It has been an eventful season this year on HBO’s top rated drama Game of Thrones. The show is based on the epic fantasy saga A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin and each volume of the series is massive. I have had the pleasure of reading the five novels currently composing the collection and eagerly await the next. However, despite having read the books (and I’ve heard other bibliophiles say the same thing), I had no idea where the producers of the show were going to take us for the season three finale. In fact, the show has managed to please those who have read the series just as much as those who have not. But the events of the third book, A Storm of Swords, are something of a delicate matter for those that truly care about this story. How well did HBO do on bringing these events to the screen?

The complete stickler for keeping television or film adaptions of books completely word for word from the source material might find a few qualms with this season and the events of the finale. However, I understand filmmaking and the daunting task the filmmakers had in adapting the nearly 1,200 page tome of A Storm of Swords into ten hours of television entertainment. What is important, those elements that must be included to tell the story with authenticity, has been included as well as some of the smaller details. A few characters didn’t make it in from the books and Theon Greyjoy’s storyline was extended. None of it detracts from the amazing story written by Martin though.

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In the wake of the Tully – Frey wedding, in which Rob and Cat Stark were killed, The Hound tries to sneak poor Arya Stark out alive. He succeeds, but not before the Arya catches a glimpse of Rob being paraded around with his pet wolf’s head mounted where his should be. As she and The Hound leave the carnage, they come across a band of Frey bannermen bragging about being the ones to mount the wolf head on the dead king’s body. In a flash of bloody rage, Arya attacks the ringleader of the group. When she is surrounded by the others, The Hound steps in to save her. And thus begins one of the most interesting relationships in the series. Viewers are going to get a look at the darkness inside Arya next year and it is beautiful.

Down in King’s Landing, a meeting of the small council is called to inform all of the Stark deaths. As it turns out, the whole fiasco at The Twins was orchestrated by Tywin Lannister. Walder Frey has been granted a full pardon for his siding with the Starks and is welcomed back into the good graces of the Iron Throne. And poor Tyrion! Just when he is starting to make Sansa Stark, his beautiful wife, actually like him she has yet another reason to hate Lannisters.

Bran Stark, the crippled boy that has the power to link his mind with those of wolves, arrives in an unused castle of the Night’s Watch. As they camp there for the night, before trying to find their way beyond the wall in search of the three-eyed raven, Sam arrives through a secret passage and shows them the way. Sam then travels to Castle Black to warn the sworn brothers there of the coming army of the dead.

Not too far away, Jon Snow is making his own way to Castle Black to warn them of a Wilding army gathering on the other side of the wall. But as he nurses his wounds from last episode’s fight, he is set upon by his love interest, Igrid. He misjudges how safe her love for him will keep him as he moves to ride away though. As a result, he takes several arrows to the body. In her defense, she was crying while she was poking holes in his body though. Jon arrives at the castle barely conscious and unable to inform the brothers of the danger.

In King Stannis’ court, preparations are being made for a grand sacrifice of Gendry, one of Robert Barathian’s bastards, to the Lord of Light. There is a problem though. Stannis’ Hand, Sir Davos, is still loyal to The Seven and not the new god of the Red Woman. He is also from the same filthy streets as the young Gendry. Risking his own life, he breaks the lad free of his cell and sends him in a boat back to King’s Landing. Davos admits his treason to Stannis and it is only a scroll from the Night’s Watch informing the king of the dead army that saves his hide.

On the other side of world, Danni awaits the surrender of yet another city to her army. At last, the gates open and hundreds upon hundreds of former slaves pour out of them. Then thousands. The Mother of Dragons informs the people that they are free now, but that they must be the ones to reclaim their freedom. In response, they people raise her to the heavens and pronounce her “Mhysa”. A word that translates to “mother”.

By the end of the episode, there is still much from A Storm of Swords that has not been covered. This was a very smart move on the part of HBO. Because what comes next needs to be fleshed out in detail, not crammed together in a one-hour episode. The dead are coming. The Wildings are coming. Jaime and Cersei need to get reacquainted. Joffery needs to get married. And if viewers thought Westeros was a shattered and war-torn land now, next season will blow their minds.

Originality: 5/5 – I cannot think of any other fantasy series as gritty and real as Game of Thrones or that sticks this closely to the source material, source material that is highly original to begin with.
Story: 5/5 – There are no last minute miracles in this show and the plot is so complex and interwoven one could spend hours trying to unravel it.
Performances: 5/5 – A cast that brings top tier talent to their roles every episode and they never slip. Even the little one-time, one-minute, roles deliver strongly on their parts.
Special Effects: 5/5 – HBO pulls all the stops in this show, beating out even its other Goliath, True Blood in this department.
Repeat Viewing: 5/5 – This episode brings us to thirty hours of completely rewatchable episodes of an amazing show.

Score: 

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