TV Review: “Game of Thrones” new season best in chunks

From the March 28, 2013 edition

“Game of Thrones” is one of TV’s best shows and a surprising cultural phenomenon with audiences anxiously awaiting each new episode. After watching four episodes of Season 3 — great as a whole with individual episodes leaving me wanting more each time — I’ve concluded “Game of Thrones” is best viewed in large chunks.

Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are in a completely unenviable position given the breadth of source material, but having periodic check-ins with all the divergent plots causes some slow development.

Based on “A Storm of Swords,” a fan favorite and massive 1,200-plus page text, the story will be split over the next two seasons. Despite this wise approach, a lot of bouncing around occurs, spending only minutes with specific characters within an episode. Making matters worse is the plethora of new characters being introduced. It’s sometimes head-spinningly complex.

Maybe less is more. Last season’s powerhouse, “Blackwater,” was a revelation because it spent the entire hour with only a handful of characters. While I missed Arya (Maisie Williams) in Sunday’s premiere and would feel slighted if Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion was underused, a tighter focus on fewer characters could better service the episodic narrative.

A good example is Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), who didn’t have a lot to do last season — except whine about dragons. The character is much, much stronger in Season 3, but takes a while to get there. Be patient.

While this sprawling epic can be frustrating, “Game of Thrones” beautifully weaves narratives together thematically. Loyalty, family and betrayal are always on the surface, but some nicely subtle work is done too. The use of mirrors is prominent in Season 3, presenting a shrewd parallel between the capacity for evil — born out of innocence? — in “Game of Thrones” and our “more advanced” society. Another theme expertly examined is the kinship of communication and manipulation.

Look, “Game of Thrones” is a stellar piece of television, but it shines strongest when the audience can watch more than one at a time. I know it sounds crazy, but maybe let a few episodes build up on the DVR before starting Season 3.