Episode 4 - And Now His Watch is Ended
24 April 2013
Synopsis: Jaime is humiliated further by Bolton's men and Brienne has to keep him alive. Theon is led back to his torture chamber after admitting that he made the wrong choice in going home. Varys explains his origins to Tyrion before Ros informs him of Little Finger's interest in Sansa. Varys asks Olenna Tyrell for help and they suggest that Sansa wed Loras. Margaery further endears herself to Joffrey. The Brotherhood without Banners decides to try the Hound for murder. At Craster's Keep empty bellies lead to a rebellion, Mormont and Craster are killed and Sam flees with Gilly. Dany hands over her dragon only to slaughter the masters of the Unsullied and lead her 'free' army out of Astapor.
The Good: There was some very strong stuff throughout this episode. Dany's new world order was beautifully shot and gave a good sense of the size of her army. Turning on Kraznys was predictable and satisfying and fit with her sense of wanting to lead willing people as opposed to mercenaries.
Meanwhile Jaime was pretty methodically humiliated by his captors, it was almost tough to watch. You get the sense that he and Brienne will be bonded pretty tightly if they manage to escape.
Varys remains one of my favourite characters on the show. It's probably unwise to assume he really is fighting for the realm as he claims though, given the way the show likes to pull the rug out from under you. Still, we've waited a long time for his origin story and it was pretty horrific. It gave us enough information to imagine what he's capable of and interestingly positioned him as the enemy of magic. I don't know what that does for his future loyalty given the key role magical things are playing in the armies arrayed against King's Landing. The plan to thwart Little Finger by marrying Sansa to Loras is a twisty one. Baelish has never revealed his plans to us, so we don't know how he will respond to that. For poor Sansa of course what looks like the absolute best of a bad situation really isn't. Her taste in men has led her down the wrong path before and this would be another dead end (given Loras' sexuality).
The bonding between Margaery and Sansa was a pleasant scene and Margaery is quickly establishing herself as a rich character capable of simultaneously manipulating and bonding with people. Once more she takes advantage of Joffrey to have herself seen with him in front of the crowds and playing to his fragile ego. And oh how I'd love to see the results if Tywin makes good on his promise to bring Joffrey in line. If that clash went badly then Varys' question about who really holds power (203) could be answered with dark results.
Speaking of which, they say we're all three missed meals from revolution and so it proved amongst what's left of the Nights Watch. It seemed all too believable that after their shattering defeat at the hands of the Walkers that discipline would be low. To stand at Craster's place and suffer cold, hunger and jealousy was a fatal combination. I assume Commander Mormont is dead, which is a significant moment, but after Theon's story I'm not sure of such things. Sam and Gilly are the latest couple to be out wondering on the roads and Jon Snow probably won't have to choose sides now given that there won't be anyone guarding the Wall at this rate.
It was good to hear Tyrion still pursuing the truth over his scarring. I wondered if it was going to be chalked up to the cut and thrust of politics amongst the Lannisters but it would seem not. I liked the moment when Cersei looked Olenna up and down and recognised a kindred spirit, a woman tired of being ordered around by men.
The Bad: If the 'Podrick is a sex god' gags are over and not really part of the plot then I'm glad.
The Unknown: The pains of adaption were evident in various scenes. Theon spilled his guts a little too emphatically to seem believable. I don't mind what he said or who he said it too, it was just the speed of it all. To admit that actually he's been all bluff since returning to the Iron Islands and actually misses the care Ned showed him was a big moment. It didn't quite feel right to lay it all out step by step for his rescuer. To lead him back to his torture chamber was clever stuff by whoever is holding him. At this point I guess it might be Bolton's son's men.
Similarly though Varys' origin story was blurted out in full colour when Tyrion had his mind on other matters. It put Tyrion in an awkward position to stand there not seeming too concerned by Varys' former suffering. To actually see the sorcerer in the box was also a little awkward. I think hearing how Varys has taken his revenge would have been more effective than seeing it. It leads us to actually imagine Varys, having shown admirable kindness toward Sansa, heading to the dungeons to torture the man.
Dany's dramatic recruitment drive also left us with questions. If the Unsullied have had all questions taken from them then they probably don't know what they'd do with themselves if they didn't have a master. The emancipation proclamation and spear banging all seemed a little staged as a result. She may have freed an army of slaves but their lives don't seem to have changed much and their loyalty to her either feels precarious or a bit easy. I know it's a lot of story to tell but we don't really have a sense of who runs Astapor. Where they happy about a local business owner (or possibly member of government, I don't know) being slaughtered along with his people? The army seemed to march out of the city at episodes end. Did they kill other masters in the city? Where are they headed now? Were we supposed to know that Dany spoke Valyrian? Or that Valyrian was the language being spoken?
Trial by Combat caused me some problems back at the Eyrie (106). Someone needs to explain how it reflects justice. If the Hound slaughters every men sent against him what would that achieve? The Brothers without Banners still don't feel fully introduced. I do remember Ned ordering the capture of the Mountain (106) but Beric Dondarrion was hardly a character then and its far from clear how he ended up here. The plotting was awkward too because Beric accused the Hound of murder yet was clearly excluding the men he's killed in battle. If Arya wasn't there would he have apologised and set him free? It seems hard to argue that the Hound should have refused orders from his masters considering Beric did the same. Do all the Brothers serve the Lord of Light?
Best Moment: There really were some fine moments. Olenna talking about her chamber pots or Varys laying out his horrible mutilation. The moment I reacted most to though was Tywin ticking off Cersei about how she lets Joffrey do what he wants. It was a moment that clicked. It fit the story, it fit Tywin's mastery of his surroundings and it put Cersei in her place because controlling the King (e.g. Ned's execution) is her main job in his eyes. It also hints of the possible conflict to come.
Conclusion: The pace of developments remains high and once more several stories were left out to give enough time to other scenes which is all good. However the show is still suffering from the same problem it always has. So many little things happen which only become contextualised in later episodes. That style demands a high level of investment from viewers and delays your emotional response to things as they are unfolding.
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