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"Valar Dohaeris" overextends itself trying to reintroduce a multitude of characters and plotlines, but is strengthened by its brilliantly acted two-person scenes (and three growing baby dragons).
A perfectly calibrated masterclass demonstration of how well these showrunners understand the material, its pull and its rhythms, and the patient dedication of the audience they have summoned to join them around the campfire.
That said, as with any series this complex, the first episode had to do a lot of narrative heavy lifting, and we will have to wait for the real climaxes. But there was much to whet the appetite.
So yeah, a nice hour of television. A few things left me cold, though. I find it impossible to care about the Stannis Baretheon storyline.
This wasn't the kind of episode fans will be clamoring to rewatch, but as a table-setter for the season it's aces, establishing plot and tone with expert craftsmanship.
That's just life, isn't it? You live, you serve and then you die, hopefully not by zombies.
The episode took on the air of the very best caper flicks: the clearing of throats, the setting of stages, and, most important, the reintroducing of the gang.
It was a deceptively quiet episode, more a gathering of forces and wills than an action-packed opener.
With even more characters and more locales than before, "Valar Dohaeris" is particularly full.
Overall, this episode was a bit slow for me-it felt like 60 minutes of set-up, albeit setup for awesome things to come. I think I might've enjoyed it more had I not read the books and wasn't able to anticipate future plot points.
"Valar Dohaeris" did its job nicely: checking in on the series' main players and giving a few hints of what Season 3 has in store for them
Despite the slow pace, it features some great moments, dramatic twists in fortune (hinting at Stannis and Davos who I have left unmentioned) and a heated assassination attempt.
Things are about to kick up a notch.