The action starts to heat up (in some cases literally) as Game Of Thrones moves into the meat of the season. There’s more than one bold power move being played as showrunners Benioff and Weiss deliver another knock-out humdinger of an episode.
Let’s bitch it out…Last week I praised GoT for striking a balance between its many, many characters. ‘And Now His Watch Is Ended’ continues that trend. Although there continue to be stories that feel that they’re stuck on simmer, more than a few are firing on all cylinders.
Let’s tackle the less exciting ones first, shall we?
At this point in the season, we’re seeing very little development in the Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) storyline. Last season, I often took issue with Bran’s storyline and ultimately I felt that it was redeemed by the trauma inflicted on Winterfell, so I’m confident that Bran’s storyline this season will build to something similarly memorable. If we only consider the four episodes from this third season, though, we’ve witnessed little more than the introduction of the Reed twins and a few symbolic dreams of Bran chasing the three-eyed crow (not a euphemism). At this point, this storyline needs some more screentime to catch it up to the others.
The same can be said for Arya (Maisie Williams). I can only imagine that viewers who have not read the books – and perhaps even some who have – were mightily confused at the appearance of yet another new character, Lord Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer). Turns out we’ve met Dondarrion before, although you’d be forgiven for thinking he was a new character because he’s played by a new actor. Even so, when he shows up with a striking eye-patch and a religious charge to bring the Hound (Rory McCann) to justice for murdering children, you gotten wonder who the eff this guy is.
And therein lies the problem: this series has so many characters that each one threatens to overwhelm both the plot and us viewers. Thus far Arya’s storyline has suffered greatly from random characters and a lack of general direction. Just like Bran’s, we need to spend some more time with Arya and flesh this drama out.
So let’s move on to the good stuff:
- Varys (Conleth Hill): Not only do we see a return to prominence for the Spider, but his conversation with Lady Oleanna (Diana Rigg) is the best one of the night. We got a hint early-on that Oleanna is a fiery spitball and she certainly shows it here: insulting Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) intelligence and suggesting bumping dirty bits with the eunuch. Clearly these two are two peas in a pod. Can’t wait to see what they come up with to save the lone Stark in King’s Landing…or anything else they feel like fixing
- Dany (Emilia Clarke) lets loose: Obviously the most visually thrilling sequence of the evening occurs when Dany strikes back at the corrupt slave traders of Astapor and rains down fire and death, courtesy of her 8000 strong army of freed Unsullieds and a little piping hot dragon breath. While the death and destruction is fun, when she reveals she’s fluent in Valyrian that’s the big cheerable moment. Take that misogynistic a*shole!
- Tywin (Charles Dance) takes Cersei (Lena Headey) down a notch: As much as I love Headey – especially in this role – part of what makes her so hissable is also what makes her so tiresome. We get it, you’re peeved that women do a lot of the heavy lifting and get none of the kudos, but sweet merciful Zeus, get a new tune! That’s why Tywin is so amazing: not only does he refuse to patronize her, but he tells her straight up why he won’t tolerate her sh*t. “I don’t distrust you because you’re a woman. I distrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are.” Hands down, best line of the night
- I do find it interesting that Cersei complains to men about how poorly treated she is, but she won’t confide in Lady Oleanna, even though they share the same beliefs. Obviously Cersei’s not foolish enough to simply trust the old woman (she certainly doesn’t trust Natalie Dormer’s Margaery), but her level of female-on-female mistrust seems especially high. Previously I thought it was only with younger women, but now it seems to include anyone she perceives is remotely threatening
- The fact that Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) tries to woo Margaery by discussing women being eaten by dragons is hilarious. It figures that the show’s resident sociopath would think this is a topic suitable to win the heart of a girl
- In hindsight it’s pretty clear that many points of this episode are used to set-up Dany’s fireworks show. Both Joffrey and Dondarrion name drop her Targaryen ancestors. Does the macabre end of her royal family suggest a similar fate for her?
- No Jon (Kit Harington), but we do get to see the end of both Craster (Robert Pugh) and Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo) on the other side of the Wall. It’s clear from their actions that many of the Nightswatch men haven’t let go of the criminal behaviour that got them sent to the wall in the first place. Side Note: Has Torchwood‘s (and recently Revenge) Burn Gorman always been hiding in the background? When did he join the show???
- I particularly like the symbolism of Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) being made to hold his own hand around his neck (much like Davos does with his finger bones). Jamie’s fall from Kingslayer to nearly suicidal man has been very well done, especially how it makes us feel for a character we thought so deplorable back in S1 (Also, props to Gwendoline Christie for continuing to shine in the role of Brienne)
- Finally, there’s the tragic story of Theon (Alfie Allen), the man who is revealed to have escaped from his captors last week only to fall victim to a ruse and end right back up in chains this week. I feel less sorry for him, though. Also after marathoning the finale of Spartacus this weekend, I have definitely reached my quota of crucifixations!
- Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion (to Varys): “Yes, I want actual revenge against the actual person who tried to kill me.”
- Oleanna (inquiring what’s brought Varys “mincing” about): “What happens when a non-existent bumps against a decrepit?”
- Random Nightwatchman (surveying the pyre): “Never knew Bannon could smell so good.”
Your turn: does it feel like the third season is kicking into gear? Are you psyched to see what else Dany can do now that she has a free army (who can’t be taken from her simply by stealing the whip)? Did you expect the carnage at Craster’s? Are you rooting for Sansa to marry Loras, the Knight of Flowers, or do you suspect that this is a ruse? Hit the comments with your thoughts below.
*As a reminder, this is a spoiler-free zone, so please keep any knowledge you have of the books or anything you’ve discovered online to yourself. Anything we’ve seen in the episodes thus far is fair game
Game Of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO