I choose my allies carefully, and my enemies more carefully still.
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: Alex Graves
Holy crap! Can we have a masterful episode of Game of Thrones on our hands this early in the season? Why yes, yes we can. Whatever shock and awe that "Walk of Punishment" provided, "And Now His Watch Is Ended" doubles, no, triples it. There are a flurry of surprises on hand, some of which rival the severing of Jaime's hand that closed out the previous episode. And once you take into account everything that happens, "And Now His Watch Is Ended" is almost a complete microcosm of what Game of Thrones is and what it's most famous for: life, death, betrayal, shock, and heartbreak, just to name a few things on the list. Where do I freaking start? I'm worried this review is going to get out of hand because of how basically everything that happens is important in some way, whether it's progressing a story line forward or delivering us meaningful character development. It's almost never that I can say everything in an episode requires discussion, but this is absolutely one of those times.
I suppose the easiest place to start is what's going on in the North with good ol' Theon. While walking through a tunnel with the cleaning boy that rescued him, Theon admits that he never found nor burned the Stark boys, while also repenting on his decision to seize Winterfell. You know the drill: the cleaning boy reveals that he took Theon back to the same place he was imprisoned, watching with a sadistic smile as the guards restrain Theon. This is surprise number one of the episode and oh man is it just cruel what this boy just did to Theon: luring him along, getting him excited and thinking he was free, only to crush his hopes into the dirt. We will come to know this boy very well, so brace yourself.
There are two other major surprises to be had in this episode, but I will save them until the end. Surprisingly, King's Landing is not the sight of one of those surprises, but it is rich with some nifty character development. We finally learn the story of how Lord Varys became a eunuch, revealing to Tyrion of how a sorcerer cut him while he was in the city of Myr. Varys has always been a character I've been fond of, and not just because he seemingly knows everything, even before something actually happens. The thing is, he always keeps you guessing, never making it set in stone who exactly is he loyal to. He states earlier in season one that he is loyal to the Realm, and judging from his conversation with Olenna Tyrell, he is not too trusting of those currently in the Realm with him. Varys worries about Petyr Baelish, believing he intends to acquire more power by taking Sansa with him when he travels to the Eyrie. Considering that Baelish is as conniving as an alligator, we ought to shower Varys with endless praise, because right now, he's about the only one who's on to Littlefinger and his scheming.
We should also praise the Tyrells, who are messing up everything for Cersei Lannister and her nefarious schemes. Cersei sees that Margaery is able to manipulate Joffrey, watching in disgust as Margaery opens the doors of the Great Sept of Baelor, convinxing Joffrey to walk out and greet a crowd of waving people. I especially like where the relationship is right now between the Lannisters and the Tyrells, because it is about 50/50 right as to if both families are in support of each other, or if they are secretly plotting against one another and both sides know it.
By now, you're probably wondering, "Okay, where is the heartbreak in this episode?", and believe it or not, it happens in the opening scene. D&D don't keep us in suspense during "And Now His Watch Is Ended" to show us the aftermath of Jaime losing his sword hand. It's astounding how skillfully Game of Thrones can rapidly change our feelings for a certain character: The first two seasons gave us almost every reason to hate Jaime: he was an arrogant SOB who looked so much like Prince Charming from Shrek, there ought to have been an investigation. But now with him losing his hand, and watching this episode's opening scene, it's hard not to feel at least a bit crushed by seeing how low the Kingslayer has fallen. He manages to steal a sword and try to fight the Bolton men, but he shows to be no good with using his left hand. Jaime then gets knocked into the mud, with Locke taunting him by tricking him into drinking horse piss. Jaime is correct when he mentions to Brienne that he himself was his right hand. That right hand was his sword hand, and his sword was how he made a name for himself. Now without that right hand? We can't be sure what Jaime is anymore.
Alright, onto the other two surprises: one with the Night's Watch and the other with Daenerys. I might have to give the edge to Daenerys because she is the one that closes the episode out. Anyway, the Night's Watch has made their way back to Craster's Keep, where one of the brothers, Karl Tanner (Burn Gorman), complains about the poor quality of their food. Karl then starts insulting Craster, and things get out of hand, like, really get out of hand. Craster charges at Karl, but Karl stabs him in the throat. A fight breaks out, and Jeor Mormont gets stabbed and killed in the ensuing chaos. Knowing that the men of the Night's Watch are mostly comprised of rapists and thieves, mutiny seemed inevitable. Not like this though. Game of Thrones strikes hard by breaking up the Night's Watch when it knows we almost completely have our guard down. Admittedly, nothing too shocking was happening with them recently, so it's no wonder that season three decides, "Yeah, let's kill the freaking Lord Commander. Because we can."
Finally, Daenerys makes the trade with the Astapor slaver: her biggest dragon for the Unsullied. At first what seems like even more heartbreak suddenly turns into our third and final surprise, one that lets us know that Daenerys Targaryen is not to be underestimated. After confirming that she has control of the Unsullied, Daenerys reveals that she can speak Valyrian, commanding her dragon to burn the slaver to death. To those who question Emilia Clarke's acting skills, I point them in the direction of this very scene: Emilia Clarke's acting is nothing short of sublime in this scene, speaking the Valyrian tongue with a zeal that nearly sets a brand new standard for acting for the entire cast. I hope D&D went up to the rest of the cast after filming and said, "Hope you were all watching Emilia in this scene. Let's see if any of you can top her." This is easily the best acting that Clarke has shown us so far while playing Daenerys. She's so good that the English subtitles are almost useless.
Alas, "And Now His Watch Is Ended" comes to an end eventually, but my oh my, what a glorious episode of television that it is. Everything you could want in a Game of Thrones episode is available to you here: memorable character development, shocking death scenes, and a series of other surprises that will have you shouting for more. Good news: there will be more. Much more. That's D&D's gift to us as the stakes grow higher and higher with each passing moment.
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