From the camera’s first glimpse of Jaime Lannister’s cut-off hand, vengeance and cruelty dominate the stories of “And Now His Watch Has Ended.”
Jaime, whose life has been relatively charmed (save for that inconvenient incestuous love for his sister), has been brought low by soldiers loyal to Robb Stark, but without the northern king’s sense of honor. After losing his hand, he’s beaten, covered in filth, given horse piss to drink and worst of all, forced to face the realization the master swordsman is worthless with his left hand.
As Tyrion confides in Varys about his desire to seek revenge against his sister, who tried to have him killed on the battlefield, we get more insight than ever before into Varys, learning the story of how the eunuch was cut and how he has finally found vengeance of his own. In one of the show’s signature monologues, he recalls the horror of being sold to a sorcerer who sliced off his genitals in order to summon some evil spirit. Cast out to die, he resolved instead to live, doing whatever it took to build the influence necessary for revenge. At the end of the monologue, he finished opening a large crate which held the terrified sorcerer, bound and gagged. Vengeance realized.
North of the wall, Sam desperately wants to help Gilly save her baby but he’s too scared to act. Some of his brothers, hungry and angry, begin to plot to kill Craster, the wildling who shelters them but offers little of his food—and who gives up his sons to the White Walkers. They eventually act upon their anger, killing both Craster and their Lord Commander Jeor Mormont. Sam flees with Gilly and the baby.
We get a rare glimpse of a happy Joffrey in the episode. It seems all it takes is a crypt filled with a history of horrors and girl who can at least pretend she’s comfortable with his passion for killing. “Sometimes severity is the price we pay for greatness,” she says before convincing the young king to appear to his people.
Perhaps the worst cruelty is with Theon’s would-be savior, who has pretended to bring Theon to his sister, but instead returns him to his chains. Theon shows his remorse just before learning of the deceit, saying of Eddard Stark, “My real father lost his head at King’s Landing. I made a choice, and I chose wrong. Now I’ve burned everything down.”
But revenge is something Jaime can’t muster the energy to care about, causing Brienne to call him a coward. “You have a taste—one taste—of the real world where people have important things taken from them,” she says, “and you whine and cry and quit. You sound like a bloody woman.”
But it’s the women who are bravest and strongest these days. Arya finds her way into a cave hoping to see vengeance for her friend Micah, the 12-year-old butcher’s boy, by seeing the Hound executed. The Brotherhood Without Banners—a group of swine herders, masons and tanners who fight for justice in the name of the Lord of Light—sentence the Hound to trial by combat against their leader, Beric Dondarrion.
But before his fight, the real star of the episode appears on screen. Daenerys Targaryen, the rightful heir to Westeros, has been on a long road to seeking her vengeance. The young girl who was belittled by her brother, given away to a Dothraki warlord, who had her dragons stolen in Quarth and has survived several attempts on her life shows once again that she should never be underestimated. When she agrees to sell her largest dragon Drogon in exchange for a slave army, even her advisors think she’s out of her depth. Jorah says that the throne will be won with the dragons, and Sir Barristan says it will be won with free men, not slaves. But she commands her new army to slay their masters and commands her dragon to burn their former owner. “Dragons are not slaves,” she says, and she frees the Unsullied army, telling them than anyone may go if they please. When she asks, “Will you fight for me as free men,” the Unsullied bang their spears in affirmation. Jorah and Barristan can only stare in wonder at this young woman who was born to lead.