Well, that was awesome.
While the opening trio of Game of Thrones Season 3 episodes have been solid, they all suffered from this show's enviable curse: too many great characters, too many intriguing storylines.
As a result, the installments mostly just dropped in here and there, providing us with updates on the whereabouts/actions of Jon Snow (slowly integrating himself with Mance Rayder), Robb Stark (still frustrated by the lack of any real battles), Tyrion (still being awesome) and company.
But, man, "And Now His Watch is Ended" managed to do a lot more than merely spend time with these residents of Westeros and beyond. It delivered action after action after unbelievably cool and surprising action.
We must start with Dany.
Following the deal she struck on last Sunday's "Walk of Punishment," it wasn't hard to predict this general outcome. There was simply no way Dany was simply trading one of her dragons - one of her children! - for a contingent of slaves. I don't care how well they can take a nipple slice.
But still - thanks to the production, the edits, the performance of Emilia Clarke - watching it play out was simply mesmerizing. Dany has always been a fascinating character, someone evolving into a leader, someone learning to control her rage and unleash it only at the proper times... but she's also felt very far away from the machinations and plans surrounding King's Landing. Her journey there is taking quite the circuitous route.
Now she has her army, though. Eight-thousand strong and ready to serve their Khaleesi. I fear the show will once again abandon her trek for a couple weeks, but at least we'll have this outstanding closing scene to hold us over until then.
Elsewhere... Craster is dead! And Jeor Mormont! And holy snowballs I didn't not see any of that coming.
It's almost as if the show had purposely been lulling viewers to sleep with (non) action beyond The Wall until now. The momentum of each episode simply slowed down every time Jon Snow talked to Mance or Sam struggled with each step home.
But it's safe to say that all changed with a mutiny that took out both friend and foe. Sam, Gilly and baby are now on the run to... who knows where? However, unlike past storylines involving these characters, I can finally say I'm fully invested in finding out.
I'm also more invested than I ever imagined being in the relationship between Brienne and Jaime Lannister. It may have taken over two seasons, and it may have taken him losing a hand, but the vulnerability of the King Slayer has finally come through. This is a man who pushed someone off a ledge because he feared people would learn he was banging his sister... and yet now I find myself feeling sorry for him.
It's obviously a theme on Game of Thrones that people are complex and that no one can be pained in black or white. But heading into this season, I would have pegged Jaime as one of the most clearly defined. He's pure egotistical evil, right? Or maybe he's actually a lot like his smaller brother, someone who has lived a life of luxury, who relies on wit and charm when in danger, and who is finally facing a world where his last name only gets him in trouble.
We've seen how Tyrion has responded to these circumstances. He's grown into a legitimate hero. He uses his brains instead of his brawn. Does Jaime have it in him to do the same? And, heck, will he even have a choice now that Brienne is in his corner and not about to take any BS or whining?
Also of note:
- Margaery remains a mystery. She knows exactly how to manipulate Joffrey and now she's trying to line up Sansa with a husband. A husband she knows to be gay, of course. She's making a good impression on the poor, she certainly seems to have nothing but good intentions... yet it's hard to imagine there isn't some game afoot here. Cersei can see it, just sucks for her that Tywin can't see her as anything other than an overconfident nuisance.
- Arya is awesome. That's pretty much it. We didn't spend a lot of time with her and The Brotherhood Without Banners and the Hound, but the interrogation of the latter was a fun scene.
Easily the best episode of a young season and one of my favorite overall to date. What did everyone else think?