George R.R. Martin, author of the novels upon which the HBO series Game of Thrones is based, is something of an expert on the Middle Ages. He violates a lot of expectations when it comes to what we believe about those days. Knights on horseback. Heraldry. Peasants and castles, law and religion. Because real life does the same. Nothing ever fits into the rules.
Which is a lot of what episode three, "Lord Snow," is all about. So far the series' focus seems to have been all about the schemes and secrets surrounding the royal court. But--remember the very first scene? The White Walkers no one (and I do mean no one) believes in? All awake, the now-crippled lordling Bran (who remembers nothing of what happened to him) wants to hear from his Nan the scariest of all tales--about the coming of winter, when the snow reached a hundred feet tall, and a night that lasted a generation. That was when the White Walkers came...
And we don't get to hear the rest. But remember the Stark words: Winter Is Coming.
Meanwhile lovely Queen Cersei gives her charming son Prince Joffrey some words of advice, about how when he is King the world will be as he says it is (uh...no). And that everyone who is not "us" is an enemy. Motherly love and advice. Heart-warming.
But the title character of this ep is up at the Wall, having joined the Night Watch and figured out the truth--rather than a noble order of honorable guardians, they are a penal colony of those without other choices. No one believes in the White Walkers. No one thinks the old tales might be true. Hence the scant supplies they receive, the meager types of men who end up there (mostly felons given a choice between this and death). Jon Snow, bastard son of Lord Stark by an unknown mother, feels betrayed. He also feels superior. Yet, partially as he speaks to Tyrion Lannister, he not only starts to see his life has actually been pretty sweet but also that here are men whose respect he must earn.
Danaerys, meanwhile, finds herself in a confrontation with her brother, Viserys--and both learn the Dothraki respect her but not him. A world turned up-side-down. Not least because she finds herself happy to tell Khal Drogo (in his own language no less) that she is with child. Recall how the series began, her weeping in terror at submitting to this huge man? Yet by now (a few months' time in the show) she smiles sleeping at his side.
Lord Stark has a less pleasant surprise waiting him, as it becomes clear the Realm is deep in debt--and King Robert's to blame. He just doesn't care, as is shown in scenes like the one where he keeps asking people about their first kills. In particular he hopes to discomfort his brother in law, Jaime Lannister. Here again things are not as they seem. Because we hate him, right? Deservedly so? But everybody else seems to despise him and why? Because he killed a tyrant. Even Ned Stark--whose father and brother were burned alive by the late Mad King--blames Jaime for having put this monster to death.
He also sees his lady wife who has come to King's Landing to give him some special intelligence--the attempted assassination of Bran with a special blade, one identified by the realm's Master of Coin (treasurer) Lord Petyr Baelish as his own, lost in a wager to Tyrion Lannister!
Really, doesn't that surprise you? And have you learned yet to doubt whether he's telling the truth?
One of my favorite characters, Arya starts getting lessons in how to use her rapier-like blade. The Water Dance, her instructor calls it--one of the single most fun scenes yet. Arya loves learning how to fence! You can see it in her face! Likewise her teacher clearly feels thrilled at finding such an avid, young and talented student! Of all people, the staid and conservative Lord Stark arranges these lessons--and initially
seems thrilled at her prowess. Yet as he watches, he hears the sounds of battle, and we can see a horrible memory ripple across his face.
Third episode in a row that ends with one of the youngest Stark children. Methinks this is a pattern, and an omen of what is to come. Not a short game of thrones is being played here. No, not at all.