Game of Thrones: 304 “And Now His Watch Is Ended” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
It seems unusual to say about a show that is essentially a ‘sword-and-sorcery’ epic, but for me the greatest part of Game of Thrones is the dialogue: no word is wasted, and every line is layered with subtext. It’s generally a beautifully-written show, but this week’s episode seemed particularly well-crafted. On with the recap!
Jaime seems to be finding things considerably tougher now he’s lost his sword-hand: Locke and his men torment him fairly mercilessly until he manages to steal a sword and start a fight with some of them. However, it seems as though his power came from his right hand, because he is easily bested and beaten. Later, once the group has set up camp, Brienne comments that Jaime lied about the Sapphire Islands to save her, that they are called that because of the blue of the sea and not the presence of gemstones: she then chastises him for giving up and wanting to die after his first taste of the ‘real world’, which seems to work as he starts eating after this tongue-lashing. The development in the Brienne-Jaime relationship has developed quickly and in some interesting directions in the past couple of episodes, and I’m interested to see what kind of influence Brienne will have on the slightly broken Kingslayer in the future.
Elsewhere in the Riverlands, Arya and Gendry accompany the Brotherhood to their hideout, where the Hound is to be put on trial: we are introduced to their leader, the grizzled Beric Dondarrion, who was sent to arrest Gregor Clegane way back in season one and apparently didn’t come off well. While the Hound protests that he is not the same as his brother, and has only ever killed when under orders from the King, Beric sentences him to trial by combat, and says he will be the one to fight him. Beric and the Brotherhood seem like an interesting party to throw into the mix at this stage, fighting for justice rather than any personal gain, and that really sets them apart from the other groups and alliances in the show at the moment.
Tyrion visits Varys to see if he has proof of Cersei’s involvement in his near-murder during the Battle of Blackwater: however, he has none, but he tells Tyrion the story of how a sorcerer in Myr made him a eunuch to carry out some sort of ritual. At the story’s close, he reveals that he has the sorcerer trapped in a crate, using it to drive home his point that influence comes over time, and that it is the best route to revenge.
Later, Varys meets with Ros, who informs him of Littlefinger’s intentions to take Sansa to the Eyrie, and he in turn passes this information on to the wonderfully grouchy Lady Olenna, and they seem to agree that Littlefinger is one of the most dangerous men in Westeros, and that he shouldn’t be allowed to become involved with Sansa as this would give him too much power. These sequences worked well to drop Varys, previously an important player but somewhat sidelined so far this season, back into the melting pot, and to show just how deep his web of informants and spies runs.
Meanwhile, Margaery’s influence over important people in King’s Landing is growing: Cersei is clearly envious of the control she seems to have over Joffrey, to the point that she discusses with her father the danger of the Tyrell presence in the city. Margaery also extends her influence to Sansa, telling her that once she is Queen, she will wed Sansa to her brother, Ser Loras, and allow her to live in Highgarden. The plots in King’s Landing seem to be taking an odd turn, as Sansa now appears to be the most valuable commodity in the city: everyone appears to be trying to marry her to gain power in the North, and I’m genuinely unsure of where this is leading.
Beyond the Wall
The men of the Night’s Watch seem to be growing impatient with the Lord Commander, and angry with Craster for keeping them hungry. The Lord Commander doesn’t exactly endear himself to them as he provides a generic cut-and-paste speech at a funeral service for one of the brothers, and he has difficulty controlling them when Rast and Karl verbally assault Craster, and even more difficulty when Karl stabs Craster in the throat. Drawing his sword to fight Karl, the Lord Commander is subsequently stabbed in the back by Rast, and gradually bleeds out as chaos erupts in Craster’s Keep. Sam, however, takes the opportunity to get Gilly and her newborn son out of the camp and they flee into the woods. It’s an undignified way for the Lord Commander to go, but it was also quite unexpected, and in some ways necessary for the Night’s Watch plot to continue with any real momentum.
A quick visit to Team Bran this week, as Jojen guides him through a dream, telling him he has to go to the three-eyed crow. However, to do that he has to climb a large tree, and once he is on the branch with the crow, he has a vision of Catelyn telling him never to climb, which in turn causes him to fall and wake up.
Elsewhere, Theon is having a really bad day. He confesses to his young saviour that he regrets his actions and his choices, and that Ned Stark was his real father, the man who raised him. Then, as the boy opens up the way to Deepwood Motte, where Yara is waiting for him, he reveals that he has actually led Theon straight back to his cell in the Dreadfort, and he is bound once again as the boy looks on with disturbing glee.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys proves herself a force to be reckoned with in the world of Westeros. The moment her trade with Kraznys is complete, she reveals that she speaks Valyrian and so could understand every insult Kraznys hurled at her, then proceeds to free the Unsullied army by ordering them to kill every slave owner in Astapor, gets her dragon to burn Kraznys to death and marches out of Astapor with her dragons and an 8000-strong army in tow. She’s really come a long way from being the frightened little girl under her manipulative brother’s control, and it seems like she has a better chance at the Iron Throne than any of the other alliances currently at play.
An incredibly strong episode with some exciting forward plot movement and some tensions that were previously bubbling away under the surface exploding outwards, “And Now His Watch Is Ended” holds its own among the best episodes of Game of Thrones. Plus, the sequence in Astapor was surprising and brutal, and shows what could be the beginnings of a shift in the power structure of Westeros.