Game of Thrones: And Now His Watch Is Ended

“He would watch the whole kingdom burn just to be king of the ashes.”
“Dracarys!”

Watching “And Now His Watch Has Ended,” I felt the same way I did at the end of last season, with “Valar Morghulis.” I got rather bored, wondering if this episode would be all table-setting and no eating. Then, just as the small cat nestled comfortably on my stomach, I sat up. (That was unwise, as regards the cat.) By the end of the episode I was leaning forward, getting goosebumps, and—I’m not ashamed to admit it—brushing tears of glee from my eyes.

I’m talking about the two big events at the end, of course: Old Mormont’s death at Craster’s Keep, and Dany finally killing the slavers of Astapor. I’ve been waiting for Dany to sack Astapor since the season opener, and for a while I was wondering if they would draw her story out until the end of the season finale. I worried too soon: the sack of Astapor was something to write home about. Emilia Clarke plays vulnerability well, but I like it best when she shows her inner fire. It was even more remarkable that she managed to express such force while speaking Valyrian. I got shivers, and teared up, in no small part due to the excellent score.

Mormont’s death, on the other hand, took me completely by surprise: I did not expect it to happen now, and I might have been more shocked than he was at the conspiracy against him. Given that a band of wildlings is currently headed for the Wall, Mormont’s death can only mean bad things for the Night’s Watch, for Jon, and for Westeros.

That’s not to say that death is the only thing that happened this episode. The conversation between Varys and Tyrion showed us just how serious Varys is about revenge, about hating magic, even about keeping King’s Landing and Westeros safe. Varys makes no bones about his network of spies, but he keeps his darker impulses well hidden. That he was willing to reveal his history (and his boxed sorcerer) to Tyrion speaks volumes about how Varys trust him. (Perhaps because Tyrion doesn’t have enough power to be a threat, but I like to believe that Varys isn’t lying about being his friend.) Varys’s hatred of magic is more than reasonable, given his history, but it also might set up a problem down the line: in a world of dragons, zombies, and fire-gods, a little magic might be a good thing.

All that is beside the point, as clearly magic isn’t yet the dominant power in King’s Landing (although I suspect it may be by the end of the series). Different forms of non-magical power and leadership continue to be the theme of this show. From Mormont’s failure to contain his men’s discontent, to Dany’s discovery of the powerful rage that motivates her to sack a city in order to avenge its slaves, “And Now His Watch…” makes clear that there is no one way to rule.

Take Margaery. She clearly has Joffrey under her thumb (as much as anyone can), and is “contributing” more to his management and the peace in King’s Landing than Cersei ever could. She indulged Joffrey’s macabre and repulsive obsession with the corpses of his predecessors, and then showed him that she provided access to one thing he—and the other Lannisters—never managed to get: the love of the common people. She is granting him power his mother couldn’t, which must make Cersei’s blood boil.

And her blood should hot enough already: first her brother, then her father, have told her that she’s not as smart as she thinks she is. Sadly, they’re right. Cersei wants to be a player in the game of thrones, but is too easy to manipulate and to transparent when she tries to manipulate others. The decline of her influence parallels Jaime’s: he has lost his hand and his identity; Cersei has lost her maternal influence and her identity.

Part of Cersei’s downfall is due to the other, subtler players currently in King’s Landing. It’s not just Margaery but all the Tyrells—especially Olenna—who are far craftier at power plays. Olenna is particularly skilled forging alliances rather than demanding intimidation, which has been Cersei’s m.o. for eons. Olenna’s conversation with Varys felt almost ritualistic: sly digs, his pretense of walking away, their eventual conversation and plans. It went exactly as both of them wanted it to. The result? The eternal pawn Sansa is being moved around the board yet again, due to be married to Loras (according to Margaery, who isn’t trustworthy).

Varys isn’t wrong about Littlefinger’s power: he lacks knightly prowess, lands, or money, but he has the skills and manipulative ability that others lack. Varys described Littlefinger as willing to watching the whole kingdom burn if he could be king of the ashes, and the idea of total war for total power is frightening. That it bothers Varys, that he doesn’t want that for Westeros, is part of why I like Varys. (And why I worry that his good intentions + his hatred of magic might eventually lead to a serious conflict of interest.)

I started this review with two quotes: the one about Littlefinger, and Dany’s “Dragonfire!” that led to the sack of Astapor. While I ship Dany+The Throne as the ultimate power couple on this show, it’s worth noting that her willingness to destroy, especially in the context of Varys’s comment about Littlefinger, isn’t a positive thing. I don’t feel particularly bad about the Astapor slavers, but I worry that Dany’s desire for power might wind up making her the queen of nothing but ashes.

Grumpkins and Snarks:

• More talk about Pod’s prowess. I hope each episode for the rest of the series contains someone else finding out about it and wondering what his secret is.

• How creepy is Theon’s captor? While there “there and back again” structure to Theon’s segment of this episode was rather annoying, the utter insanity of the young man’s smile was worth it.

• Hey, that’s Burn Gorman! Not Theon’s captor. Night’s Watch Guy Karl, who killed Mormont.

• I’ll have more to say about The Hound, Beric Dondarian, and the trial next week.

Remember that spoilers for the books live in the discussion thread!

Four out of four Unsullied.

Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

22 comments:

Juliette said...

I love the idea of shipping characters with the Iron Throne :) (And I agree, though my personal - totally spoiler-free and pure speculation - fond hope for the end is that the North splits off and is ruled by A Stark, Any Stark (including Jon) and that Arya and Gendry end up married and ruling Winterfell.)

Morgan India said...

Am I the only one who likes Joffrey and Margaery together? Maybe it's because I adore both Jack and Natalie and the way they play the roles.

I also may have uttered "Dracarys!" several times to my cat, only to be given a look of disdain as she rolled over towards the heater.

Henrik Bennetter said...

You'll forgive me, I hope, for my utter and total pride over being entirely right about Dany and what she would do with the slaves in my comment to last episodes review, but boy am I just bursting with self-love at the moment.
Sorry.
Moment over.
On to what I think is this series absolute forte: the fact that it now has me rooting for everyone. EVERY-ONE! Dany, Joffrey, Arya, Robb, Jon, Jaime et al.(with the exception of Stannis Baratheon, but I expect I'll be rooting for him too as soon as Ser Boats-a-lot gets out of prison and rid of Creepy-sorcerer-lady).
It will be utterly painful to see them all clash, and die.
In any case, goosebumps about the sacking - did I mention I guessed it would happen?

Juliette said...

I think I'm rooting for everyone except Stannis as well! He's just so dull...

celticmarc said...

Well, well, well. I wasn't the only one who enjoyed the sacking of Astapor. Haven't read the books, I had a feeling Dany knew the Valyrian language. Goosebumps ! Eyes wide open ! Spectacular CGI !

Yes, more TV anthology.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Forgot to say: Podric! Having not read the books, and won't either, I get the feeling he's not who he appears to be. The way he skewered that dude in the battle and now, uhm, "skewered" the ladies.
There's definately more to Podric than meets the eye. I wonder what it is...

And by the way - I do wish they'd give Charles Dance/Tywin Lannister more screen time. He is absolutely electric!

Mik said...

Are you kidding? Stannis is the best. He like Ned, if Ned was a ruthless bad ass.

Patrick said...

Dany's triumph in Astapor is definitely one of the most powerful scenes of the series so far, and quite possibly Emilia Clarke's finest performance to date. Being able to emit that much emotion and gravitas while speaking a foreign(imaginary, no less) language takes great skill. It reminded me of the scene back in Season 1 after the attempt on Dany's life, when Jason Momoa as Drogo had that big speech where he declared he would seize the Iron Throne. Emilia's performance in this episode might be even more powerful. I too had an inkling that Dany was understanding everything the slaver had been saying. Any time there are scenes like that in a show where one character is insulting our hero in another language, I'm expecting a reveal that the hero understood the whole time.

When that slaver was holding Drogon's chain, how sad were Drogon's cries? He sounded like he was some combination of angry, scared, and sad that his mother was abandoning him. Kudos to the sound department there.

Jess Lynde said...

The end was definitely fantastic, but I loved everything that came before it, too. No boredom whatsoever. This felt like the first episode in awhile where I was so sucked into everything that was happening, that I didn't once think "That's not how it was in the book!" Good stuff all around. I especially liked Cersei getting schooled by Tywin. I love to see her fail!

Minor correction: Karl didn't kill Mormont, he killed Craster. It was Rast that killed Mormont. Bastard. I'm going to really miss the Old Bear.

Henrik, there is no rooting for Joffrey. Ever. He's a horrible, sadistic little bastard, and the only "rooting" allowed for him is "rooting for him to die a horrible death." :) (Which is not intended as a slight against Jack Gleason. He's absolutely wonderful at bringing the little sadist to life. He's gets this sick gleam in his eye that makes me hate Joffrey all the more!)

I hope it turns out that Pod didn't have sex with the whores at all. I read a reviewer who suggested maybe he just talked to them for awhile, and that's why they gave the money back. I love that idea. He treated the whores like actual people, and that's what so impressed them.

Juliette said...

Good point Jess - I'm not rooting for Joffrey (other than, as you say, for his horrible death). For Margaery though, I like her.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Yes Jess :) of course there is no rooting for Joffrey, you are quite right. In a way.
Because - consider the character Joffrey: he is only acting and doing what he has been told and taught by his mother. Yes, he is a monster, but a child is hardly ever really responsible for their views or moral standards.
And, considering that Margaery is now slowly but surely winding him around her finger, I am in a way rooting for him to realise what a douche he is and actually change.

In a totally unrelated, when maybe not totally, way: Wouldn't it be cool/helluvalotafun to see each individuals story on it's own?
There must be somebody out there doing that - right - like someone did with Lost?

celticmarc said...

So much fun reading the comments folks !

And I totally forgot to mention how much I love "Miss Peel" deliveries. Wow.

Colin Peabody-Verteuil said...

What I really love in season 3 is how, sometimes, they just take a complete chunk on dialogue from the books and give it to a fantastic actor (Charles Dance, and now Conleth Hill who I really want to have eveyday in my living room and watch him play every role ever), but Varys' monologue, I think, was ten times more chilling for me, as a book reader, because he initally tells it to Tyrion while they are ahorse, so I really didn't see the "Sorcerer in a box" twist. I think I actually, like, shivered.

Colin Peabody-Verteuil said...

Aaaand I totally forgot : Gwendoline Christie deserves all the praise everyone gives Peter Dinklage.

Iago said...

Joffrey and Tyrion's slapping hand is my one true pairing. I suspect I'm not alone in that.

This was a sensational episode, possibly the best they've done. It's quite telling that some remarkable Jaimie/Brienne stuff felt like filler. Just loved all of Varys' scenes: Conleth Hill brings him to life so well and says more with a look or a subtle gesture than other characters can say with pages of dialogue. When he was sparring with the Queen of Thorns, which was delightful, and she mentioned how his seduction of her was pointless he looks down to his groin and it just kills me.

Sooze said...

Colin - Agreed. The way Gwendoline delivered that "bloody woman" line was fantastic.
I so wish I had someone in my household who I could enjoy this show with...my daughter, who LOVES this genre is just too young for all the sex, and my husband is so NOT a fantasy fan...so coming here and reading the discussion is fun for me.

celticmarc said...

“Dracarys!” !!!!

I re-watched the last 5 minutes earlier on, twice (that was reasonable). Epic, beautiful.

Mark Greig said...

Am I the only one who wants Sansa to discover her inner direwolf and end the series as the Queen in the North?

Henrik Bennetter said...

Mark: Absolutely not. If she could only see what a powerplayer she really is - but she has no-one there to guide her. Love your avatar btw.

Sooze: Fantasy? This is fantasy? :) Doesn't your husband like well-written, well-acted, drama? I mean - we all know this isn't about the fantasy-aspects.
My wife has never been into fantasy but she's totally into GoT.

Sooze said...

Henrik, I have tried that argument, believe me. We watch The Americans together, and watched House of Cards, and long ago watched the Sopranos, and others...so he does enjoy good drama...but if there is even a hint of something not "real", like, say, a mysterious island that disappears and has an ageless guy living there...or multiple universes...or anything remotely supernatural...well, then he's out. No imagination!! Of course he can't understand why I am not enthralled with the NFL draft, so there you go.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Sooze: Your husband's weird.

:P

Just kidding.

It's probably the other way round - he's way too normal. But hey, maybe try to make it into a contest! "I bet you can't watch an entire episode of GoT beofre me!"

;)

celticmarc said...

NFL

A bunch of overpaid goons running after a leather ball, encouraged by way too many people gorging themselves with unhealthy food.

GOT

A bunch of nicely paid actors made filthy (well, half of them) pretending to kill themselves and run after a fake throne. Way more fun.