At the end of episode six of the third season of “Game of Thrones,” an episode titled “The Climb,” Jon Stark (Kit Harrington) and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) kiss from the top of the wall, the Seven Kingdoms’ first and the last defense. The camera floats, like in a Spike Lee film, and breaks the 180° rule of cinematography with all of Westeros, which Ygritte is glimpsing for the first time, fading into the distant background.
Cinematically, it’s probably the most innovative moment in the first three seasons of GOT, with the possible exception of Alan Taylor’s GOT directoral debut in S1. Cameras don’t tend to move with such confidence like that in television, not even the best of AMC or HBO in shows like “The Terror” or “Breaking Bad.” It’s the moment that the show finally felt cinematic, as it has been hyped up to me, rather than made-for-television.
(The quality of the sound editing and mixing improved much between seasons as well. I found that the improvements here really carried much of the show.)
That’s not the only innovation of this season, though. Narratively, the Red Wedding, where Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his mother are brutally killed, was as thrilling a cliff hanger as the origin of the phrase, Thomas Hardy’s novel “A Pair of Blue Eyes,” where a character is left literally dangling off a cliff. The wait between the finale of S3 and the pilot of S4 would have been nearly unbearable had I watched this when it aired. The slaughtering of the main characters is the engine of this show—and Robb’s death was impossible to see coming. It left me genuinely upset in a way I haven’t felt after watching cinema since “Melancholia.”
This season introduced even more female characters than the last and deepened the ones we already knew. The most powerful character is now Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), whose three dragons have grown almost as fast as her army. Not only is she well on her way to being the most powerful person in Westeros and beyond, but she is also the noblest—as a liberator of slaves, her character arch is a representation of the ways this season has complicated the politics of the show. A family name doesn’t mean you will be a certain way. Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has grown a heart for an abused woman, Robb Stark fails to be a man of his word, Sansa refuses a chance to flee King’s Landing, and, of course, Theon Greyjoy has betrayed and repented of his betrayals to multiple families, a few times.
With the innovations in form and narrative, in addition to the plot and political complications, the third season has been the best yet.