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Commentary: ‘And Now His Watch Is Ended’ continues Game of Thrones plot, fails to excite

Courtesy of HBO

The fourth Game of Thrones episode of the season begins slow, continues slow, and even somehow ends slowly. It advances the plot, but in such a fashion that even the more action-packed sequences feel plodding and dull.

This episode, like many before it, started where the previous episode left off, with Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) prisoners of Bolton forces. Jaime’s severed hand dangles from his neck.

Jaime falls off his horse, steals a sword and attacks his captors, but he is limited by weakness and having to use his left hand. He fails miserably, but it’s nothing the audience couldn’t see coming.

In King’s Landing, in a touching conversation, Varys (Conleth Hill) tells Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) how he became a eunuch, and then rose to power as the spymaster of the Seven Kingdoms. Using his recent capture of the sorcerer that cut him decades before as an object lesson, Varys tells Tyrion that he needs to be patient and let his influence grow.

In Craster’s Keep north of the Wall, the boys of the Night’s Watch burn a dead comrade, sending him off with the words of the episode’s title, “And Now His Watch is Ended.” The watchmen grow discontented with Lord Commander Mormont’s (James Cosmo) leadership, and one of the Night’s Watch calls Craster (Robert Pugh) a bastard. Craster attacks the Night’s Watch, and Mormont is killed in the ensuing chaos. Sam (John Bradley-West) flees with Craster’s daughter-wife Gilly (Hannah Murray) and her son.

Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) appears momentarily, walking through a dream forest, trying to catch the three-eyed raven. This scene in particular seems worthless, except to tell viewers that Bran is still alive.

Back in King’s Landing, Ros (Esme Bianco) tells Varys all about Petyr Baelish’s (Aidan Gillen) plans for Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner). Acting on that information, Varys visits Lady Oleanna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) and they discuss Sansa’s future in the realm. This conversation sparks Margaery Tyrell’s (Natalie Dormer) suggestion that Sansa marry Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones). Not only would the marriage bring more power to the Tyrells, it would remove Sansa from the court of the increasingly sadistic King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).

Gleeson is becoming particularly adept at showing Joffrey’s glee in killing and torture. The innocent boy on the fire escape in “Batman Begins” has become a barbarous, depraved tyrant who thrives on pain and suffering.

Elsewhere in Westeros, Theon’s savior tells Theon (Alfie Allen) that he was born on the Iron Islands. Theon breaks down and says that he didn’t kill Bran and Rickon, that he regrets having caused so much pain and having lost so much. The boy leads him into a castle to meet Yara, but surprise! It’s the torture chamber again, and Theon has been led back to his torturers.

Brienne tells a down-and-out Jaime that he needs to eat, to live and take revenge. “My sword hand. I was that hand,” he laments. She chastises him for whining and crying about having lost something, and she thanks him for saving her from rape in the last episode. “Why did you help me?” she asks.

Maybe it’s because he finally has feelings for a woman other than Cersei.

Her question goes unanswered as the camera returns to King’s Landing, where Cersei (Lena Headey) seeks her father Tywin (Charles Dance), to make sure that things are being done to get Jaime back and to gain influence with him. He says that he is doing everything to get Jaime back, and rejects her every idea, saying that she’s not as smart as she thinks she is.

Arya (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) are taken to the cavern stronghold of the Brotherhood Without Banners, along with the Hound, Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann). Beric Dondarrion, now played by Richard Dormer, accuses the Hound of murder. Clegane declares his innocence, but Arya recalls the butcher’s boy in the first season that Clegane killed.

Faced with this accusation, and Clegane’s indifference to the charge, Dondarrion challenges him to trial by combat, to be judged by the Red God R’Hllor, the Lord of
Light. Odd, that a knight sworn and anointed in the Faith of the Seven should change his religion, but perhaps his eyepatch and the red priest Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) have something to do with that.

Across the Narrow Sea, Danerys (Emilia Clarke) buys her army of 8,000 Unsullied from the slavers of Astapor. She exchanges Dragon for the symbolic whip of mastery. Commanding the Unsullied in the Valeryian tongue, she reveals her knowledge of the slavemaster’s insults and orders the Unsullied to take the city. Dragon fries the slavemaster, and after a short battlefield montage Dany offers the Unsullied their freedom. They choose to fight for her, and march out of Astapor on Dany’s warpath.

The episode had its high points, but it’s really just moving the plot along. Every scene Sunday night was required for later scenes, but was not itself a major arc. Viewers waiting for nudity will be disappointed – not a single bare breast was shown. Hundreds die, and the plot plods onwards.

Rating: B for continuing the plot

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