Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: Game of Thrones "And Now His Watch Has Ended"

Non Spoiler Review:
And Now His Watch Has Ended brings a host of exciting developments as Mormont struggles to maintain order in his ranks north of the Wall. Tyrion gets a lesson in revenge from Varys, who is now focused on the fate of Sansa Stark and enlists the aid of Olenna. Cersei grows alarmed over Margaery's influence over her son. Daenerys prepares to seal her deal with the Kraznys.

Easily the best episode of the season so far, Game of Thrones returns to high political intrigue, plenty of twists and revelations, and some shocking developments. A new association is forming between Varys, Sansa, Tyrion, Olenna and Margaery, which is proving very promising. I'm pleased that Sansa has grown so much from the irritating character she's been in previous seasons and is now someone the audience can cheer on. 

If that wasn't enough it ended on a rather epic Daenerys moment, something that wasn't unexpected at all, but executed with considerable panache. The third season is beginning to hit its stride. I doubt there will be any slower paced episodes now as so many of these simmering plot lines look about to explode.

Spoilers Now!
Exhausted, Jaime falls from his horse despite Brienne's calls for help. Locke acquiesces to give him some water, but it's horse piss, and the men laugh at his suffering. Jaime still manages to rise and grab a sword (again!), facing off all the men before being brought down. Brienne jumps off her horse and goes to his aid despite being tied up. She watches Jaime beaten into the mud by Locke, who warns him he'll take his other hand if he tries that again. Later, Brienne encourages a disconsolate Jaime to go on living so he can take revenge, because people with far less than he has have to do that every day. She knows what he did for her to save her from being raped. Tarth has no sapphires. It's called the sapphire island because of the blue of its waters. She manages to convince him to eat some food.

Tyrion goes to speak with Varys in confidence. He wonders if he has any proof of Cersei's attempt on his life at Blackwater, as he wants to plot his revenge against his sister, but Varys has only heard whispers. Varys then asks if he still wants to hear how he got cut, and recounts his story. As a boy he travelled through the free cities with a troupe, and in Myr a man bought him from his master. He turned out to be a sorcerer, and he gave him a potion that paralyzed him but kept his senses intact, and with a blade he sliced him and burned his parts. Then he heard a voice answer the sorcerer's call. He still dreams of that night, wondering what the voice in the flames was.

He's hated magic ever since, and so was eager to aid in the war against Stannis and his dark priestess. Once he served the sorcerer's purpose, he was thrown out of his house to die. Varys resolved to live, became a thief and learned the value of information. He was patient and his influence grew, where he managed to find something very special. He shows Tyrion a crate he opens to reveal the very same sorcerer, his lips sewn shut. He advises Tyrion to be patient and revenge will be his in its own time.

Varys meets with Ros and gossips about Pod's legendary prowess that is the talk of the brothel. She advises him Baelish is leaving soon for the Eyrie. However, she doesn't think he's lost interest in Sansa. He's ordered two feathered beds for his cabin on his journey, which can only mean he expects to take her with him.

Olenna is paid a visit by Varys who welcomes her to King's Landing. After the two trade some playful barbs, he asks about her opinion of Sansa, and she confesses she finds her interesting. He advises her that when Littlefinger goes, Sansa goes with him, then implies Baelish may be one of the most dangerous men in Westeros. If Robb falls, Sansa will be heir and key to the north for him, and with that, their armies. But he has a solution.

Bran and Jojen share a dream as they follow the three-eyed raven through the woods. Bran climbs the tree after it, only to find his mother who fiercely chides him for climbing. He falls out of the tree and wakes up.

As Ramsay and Theon enter a keep, Ramsay explains he's been serving his sister, waiting for the right moment to free him. He was a boy when Theon was taken away. Once inside, Theon admits he was always iron born, but then confesses he never murdered the Stark children, but had the farmer kill the orphan boys and burn the bodies so he could keep Winterfell. He realizes he made a choice and chose wrong, and now everything is burned down. His real father died in King's Landing. Ramsay leads him through the darkness up to where he claims his sister is waiting. Ramsay lights a torch and Theon realizes he's back in his prison. Ramsay announces to his men he brought him back after Theon killed his pursuers. Theon is put back in his chains, screaming.

In the palace Cersei and Olenna plan the wedding while Joffrey shows Margaery the tombs in the keep and enjoys recounting the violent history of the Targaryens. Olenna comments to Cersei that they must protect their sons. Margaery encourages him to go out and speak to his people and receive their adoration for saving the city. Taking her lead, he opens the palace doors to Cersei's horror, who watches the two of them go outside. This time the people wave and cheer Lady Margaery. Joffrey is stunned but lavishes in the attention and waves back. Cersei is not pleased.

Margaery visits Sansa while she's praying and strikes up a rapport. Margaery insists that Sansa visit Highgarden, but the latter points out that the queen will not let her leave King's Landing. Margaery clarifies that Cersei is the queen regent, and she will be queen once she marries Joffrey. And if Sansa should marry Loras, her place would be at Highgarden, and they would be sisters. Sansa would like that.

Cersei visits her father but receives the same reception that Tyrion did. When questioning him about the search for Jaime he curtly tells her he started a war for Tyrion, so he'll do as much for his heir. She points out that he might consider she is the only one of his children who actually listens to his advice and tries to put it into practice. Tywin counters that she's not as smart as she thinks she is. She declares the Tyrells are a problem and Margaery is manipulating Joffrey. Tywin is pleased to hear it, wishing Cersei could manipulate her son given she allowed him to run roughshod over her and the city. Cersei suggests Tywin should try stopping him from doing what he likes.

Thoros takes Gendry and Arya to their hideout in a cave, and the Hound declares they are all deserters. Thoros explains they've been reborn in the light of the one true god and accuse Clegane of having a hand in the massacre of the Targaryen babies, something the Hound denies. Arya speaks up and accuses him of murdering the butcher's boy and recounts what he did when they were on the Kingsroad. Thoros sentences him to trial by combat against Beric Dondarrion, the man Ned had sent after Gregor Clegane.

In the north, Sam comes to see Gilly and her newborn, but she has not named him given he'll soon be sacrificed. She angrily gives him back the thimble and challenges him to save her baby's life. Meanwhile, the Night's Watch has lost some additional men to their wounds, and Mormont presides over their funeral pyre while his disgruntled men make comments about Craster's lack of hospitality and food hoarding.

Later inside Craster's hall, their host reminds Mormont he has one son, while he had 99 and more daughters than he can count. Mormont assures the man they will be gone when their wounded are strong enough. Craster suggests they should just cut the throats of the remaining wounded and be on their way, which prompts one of the men, Karl, to demand to know where he's keeping his food. Craster warns him if he doesn't like it he can eat the snow. Mormont orders his man outside as another, Rast, calls Craster a bastard. The old man rises to his challenge with his axe and says he'll kill the next man who calls him a bastard.

Mormont tries to diffuse the tense stand off, and just when it looks like calmer heads will prevail, Karl calls him a bastard. Craster lunges at him, but Karl kills him and demands his wives tell him where the food is kept. Mormont is horrified and goes after Karl, only to be stabbed in the back by Rast. Grenn attempts to disarm Karl but the room explodes into two camps, with those loyal to the Watch fighting those siding with Karl and Rast. Sam runs out to find Gilly while the battle spills outside. Mormont drops dead in the hall as the fight rages around him. Sam and Gilly flee into the woods.

In Astapos Daenerys and Missandei arrive to claim their soldiers. Kraznys suggests she test her soldiers on the nearby cities and will give a good price for the captives she returns for him. Daenerys reveals her largest dragon she has chained by its ankle, handing it to the delighted Kraznys. She asks if their business is done and they belong to her. She has her army, he replies.

Daenerys stares at the whip she's given him, then walks away as her dragon screams and struggles to fly with its chain. She addresses her Unsullied and directs them to march forward. They do. Then she has them halt. They obey. Kraznys grows angry her beast won't come to heel. Daenerys states her beast is not a slave, and she says this in old Valyrian, which comes as a shock to both Kraznys and Missandei, realizing she's understood him the whole time. Daenerys commands her army to kill everyone who is not a slave, but harm no children, then utters the familiar word dracarys, and her dragon burns Kraznys alive. Her army begins to rampage through the city.

Among the smokey ruins Jorah finds Daenerys as she stands before her waiting army. She announces they are all free, and any man who wishes to leave may do so. She asks they fight for her as free men. After a moment they begin to pound their spears in the sand in support of her. Jorah and Selmy share a smile. Together they march from Astapos and Daenerys tosses the whip to the ground.

The Verdict:
And Now His Watch Has Ended certainly ramped up its game after a more subdued Walk of Punishment. Revenge was the primary theme, with Brienne and Varys encouraging Jaime and Tyrion to be patient, and exemplified by Daenerys' patience in securing her army and delivering a harsh punishment to Astapos. The lesson—good things can come to those who bide their time in Game of Thrones.

This is another epic, game-changing moment for Daenerys (right down to the musical call back to when she birthed her dragons). I have no idea how accelerated her plotline is from this point on, but it would be exciting to see her actually reach Westeros by the end of the season. She's clearly the most just and strong ruler we've seen, and I'm glad the series has taken such time to show her slow evolution into a true queen. While the death of Kraznys wasn't a surprise at all, I really enjoyed how it all unfolded and a memorable parting shot of Daenerys leading her army out of the city.

The real surprise came in the Night's Watch mutiny. Last week I was musing if Mormont would ever meet his son again during the course of the season. I guess not. Aside from the loss of Mormont, I wonder what ramifications this will have at the Wall. Is there anyone to replace him and his best men lost at the Fist of the First Men? It seems likely Mance Rayder will be able to just walk through and take Castle Black. I wonder if the Night's Watch is finished as a force completely, or is Jon's destiny to eventually take control of it? I'm more inclined to believe that Jon will eventually find his way south again. At least Grenn didn't join the mutiny, and hopefully he, Sam, Gilly and Ghost can get back to some relative safety soon.

That leads me consider what Mance's goal is once he breaches the Wall. Winterfell seems ripe for the taking, but do they want to proceed further south in advance of winter? It will be interesting to see how long it takes for news of events in the north to reach King's Landings (and for that matter, rumours of the fall of Astapos from Daenerys' dragons).

Another very quick scene with Bran and Jojen doesn't really contribute much here. However, there were some subtle developments regarding the Starks—Ramsay has learned Bran and Rickon are alive, so that information could find its way back to Robb and Catelyn. Meanwhile, I'd not considered how important Sansa was, given Arya is presumed dead, as well, and if Robb dies she would be the heir to the north (what remains of it, at least). Does Baelish really have designs on the Iron Throne?

And Ramsay's game with Theon remains a mystery, aside from psychological torture. But what it did accomplish is maybe point the young Greyjoy towards some redemption. He at least now acknowledges his terrible mistake. I hope he can actually rise above this and survive, which is the first time I've felt something for this character since his betrayal of the Starks.

The conspiracy between Varys and Olenna was very enjoyable, with the potential of involving Sansa and Tyrion. The revelation of Vary's mutilation was chilling, and speaks to the dark forces at work in the world. I wasn't clear how long he's kept the sorcerer or if it was (coincidentally) just delivered to him in time for his pep-talk for Tyrion, but I wonder if he will play any role in the story in the future.

Speaking of dark magic, I would like to know how Melisandre's religion relates to Thoros and Beric's conversation, who seem far less sinister than the priestess. I presume this is the same god she worships. Are there different factions to this religion?

The Lannister children have all received some focus to humanize them in light of their very inhuman father, with Brienne and Jaime striking up some sort of relationship on the road. Cersei's conversation with her father was just as cold as Tyrion's, and we got a similar one with Jaime when he met his father in camp last season. I wonder if Tywin is going to be dispatched in the near future, either by underestimating Joffrey too much, or by his own children. I could see Cersei engineering something like that, but the question is if she can outsmart her father. He seems to have put all his eggs in one basket—namely Jaime. And if Jaime dies (which I suspect is going to happen soon), I wonder which direction his rage will take.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...