Tales From Westeros – And Now His Watch Is Ended
You guys, we have so much to talk about. This week’s episode took a lot of the season’s slow build-up and threw it in our faces. Not only did we get some fireworks, but also a lot of plotting and explaining was accomplished, laying down the foundation for more awesome episodes in the near future.
We begin with the gruesome, close-up sight of Jaime’s once healthy (i.e. “attached”) hand dangling like a sack of maggoty rice: gray, lifeless, and presumably rotten and smelly. As he slumps on his horse, Jaime sans sword hand doesn’t look much better. To be clear, this is more than a grievous wound in a place and time obviously bereft of the marvels of modern medical care. Jaime Lannister may have gotten a bad rep after Robert’s Rebellion (kingslaying and all), but he is one of the most talented and formidable warriors in Westeros. In fact, he gave up his claim to Casterly Rock (the seat of House Lannister) when he donned the white robes of the Kingsguard. He also gave up his right to marry. His sword hand is symbolic of all that he is, and the loss has understandably defeated his spirit. We are witness to his half-hearted attempt in fighting his way free using his left hand, the shaky camera work bringing home just how useless it is to try. The further indignities he is forced to face (drinking horse urine, falling facedown in mud, verbal abuse, etc)—things Jaime would have once at LEAST snarked at—are like kicking a dead horse. In my opinion, Jaime Lannister is one of the most interesting characters in the series. He starts off as a brutal, entitled, sarcastic jerkwad, but eventually his personality is fleshed out more and we begin to understand him a little better. This is only a small part of the process that will eventually make it difficult to pick a side!
For instance, have you ever looked at the bald, pasty Lord Varys and wondered just what in the hell he brought to the table? Who is this guy, and why is he so close to the crown? They call him the Master of Whispers and his network of spies is legendary, but we’re never privy to the extent of his wiles until this next scene. Tyrion visits Varys in an attempt to find out who tried to conveniently off him during the Battle of the Blackwater (he suspects Cersei). Varys is involved in some sort of vague physical labor, but he takes the time out of his busy schedule to tell Tyrion a nice little story about his childhood in the Free Cities. It makes me feel pretty good about my own early years, as I was never sold to a sorcerer as a boy slave, injected with an immobilizing yet non-anesthetizing substance, then made to watch as my genitals were cut off “from stem to root” and basically forced to hate magic, which is very sad because magic is awesome. Varys is very clever and we’re never sure of his true loyalty. This lighthearted exchange showed us that one of his primary motivations is an all-consuming need for revenge; during this whole time he’s still laboring, and as he gives a final grunt the heavy lid of what appears to be a sarcophagus is lifted and both Varys and Tyrion peer inside. The aforementioned sorcerer is just chillin’ in there. WHAT!!! Varys is no one to F with.
Next we have a series of little vignettes that further their corresponding storylines. The men of the Night’s Watch are unhappy with Craster’s B&B hospitality. Apparently, they think they should be fed. Gilly wants Sam to save her baby boy. Bran is dreaming about Jojen Reed and the three-eyed crow, only to have it turn into a nightmare. Varys again, this time speaking to ex-prostitute Ros. She’s one of his “little birds” (spies) and since she has no love for Littlefinger, she informs Varys that he’s planning on bringing two featherbeds on the journey to the Eyrie. Meaningful pause. TWO featherbeds, you say? Meaningful glances. Oh crap, Littlefinger plans to abduct Sansa. Some backstory on Littlefinger, AKA Lord Petyr Baelish: he comes from a small and insignificant House (located in the area of Westeros called the Fingers, hence his nickname), but was fostered at Riverrun as a child by Hoster Tully. He eventually fell in love with Lady Catelyn, but she was betrothed to Brandon Stark (Ned’s older brother). However, Catelyn’s sister Lysa loved Petyr, and the whole hot mess allowed for some bad feelings to stew between all those involved. Currently, Littlefinger is off to the Eyrie to capitalize on Lysa’s old feelings for him…but since Sansa is supposed to resemble Catelyn in the bloom of youth, his old conniving heart just might be stirring towards Sansa. We shall see.
Oh yeah, we also learn that the possibly slow and simple Podrick is so well endowed that his hired women enjoyed themselves so much they didn’t want his dirty money. Whether this is an actual plot point or just an amusing anecdote is yet to be seen.
Next we find ourselves looking in on Joffrey and Margaery as they tour the Great Sept of Baelor. Religion is a huge part of the Westerosi cultural landscape (much like our own world), and this particular episode focuses on it more. There are many, many differences between the North and the South of Westeros, the biggest and most obvious being the weather. The North forges men cold and strong, and WINTER IS ALWAYS COMING. Back in the day there was always a King in the North, so essentially they should just be different countries already. We know that there is some weird stuff going on Beyond the Wall: White Walkers, giants, wargs, etc. Northmen as a rule revere the Old Gods (sort of like nature spirits), which were originally worshipped by the Children of the Forest, the non-human sprite-like beings that inhabited Westeros before the First Men came over. (They were the ones that carved faces into the weirwood trees so the Old Gods could see out, which is why they always show those creepy face trees.) The rest of the country (with exceptions) mostly follows the Faith of the Seven (which is why you see seven of everything all over this series), which is basically one god with seven faces. ANYWAY, the North has godswoods, and the South has Septs. And this one is like the Vatican of Septs, with gorgeous airy architecture and seven of everything. Margaery is once again doing that thing she does where she charms everyone. She knows exactly what to say to make Joffrey feel like a man, and yet he is putty in her hands, so deftly does she manipulate him. Margaery is interesting in that we have only seen her sweet side, even though she is obviously very cunning. Once again, we don’t know what her end game is.
Her grandmother Olenna Tyrell is bringing the sass though. It’s refreshing to add someone both smart yet not overly guarded to the mix, as it allows for some excellent zingers and truths. Portrayed by the amazing Dame Diana Rigg (please Google image search her), best known for playing Emma Peel in the original Avengers series, Olenna soon draws Cersei into a “conversation.” In other words, they size each other up. Cersei feels threatened by the Tyrells of Highgarden, the richest and most powerful Southern family. Cersei also reveals (through a series of constipated facial expressions) just how jealous she is of the men of Westeros; they’re allowed to don swords and openly battle, while she has to resort to the women’s work of manipulation and none of the glory. Cersei should have been born as Jaime, instead of merely shtupping him.
Meanwhile, Theon rides to Deepwood Motte, the Northern seat of House Glover, held by his Ironborn sister. He grows comfortable in the company of his little helper, who is also from the Iron Islands, those gray islands in the gray sea where life is hard and a-holes are born and bred. Theon gets super emo, confessing his crimes and whining about his father not loving him. He even goes as far as saying “my real father lost his head at King’s Landing.” OMG, Theon, get a grip, you effing destroyed Winterfell. Even as he chatters on, annoying everyone, it’s still sad to realize that his “helper” brought him BACK TO THE SCENE OF HIS PSEUDO CRUCIFIXION. What the hell? What kind of psychological warfare is this?
While we’re left to ponder this bizarre turn of events, Jaime and Brienne have a nice heart-to-heart in which she thanks him for saving her womanhood but still gives him shit for giving up. A sample of this jolly exchange: “What are you doing, J?” “I’m dying, B.” So, yeah. If my hand was cut off with healing left to chance, forced to drink horse piss, forced to talk to Brienne, etc, I would have offed myself with the Westerosi equivalent of a bottle full of pills (poisonous mushrooms? horse piss?). At the very least, I would have been listening to some NIN. Anyway, Brienne does have a point. Life’s tough in this land, and Jaime has had every advantage in life. Who cares if his hand is rotting and dangling like a sad gonad? Man up!
Following that is a fun little scene where Tywin Lannister makes Cersei feel dumb while he writes letters. I liked that. It’s all in how you seal the wax.
Back to Varys again, this time with Olenna Tyrell. The zingers are FLYING. So many deliciously dry British smackdowns. So much plotting. There is the problem of Littlefinger. It’s tough to know just what Sansa means to the Tyrells, but this exchange reveals something really, really important: Olenna Tyrell knows something that Littlefinger also knows, and that is that if anything happens to Robb Stark, Sansa Stark is next in succession and holds the key to the North. With that out there, Varys and Olenna start planning. Poor Sansa. Even though as a Stark she is technically a wolf (though maybe the death of her direwolf Lady was symbolic), she is more like a sheep among wolves. Innocent and tenderhearted, she lacks the cunning (I won’t outright say she’s dumb, but I have thought that thought) of literally every other character. Plus like Olenna said, she’s a looker with an important last name, destined to be traded like a Wall Street commodity. I’ll leave you with this tidbit, uttered by Olenna to Varys: “What happens when the nonexistent bumps upon the decrepit?” re: sex between those two. LOL’s everywhere.
Sansa is next hunted down/befriended by our innocent, charming Margaery. It’s a sweet scene of two girls that could be friends if one of them wasn’t the frigging Key to the North™. The Tyrell’s plan is finally revealed: they want to wed Sansa to Margaery’s brother Loras, the dashing young Knight of Flowers for whom Sansa definitely has a lady-boner. Too bad Loras likes boys and is still grieving over Renly, but what do I know?
Back at Craster’s lovely Keep, we witness the cremation of a Crow that has apparently starved to death. We know they’re ALL hungry because another Crow mentions that his burning corpse smells pretty good. Regardless, tensions are high. The Night’s Watch is an ancient and noble institution, historically manned by highborn men. Lately, there has been a decline in enlistment (could it possibly be the vow of chastity?) and the Watch bolsters its numbers by recruiting some desperate dudes, notably criminals given the choice between death or service on the Wall. So there are some unsavory characters along with the likes of Jon Snow, Sam, and the Old Bear. It seems like these unsavory characters have had enough of the sub par conditions while Craster noshes on a tasty-looking roasted leg of something. They call him a bastard. He doesn’t like that, “bastard” apparently being the woooorst insult ever (just ask Jon Snow). Bastard, bastard, bastard—next thing we know there is a full-on Keep brawl happening. The action is intense: Craster is immediately killed, and since the rest of the crowd is made up almost entirely of Crows, they soon turn on each other. Unfortunately, the mighty Old Bear goes down, that last bastion of Old School Night’s Watch Honor, but not before taking down his assailant, like the grizzly bad-ass he is. My notes for this part were simply: “OLD BEAR :*(“
Left to brood, we’re once again on the road with Arya Stark. This time we’re literally left in the dark, as the weird group of misfits she’s traveling with have cloaked the faces of the captives with hoods. Then they’re escorted to a creepy cave. Full of creepy people, including one with a creepy one-eyed look about him. Turns out this guy is Beric Dondarrion, the knight entrusted by Ned Stark to find and kill the terrifyingly brutal Lannister henchman known as the Mountain, Ser Gregor Clegane (the Hound’s brother). This cave is a safe space with “no wolves or lions” and the occupants are the Brotherhood without Banners, a group of outlaws stubbornly dedicated to the late King Robert. Dondarrion’s men were almost defeated, but they continued to fight as a guerilla group. They denounce both Lannister and Stark, are concerned with protecting the smallfolk, and their numbers keep growing as they take in stragglers. One of the key members is Thoros of Myr, the raggedy looking guy that has been talking to Arya this whole time. He is a red priest (the male equivalent of Lady Melisandre) and the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood, who I guess are now all dedicated to the God of Light and not the Seven anymore. We leave them at a moment of high tension, as the Hound and Dondarrion are about to duke it out.
And NOW for a moment of triumph, the crescendo this episode has been working toward. At Astapor, Dany stands before 8,000 Unsullied. She has promised the trade of her biggest dragon-child, Drogon, to pay for the soldiers necessary to win the Iron Throne. The camera is steady on her face, but her eyes reveal nothing but the supposed strength and sadness of giving away a child. She hands Drogon, tethered to a kind of dragon-leash, to the slaver. Drogon is calm when Dany’s hand held the leash, but struggles at the hand-off. At the very clear verbal confirmation that the trade has been completed, the last Targaryen turns the tables and reveals her ultimate plan: her voice dripping with scorn, she informs the slavers “a dragon is NOT a slave,” and commands “DRACARYS,” at which Drogon torches the unfortunate Master. In High Valyrian (which she knew all along) she then commands her new army: “Unsullied. Slay the masters. Slay the soldiers, slay every man who holds a whip, but harm no child. Strike the chains off every slave you see.” This is how Dany takes Astapor and proves that she ain’t nothing to F with either.
What did you think of this episode? Did you get chills during the final five minutes? Any predictions? See you next week, Geeks!
Wanna keep Evil-Geeking Out on Game of Thrones? Read On!
All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners.