In A Storm of Swords, this scene made me cheer. And in the show, this scene did not disappoint. Many words can describe the last 10 minutes of And Now His Watch is Ended. Perhaps the most appropriate is epic. Just like Daenerys Stormborn has come into her own as Mother of Dragons, the show has grown up in scale beyond the smaller sets in Season 1 with bolder (and more expensive) CGI and expansive views. The world of A Song of Ice and Fire is large, spanning two continents (as the introductory music reminds us) and finally, David and DB have spread their wings in this episode to remind us how big Game of Thrones has become and will be. Five out of five stars.
What I liked
- A dragon is not a slave, part 1. Book readers should be reminded that Daenerys’ knowledge of Old Valyrian is not held secret at the onset. After all, how can a POV-oriented narrative hide the fact that the narrator can understand the master slaver? The big reveal in the book is more for the slaver than for us, but we still got a big kick out of the ingenuity of Dany buying all the Unsullied and turning them on Astapor. But for the show viewer, we don’t have that insight and it becomes a far more rewarding experience for the audience and the characters to witness Dany’s linguistic lie. And then, boom (or should I say, Dracarys)… mother-effing dragon carnage. How deeply satisfying was that? Game of Thrones has its pay-off moments and almost all of the “happy” ones involve Daenerys. And this may have been the biggest.
- A dragon is not a slave, part 2. Overall, this scene was just beautifully shot and acted. First the cinematography. There’s a distinct parallel to season 1’s ending when Dany emerges from the funeral pyre and this ending when Dany emerges from her victory. I’ll post the NSFW gif here from Season 1 and the Season 3 gif below.
- I have no doubt the revenge you want will be yours in time… if you have the stomach for it. Varys is a powerful man, but not the way Tywin wields his power through money and men, or Dany through fire and blood, or even Tyrion through schemes and plots. Varys plays the long game and waits. There’s no better scene to encapsulate both his ruthlessness and his sense of justice than this one. Pulling a bit of John Doe from Seven, we find out what’s in the box is the wizard who so long ago cut Varys from root to stem but now in a tiny cage with his mouth sewn shut and his body decaying. The way the scene is shot is telling. There’s a long view of Varys looking into the mirror, his face framed as he cleans himself. And the long view from inside the box looking up. We see Tyrion’s face confess his horror and the realization that Varys is not a man to be trifled with. Tyrion now knows that to play the Game of Thrones, you have to have the stomach for what comes ahead.
- Girl Talk. The women dominated this episode. Whether it’s Olenna and Cersei talking about the sons they must keep alive, to Margaery playing both Joffrey and Sansa, to Cersei pleading with her father not unlike Tyrion earlier this season, to Brienne calling the great Jaime Lannister a woman (which is insult to injury coming from her), to finally what I considered the best scene with Varys and the Queen of Thorns… this was an episode where the real war is being fought not by the Five Kings but by the women who mother, nurture and bed them. The exchange between Varys and Olenna is sublime from her opening volley “You here to seduce me” to Varys’ forceful admission on Littlefinger “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes”. It was a treat to see the chess moves being made by the women of Westeros.
- And Now His Watch is Ended. It’s almost a shame that the death of Lord Commander Mormont is overshadowed by the biggest HOLY SHIT moment in Game of Thrones this side of Ned Stark’s beheading but it was a fitting end to the old bear. James Cosmo embodied the role and after he was literally stabbed in the back by his own men, you can feel the power drain from his body as he strains to choke his assassin. But then again, who could blame the traitors? These are not honorable men who guard the Wall anymore. They’re rapists and thieves, freezing beyond the wall and who have now seen their own dead rise from the ground. Do you think a daughter-effing bloody bastard is going to keep them from a warm fire and fresh pork? This is the way of the North and winter is coming. Now we know why Mance means to go South. There’s nothing left up here but death.
There is so much more to like about this, which is why this episode may have been the best non “Episode 9” episode so far (so far, Episode 9s have been the most cinematic with Baelor and Blackwater). I didn’t talk about Jaime’s hand or get into detail about Tywin’s fatherly scolding of Cersei or the Brotherhood without Banners. Instead, this was the Dany episode and deservingly so. Here it is again, in all its glory.