Our Game of Thrones experts Jason Concepcion and Mallory Rubin are breaking down every episode of the series on our Binge Mode podcast before the show’s Season 7 premiere on July 16. And on every episode of the pod, they pick a winner: a character who did the most to advance their standing in the series. Here are their picks for Season 3:
Episode 1 — Jon Snow
Concepcion: He grew up a little bit.
Rubin: He did. He took a major step forward here. He successfully infiltrates Mance Rayder’s camp. This is a big deal. Let’s run through, quickly, the list of things that Jon manages here: does not die. Does not lose control of his bowels when he sees a giant for the first time, which is also a pretty remarkable achievement. He also manages not to make a complete and utter fool of himself. He goes down that road a little bit with Tormund, when he battles, but then he really recovers and he finds that balance. He walks that line between showing Mance proper respect but also standing up for himself and saying, “I’m someone you have to take seriously here.”
Concepcion: You know something, Jon Snow.
Episode 2 — Margaery and Olenna Tyrell
Rubin: What a showing from these two. Olenna arrives and is instantly dunking on everyone. She’s a scholar. She’s a master of the form. She’s very crude; that’s part of what’s appealing. She’s willing to talk about farts and make fun of everybody. But she’s also really savvy, really smart, really aware both of herself and her family and the people they are either aligning with or fighting against. We have said many times before on this podcast that Margaery knows how to play the game. Now we know why. Now we know who taught her.
Concepcion: Speaking of Margaery, that moment when she walks into the king’s chambers and Joff is sitting there, caressing his crossbow, is just a master class on how to navigate a minefield in a way that doesn’t show weakness, feigns an interest, a kind of subservience, but a kind of subservience that doesn’t come off as weak. She’s telling Joffrey what he wants to hear, stroking his ego, saying it in just the right way, the perfect way to make this story fly.
Episode 3 — The Boltons
Concepcion: Do you think the Red Wedding is afoot at this point? Do you think Roose has gotten the letter and he is beginning to move in that direction?
Rubin: It’s a really good question. It’s certainly possible that Tywin is already in touch. It’s also possible that Tywin is already in touch with the Freys and Bolton is not fully involved yet. But what is Tywin hearing? All these bits of intel they’re soaking up: Who is by Winterfell now? Bolton’s bastard. Who is at Harrenhal? Bolton. Those are two crucial points on the map. So if those letters he’s been writing haven’t already gone to Bolton, they’re about to. And we know that Bolton is going to be a receptive audience.
Episode 4 — Daenerys Targaryen
Rubin: The moment after she confirms that the transaction is complete, it is done, she holds the whip and she speaks. She speaks in High Valyrian — instantly, in that moment, everyone knows that she has duped them. She has won. She says, “A dragon is not a slave.” And then what does he say, “Oh my god, you speak Valyrian?” … “Valyrian is my mother tongue.” And she orders the Unsullied.
Concepcion: This is not difficult information to think, “Oh, the Targaryens, they’re Valyrian, do you think they speak it?”
Rubin: Also, maybe notice that her eyebrows are arching every time you call her a whore! Or say that Jorah smells like piss! Like, context clues, guys! Come on!
Episode 5 — Jon Snow
Rubin: This is great stuff from Jon. He loses his virginity. He does it in an amazing cave with a water feature. Not just any cave!
Concepcion: By the way, if you’ve ever smelled hot springs, that cave, when you add the body smell plus the sex smell plus the sulfur coming up from these hot springs, just the funk.
Rubin: I don’t think he minded the sulfuric water smells.
Episode 6 — The Wildlings
Rubin: This is simple: They climbed the wall! The wall is literally there so that they don’t climb it.
Concepcion: It’s a high wall, it’s a big beautiful wall, it weeps in the sunshine, there’s magic in it, it stretches from coast to coast, no one will ever climb it. People climb it all the time.
Rubin: And they lost some men, sure, but they know that’s part of it. They know that that’s a risk that they face.
Episode 7 — Jaime Lannister
Rubin: Jaime certainly followed his heart. In his case, though, it actually paid off. This is the rare case where doing that was wise, or at least not damaging.
Concepcion: He becomes a hero here. It took three seasons, but what an incredible reversal for a character that was a dastardly, attempted-child-murdering villain. All of a sudden you’re like, “Wow, I like this guy.”
Episode 8 — Samwell Tarly
Concepcion: It’s probably the first time in 8,000 to 10,000 years that someone has killed a White Walker. This is gigantic. This is huge. This is important because Sam is able to impart the knowledge of how he did it to other people. A White Walker is, obviously, extremely difficult to kill. Very long-lived, they can shatter steel swords. They can raise the dead with a gesture.
Rubin: There are so many things I love about this. One of the most satisfying things about rewatching the show in a compressed timeframe is watching Sam’s growth as a character. I know he’s a punch line for a lot of people, a lot of people make fun of him. I’ve always loved him. And a moment like this, the specifics are different in the book but ultimately he’s still Sam the Slayer. He takes out a Walker.
Concepcion: He finds the fighter, finally, inside himself.
Episode 9 — Tywin Lannister
Concepcion: He pulled all the strings. Not only did he end the War of the Five Kings, definitively, he did it in a way that his fingerprints are not on it at all. His fingerprints are not on one of the most vicious and brutal crimes that the realm has ever seen. He orchestrated it, but it cannot be traced back to him.
Rubin: All those letters he was writing all season long, here it is, right here.
Concepcion: Don’t let this guy write!
Episode 10 — Daenerys Targaryen
Concepcion: Dany’s victory in Slaver’s Bay over Astapor, over Yunkai, will send shockwaves through Essos, surely, and surely those shockwaves will reach the seven kingdoms. We know, and the world knows, that she has dragons. They’re baby dragons, but whatever. But by conquering Yunkai, Dany’s displayed a much more dangerous suite of talents. She can lead an army; she successfully managed an overland march and siege of a robustly defended, walled city. Yunkai itself was taken due to what was essentially a special-forces raid that she OK’d. The fall of the city and Dany’s presence in Slaver’s Bay in general has paralyzed the global slave industry on which most of Essos relies. This is earth-shaking stuff for Essos. More importantly though, Dany is more than just a military leader, more than just the rightful ruler of Westeros, more than just the owner of three growing dragons, she is inspiring to people! Look at the way those people treated her when they came swarming out of the gates of Yunkai, carrying her around. Almost messianically chanting, “Mhysa, Mhysa.” There is no other leader in this story that elicits that kind of passion from her subjects. People follow her because they believe in her.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.