“The board is set. The pieces of moving.”
I thought it would be fitting to begin this review with a memorable quote from Gandalf the White, as after a long, but no less exciting, thee episodes, this week’s episode Now His Watch Has Ended lights the fuses for the rest of what is expected to be an explosive rest of the season. Major plot lines are ignited into action and conspiracies, betrayals and new found friendships makes this the best of the series – so far. As always, I will try my best to avoid any major spoilers, but be warned that there may be some later on.
Now after last week’s shocking end, you may or may not feel some sympathy for the maimed Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). But despite which side of the line you stood on last week, you would have to have a heart of stone not to feel some sympathy for the disgraced member of the Kingsguard. Considering that Jaime has been established as one of the greatest swordsmen in Westeros, the sword and the hand that wields it is his life and without it, he is nothing. By looking at it from that perspective, Locke (Noah Taylor) has killed the Lannister, but spared his life. Yet that doesn’t mean he’s not finished tormenting his prized captive. If having his severed hand hang around his neck wasn’t torture enough, getting kicked into the mud and beaten in the dirt surely made me feel sorry for him. Despite everything he’s done; throwing Bran from the tower, killing Jory Cassel and his own cousin Ser Cleos Frey, it’s quite difficult to watch Locke’s men torment him, posing the remarkable feat that even the vilest of characters can be found sympathetic. Could Joffrey find some redemption – I won’t hold my breath. His treatment similarly blurs the lines of who we perceive as good and evil. Locke is Bolton’s man and Bolton is Robb’s right-hand man so they would generally be considered the good guys. But here that would be blasphemy and so our faith is shaken.
Dianna Rigg returns as the Queen of Thorns, engaging in a brilliant conversation with Varys (Conleth Hill) in which the two greatest minds in King’s Landing come face to face. Though she had only been a recurring character for a short while, the Queen of Thorns has already established herself as the matriarch of House Tyrell and that cleverness, that cunning can be seen in the continuation of Margarery’s (Natalie Dormer) manipulation of Joffrey (Jack Gleeson). But it’s her interaction with Varys that proves most engaging. The scripting of this scene was short of perfect, being performed brilliantly by both Rigg and Varys. There was great chemistry between the two of them, bouncing off each other’s little tricks and pitfalls and it would seem that there is another conspiracy afoot. It’s always a pleasure to see Dianna Rigg on screen, as ever scene she finds herself in seems to have an undertone of mystery but also natural in her performance. Whereas every other in King’s Landing seems to play a part, the Queen of Thorns speaks her mind, playfully insults yet remains one of the most prominent figures in the capital.
Before I move onto my final point there are few little things that need a brief mention. For one, it was interesting to see a slight character development in the mysterious eunuch which makes you see him in a different light. He’s always been a threat because of his web of informants, but for the first time, we see him afraid, not once but twice, which means that there is a storm coming. It’s also quite satisfying to see Cersei (Lena Headey) losing her grip on power, both from her father and her son. Cersei has always been protective of her children, but it seems more than that. Joffrey was her key to power, which whatever way you look at it, she had. But now with the Tyrells muzzling in, she feels threatened. Though it’s interesting to watch, other than this element Cersei’s story this current season has been mundane and rather bland, wasting the talents of Headey as she becomes more of a back seated character.
Last but not least, I can’t go without mentioning Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), but I will warn that there will be major spoilers for this week’s episode, therefore if you wish to avoid them, skip this paragraph. The last time we saw the Mother of Dragons, she was bargaining one of her dragons for an army of 8,000 Unsullied and as you’ll all know, she doesn’t go through with it. But the build-up, the whole sequence up to the point that she commands her army to attack gave the impression that she would. No one would believe that Dany would give up one of her dragons – one of her children – but there is no doubt that that scene would have created a niggle of doubt that made every viewer fearful – apart from the book-readers of course. The whole finale was directed, shot and dialogued beautifully. I couldn’t find a flaw in its execution. The vastness of the Unsullied army looked fantastic and menacing. The animation of the dragon was as always beautiful and there were so many epic moments that I couldn’t possibly mention them all. The ones that stick in my mind is the moment when Daenerys speaks Valyrian and the Unsullied answer her call to fight for her as free men. It’s Game of Thrones at its best, showing off the brilliance of the writing, the directing, the visuals and the music, bringing them all together in an epic, spine-tingling ending.
In brief, Now His Watch Has Ended provided a great variety of story threads and themes, cutting between eloquent conversations and harsh action scenes. I’ve left a lot unmentioned and for good reason, because there is so much that goes on in this episode that will make your jaw drop. More than one betrayal is revealed that sees the exit of a character who began back in Season One, a friendship that seems too good to be true is made and be meet the leader of the ghosts of Westeros known as the Brotherhood Without Banners. The locations both artificial and natural are as always wondrous to behold and the combination of writing and acting has never been at its best – ending with a sequence that should be given an Oscar alone.
Next week, the Hound faces the judgement of the Red God, Jaime is brought before Robb’s bannerman Roose Bolton and Jon has to prove himself to the rest of his Wildling brothers in Kissed By Fire.
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