Want to foment rebellion among the Night’s Watch? Starve the men and make them shovel pig poop. “And Now His Watch Is Ended” is the title of this week’s episode, and it also is a phrase repeated in unison as the Rangers solemnly observe a comrade’s funeral pyre.
The men are cold, hungry and in peril as unwelcome guests of Craster, a depraved wildling who breeds with his daughters and feeds their baby boys to White Walkers. If anyone deserves a blade in the gut, it’s Craster — and the Night’s Watch obliges. During the ensuing melee, Ranger Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) flees with a young mom and her infant.
Elsewhere in Westeros, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is at the nadir of his existence. Bound and humiliated with his severed hand hung around his neck, Jaime mounts an impossible escape attempt before being kicked into the slime.
“I’m dying,” Jaime laments to co-captive Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who rejects his self-pity. You must eat, she insists. You must “live to take revenge.”
At King’s Landing, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) seeks the identity of his would-be assassin by consulting Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), the eunuch with all the answers. If Tyrion has the stomach for it, vengeance can be had through black magic, Varys reveals. Turns out he has taken delivery of a sorcerer in chains — a nasty one who castrated Varys in his childhood.
Varys is also busy saving “babe in the woods” Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) from a possible marriage to ruthless “Littlefinger” (Aidan Gillen). Varys appears to have an ally in Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), whose handsome grandson Loras (Finn Jones) is unwed.
Would Sansa like to marry Loras, his sister Margaery (Natalie Dormer) asks? That’s an affirmative, judging by Sansa’s excited teenage smile.
Speaking of Margaery, she’s given a macabre tour of the palace by future-hubby King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), who gleefully points out who’s buried where and how they got there. Emboldened by her queen-to-be status, Margaery urges Joffrey to step outside and wave to his subjects below. The commoners, obviously terrible judges of character, greet loathsome Joffrey with cheers not jeers.
Margaery’s skill at manipulating Joffrey alarms his mother, Queen Cersei (Lena Headey), but is regarded as an asset by patriarch Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance). In fact, Tywin berates Cersei for letting Joffrey “ride roughshod” over King’s Landing. Ever the alpha male, Tywin vows to rein in his sadistic grandson. Good luck with that, fella.
As for the youngest and feistiest Stark daughter, Arya (Maisie Williams), she’s a guest of the Brotherhood Without Banners and taken to their underground hideout. These outlaws have captured “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann) so he can answer for his murderous crimes. This will be a trial by combat, not by jury, as the hulking Hound faces one-eyed Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), the vigilante group leader.
A breathtaking coup wraps up this outstanding episode as Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) hands over a dragon to evil slave trader Kraznys (Dan Hildebrand) in exchange for thousands of troops. Daenerys swiftly orders her soldiers to kill their slave masters, then commands the dragon to immolate Kraznys, who’s instantly engulfed in flames. How’s that for dragon justice?
Astride a white horse, Daenerys liberates her troops as she symbolically throws down a golden whip. “Will you fight for me? As free men?” she asks.
You betcha! As the scene ends, Daenerys and her fearsome army depart Astapor with three dragons flying high.
Never mess with the mother of dragons!