This review contains spoilers.
3.4 And Now His Watch Is Ended
When it comes to playing the Game of Thrones, Cersei Lannister said that you either win or you die. As we have seen throughout the show’s history, some have played the game very well indeed (like the Small Council, who have served multiple kings during their time) and others have played the game with disastrous results (Ned Stark, Robert and Renly Baratheon, Jon Arryn). The Queen of Thorns Olenna Tyrell and her granddaughter the future Queen of Westeros Margaery seem to be better at playing the game than any of the other great ladies who have been bandied about as Queen, been actual Queen, or been betrothed to the King.
In particular, Magaery seems to be conducting a master class on how to win friends and influence people this week, from her little tour through the dead Kings of Westeros section of the Sept of Baelor with Joffrey to her friendly conversation with Sansa during prayer time. Of course, she learned by watching the best (see Olenna’s awesome pairing with Varys in the garden, giving me one of my most-wished-for character match-ups), but sometimes it seems as though she’s two steps ahead of the dupes she’s manipulating – even someone like Cersei, who can smell the deception in Margaery, can’t stop her because she’s simply too good at what she does. She even manages to make Joffrey likable for an entire minute of smiling-and-waving-at-the-small-folk!
As for Cersei, well… in a brilliant scene between Charles Dance and Lena Headey, we see just how little regard Tywin Lannister has for his children. Despite going to war for Tyrion, we saw what Tywin really thinks of his youngest child. Despite serving as the Hand of the King, we see how little respect Tywin has for Joffrey and for Cersei. Tywin is brilliant as a general, and his knowledge of tactics seems to extend all the way to managerial tips. When talking with Jaime, he was gutting a deer. When talking with Tyrion, he was busy writing a letter, and Cersei gets the same treatment this week (right down to some very similar shots of the two courtesy of director Alex Graves). Management 101 says that the best way to show that you’re in charge is to never give someone your full attention during a meeting, and Tywin Lannister seems willing to do that to everyone, even his kids.
One of the better ways the show has handled its massive cast is by creating natural pairs and sticking with them. You have small groups, like the Brotherhood Without Banners, Arya/Gendry, and The Hound, or perhaps the remnants of the Night’s Watch or the King Beyond The Wall’s gathered forces, but when the show pairs off two characters and lets them at one another, that’s when the its high writing quality comes to life. Benioff and Weiss have done wonders adapting the novels to the screen, and while some fans complain that the show doesn’t properly adapt the full gigantic Martin literary universe, I think enough of the character elements have been captured and plots preserved (thus far) to keep the show entertaining both for the knowledgeable nerd and for latecomers like myself.
Certainly the series manages to keep things moving and interesting, and it’s a rare episode of Game of Thrones where I’m not surprised by the ending credits. The show makes 58 minutes or so of television sweep by like nothing, and even if I might want to occasionally slow down and give me some focus on one setting, perhaps the pacing needs frequent scene changes to really work to full effect. If I got all of Dany’s adventure in Astapor in one episode (or two even), it wouldn’t be quite as exciting to watch her predictable plot play itself out. However, with the episodes as split as they are, each brief scene is something to savour, as we may only get one Tyrion moment in an episode.
However, when you get an episode as packed with as much good character work, good writing, good fight scenes, and brilliant special effects as this one, you don’t really need to lean on fan favorites like Tyrion. Give me a few good shots of the dragons flying around and vast armies on the march, and I’m pretty happy. (Glad to see that HBO is willing to loosen the purse strings for its most popular show, footing the bill for some awesome special effects this week.) If we are only to receive little bits of stories throughout an episode, they may as well be the highest of high-impact.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is glad to see Dany find her way to true power. It’s not the Iron Throne, but it’s much better than crying about missing dragons and dead husband. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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