Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but when it comes to Lord Varys, it’s best served basting in its own retched filth inside a shipping crate that takes about as much effort to open as today’s infernal clamshell packaging.
But like the digressive storylines and carefully plotted machinations of Game of Thrones, a significant portion of Varys’ pleasure stems from the patience, scheming and countless other dealings required to see his design come to fruition. There’s been a great deal of maneuvering early on in season 3, but now it seems ready for some kind of pay off. And in a series where there are precious few payoffs each season (‘Blackwater‘ potentially being the biggest of the series so far), the patience of the audience is a must, so even a hint of larger developments can justify an initially slow pace.
‘And Now His Watch Is Ended’ is still mostly about maneuverings – Tyrion wants information on his sister’s alleged involvement in the attempt on his life, so he goes to the one man who apparently knows everything and understands what it is to live as an outcast with a taste for revenge – but they feel like maneuverings that will amount to something far more personal than who is winning what unseen battle between the Lannisters and the King of the North. Frankly, Tyrion could not have chosen a better moment to have his discussion with Varys, as seeing the Spider unveil the sorcerer who “cut” him was as much a testament to the virtue of patience as it was to the power of retribution.
Meanwhile, Jaime and Brienne continue to be the most interesting odd couple in Westeros, as their situation has forced a fascinating shift not only in the dynamic between the two, but also a severe and remarkable turnaround for a man who previously prided himself on his backstabbing abilities and once shoved a child from a tower window after an improper dalliance with his sister.
Now the Kingslayer is but a shell of his former self, a one-handed swordsman who has spent the last year in a cage and in chains; in his mind, the list of reasons to carry on is probably pretty short. But, for his sake, Brienne is there to talk up the intrinsic worth of living life for the sole purpose of enacting revenge on those who wronged you. “One misfortune and you’re giving up?” she asks, which is both her idea of a pep talk and an illustration of how unpleasant this world is when having your hand hacked off by a rapist with a bad goatee is considered but a “misfortune.”
Retribution, or the promise of it, is such a potent throughline in ‘And Now His Watch Is Ended’ that it’s almost jarring to see Margaery using her soft touch on the callous Joffrey in such a persuasive manner. After what must have been the Most Thrilling Day Ever, spent learning about the deaths of so many people who helped build and shape Westeros, Margaery establishes just how gifted she is in crafting a king by convincing a little tyrant he is loved by his people.
“Give them your love, they will return it a thousand fold,” she tells him. Whatever winds up being the true cause of this public outpouring of support for Joffrey, it certainly isn’t reciprocation of his love. In fact, Joffrey’s rule (or the rule of any one man for that matter) is precisely what creates bands of men like the Brotherhood Without Banners and the now-rudderless crew of the Night’s Watch. They’re both the disenchanted made whole by a feeling of camaraderie, but only one group seems to have the wherewithal to attack that dissatisfaction with the status quo with something resembling honor and the pursuit of justice.
But without a doubt, the showstopper goes to Danaerys, who could really use it, as she’s been so physically removed from the rest of the story that at times her character arc has almost felt like an afterthought. The episode makes up for that in spades, though, as Dany makes a huge move not only in terms of shifting some of the momentum regarding claim to the Iron Throne, but also as a character. Indeed, Dany gives an excellent example of the kind of ruler she’s capable – or may soon be capable – of being.
It’s fitting in an episode so laden with the notion of patience and revenge that Danaerys would wait until the last possible moment to establish just how foolhardy it is for anyone (Ser Jorah and Barristan Selmy included) to underestimate her. Now, with her army of willing Unsullied warriors, three dragons and two advisors skilled in the art of war, Dany can finally begin her journey toward the heart of the story.
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘Kissed by Fire’ @9pm on HBO. Check out a preview of the episode below: