant betrayals and assassinations, where loyalties are being split and people are turning their backs on old friends, Season 3 of Game of Thrones is the one where everyone starts matchmaking to make amends. None more so than the Lannisters, as Tywin (Charles Dances – never more sarcastic than here) tries to seal the deal between his family and the Tyrells, with Joffrey and Margaery tying the knot, and, just to make sure, Cersei (Lena Headey) getting hitched to Loras Tyrell (Finn “Iron Fist” Jones). The Tyrells, though, want to marry him off to Sansa (Sophie Turner). To stop that happening, Tywin summons the Queen of Thorns herself, played by none other than Diana Rigg, who promptly steals the whole season with her wise-cracking, withering, no-nonsense attitude. She threatens him with exposing Cersei and Jaime’s incest; he threatens her with making Loras (an admitted sword swallower – ahem) a member of the King’s Guard. “It’s a rare enough thing – a man who lives up to his reputation,” she concedes, and it’s the only time we see her admit defeat. But, most of all, it gives us a glimpse of the rom-com spin-off we never knew we needed.
2. “You know nothing, Jon Snow…”
When it comes to steamy chemistry, nothing can beat Ygritte and Jon Snow, as he tries to get in with the wildings – and finds himself getting in a little closer than intended with the wonderfully fierce warrior. He’s a man of the Night’s Watch, meant to be celibate and strongly opposed to anything wildling, and she’s ferociously loyal, wickedly smart and unabashedly powerful. It’s testament to just how good Rose Leslie and Kit Harrington are together that they not only sell a literal steamy sex scene in a natural hot tub in a cave – and that her catchphrase, “You know nothing, Jon Snow!”, is one of most recognised and hilarious bits of dialogue in the whole show. While they climb a gigantic cliff of ice together, and he saves her from dying, the best moment is when she realises that he isn’t on the wildling’s side at all, and as he rides off back to the Night’s Watch, she fires arrows at him. Several of them. It’s even more surprising than the subplot involving Sam falling in love with Gilly, raising her baby and killing a White Walker to save her (with that Dragonglass he found in Season 2).
3. Brienne vs. Jaime
Star-crossed relationships, you say? That’ll be Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), whose shifting dynamic is one of the most enjoyable arcs of Season 3, as she tries to drag him back to Kings Landing in exchange for the Stark girls. Brienne, the Ronin of Westeros, is not only a curious tragic figure but also a hulking, intimating fighter. The bridge scene where she proves that in a duel with Jaime (and wins) is only topped by the scenes that follow, as we see a whole new, sympathetic side of the Kingslayer. First, he gets his hand chopped off after he tries to stop Brienne being assaulted, then, we see him and her share a bath, as he explains why he slayed said king in the first place. On the one hand, it’s a sweet moment that brings real humanity to each figure. On the other hand, we also get to see them fight an actual bear together.
4. Theon vs. Ramsay Bolton
Theon Greyjoy’s downfall in Season 2 hits something of a roadblock in Season 3, as the decision to stretch out the resulting torture of the fool at the hands of Ramsay Bolton (a bastard in all senses of the word) slows down the whole season’s pace. But, in retrospective, it proves to be the ideal introduction to Iwan Rheon’s loathsome villain, who goes to a ridiculous extreme to make Theon (Alfie Allen) think he’s being rescued – only to end up back in the same torture chamber all over again. The moment when he’s gleefully chomping down on a sausage, after de-sausaging his prisoner, is brilliantly, horribly dark.
5. Margaery vs. Joffrey
Olenna Tyrell again steals a scene, as we see her and Sansa introduced by Margaery – “The cheese will be served when I want it to be served, and I want it to be served now” – but it’s only so Margaery (Natalie Dormer) cane work out what Joffrey’s like, and she wastes no time in playing him for the sadistic monster he is. The scene where she caresses Joffrey’s crossbow, then talks about homicide excitedly with him, is a chilling reminder of how twisted he is, and how ruthlessly determined she is to become queen.
6. “Chaos isn’t a pit…”
Also pulling strings behind the scenes are our other favourite couple, Varis and Littlefinger, who get some of the best conversations in the season, as they each work the situation to their own gain. While Varis and Tyrion’s similar exchanges are wonderful insights into Varis’ character, not to mention his backstory (and patient revenge against his mutilator), they’re topped by his openly calculating chats with Littlefinger. Littlefinger has gone from nothing to nothing with money, then nothing with a ship, and Varis knows full well that he’s only just warming up. The brewing chaos may concern Varis, but it doesn’t bother Littlefinger. “Chaos isn’t a pit,” he muses, in a flawless, thrilling montage of every single person struggling to get ahead. “It’s a ladder.”
7. Row, row, row your boat!
The other bromance that shines in Season 3 is that of Liam Cunningham’s Davos and Stephen Dillane’s Stannis Baratheon, as the former becomes increasingly wary of the latter’s bond with Melisandre. We get to know more about her Lord of Light, as we see Thoros of Myr (we love Paul Kaye) repeatedly bringing Lord Beric back to life, but we also see more of both Davos and Stannis: the former is adorably taught to read by the latter’s daughter, who is imprisoned out of sight because she has grayscale, and the latter grows increasingly desperate about getting more help from Lord of Light to become king. That involves Melisandre hunting down Robert’s bastard son, Gendry Stark, and use leeches to extract blood from him for spells. But with his life also in danger, Davos tellingly steps in and secretly sends Gendry away to safety, asking him to row off into the night – and he hasn’t really been seen properly since, making him one of the most important unanswered questions as the final season approaches, and questions about heirs become all the more important.
8. Arya vs. The World
Maisie Williams’ Arya continues to become more and more of a warped killer, as she begins to rack up some murders – kicking off with a Frey soldier, in revenge for the events that come to pass near the season’s finale. Accompanied by The Hound, he’s taken aback by her brutal attack with a dagger, but she’s only just get started, something that soon becomes clear to him as well as us.
9. “Hodor. Stop Hodoring!”
The other Stark waif, Bran, finally gets a storyline worth following, as he, Hodor and wilding Osha head towards safety. Along the way, though, they cross paths with the young boy from Love Actually, and Bran begins to explore his fledgling powers – first, by taking over Hodor to stop him “Hodoring”, then to take control of his wolf to save Jon Snow mid-battle with Ygritte and wildlings. It’s a reminder that he’s got a role to play in the future – and, like the Lord of Light, that magic in this story is very, very real.
10. Tyrion weds Sansa
The last of the Stark children is Sansa (Sophie Turner), who is hitched to Tyrion, as part of Tywin’s legacy-building masterplan. The result is a touchingly tender bedroom sequence between the two, that sees him sleep on the couch and promise never to hurt Sansa and keep her safe – which, even to the displeasure of Tyrion’s other half, Shae, is adorable and noble. But it doesn’t stop Tyrion being shamed by the whole affair, from Joffrey taking away his stool during the ceremony to Tywin saying that he regrets Tyrion being born and that he carries the Lannister name because he couldn’t prove he wasn’t his son. Tyrion has fun taunting him and Cersei by playing musical chairs during council meetings, but it’s in his treatment of Sansa that he really proves himself better than the rest of his family – and gives her some welcome relief after Joffrey’s horrible treatment of her. (Also, bonus points for that rare thing in Westeros: a wedding where nobody dies.)
Game of Thrones has a fondness for closing out every season with a glimpse of Dany, positioning her as the hopeful step into the future, but nothing’s cooler than her final moments in Season 3, as she gets herself an army: the Unsullied, which she frees from slave trader Kraznys. She does so in bad-ass style, by getting one of her dragons to burn him alive, before declaring each of her Unsullied soldiers free to do what they want the dragon to burn him – including follow her to Kings Landing. By the time she’s crowdsurfing a group of of liberated people, we’re firmly on her side.
12. The Red Wedding
There’s one rule in Game of Thrones: the moment you look like you’re happy, you’re almost definitely going to die. And so, the minute Robb Stark and his wife discover that they’re expecting a baby, we should’ve guessed that things would go wrong. And boy, do they go wrong, as they and Catelyn Stark visit the Freys to apologise for Robb not marrying one of Walder Frey’s daughters. Even though cousin Edmure (Tobias Menzies) marries one of them instead, it turns out not to be enough to make up for the slight, and, mid-celebrations, Catelyn discovers that Lord Bolton is wearing chainmail – and Walder has got crossbow-wielding soldiers on all sides of the room. The result is a shocking, blood-soaked sequence that kills off Robb and his beloved, not to mention their unborn child and Catelyn, all in a single blow. It was the most shocking moment in Game of Thrones to date, and remains one of the most talked-about moments in any TV show. And that’s before we get to the bit where Arya turns up outside the castle and finds Robb’s corpse being paraded about with his direwolf’s head stuck on his shoulders. Game of Thrones raised the bar with Season 3 to new, brutal heights – just the thing to whet the appetite for Season 8.