Like last week’s premiere, “Dark Wings, Dark Words” is largely a place-setting episode. But where “Valar Dohaeris” felt accomplished, thanks to a consistent tone, this episode felt clumsy. I think this is because “Dark Wings, Dark Words” fell victim to the ‘clunky pilot’ curse that I spoke about in my Hannibal review.
We’re in the third season, so it’s obviously not a pilot. But there’s so much to introduce that the episode can’t help but feel disjointed: there’s new characters to introduce (a mysterious pair of twins, Margaery’s imposing grandmother, the Brotherhood Without Banners, whoever Noah Taylor is playing) and details about “wargs,” and while all of these introductions are done well, they don’t really move the plot along. Without sufficient forward momentum it’s just ‘stuff happening.’ It’s not like there’s an overabundance of exposition – I have no idea what, exactly, is happening to Theon – but the sheer density of the hour is a drawback.
Naturally, since this is Game of Thrones, the episode is not without merit. I was intrigued by Margaery’s attempts to win Joffrey over, and the last ten minutes – where Arya’s identity is revealed by the Hound and Jaime and Brienne cross swords – were genuinely great.