Valar Dohaeris

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"Valar Dohaeris"
Game of Thrones episode
Game of Thrones-S03-E01-Valar Dohaeris.jpg.png
Daenerys Targaryen with Drogon.
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 1
Directed byDaniel Minahan
Written by
Featured musicRamin Djawadi
Cinematography byJonathan Freeman
Editing byFrances Parker
Original air dateMarch 31, 2013 (2013-03-31)
Running time55 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Valar Morghulis"
Next →
"Dark Wings, Dark Words"
Game of Thrones (season 3)
List of Game of Thrones episodes

"Valar Dohaeris" is the third season premiere of the HBO fantasy television series Game of Thrones. Written by executive producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, and directed by Daniel Minahan, it aired on March 31, 2013.[1]

The premiere continued where the second season left off, with the Lannisters consolidating their power at King's Landing in the aftermath of the Battle of the Blackwater. Meanwhile, Jon Snow meets the "King beyond the Wall," and Daenerys leaves Qarth for Slaver's Bay.

The episode's title translates to "all men must serve" in the High Valyrian language in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels, which the series adapts. The title mirrors that of season 2's finale, "Valar Morghulis" – "all men must die."

The episode received mostly positive reviews, set a new ratings record for the series, and was one of the most torrented episodes for an HBO series.[2]


Beyond the Wall[edit]

The episode opens shortly after White Walkers have attacked the Night's Watch force and left only a small number of survivors. During a subsequent blizzard, Samwell Tarly is attacked by a wight, but is saved by the direwolf Ghost and Lord Commander Jeor Mormont. Mormont reprimands Samwell for failing to send ravens south to warn of the approaching army and orders the survivors to return to the Wall.

Jon Snow, still a prisoner of Ygritte and the wildlings, arrives at the wildling camp and is escorted to meet with Mance Rayder. When brought to his tent, Jon initially mistakes Tormund Giantsbane for the King-beyond-the-Wall, but Mance reveals himself to Jon and questions Jon's motives for deserting the Night's Watch. Jon earns Mance's approval by describing his disgust after discovering that Craster gave his baby sons to the White Walkers and that Mormont knew but did nothing, adding that he wants "to fight for the side that fights for the living".

In King's Landing[edit]

Newly knighted Ser Bronn has returned to Tyrion Lannister's service, for a much higher fee. Tyrion, who has been scarred as a result of the Battle of the Blackwater, has been a shut-in recluse ever since the arrival of his father Tywin, who has taken the glory for the victory over Stannis Baratheon's forces. Cersei visits Tyrion and questions what he will say to their father. When Tyrion meets with Tywin, who has assumed the role of Hand of the King, Tywin reluctantly agrees to Tyrion's request for recognition of his accomplishments during the Battle of Blackwater. However, when pressed by Tyrion to name him heir to Casterly Rock, the Lannister ancestral home, Tywin refuses, and viciously insults Tyrion, calling him an embarrassment and a penance that he must suffer "to teach him humility", also heavily implying that he does not believe Tyrion to be legitimate. As Tyrion leaves, Tywin threatens to hang the next whore he finds in Tyrion's bed.

Petyr Baelish approaches Sansa Stark, who is still being accompanied by Shae. Petyr informs Sansa that he is in negotiations to take a role that would remove him from King's Landing. He offers to smuggle her out if Sansa can keep quiet about the plan. Ros is careful to tell Shae to watch out for Sansa's wellbeing, especially when dealing with Baelish.

King Joffrey Baratheon and his betrothed Lady Margaery Tyrell travel through Flea Bottom in a caravan, when Margaery stops and exits her litter and goes to an orphanage to comfort the children. Joffrey, meanwhile, hides in his litter with the windows shut. At dinner with Cersei, Margaery, and Loras Tyrell, Joffrey trades insults with his mother while the Tyrells show perfect unity and harmony.

In Blackwater Bay[edit]

Davos Seaworth is left stranded on a rock in Blackwater Bay after the destruction of his ship in the Battle of the Blackwater. He is picked up by a ship belonging to his old friend, the pirate Salladhor Saan. Davos recounts seeing his son Matthos die. Salladhor reveals that he is leaving Stannis Baratheon's service due to Stannis' defeat and Salladhor's belief that Stannis is unable to deliver what Davos had promised in his name. He also tells Davos that Stannis is in seclusion at Dragonstone, and will only speak with Melisandre, who is burning people alive. Davos asks Salladhor to take him there, intending to stop Melisandre influencing Stannis by assassinating her. Salladhor agrees, despite being afraid that this will mean Davos's death.

At Dragonstone[edit]

Davos is given an audience with Stannis, and is shocked to discover that Stannis is indifferent to his survival and refuses to send Melisandre away. Melisandre insinuates to Davos that it is his fault the battle was lost, since he convinced Stannis to leave her at Dragonstone and thus prevented Melisandre from using her magic to influence the battle's outcome. When she mentions Matthos, Davos becomes enraged and tries to attack her, but is restrained by the guards; Stannis orders him thrown in the dungeons.

At Harrenhal[edit]

Robb Stark and his forces arrive at Harrenhal, where they discover that Gregor Clegane has abandoned the castle and slaughtered all the prisoners. Lord Roose Bolton gives sympathy to a still-grieving Lord Rickard Karstark, who expresses his frustration that Catelyn Stark let Jaime Lannister go. Bolton assures Karstark that Jaime will be found soon, as his best hunter is after him. Robb stumbles across a survivor among the dead, a man named Qyburn.

Across the Narrow Sea[edit]

With her dragons growing fast, Daenerys Targaryen has arrived at Astapor in Slaver's Bay and is considering buying an army of the renowned eunuch slave soldiers, the "Unsullied". She and Ser Jorah Mormont witness a brutal demonstration of their fortitude, but Daenerys is horrified to hear of the gruesome training they endure. Upon walking throughout a nearby market, a warlock masked as a young girl attempts to assassinate Daenerys with a scorpion-like creature. He is thwarted by a cloaked Ser Barristan Selmy, previous Kingsguard to Daenerys' father, who swears his allegiance to her.



The episode was written by showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. It was based mainly on the first chapters of A Storm of Swords, the third novel in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. Specifically, it adapts material from chapters Samwell I, Jon I, Davos I, Davos II, Tyrion I, Daenerys I, Davos III, and Daenerys II from A Storm of Swords and chapter Daenerys V of A Clash of Kings.[3]

Some of the twists that open the third book were used in the previous season's finale (mainly Robb's marriage and the White Walkers attacking the Night's Watch). Conversely, Barristan Selmy saving Daenerys from the manticore was borrowed from her last chapter in the second book A Clash of Kings.[3]


Ciarán Hinds joins the series as Mance Rayder

"Valar Dohaeris" introduces the Irish actor Ciarán Hinds as the Wildling leader and Night's Watch deserter Mance Rayder, one of the latest Season 3 roles to be cast. The producers explained that casting Mance was a great challenge because he was someone who had become "King beyond the Wall" not by birthright but by convincing all the tribes to unite under his leadership. They had to find an actor with the charisma required to portray this.[4] Unusual for a production such as Game of Thrones, the first scene Hinds filmed was the first one where his character appears: the meeting with Jon Snow at his tent.[5]

The season premiere also marks the first appearance of guest stars Kristofer Hivju as the Wildling Tormund Giantsbane, Nathalie Emmanuel as the slave Missandei, and Anton Lesser as the wounded prisoner Qyburn. The three castings were announced at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2012.

With this episode, Rose Leslie (Ygritte) and Oona Chaplin (Talisa) are promoted to series regulars, after guest starring in the second season. After being absent for the entire second season, Ian McElhinney returns as Ser Barristan Selmy. Actor Ian Whyte, previously cast as a White Walker in the first season, was recast as the huge Ser Gregor Clegane in the second and appears in the episode as the giant seen in the wildlings camp.[citation needed]


David J. Peterson, who created the Dothraki language for the first season of the show, was entrusted by the producers to design a new constructed language to depict Valyrian, the tongue of the fallen Valyrian Empire. After immersing himself in the fictional background, Peterson ended devising two languages: High Valyrian, the oldest form that was spoken at the height of the Empire and that in its purest form still exists as a language of scholarship and refinement, and the Slaver's Bay variety of Low Valyrian, a creolized version that is spoken in local dialects around the Slaver's Bay. The relationship between the two languages would be similar to the one between Classical Latin and Vulgar Latin.

To translate sentences in Low Valyrian such as the ones spoken by Kraznys mo Nakloz and Missandei during the episode, Peterson would first write them into High Valyrian, and then apply a series of phonological, semantic and grammatical changes to the text.[6]

Filming locations[edit]

The episode used locations in four different countries: The Paint Hall in Belfast, the City Walls of Dubrovnik, Mývatn and Vinderbelgjarfjall, and the Old Fort at Essaouira.

The production continued to use the Paint Hall studios in Belfast for most interior shoots. The scene of Daenerys at sea was filmed at the Linen Mill Film & Television Studios at Banbridge, using the same ship built for Theon's arrival in Pyke and used as Stannis' flagship in season 2.[7] The beach of Downhill Strand returned as the island of Dragonstone.

The old city of Dubrovnik was again used for the exterior shots of the capital, King's Landing. Tyrion and Bronn are seen walking on the famed city walls, and the scene where Lord Baelish visits Sansa at the docks was filmed in the old port between Fort Lovrijenac and the Pila Gates.[8]

Also repeating from last season, the scenes beyond the Wall were filmed in Iceland. The Wildling's camp was built in a new location, on a lava field in the Mývatn Lake region in the North, a few hours from the town of Akureyri. Building the camp took months of work from the art department and weeks of construction by the local crew. Although the scenes at the Icelandic exteriors were filmed at minus 11 degrees Celsius, the interior of Mance's tent was filmed on one of the soundstages at the Paint Hall. The fires burning inside the tent made the set very hot, and the actors suffered the heat wearing heavy furs designed for Arctic climates.[5][9][10]

To depict the slaver city of Astapor, the production used the Moroccan city of Essaouira. The Unsullied are introduced in the city ramparts of Skala de la Ville, the 18th-century sea bastion that runs along the northern cliffs, and during the closing scene when Barristan reveals himself, the Genoese-built citadel by the harbour can be clearly seen.


The episode is dedicated to the memory of cinematographer Martin Kenzie, who had worked in the photography department and died of cancer while the third season was being filmed on July 16, 2012.



"Valar Dohaeris"'s first airing was seen by 4.4 million viewers; the total rose to 6.7 million viewers once the two repeats of the night are taken into account. Both figures represented a viewership record for the show.[11] In the United Kingdom, the episode was seen by 1.173 million viewers on Sky Atlantic, being the channel's highest-rated broadcast that week.[12]

Critical reception[edit]

The episode received critical acclaim. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes surveyed 21 reviews of the episode and judged 100% of them to be positive with an average score of 7.5 out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads, "'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)."[13] In an advance review for The Daily Beast, Jace Lacob wrote that the season premiere lacks "energy and intensity, but provides a necessary foundation," and that the season, like the novel it is based on, "takes a little to get going."[14] Matt Fowler, writing for IGN, gave the episode an 8.6/10, writing that "while understandably not showing us everyone, Game of Thrones returned in fine form with dragons, zombies and giants."[15] Neela Dabnath of The Independent felt that "Valar Dohaeris" was a strong start to Season 3 and "deftly picked up the various story strands from the last season ... even if it was just a series of brief check-in." She also praised the show for taking "creative liberties which always pay off in bucket loads," commenting on how this can "add to Martin’s world and flesh it out in new ways."[16] writer Erik Kain stated he felt "Valar Dohaeris" did "exactly what it needed to do," by bringing the viewers "back up to speed on the broader conflict and the various minor character conflicts and positioning for power. The ball hasn’t really been moved forward at all, but our feet are on sturdy ground to move forward." He did however express some disappointment over how some elements of the episode differed from its source material in regards to the reintroduction of the character Barristan Selmy and the apparent absence of the character Strong Belwas.[17] Reviewing the episode for The Guardian, Sarah Hughes felt that "Valar Dohaeris" "didn't really feel like a season opener," and that the opening scene was "a little disorientating." However she enjoyed the scenes in King's Landing and lauded Stephen Dillane's brief performance. Commenting on the Daenerys' plot, she felt her storyline was advancing quite quickly. She also felt that the Barristan Selmy reveal was handled well as; "there are certain conventions that work better on page than screen and the hidden identity trope is one of them. By getting the reveal out of the way early, Benioff and Weiss can concentrate on the potential rivalry between Barristan and Jorah."[18]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
2013 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series Gemma Jackson, Frank Walsh, and Tina Jones Nominated
Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special Paul Engelen, Conor O'Sullivan, and Rob Trenton Nominated
Outstanding Special Visual Effects Doug Campbell, Rainer Gombos, Juri Stanossek, Sven Martin, Steve Kullback, Jan Fiedler, Chris Stenner, Tobias Mannewitz, Thilo Ewers, and Adam Chazen Won
Hollywood Post Alliance Awards Outstanding Visual Effects – Television Joe Bauer and Jabbar Raisani, Jörn Grosshans and Sven Martin, and Doug Campbell Won
2014 ADG Excellence in Production Design Award One-Hour Single Camera Television Series Gemma Jackson Won
American Society of Cinematographers One-Hour Episodic Television Series Jonathan Freeman Won
Visual Effects Society Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program Steve Kullback, Joe Bauer, Jörn Großhans, Sven Martin Won


  1. ^ "Episode Guide". Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  2. ^ Lawler, Ryan (April 1, 2013). "Game Of Thrones Season 3 Premieres To Record Ratings, Piracy". TechCrunch. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Garcia, Elio; Antonsson, Linda (May 3, 2014). "EP301: Valar Dohaeris". Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  4. ^ Hibberd, James (March 25, 2013). "'Game of Thrones' producers on casting Mance Rayder, Lady Olenna". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
  5. ^ a b Taylor, Cat. "We Meet Mance Rayder". Making Game of Thrones. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  6. ^ Peterson, David. "David Peterson and the languages of 'Game of Thrones'". CNN. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  7. ^ "Day 23: Filming continues in NI". Retrieved March 28, 2013.
  8. ^ Komaić, Lucija. "'Dolazimo opet u Dubrovnik'". Portal Oko. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
  9. ^ Taylor, Cat. "Arrival in Iceland Marks the Beginning of the End". Making Game of Thrones. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  10. ^ Taylor, Cat. "Mance Rayder's Camp". Making Game of Thrones. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  11. ^ Hibberd, James (April 2, 2013). "'Game of Thrones' season 3 premiere ratings break records". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  12. ^ "Top 10 Ratings (1 - 7 April 2013)". BARB. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  13. ^ "Valar Dohaeris". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  14. ^ Lacob, Jace (March 25, 2013). "Here Be Dragons". The Daily Beast. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  15. ^ Fowler, Matt (March 31, 2013). "Game of Thrones 'Valar Dohaeris' Review". IGN. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
  16. ^ Dabnath, Neela (April 1, 2013). "Review of Game of Thrones 'Valar Dohaeris'". The Independent. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  17. ^ Kain, Erik (April 1, 2013). "'Game Of Thrones' Season 3 Premiere Review: 'Valar Dohaeris' Sets The Stage". Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  18. ^ Hughes, Sarah (April 1, 2013). "Game of Thrones recap: season three, episode one – Valar Dohaeris". The Guardian. Retrieved April 4, 2013.

External links[edit]