|courtesy of HBO
Let’s face it, there’s no other shot in “And Now His Watch Is Ended” that compares to the one pictured above. It is an epic summation of the true power of “Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen”, as she proudly states at the end of the episode. After two and a half seasons spent wandering around deserts and being manipulated by nearly everyone around her, she finally unleashes her pent-up anger and wrath upon Kraznys, who stands as a symbol of tyrannical slave master. This is a common thread through every storyline in this third season’s fourth episode, and it’s one that only Game of Thrones can do with pure gravitas and vengeful badassery. It is undoubtedly the best episode of the season, but not just for its ending. Each of the seven storylines covered are done so in a compelling way that start small and gradually build to the natural, fiery conclusion.
In the Riverlands
The episode begins with a former rich playboy mourning the loss of what made him a legend: his right hand. At this point in the series, Jaime Lannister has turned from the kind of guy who pushes kids out windows to a guy willing to protect his former watchdog. He is a charming man who uses his wittiness to trick people into doing what he wants, but the loss of his right hand (and his dignity) has brought him down to Earth in a way that humanizes him. He laments to Brienne that he wishes to die, which causes her to try and prop him up again. I particularly liked Brienne’s line, chastising Jaime’s weeping as “sounding like a woman.” Sometimes I think Brienne is more man than most of the men on this show, which is by no means an insult to her, especially considering the brutality of the world she lives in. She tells him that someday he will exact revenge on Locke for chopping off his hand, which seems to comfort him. Jaime needed a good dose of humility and I’m glad he’s taking a step in the right direction, towards good. Although, it is important to remember that he is still a Lannister through and through. I can only hope that Brienne realizes that.
Also in the Riverlands
Led by Thoros, the Brothers Without Banners lead Arya, Gendry and the Hound to one of their secret hideouts. They are introduced to the leader of the BWB, a eye-patching wearing man named Beric Dondarrion. Beric wishes to persecute the Hound for murder, though he does not have conclusive proof to do so. This prompts Arya to step in and tell them of the time the Hound killed the butcher’s boy, young Micah, which Beric uses to sentence him to a trial by combat. I’m glad Arya is taking matters into her own hands, since the Hound is one of the chosen few on her Kill LIst. One can only hope that she will find some happiness in his death, though I have a feeling things will be more complicated than that.
In King’s Landing
Much like the Riverlands storylines, we are treated to yet another master-slave conflict when Varys tells Tyrion the backstory of how he became a eunuch. This is a particularly sad tale that helps endear us to Varys in a way we haven’t felt since he was first introduced as “The Spider”. He explains that a sorcerer practiced some black magic on him when he was much younger, causing him to lose his manhood. And lo and behold, Varys is keeping that sorcerer in a cramped crate in King’s Landing for safe keeping. What his plans are for the sorcerer is a mystery but I can’t wait to find out. Varys is a tricky devil, exercising his power through whispers rather than swords. One can only imagine what tricks he has up his sleeves.
Varys also reveals to Tyrion that Littlefinger requested two beds for his voyage to the Eyrie, leading the Imp to realize that he might be trying to sneak Sansa out of King’s Landing. This is a tough conflict. I don’t like Littlefinger but I want Sansa to escape, so part of me wants Tyrion to foil Littlefinger’s plan while another part of me wants his whole scheme to work. Varys goes to Lady Olenna, asking about Sansa, for which she provides little information. Varys has a particularly killer line summing up Littlefinger’s dirty ambition, stating, “He would see this city burn if it meant he could be king of the ashes.” Also, not enough can be said about Diana Rigg’s performance as Lady Olenna, who I would not hesitate to give a Best Guest Actress trophy at this year’s Emmys.
Elsewhere, Cersei remains concerned about Margaery’s influence on Joffrey, asking her father to try to control him. Tywin sneers at her, telling her she’s not nearly as smart as she thinks she is, allowing Lena Headey to give yet another one of her classic faces of disapproval. Cersei knows that her power will soon be coming to an end so it’s not surprising that she’s trying to knock down the Queen-to-be. And speaking of the Queen-to-be, Margarey is continuing to play Joffrey like a fiddle, persuading him to go out and greet the people. She’s comfortable playing the slave role to Joffrey for a while, but there will come a day when she will unleash her manipulative wrath on him and he will not see it coming. What a glorious day that will be.
In the North
Bran is treated to another one his three-eyed bird dreams, but this time he is also visited by his mother Catelyn. She yells at him for climbing trees, causing him to fall off in a fashion similar to his actual fall. That poor kid will be reliving that for the rest of his life, and if his subconscious is making him feel guilty about it through his mother then I can’t even imagine the true extent of his emotional pain.
Meanwhile, Theon and the cleaning boy who helped him escape are on the path towards the Iron Islands. Traveling through an underground tunnel, Theon expresses his regret for burning down Winterfell, concluding that Ned Stark was his true father, not necessarily in blood but in love expressed. After revealing that he didn’t actually kill the two Stark boys, the cleaning boy takes him to the dungeon he helped him escape from and ties him up again with the help of the torturers. I say it every week but I really mean it this time, Poor Theon. He’s right back to square one, a slave to as yet unknown captors.
Beyond the Wall
Wow. It’s a testament to the strength of the show’s ability to develop its hundreds of characters that the death of Jeor Mormont, a secondary character in the grand scheme of things has a real impact in this episode. Up to this point, The Night’s Watch stay at Craster’s inn has been a miserable one, so it’s no surprise that all the unresolved tension comes to the surface in a bloody swordfight. Lord Commander Mormont confronts Karl after he repeatedly insults Craster, in an attempt to make peace with Craster, but his words fall on deaf ears. Both Craster and Mormont die in a chaotic battle that everyone’s favorite Night’s Watchman Sam runs off with Gilly and her baby boy. It’s nice to see Sam take some initiative and show off his bravery in front of the woman he loves. God, I hope they’re okay. I wonder if Sam sees himself as a free man now that he has run off. I would love to see him in a newfound leadership role, taking care of Gilly and the baby. I would like to think that he has become tough enough from his experiences with the Night’s Watch to be an independent, strong man.
Across the Narrow Sea
And finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Daenerys only appears in one scene in this episode but it’s obvious why she was saved for last. Kraznys and Daenerys meet to perform the exchange agreed upon in the previous episode: all 8,000 of his Unsullied slaves for her biggest dragon. Daenerys hands over the dragon, which fusses about in the hands of Kraznys, who gives her his staff. Kraznys is too distracted by the dragon to realize that Daenerys has called the Unsullied to attention in Valyrian, the language Kraznys had been using, unaware that she could understand him all along. She commands the Unsullied to slay every master, sparing the children. They do so in brutal unison as Daenerys watches confidently. After Kraznys protests that he cannot control the dragon, Daenerys spitefully retorts, “A DRAGON IS NOT A SLAVE,” commanding her dragon to rain fire upon Kraznys, and so it does. It’s such a victorious moment, both for Daenerys and for the show itself that I couldn’t help but feel oddly inspired by Daenerys’ steely determination. She tells the Unsullied that they will be slaves no more, and all 8,000 tap their sticks repeatedly to the ground, indicating their loyalty. As the rightful Queen and her men march towards their new destination, there is an incredible feeling of anticipation for what kind of damage this formerly frightened young girl will do.
This episode provided everything I love about Game of Thrones. From manipulations within the King’s castle to interesting swordfights to an ending that won’t likely be topped by any show this year, this third season is proving why the show cannot be topped in terms of pure magnitude, both literally and figuratively.
MVP: Emilia Clarke
Directing by Alex Graves
Writing by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss