Dylan had to take a break from these two weeks' worth of Game of Thrones episodes, so Nick is tackling them solo to catch everyone up, but Dylan and Nick's conversational reviews will be back with episode six of season three.
3.04 “And Now His Watch Has Ended”
It's becoming clearer and clearer that if the third season of Game of Thrones belongs to anybody, it's Daenerys. The former princess turned queen has become more assertive and conniving, and while she still has room to grow, she's quickly learning how the game of thrones is played. The fourth episode of the season ably proved that, as Daeny wound up with the army she needed and turned the tables on the slaver who thought he had one up on her, revealing that not only did she speak Valyrian (as I figured she did, since she comes from an Old Valyrian family in the first place) but that she never had any intention of parting ways with her dragons. Or, more accurately, she knew her dragons had no intention of parting with her. Where season one of Game of Thrones showed Daeny's transformation from a naïve, innocent princess who was pushed around by everyone and treated like property and season two showed her at her worst point, plagued by troubles on all sides, this season has been a reversal, as everyone else in Westeros is falling into despair and her star just keeps rising.
Chief amongst those other sufferers is the entirety of the Night's Watch, which has no idea what it's really up against with the threat beyond the wall and worse, is governed by old guard patriarchs who don't understand that tradition never trumps desperation. Jeor Mormont learned this the hard way, done in by his own men as they were tired of letting a sleazy, incest-addicted piece of shit hurl insults and threats at them every time they stopped in. Mormont's death was clearly telegraphed and not just in the episode's spoiler-laden title. Like Ned Stark before him, Mormont wasn't willing or able to adapt to the new rules of the game and he was bound to meet a cruel fate sooner or later, and I was honestly surprised he lasted as long as he did. His death was of course tragic, but he should have known that a small army of criminals and outcasts weren't going to be all that happy with Craster's shenanigans when they were all starving and had just witnessed their mates being wiped out by the monsters Craster catered to.
That of course leaves Sam in an unfortunate position, as he now has Ginny and her infant son in his care and he can barely take care of himself on a good day. We're going to be stuck with Sam for quite a while, I believe, which makes his story line even more groan inducing because it begs belief. If so many other, smarter, more adaptable players have been knocked out of the game so early, how the fuck is it that Sam is here for the long haul, especially now with a family in tow? I know that the Sam nonsense is straight from the books, but this is an instance where I wish the show would veer from the source material; he's not a watchable character, his plotlines just tread water and unless he's revealed to be protected by divine spirits of some sort, I refuse to believe that he's worth the hassle.
In contrast, Arya is learning very quickly that she needs to adapt more than she has. The difference between Arya– who could have been depicted as a weak character in a more realistic fashion than Sam– and Sam is that Arya makes mistakes but learns from them. She picks up on the deficiencies in her training and experience and does what she can to adjust, and this episode explored that well with her continued adventures with the Brotherhood Without Banners, whose leader she met in this episode and—surprise!– it's Beric Dondarrion, the knight Ned tasked with hunting down the Hound way back in the first season. If Sam has a counterpart at all, it's Theon, who at this point seems to still exist in the story simply so we can watch him get fucked over and tortured which, honestly, is totally okay by me. I remain convinced that the “hero” who betrayed him in this episode is Roose Bolton's bastard and if I'm right, Theon has no idea what he's really in for.
Over in King's Landing, Sansa's plotline continues to move at a glacial pace, as a bunch of supporting cast members get together to discuss her future. I figured that Loras would be presented as a potential husband for her at some point and even though that's almost certainly not who she'll wind up with, it makes sense that the Tyrells would want to ally their house with the Starks in some fashion, as it gives them a buffer for the Lannister insanity. The more interesting King's Landing news is that Varys is back in full and he revealed his origins to Tyrion, in a fashion. It was mostly to prove a point about waiting others out and keeping your eye on the prize, which is a valuable lesson for Tyrion, as he's so often done in by his own need for immediate gratification, as his continued sparring with his father proves. Tywin may be a total asshole in every possible sense, but he has no interest in being distracted by his children's petty problems and grievances, which Cersei is learning firsthand.
Still, it's clear that even he is becoming more and more frustrated with the absence of Jaime, who combined his siblings' best traits– Cersei's gift for being two-faced, charming and venomous at once, and Tyrion's gift of gab, albeit in a less humorous fashion– with expert combat skills. Tywin of course isn't aware of just how bad things have gotten for Jaime, but his distaste for his other children is a way of indicating how good of a negotiation point Jaime is for the Starks, who now sort of have him back in their possession, though not in one piece. Watching Jaime's fall from grace has been especially intriguing because it has humanized him in a way, allowing us to sympathize with a character who was first presented to us as utterly despicable. Now he's down a right hand and in increasingly rougher shape, but you can tell that's having an effect on Brienne, encouraging her to consider Jaime as a potential replacement for her beloved Renly.
That makes for some beautiful symmetry as well, since Jaime's continuing problems have allowed him to blossom as a character in the same way that Daeny's continuing success has enabled her to grow. Their two stories frame this season, and it stands to reason they'll frame the new history of Westeros, too.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he's the last of the secret agents and he's your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Comics Bulletin, where he reigns as the co-managing editor, or at Panel Panopticon, which he started as a joke and now takes semi-seriously. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd rants about his potentially psychopathic roommate on twitter @Nick_Hanover and explore the world of his musical alter ego at Fitness and Pontypool.