Which Game of Thrones Season 3 episode had a better ending: last week's Episode 3: "Walk of Punishment," with Jaime's sword hand getting mercilessly sliced off, or this week's Episode 4: "And Now His Watch Is Ended," with Daenerys Targaryen's epic dragons-attack-burn-everything-kill-everyone-oh-man-this-girl-is-awesome takeover of Astapor?
Let’s go over what happened this week and we’ll decide after. And on with our Game of Thrones recap!
On the Road: A Man Without a Hand
We open where we left off: Jaime Lannister. He's not screaming anymore, but the sullen acceptance of his captor's taunts is just as bad. He collapses into the mud and is tricked into drinking horse piss, just to highlight his fall from Lannister-ness. But wait! He's not quite as defeated as he seems. He attempts to fight, showing some of the spark that made him so feared. No surprises here: It doesn't go well.
At night, Brienne, who's been staring wide-eyed at Jaime this whole time, encourages him not to give up and die. “You coward!” she goads when he tries to avoid eating. “One misfortune, and you're giving up?” Jaime points out that losing his sword hand is less a misfortune than the reality-shattering destruction of his identity, but Brienne's not having it. Her protests work — Jaime eats a piece of bread.
That settled, Brienne tells him she realizes he saved her from rape with a well-placed lie (Tarth isn't called the “Sapphire Isle” because it has actual sapphires), but Jaime has no answer when she asks him why. You got him to eat, Brienne. Don't push the introspection.
King's Landing: Powerful Eunuchs and Castrated Queens
In King's Landing, Tyrion is still trying to prove that Cersei tried to have him killed, so he goes to the man who knows everything: Varys. The Spider has no proof for him, but he does have advice, in the form of a very long, very real, very messed up parable: When Varys was a boy, a sorcerer castrated him for magic. In response, Varys spent years building up influence until he could eventually track the sorcerer down and then keep him locked in a box. Lesson: Patience is a virtue, and Varys is terrifying.
Speaking of Varys's influence, next we see him consulting with Ros, who fills him in on Littlefinger's plan to spirit Sansa off North. (Though not before an extended conversation about Podrick Payne being good in bed, because apparently the writers aren't letting that one go.)
Next, we cut to a hilarious sequence of Joffrey, practically giddy, running around pointing out dead Targaryens like they're his trophies to Margaery, who plays along with her usual ease. See, this is why we aren't a fan of the Pod mini-plot: We're all for more humor on the show, but this scene is ten times funnier then that entire mess. Also excellent: Cersei and Olenna discussing the folly of men. It's a nice parallel; Olenna has clearly learned how to live in a man's world, while Cersei still struggles with it every day.
It's clear to see that Margaery takes after her grandmother. This scene is topped off with Joffrey and Margaery emerging from the castle to greet the people, who cheer for them — both of them. She's done her PR work well, pleasing Joffrey and rendering herself if not indispensable, then at least very difficult and dangerous to do away with. Cersei, you are losing.
Cersei realizes this, so she visits her dad, because that always makes the Lannister kids feel better. She asks if they're doing everything possible to get Jaime back (um, yes), which is obviously just an excuse to segue into her real topic: She wants Tywin to trust her as a son, and also help her with the Tyrell “problem.” Tywin's response: Nope, sorry, the Tyrells aren't a problem, you just suck. “I don't distrust you because you're a woman," he tells her. "I distrust you because you're not as smart as you think you are.” Damn. Got her in one. He also states his intention to get Joffrey in line. Now that's something we look forward to seeing.
More Lady Olenna! The writers are smiling on us this week. The Queen of Thorns delightfully hates on her own house's words and symbol before being joined by Varys. This scene is everything a book reader could ask for — two of the best non-POV characters in one irresistible package. Can these two schemers team up and take over the kingdom, please?
While their plots might not be that far reaching at the moment, they are playing in the major leagues. Varys wants to foil Littlefinger's Sansa-related plans with an unstated counter-plan that Olenna thinks is “rather obvious.” Is it to marry Sansa to Loras? Based on the scene where Margaery befriends Sansa and hints at exactly that, it sounds like the answer is “yes.” Awesome.
In the North: His Watch Is Ended
In the north, men in the Night's Watch are grumbling. There's too much death, hunger, and shoveling. They hate Caster. They're in danger from the White Walkers and need to look out for themselves. Sound a little rebellious? Try a lot rebellious. One man's death by starvation sparks a full-on riot. Craster is killed. Mormont is killed (sad!). Night's Watch turns against Night's Watch. Disaster abounds, but at least Sam is able to save Gilly as they flee from the deadly rebellion.
The Road to the Wall: Where Dreams Are Born
Bran's still having freaky dreams, but now he's accompanied by his new friend, Jojen Reed, who mentors him in the fantasy world, encouraging him to go climbing after the three-eyed raven. Because climbing has worked out so well for Bran in the past. In his dream, Cat accidentally pushes him off the tree, which is a little hilarious, given how much she blames herself for all of her children’s suffering.
Fortunately, dream falling isn't fatal, and Jojen is there to stare at Bran meaningfully when he wakes. Glad this plotline is as opaque as ever.
Undisclosed Location: You Bastard!
Theon's unnamed friend spins him a nice tale about why he's working so hard to rescue him, but we're not going to repeat it because it's all a lie. He leads Theon to “safety,” while Theon breaks into some self-reflective angst about how his daddy doesn't love him and the Starks don't love him and wah wah wah… Oh, wait. Actually, he's pretty broken up about murdering those farm kids last season, and even admits that Ned Stark was his “real father.” “I made a choice, and I chose wrong,” he chokes out. It's a wonderful moment from Alfie Allen.
Of course, this is Game of Thrones — you can't have a moral realization like that without being swiftly punished for it, as Theon is when his “friend” gleefully brings him back to the torture chamber where he started. Whoops.
So, this “friend” is totally Roose's Bastard, Ramsey Snow, and this is totally the Dreadfort, right? And Ramsey was just mesing with Theon for the LOLs? That's basically what we've thought all along, but at this point that seems like the only reasonable conclusion. We sure hope so; Iwan Rheon certainly has the correct crazy eyes for the role.
The Brotherhood's Hideout: Trial by Fire Lord
The Brotherhood Without Banners leads Arya and Gendry, blindfolded, to the caves they call home, where we're re-introduced to Beric Dondarrion, the now-one-eyed knight that Ned sent off in Season 1 to kill The Mountain. Apparently he and the Brotherhood are really, really dedicated to protecting the weak because — twist! — they've been “reborn in the light of the one true god.” Look's like Melisandre isn't the only one supporting the fire religion in Westeros.
The Brotherhood wants to kill The Hound for being a murderer/all around d-bag, but he defends himself from all their charges. His brother is a psycho who killed the Targaryen children (sans a certain brother-sister duo), but The Hound is, he declares, not a murderer, just a man who followed orders. Too bad Arya's there to remind him of that time he slaughtered her butcher boy friend on Joffrey's say-so, which we all know is not a legitimate reason to do anything. Beric declares the case will be decided via trial by combat: Beric vs. The Hound. Will the Lord of Light spare Joffrey's former dog? We won't find out this week, sorry.
Astapor: Burn, Baby, Burn
The lack of that fight is more than made up for by the final sequence, where Dany follows through on her intention to buy the Unsullied. Except she totally doesn't trade her dragon for the slaves. Did you really think she would?
Instead, she hands the dragon to the slaver, and then breaks into a speech in Valyrian, which it turns out she knew all along because hello, language of her people. Maybe you should have been marginally less of an utter a**hole, huh, Mr. Slaver?
“Unsullied!” she yells. “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!” And then she yells "Dracarys!" Her dragon burns the slaver as the Unsullied overwhelm the city.
Mother. Of. Dragons.
In the devastated aftermath, Dany whips out a speech that parallels the one she gave the Dothraki and their slaves in the Season 1 finale. “Unsullied. You have been slaves all your life. Today you are free. Any man who wishes to leave may leave, and no one will harm him. I give you my word. Will you fight for me? As free men?”
The Unsullied answer in a resounding yes, pounding their spears against the ground and then riding from the city as their queen throws the whip representing their oppression to the side. Pan out on Dany riding at the head of an 8,000+ army as her dragons fly through the sky.
- Jaime's bloody, disgusting hand is hung around his neck, presumably as a reminder of his folly. As if his lack of a hand isn't enough.
- Tyrion line of the week: "I feel the need for actual revenge. Against the actual person who tried to have me killed."
- "We mothers do what we can to keep our sons from the grave. But they do seem to yearn for it."
- “You're a long way from home, and winter is coming,” Theon's friend tells him. Interesting.
- “If I would start a war for that lecherous little stump, what do you think I'm doing for my eldest son and heir?” Do. Not. Mess. With. Tywin.
- "All right: Contribute.” No, really. Do not mess with Tywin. Is it wrong that we love him for being such an unrepentant — but effectual! — ass?
- “What happens when the non-existent bumps against the decrepit? Question for the philosophers." Lady Olenna is the very best.
- We like Varys's evaluation of Littlefinger: “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.”
What did you think of this episode? Did you like tonight’s kickass ending better than last week’s brutal shocker? Let us know in the comments.
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Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaDMartin.