TV Report Card | 'Game of Thrones' Season 3 Review

Overview: The latest season of the epic series delivered with more scheming, flying dragons galore and tragic weddings as the show depicted the first half of George R.R. Martin’s 3rd book in the series, "A Storm of Swords".

Storyline Direction: George R.R. Martin's source material is brilliant and for those who haven’t read the books (me included) it is an incredible experience to learn his stories though watching this show. The world he has created and series Showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have translated to the screen is breathtaking and rivals any cinematic offering.

Juggling the countless new characters that had to be seamed into the fabric of the show, the previous season and this season, could have overwhelmed a lesser series, fortunately "Thrones" more than rose to the occasion.

As a viewer, the greatest concern when you have such a large ensemble is the focus shifting from the characters you love onto the ones you have little investment in. For instance, there is going to be no new character that will be introduced that I would rather watch than Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). He is one of the best characters on TV, period. 

The pace of the season flowed with a nice rhythm throughout the season. Some scenes with Sam did border on tedious at times. Even those scenes set a mood for the show and as exciting as battles and epic dragon play are, the quiet moments can be just as rewarding. Balancing the big moments and the not so giant ones’ are equally as important and "Thrones" didn’t struggle under the weight of the legacy it’s creating.

As the character driven story evolved further this season, favorites met with the inevitable end that only a show this brave could stay true too. In spite of the fantasy elements, the show deftly ties itself to the gritty earth that it has created. In a lot of ways, it feels more real and honest than many other series that are supposedly following a real-life narrative.

George R.R. Martin broke the mold with his series, as far as western storytelling goes, in the vein of there being no happy endings. Audiences have become spoiled and grown reliant upon the fairy tale endings that have become so prevalent in movies and books. There is no doubt that he caused a stir when the books were originally released and now a whole new audience is getting the chance to experience it and all of its whiplash glory.

The only hitch that comes into play with Martin going in this direction is that it might grow predictable as well. Thus, leaving audiences with little hope or expectation that the heroes will ever come out on top and anything good happening might never come to fruition. That can be a daunting investment for viewers.

As well as Martin has painted our heroes to be the ones’ we should root for, he has crafted equally wicked villains. The build-up to their demise has been excruciating and hopefully that agony will be given a much ado pay-off in the future as audiences have clamored to see them get the comeuppances, they so richly deserve. Pulling it off so it is satisfying, will be a tricky feat.

Production Caliber: There is no higher production quality on TV as it features stunning aerial views of exotic vistas that transport viewers from the brutal cold of the Wall to the idyllic warmth of King’s Landing. Its cinematic quality is unparalleled and the special effects are on par with anything you will see at the theater. The costuming is stunning and perfectly tailored.

The set design also puts it on another par, setting it apart in a TV environment where other series spend the production budget on CGI sets that aren’t tangible and distract from the actors trying to perform and the audience trying to watch their work. It goes without saying that the physical rendering of The Iron Throne is a bonafide work of art.

Performance Quality: It was another terrific season that saw marvelous turns from the entire cast. It was Peter Dinklage who continued to steal the show with his outstanding portrayal of one of TV’s most dynamic characters, Tyrion Lannister. Dinklage’s work is intricate, brave and unlike anything any other actor has attempted. He is playing a landmark role and not in the way most people would expect. He is playing a man, a lead character that just so happens to be a little person.

So many times when a character happens to face certain physical challenges (i.e. dwarfism, paralysis etc) that is the focal point and definition of everything the character accomplishes. They seldom focus on the person underneath all of these challenges.

On "Game of Thrones", they are breaking the mold of that stereotype with Tyrion, as his dwarfism is yet another facet of this fascinating character’s composition. Tyrion is a man who happens to be a dwarf and that is how Dinklage plays it. He has the presence of a man 10 times his stature and his characterization of Tyrion follows suit.

This is an exciting character for people to see and be aware of. Dinklage deserves to be in contention for any role that any other actor gets the opportunity to audition for. Instead, it can be surmised that despite having just as much, if not more talent, he has been overlooked because of a misperceived notion they would have to make the role focus on his being a little person and that is a shame.

He has what it takes to have mainstream movie success. The fact that such an amazing talent as his, has went unnoticed for so long is frustrating. If given the chance he would’ve made a phenomenal Prof. Moriarty in the last film installment of "Sherlock Holmes". Hopefully his role as Tyrion has woken some executives up. They’ve had a sleeping giant in front of them the whole time.

Other performances worthy of praise include: Michelle Fairley, who gave a powerful performance in her presumably final bow as Catelyn Stark during the Red Wedding. It was her gripping portrayal of a mother in wrenching agony as she begged for her son, that boiled "Thrones" to its most human inflection.

Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth “The Onion King”) was incredibly moving in his performance especially during his scenes with Stannis Baratheon’s daughter, I’m not a soft touch and that had me welling up. Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) brought it, in a startlingly compelling performance as the young daughter of the broken Stark family, as she tried to reunite with her family. It was heartbreaking, feisty and inspiring.

Richard Madden (Rob Stark) brought a chivalry that is rarely seen nowadays to his role. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister) and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne) turned in some brilliant scenes between each other and developed an entertaining repartee.

Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) gave a powerful performance throughout the season and provided the show with its most “you go girl” moments. With such a big ensemble everyone in the cast played a strong role in pulling the show together and after 3 seasons, losing key members of the cast will be a significant loss in the following season.

Overall Grade: A, while this season was a little slow during parts, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss continued to deliver in the high stakes game of trying to please fans worldwide. "Game of Thrones" is one of the best shows on TV and worthy of all of the hype it has received. A high quality series that has became a 10-week event, ever since its premiere episode.

"Thrones" has upped the ante for all of its competitors and as others try to cash in on what is being perceived as a genre fixation will soon discover, this is not a gimmick series. It is a show that cannot be replicated. It is television at its finest. Why watch other series attempt something better when we have already seen the best?

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[Images by HBO]