June 9, 2013 at 10:14 AM ET
Robb Stark. Catelyn Stark. Lord Commander Mormont. These characters fell victim in some of the biggest deaths in season three of HBO's "Game of Thrones," and they all have something in common: Their inability to bend.
Yes, Lord Frey is a vindictive jerk who doesn't forgive a major insult, but Robb was unrelenting in his quest to become official King in the North. Shoulda kept your promise! As for his mom Cat, well ... revenge has a price -- say goodbye to your entire family and your own head. With Mormont, his downfall was a refusal to respond to his men's very human needs, including ... food!
Indeed, one of the lessons of the show this season is that you change or you die. And some of our favorite characters have done quite a bit of changing over the last nine episodes. Is there more to come for them? Those who've read the books already know the answer, but we can still hope!
Perhaps no one has evolved as much as Jaime this season. He went from being a kingslaying, oathbreaking sister-lover who tried to kill an innocent boy to being a sympathetic character and fan favorite, and not because he had his most prized asset -- his sword hand -- lopped off. Turns out there's a good reason he killed King Aerys, a man he was sworn to protect: Jamie was defying orders to kill his dad, Tywin, and prevent the destruction of King's Landing and its innocents. His burgeoning relationship with Brienne of Tarth in season three also shows he's a loyal friend. Sure, he likes to make a few japes about her "ugly" mug, but he does it with love. (Left) fingers crossed for more of him going forward!
Remember when she was the innocent, annoying little brat of a girl who stuck by Joffrey, right or wrong? (It's your fault Lady died, Sansa!) How everything was songs and rainbows and silly crushes for her? That Sansa is dead, and in her place now is a young woman who knows that the world is a dark place full of pain and treachery and fear. She's still eager to trust someone, anyone to get her out of King's Landing and away from Joff, but will she? Old Sansa would have without hesitation. New one? Guess we'll have to wait and see.
No longer just the bastard son of Ned Stark, Jon has slowly transformed from a dejected boy into a young man who holds on to honor as closely as his dearly departed father did, the longer he wears his black cloak of the Night's Watch. And this season has seen him change into a turncloak -- something that troubled him greatly -- even though the only way for him to serve his crow brothers and the realm was to betray them by breaking his vows. And we're not just talking about killing one of his own (RIP, Qhorin Halfhand), he also bedded Ygritte before breaking her heart. As his trials stack up, so does his growth into a smart and brave young man. These tough lessons could take him far, assuming he survives the season finale and beyond.
From powerless little girl ordered around by her big brother to Mother of Dragons! Dany's rise to power has been matched only by her growth into a confident, smart, fearless, well-respected leader among her followers. She has outwitted slavers and leaders of great cities as she heads east to try to eventually conquer the West. And all the while, she's taken advice from her trusted inner circle -- when she feels it is the correct path -- and has let her wrath be known when necessary. If only Viserys could see her now, he'd probably tremble in fear, as will the many who may still cross her path in the finale.
Who would've thought the fierce, disfigured giant of a man who kills for King Joffrey without hesitation and instills fear in the hearts of his foes would ever become even slightly likable? Yet, he has this season, thanks in part to the "Arya and Her Dog" show set within "Game of Thrones." (What, you don't enjoy the banter between the two?) Sure, he's still not the nicest guy in Westeros, but as more is revealed about him, the more sympathetic he becomes. Plus, he's been known to do a few good deeds here and there. Remember when he saved Sansa from being gang raped in King's Landing? And after the Red Wedding, he could've just taken Arya's head off since she was no longer worth any ransom money, but instead, he saved her from what would have surely been her death, too, had she stuck around the Twins. He sure does seem to be getting a bit softer as the series progresses, but whether that will help him ... well, go read the books or keep watching!
Yes, change is good, as the unbending tend to break. But as fans of the show and the books know, just because a character can adapt and grow and sneak into our hearts, that doesn't guarantee survival. After all, George R. R. Martin -- the mastermind behind the novels the show is based on -- has given plenty of warning that things will not always end well. And when characters die, it'll hurt -- a lot -- because he wants it to. Consider yourself warned for the season three finale.
"Game of Thrones" airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.