After a few weeks of build-up, the third season of Game of Thrones has finally gone over the first hill of the roller coaster, and it is quite a ride. Things moved excitingly fast in "And Now His Watch Has Ended" as key plots are advanced. This week in Westeros ...
Jaime Lannister and Brienne:
The last episode ended with what was pretty much the best cut-to-black ever: the hand of Jaime Lannister, greatest swordsman in Westeros, being chopped off. This episode opens with a shot of Jaime being dragged around the woods with his severed hand hanging around his neck. The Kingslayer's spirit is obviously broken, and Brienne is visibly disturbed by this. There is a great chemistry and relationship between the two. Brienne takes it upon herself to keep Jaime's spirit up, obviously holding respecting for her former prisoner. She appeals to his honor to help him go on, calling him a "coward" for getting a taste of the real world, where "important things" are constantly taken from people, and then whining about it. Jaime submits and begins to eat. It appears that Brienne may end up being the Kingslayer's savior after all.
As we normally seem to encounter Bran these days, he is walking through his dream world and chasing a three-eyed crow, new pal Jojen Reed with him. After climbing a tree to meet the crow, in a scene very reminiscent of Bran's climbing in the first episode of the series, Bran meets his mother. Catelyn yells at him not to climb and starts to shake him, causing him to fall in the same way that Jaime did after the little lord discovered the Lannister incest. A lot of good recall imagery in this scene.
This episode seems to be working quite hard to make us begin feeling sympathetic towards Theon. After what he did to Winterfell and those two orphan boys, three episodes of torture seemed like a fitting punishment. Here, though, he begins to break down and you start to see him as a young man struggling to appease his father. While we will not forgive him for what he did at Winterfell, you do feel for him when he tells his false savior, "My real father died in King's Landing. I made a choice, and I chose wrong, and now I've burned everything down." When he was thrust back into the torture chamber, it was a bit more difficult to be so enthusiastic about it.
Arya and the Hound:
The Brotherhood has taken Arya, Robert's bastard, and the Hound to their base, where Clegane is to stand trial for his transgressions. Apparently the Brotherhood has had a swig of the same Kool-Aid as Stannis and are wholly committed to the Lord of Light. They are trying to charge the Hound with murdering the Targaryen children during Robert's Rebellion, but he points out it was his brother that did this. Arya serves up a dish best served cold, though — a dish that plays a major role in this episode: revenge. She mentions that, back in season one, Clegane killed her friend. That's all the Brotherhood needs, and the Hound is sentenced to trial by combat.
The master of patient revenge in this episode is Lord Varys. He shares with Tyrion one of the best scenes of the series, discussing the nature of influence, power, and patience. Varys reveals how he was made into a eunuch — sold as a boy to a sorcerer, he lost his manhood as part of a spell. Varys vowed to forever despise those who practice magic and to gain revenge, and worked his ways from the streets of Myr to the Small Council of Westeros. As they talk, Varys is opening a box he has just received — within it is none other than the sorcerer, beaten and bloodied.
The Spider later meets with the Queen of Thorns, and the banter between the two is tremendously fun. Varys has learned that Lord Baelish plans to take Sansa Stark with him to marry, guaranteeing himself access to take the North should Robb Stark die. Varys warns Lady Olenna that Littlefinger is the most dangerous man in the kingdom, who would burn it down if he could just be king of the ashes. More scenes between Varys and Olenna, please. They're a powerful, interesting duo.
To stop Baelish, Olenna dispatches the clever Lady Margaery to go chat with Sansa. The two have been building up a rapport this season. Margaery wins Sansa over, and proposes a marriage between Sansa and her brother Ser Loras, with whom Sansa was previously smitten. Sansa, giggling girl with the tough life that she is, seems quite enthralled with the idea.
Cersei also has to deal with Margaery. The Queen and Lady Olenna are walking through the Sept discussing wedding plans while Joffrey is leading Margaery on a tour, the places of note solely consisting of Targaryen corpses and spots where Targaryens were killed. Margaery praises the Targaryens, declaring that "Sometimes severity is the price we pay for greatness." Joffrey, sadistic twerp that he is, eats this up and follows Margaery outside to wave at his adoring subjects, much to Cersei's dismay.
Cersei runs to daddy, telling Tywin that it is time for them to get rid of the dangerous Tyrells. Tywin, an expert in making his children feel like insignificant crap, slaps down Cersei when she complains that Margaery is manipulating Joffrey. "Good. I wish you knew how to manipulate him. I don't distrust you because you're a woman; I distrust you because you're not as smart as you think you are." Cersei has let her son kill Ned Stark and more. Cersei challenges her father to control the brat king, and he says he will. Lannisters are currently in the lead for most dysfunctional family in Westeros.
The Night's Watch:
The episode's title references the vow of the Night's Watch and the members' final honor when a Watchman dies. Stuck north of the Wall at creeper-daughter-lover-Craster's keep, members of the Watch have grown discontent and hungry. This leads them to eventually mutiny. The ensuing fight sees the Watch turn on itself, killing their host and each other. When Mormont tries to restore order, he is stabbed in the back and starts choking on his own blood — another big character literally biting the dust. Sam takes the opportunity to run off with his not-his-baby mama. It seems that the Night's Watch has indeed ended, its tattered remnant destroying itself whilst the threat of winter rears its icy head on Westeros ...
Across the sea, though, fire reigns. In the single most badass scene of the season, Daenerys hands a leashed dragon to the slave master, who gives her the slave army. Smirking, Daenerys reveals that she understood every word that had previously rolled off of potty mouth's tongue. "A dragon is not a slave," she declares before ordering her dragon to toast the slave master and her army to sack the city. Once all of slavers are dead and her dragons have burned the city down, Daenerys reveals why she is the most dangerous — and, perhaps, the most noble — of those seeking the Iron Throne: she frees her slaves. They agree to fight for her as free men, and the episode ends with her marching from the city, the Khaleesi atop her horse and her dragons flying overheard. While ice threatens from the north, fire threatens from across the sea. The other lords of Westeros should be worried.
Excellent episode. Beautiful scenery, clever dialogue, great plot movement, and dragons cooking people. This game of ice and fire is growing more and more exciting. Tune in next week to catch up with Jon Snow and to see if the Hound survives his trial!