Recap: Game of Thrones 3.04 - And Now His Watch Is Ended
This is going to contain spoilers for this episode, and also for the books. I won't tell you what happens in the fifth book, or what I think is going to happen in the next episode, but I will talk about differences between the book and the show thus far. Deal with it.
Emilia Clarke owned this episode.
With a few exceptions, there's often a huge gulf between Daenerys Targaryen's rhetoric and actions. She talks a good game, but the idea of dragons is sometimes more formidable than the dragons themselves. The success of her demand for sanctuary outside the gates of Qarth was thanks, in large part, to Xaro Xhoan Daxos's greed. She's had a couple of strong moments, and there's been hints of the leader taking root inside her, but they've been brief and incomplete.
Last night it came to the fore. Her double-cross of the slavers in Astapor is a very good scene in the book. It's a remarkable scene on the show. Thrilling, expertly acted and paced, and finally making good on every bold statement she's made. She's no longer a young girl playing at being a queen—she's a liberator with an army at her back.
Clarke's stony, cool performance sells this transformation. And Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont adds a great deal of weight to it to, acting as the surrogate for the audience, conveying a mix of awe, disbelief, and fear.
Cheers to the effects crew, too. The world of Westeros is a very big place that often feels very small because of the confines of television and the limits of HBO's budget. No fault of theirs, of course—you work with what you got. But this scene felt appropriately epic.
Daenerys' victory stands in stark contrast to the rest of the characters we visited with last night, nearly all of their stories unbearably tragic. And it made me wonder, who's the most tragic?
When we first met Jaime Lannister he was a cocky bastard who pushed a kid out a window. Though he's spent so much of this show a captive of the Starks, he always seemed to have the psychological upper hand. And last night, he's wearing his sword hand around his neck, a gruesome reminder that his career as the greatest knight in Westeros is finished.
What about Theon? He killed two children, and set in motion the events that sacked Winterfell. But he's been a captive of the Starks all his life. He's not accepted by the Greyjoys or the Starks and is only looking for someone to recognize him as their own. And after he's been tortured and dragged through the woods by Ramsay Snow, just when he's sure he's about to taste freedom, he's back on the rack.
How about Sansa? Her greatest sin pales in comparison to everyone else: She refused to take sides in the tiff between Joffrey and Arya. And now she sits by the sea, praying for things she can't even admit to. Lord Commander Jeor Mormont's only sin was trusting a bastard like Craster. He paid for it with his life, stabbed to death by his own men.
Even Lord Varys gets in on the pity party, finally conveying the story of his castration, which, gross. And creepy.
But, wow, last night was a constant drumbeat of tragedy, wasn't it? It probably would have been almost overwhelmingly depressing, had it not been for Daenerys logging a big win at the end. That balance is incredibly important to a show like this. One of the (myriad) of failures of The Walking Dead is that the show is so fucking grim, constantly, all the time. When the episode opens with a man wearing his own hand around his neck, you need to end on a high note. Otherwise it's just depressing.
So it's nice to see that Daenerys is kicking ass and taking names. The other ladies on the show, too—Margaery Tyrell is growing increasingly more successful in her manipulations of Joffrey, and it's satisfying to see Cersei struggling to maintain her grip on her son. Even though she's the only character on this show I have yet to feel bad for, Lena Heady gets major kudos for a fantastic speech to her father, about why she's the child he should favor.
Heady's performance also gets to the heart of something I enjoy about this show: That the female characters are much stronger than anyone really gives them credit for—especially considering the faux-Middle Ages setting.
Margaery Tyrell, Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Olenna Redwyne (the Queen of Thorns) all came up big last night. Even Brienne gets a nice moment. She's a captive but not a victim, and she essentially calls Jaime a bitch because he's fallen from his place of privilege.
Of course, this is a show where women have gotten raped and beaten and are often treated as eye candy (see below's weekly boobwatch). So I'm curious to know, especially from our female readers, how you feel about the portrayal of women in this show—and if last night's episode was a high-water mark for the woman of Westeros, which is what it felt like to me.
- I'm glad they're not dropping this storyline about Podrick Payne the Sexual Dynamo. Prediction: The series ends with Podrick v. Hodor, with the winner taking the Iron Throne.
- GAME OF THRONES BOOBWATCH: No boobs in this episode.
- Last season Lord Varys teased the origin of his castration before The Battle of the Blackwater, but passed on telling the story, what with the impending war. That scene differed from the book, because he actually tells the story. And it's a good one. Very creepy. But didn't it feel a little shoehorned into this episode? And him having the sorcerer in a box—that never happened in the books, correct?
- I thought I saw Burn Gorman in the last episode, briefly, as one of the members of the Night's Watch taking refuge at Craster's. And, yes, there he was again, to call Craster a bastard and incite the riot that leads to the death of Jeor Mormont. Gorman, for those of you who aren't threat-level nerds, was Owen Harper in Torchwood. I hope he sticks around.
- Was last night the first time we've seen the inside of the Great Sept of Baelor? I think so. What does that say about me, that I was excited about that?
- It was a little disappointing to see major characters, like Jon Snow, disappear for an entire episode, and Bran get a minute or so of screen time, like there's a quota to ensure we don't forget about these characters. And here we are, with a brand new character: Beric Dondarrion, who's challenging Clegane to trial by combat. Which ought to be a bit of fun to watch, but at what point is the casual viewer going to need a graph and a guide to keep track of everything?
So, discuss! Wasn't Daenerys great? Also, who had the greater indignity committed against them—Theon, and the ruse played against him, or Jaime, being forced to wear his hand like a necklace? And let's talk about the ladies of Westeros...
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