Game of Thrones has become an addiction that I, and many others, just cannot seem to kick, nor would any of us want to do so. Monday morning’s have become the highlight of my week simply because I get the chance to unwind and watch the intricacies and action unfold in this fantasy drama that is nothing short of truly spectacular programming. Last week’s installment The Walk of Punishment set its focus on essential plot pushing and admittedly far less essential, but certainly not unappreciated, comedy elements that went a long way in pleasing some fans (myself included), and frustrating others who grow ever irritated by the slow start to the third season. Jamie’s shock hand amputation at the end of the last episode inferred a change of pace to come; did And Now His Watch Has Ended bring desperately needed action to the table?
Warning Spoilers Ahead!
That much awaited notch up in the pace has arrived. Daenerys venture in the slaver city of Astapor was greeted with a brief showing, but I will be damned if it wasn’t a moment of complete euphoria. The tension in this scene – delivered through a combination of Emilia Clarke’s outstanding performance and brilliant sequencing work – was completely off the charts. When The Dragon Queen spoke in the tongue of High Valyria I was grinning like a complete idiot in sheer amazement at just how perfectly this reveal and the sacking of Astapor was translated from the books by the evidently very talented Game of Thrones production team. Dany’s sacking of Astapor now holds the unrivaled title as my favourite TV moment. So Daenerys has seized her army of 8000 Unsullied soldiers but a question remains, where will she be taking them?
Beyond The Wall the Night’s Watch were determined to bring a shock of their own; dissension amongst their ranks lead to a violent divide amongst the men and the first death of a beloved character in season 3. Jeor “The Old Bear” Mormont’s death likely came as a terrible shock to those yet to read the books, which is an oddly positive testament, not only to the quality of the story and its endearing characters, but also to how crucial the shot pacing is in making these very dramatic moments come about as if in the blink of an eye. Thankfully the foul wildling Craster’s death softened the weight of the Jeor’s loss, frankly his inevitable demise was surprisingly drawn out and in my opinion could have happened last episode if it wasn’t for so many ‘filler’ scenes. It mustn’t go unsaid that I’m also really not warming to the acting of Luke Barnes who plays Rast, the brother who stabbed Mormont.
Rast’s complaints and anger at the Lord Commander’s choices concerning Craster, prior too his murder, felt far too over dramatized and broke the immersion at some pretty key moments in the story. On a more positive note, Dolorous Edd’s (Ben Crompton) witty remarks grow and grow by the episode, to a point where he now has a highly deserved major role in the story of the Night’s Watch, that may come to an abrupt end if the situation at Craster’s Keep takes a further turn for the worse.
Heading south to the expanse of The North, shit hit the fan for the infamous Theon Greyjoy as his ‘rescuer’ was revealed to be one with his enemy, the shroud around his identity lifting not an inch. Theon is a widely detested character, there is no doubt about it, but it is impossible to not feel sympathy for the man considering the mess of a situation he is in. Alfie Allen pulled off Theon’s depressing monologue – concerning his struggles with fitting into the Stark family which he saw as his own, and his total remorse for the sacking and burning of Winterfell – with the exact heart-string-tugging perfection that it required. I honestly cannot praise Allen enough, he has never once failed to astound me in his performances as Theon, and I see no signs of that changing soon.
Heading to the Middle Earth of the Riverlands, we finally received an eagerly anticipated introduction to Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), the leader of “The Brotherhood Without Banners” that Arya and Gendry acquainted their selves with. Dormer was a sublime choice from the casting director to play the role of Dondarrion, he flawlessly emitted the same calm, strength and an arguably awry sense of justice that I took away from the characters introduction in A Storm of Swords. The references and signposting inferences in Beric’s dialogue toward his belief in the Red God – who’s power has literally served to revive him on multiple occasions – was a very welcome touch to the scene, providing an ever so slight degree of fan service to the book readers amongst us.
Over at King’s Landing the Tyrell’s further pursued their ever almost attained goals, much to the distaste of one Lannister in particular. The brilliantly witty Olenna Tyrell popped back onto screen this week, cleverly planting seeds of irritation in Cersei’s head regarding her takings from her father Tywin’s grand legacy, whilst also conversing with Varys on the matter of Sansa’s future that looks set to involve a marriage between her and the Knight of Flowers and heir to Highgarden, Loras Tyrell. The intricacies in Charles Dance’s acting as Tywin during his character’s conversation with Cersei on the matter of the Tyrell problem that she has found herself wholly convinced of, following her stint with Joffrey at Baelor’s Sept, lead me to believe that he currently knows a lot more about the Tyrell’s than he is readily willing to give away for the time being.
The set for the Great Sept of Baelor was genuinely mesmerizing, props to the production design team that really went to town on creating such an authentic atmosphere. On the subject of the Sept, Margaery further demonstrated her uncanny ability to appease Joffrey’s monstrous side and then take total control of his sometimes untamed, sadistic whims, miraculously getting some positive nature out of the boy through encouraging him to wave to crowds waiting outside the Sept.
Lastly we go to our downtrodden, slowly receding amputee Jamie, and his partner in crime Brienne as they journeyed through a seemingly endless succession of forests. Jamie’s abysmal and frankly embarrassing attempt to rid himself of his captors – minus his stronger sword hand – made for a painfully saddening watch; it is a true wonder how George RR Martin and the screenwriting team changed this thoroughly despised character into a fan favourite, but I’m thoroughly impressed nonetheless. Jamie’s inability to explain to Brienne why he saved her from rape was very out of character, honestly I was expecting the sort of rude remark he would dish out to Robb Stark, but his silence said more than dialogue ever could. Jamie and Brienne edits will likely be popping up on your Tumblr feed as we speak.
Final Thoughts: “And Now His Watch Has Ended” had problems, although I left it unmentioned I though the continuation of the Podrick sex joke and the overall exchange between Varys and Ross was terribly cringe worthy, and I’m none too impressed with one or two of the casts acting efforts. In spite of those minor issues, this episode was only slightly short of total perfection, it definitely joins the contenders to be one of my all time favourite Game of Thrones episodes. If there is anything you would like to share regarding “And Now His Watch Has Ended”, by all means feel free to do so in the comment section below!