Overall, I found the season to be a substantial improvement over Season 2 (which was still pretty damn good), even if it failed to rise to the near-perfection of Season 1 (which was immensely aided by its relative simplicity). To my mind, the fundamental question moving forward will be how well Benioff and Weiss can pare and adapt Martin's ever-more-sprawling (and unlikely to be completed) opus, and on this score I think Season 3 offered both reasons to be optimistic, and reasons to be less optimistic.
Before asking what you guys thought, though, let me say thanks to you both for doing this—it's been an utter blast—and particular thanks for putting up with my occasionally idiosyncratic obsessions. Thanks, too, to our readers, for more of the same, for your many sharp comments and close analyses on subjects from Pod's penis to Talisa's fate, and most of all for not telling Spencer that everyone was going to die in Episode 9.
So, what did you guys think?
Kornhaber: What do I think? I think I'm still recovering from the massive twist Benioff and Weiss just served up: having the capstone to their show's arguably best season, and the follow-up to their most shocking and eventful episode yet, be one in which the most exciting developments revolve around the opening of mail.
As you point out, Chris, this Thrones finale was in full Thrones finale form, hopscotching frantically across plotlines to tie a cliffhanger-y bow on each of them. In this case, though, that meant not much happened—games were not changed like they were when, say, Joffrey swapped Sansa for Margaery at the end of last season. Rather, they reached their long-foreseen conclusions with that series of homecomings you mention, and the not-even-shocking-to-newbie-me reveal of Torture Boy as a Bolton Man.
But as an epilogue to the Red Wedding, the show's writers, interestingly, used all these plotlines to slyly confront a widespread viewer reaction to the carnage that had just unfolded. Last week, the two of you may have been slightly underwhelmed, and I may have been more-than-slightly blown away, but a lot of newcomers felt pure outrage. A common sentiment on Twitter: What kind of sicko was George R. R. Martin to groom a group of likable, noble, on-the-side-of-right protagonists only to viciously butcher them at the end of Season 3?
“You disapprove?” Tywin asks his son, though he may well have been addressing Thrones fans who have sat happily through three seasons of murder and rape only to balk now at the loss of Young Wolf & co. “I'm all for cheating,” Tyrion says, “but to slaughter them at a wedding...”
“Explain to me why it is more noble to kill tens of thousands of men in battle than a dozen at dinner,” Tywin retorts. That made me pause. The thing is, in the week since “The Rains of Castamere” aired, I've found myself more fully realizing the deep and layered ways that the slaying of the Starks was, yes, ignoble. Bran's fable about the cook who angered the gods by serving up a guest highlights one of them. And yet for how wrong these murders were, in the show's universe they fit right in. Tywin's moral calculation may even have been correct. We've known this is a brutal, loser-lose-all world at least since Eddard lost his head. Why, exactly, wouldn't Tywin seize the opportunity to snuff out our putative heroes—his enemies? Why, exactly, should we be shocked by these killings above all others?