"Game Of Thrones" - "And Now His Watch Is Ended": This City Truly Is Assaulting My Senses, Unkempt, Unruly, Devour Defenseless
This is a harsh, cruel world, this world of "Game Of Thrones." Yet it abides by the same rules, and for every action, there is a reaction. For every plan, there is a scheme to counteract. For every act, there is consequence. For every ally there is a traitor. And most importantly, no one is as smart as they think they are -- except possibly for Tywin Lannister.
"And Now His Watch Is Ended, " the fourth episode of Season Three, was another tale of consequences, a densely plotted, labyrinthine piece of television that coupled complex machinations with wicked retributions. In King's Landing, as always, a plot of some sort is hatched around every corner, and with the new addition of the Tyrell family, things have gotten much more interesting. Margaery continues to slowly, seductively wind Joffrey around her finger, preying on all of his baser urges, twisting them to her advantage as an increasingly helpless Cersei can only stand by and glower. This union that she blessed is proving to be far more than she bargained for, and Cersei is finding little solace in her family. Tywin, as always, has little patience for fools, and make no mistake -- in his eyes, Cersei is a fool. His scene with her is one of my favorites of his -- although I enjoy anyscene with Charles Dance and his sneering disdain and domineering glares. The scene was a study in subtlety from Dance, and his final "I will" was filled with enough menace to fill the room.
The other side of his coin is the wonderful Diana Rigg as The Queen of Thorns, the first character who easily threw the slippery Varys for a loop. She was brilliant in her scene with him, and every small movement and word showed a gift for cunning and calculation (yet another scene where seating was shown as a curiously entertaining political tactic). Yet an uneasy alliance is slowly being forged there, over the fate of Sansa Stark and the efforts to head off the weaselly and brazenly ambitious Littlefinger. Conleth Hill continues to perfectly capture The Spider, and his matchup with Olenna Tyrell promises to be as enjoyable as those with Tyrion. Speaking of which...
... the early scene between Varys and Tyrion? That was amazing in a number of ways. Between Tyrion slowly getting sucked into the increasingly bizarre and terrifying story, to the mesmerizing cadence of Varys's voice as he told it. It's here, truly, that we learned that Varys is so much more than an information broker and servant of the kingdom. His history is dark and shadowy and horrific, yet the only thing more so is his gift for vengeance. Those final moments, the sheer terror in the trapped sorcerer's eyes... Varys told Olenna that Littlefinger might be the most dangerous man in King's Landing. I'm not certain that that's true. Between that moment and his quizzical fascination during his conversation with Ros, Varys was one of this week's brightest moments.
On the other hand, I found the ongoing tragedy with Jaime Lannister and Brienne to be strangely unexciting. Jaime's desperate fight and the subsequent fog of despair, Brienne's urging him to survive -- all rang a bit dull. Perhaps it's that it simply couldn't live up to the rest of the episode -- even the action north of the Wall, so clunky and grinding in the prior couple of episodes, ratcheted things up this week. The buildup to the battle at Craster's keep was excruciating, a slowly simmering stew of anger and bitterness and resentment, as the angry and reckless youth of the Night's Watch simply snapped. It's those moments that we forget that, detestable and vile as Craster is, there is an element of the Night's Watch -- particularly among the younger men -- that isn't exactly innocent either. Craster's constant beratings, the slowly bubbling fury of the young men, the disgust and hunger and everything else caused hell to break loose and left Craster dead, along with the shocking and savage death of Lord Commander Mormont, and Samwell Tarly abruptly forced into the hero's role.
Perhaps the most intriguing moment came from the curious plight of Theon Greyjoy. Rescued from his brutal torture by a strange and unknown ally, he is swept away and riding a crest of hope and fear, promised to be delivered to his sister's protection. Yet nothing is as it appears here, and Theon's odd protector is far more than he appears. The final shocking moment is all the more stunning after Theon opens up to him, baring his soul, his regrets and angers and finally allowing himself to be human, instead of the front that he puts up. It's at that moment that Theon realizes that this is all a trap, a vicious, cruel game, leaving him right back where he started -- bound, gagged, and doomed.
But of course, the favorite moment of the week goes to the final scene in Astapor. Daenerys Targaryen, finding a way to take power enough to conquer kingdoms, while also wreaking a terrible, righteous vengeance on the slaveholders and rulers of Astapor. The final minutes all played out beautifully, and was a spectacular payoff for those of us -- particularly the book readers -- who have been waiting for a conclusion to the awfulness in that wicked city. The brilliant reveal at the end (rendered by another outstanding performance by Emilia Clarke), of Dany's understanding of High Valerian, her haughty, regal, and blazing-eyed fury as she turned her new army on their former masters, seared the life out of the venomous Kraznys mo Nakloz with but a single word, and reduced everything around her to ash -- all of this showed us that, like Varys and Theon's betrayer and the darker brothers of the Night's Watch, no one is quite what they seem, and even the meekest of us are capable of terrible things.