Spoiler Warning: In this synopsis we will be delving into the events of S3E4 “And Now His Watch is Ended”, so be sure to steer clear of this article if you haven’t seen the episode yet!
Game of Thrones S3E4 “And Now His Watch is Ended” Synopsis
It’s hard to follow up the third episode of GoT’s newest season, as “The Walk of Punishment” delivered a delicious morsel of drama and changed one of the main character’s lives forever. Jaime Lannister lost his swordhand–the very thing that made him a knight, and begins his transformation from a proud noble Lion of Great House Lannister to a disparaged man who goes through hell and back.
With episode 4, HBO opens the floodgates of awesomeness and washes viewers in a new wave of gritty action and drama to bring one of the best episodes in the entire series to date. We get to see why you shouldn’t -ever- mess with anyone who has the name “Stormborn” attached to their title–seriously, don’t mess with Danaerys or you’ll be rendered to ashes thanks to Drogon’s dracarys-flame–and a cruel twist of fate for Theon Turnclock, the treacherous kraken of the Iron Islands who desecrated Winterfell.
This episode takes viewers across all of the Seven Kingdoms–from Westeros to the wintry wilds beyond the Wall and across the Narrow Sea to Essos, where slaves toil and bleed in the Gulf of Grief and Astapor alike. In true epic fashion that’s been a signature feature of the show since its inception, this hour of splendor packs a wallop that’s satisfying in its brilliant execution.
Sprinkle on some subtle political intrigue and a dash of the all-out mayhem that ensues when men are pushed far past their limit, add a pinch of sweet karmic revenge with a dab of suspense and you’ll have a recipe that’s akin to the episode. Oh, and we can’t forget to add some gritty, medieval-style gore and realism as a garnish.
All of these elements are wrapped up in HBO’s traditional style and flair, making this week’s episode hearty fare to relish for days to come.
A Lion Without his Fangs
The episode opens up with Jaime’s ruined hand dangling from around his neck; a grotesque bauble that reminds the once-proud King’sguard of the price he paid for his insolence.
A man can live a surprisingly able life without the use of certain limbs; a hand, a foot, an arm, all of these things can (and will) be sorely missed, but without them life still goes on. A knight, however, is only as good as his sword arm. He must become one with the sword–make it an extension of himself. His arm, and his hand, are as essential as the sword itself.
Jaime Lannister is now missing his sword hand, and without it he’s lost much of his power. Jaime was not only well-known for slaying the Mad King Aerys Targaryen, but for his incredible skill at arms: it was his swordsmanship during a tourney that let him be raised to the youngest Kingsguard in history.
The loss of his hand has left Jaime maimed–a lion without its fangs, so to speak–and his current disparaged, disheveled and defeated nature is the complete opposite of his jocular, cocky and confident persona that we’re so used to seeing. Gone is the man with laughter and barely hidden malice in his eyes, gone is the golden-haired knight dressed all in white; gone is the Kingsguard who’s swordsmanship was legendary throughout all of the Seven Kingdoms.
Jaime’s transformation has begun, and Brienne now remains his sole support structure. In episode 3, Jaime saved Brienne from a terrible rape at the hands of their captors by telling them that Tarth, Brienne’s native land, was known as “The Sapphire Isle” because of the sapphires that flood the isle.
Tarth, in reality, is called the Sapphire Isle because of its blue waters–yet the captors believe Jaime’s claim, and leave her unharmed as her father is the Lord of Tarth and Jaime claimed that the lord would give them Brienne’s weight in sapphires as a ransom. But only if her maidenhead was left intact.
Brienne distrusted Jaime when she kept him as a prisoner, but now she respects him for what he did for her, and how he saved her pain and humiliation beyond measure. She sees him at his worst now, and he is ready to give up. The captors torment him and basically bring him down to less than an animal, debasing one of the richest and well-known men in all of Westeros. Sure Jaime isn’t the most sanctimonious knight, and he has committed his fair share of crimes–incest and regicide to name a few–and this torment has been specifically designed to destroy his morale.
The captors actually go so far as to give Jaime a sword and let him try his best to take them on in a melee. Jaime’s left hand was never used for anything but a shield a most times, and he fumbles with the blade, which is met with laughter by the men. Brienne watches with disgust, staring daggers at the malcontents; if it were she who had been given the same opportunity, many of them would die…
Of Spiders and Halfmen
The next scene takes us to the heart of Westeros’ capital, King’s Landing, where Tyrion has just arrived at Varys’ quarters for a private chat.
Here we learn a surprising bit of Varys’ backstory, and just how he became a eunuch. Unlike most men who are rendered into eunuchs, Varys didn’t commit any horrible sex crimes; instead he had the bad luck of being a slave, and was sold to a man who wanted to do something particularly devious.
Varys reveals that the man who purchased him as a boy was a conjurer who was performing a dark rite to some horrendous god, and needed a young boy’s…parts in order to proceed with the ritual. Varys relives those terrible moments that so shaped his life–and who he is now–shedding light on the mystery of his shrouded past.
The conjurer burned Varys’ organs in a fire and called to the shadowy deity; and a voice answered, a terrifying voice filled with darkness, malice, and everything evil. This moment in his life shaped Varys to become one of the most influencial men in the Seven Kingdoms–if not the entire world–and to become well-known as the Spider and the Whisperer of Secrets.
Varys’ power and influence has allowed him to exact revenge on the sorcerer that traumatized him as a boy; the conjurer was found and shipped in a wooden crate (seen above) to Varys in King’s Landing, where the Spider has kept his victim locked away until he’s ready to deliver his own brand of twisted justice upon him…
Winter is Here
Beyond the Wall it’s always winter, and it’s always cold. Frozen wilds stretch as far as the eye can see, and snow covers everything. Food is scarce and fire is your best friend out in these lands, and even though the Night’s Watch is full of grizzled criminals, they aren’t prepared for the rough terrain–not nearly as prepared as the Wildlings.
Commander Mormont has led the last of his forces to Craster’s Keep, owned by Craster, a wildling who’s been a friend to the Watch for decades. The crows have shelter and some food, yet they’re battle-weary and near-broken, and the food that Craster has given–thin broth and crusty bread–isn’t near enough.
Mormont has many wounded brothers amongst his numbers, and the men are extremely irratible, tired, hungry and all around discontent, which are the seeds that are sown to any rebellion or mutiny.
Craster’s harsh and unrelenting words and overall crass attitude doesn’t do anything to help the survivor’s attitudes, and his words only add fuel to the fire. The man pass around a rumor that Craster has a larder that’s full of food–he has to survive the winter, after all, and has many mouths to feed with all of his “daughters”.
Soon the men become unruly, and they outright challenge Craster, who instantly leaps up and breaks out his axe, threatening to crush the skull of any man who disrespects him under his roof. Mormont tries to quell the rebellion with brute force, trying to make a stand and reassert his power as commander, but the ravenous hunger has run its course over the men.
Everything happens quite fast at this point, and the men are reduced to wild animals–as is any man who’s deprived of food for a long enough period.
Mormont is slain in a brutal way, and so is Craster, and all hell breaks loose as the men raid the keep for food and take the women. The last remnants of Mormont’s initial force has been disbanded in utter chaos, and Sam moves quickly to find Gilly and get her to safety.
This is one of the main pivotal moments int he whole episode and shows the toll pure desperation and hunger take on the men, especially in the cold, wintry highlands. They’ve survived a trauma and their animalistic instincts are in overdrive, and mixed with the ravenous hunger, they are just a ticking timebomb waiting to explode.
Overall Mormont was ill-prepared for this expedition and led him–and most of his men–to their doom.
Dracarys and the Mother of Dragons
Danaerys Stormborn, the Mother of Dragons, has the blood of Old Valyria coursing through her veins as a direct descendant of the Targaryen dynasty, which stretched hundreds of years back to Aegon’s conquering of the Seven Kingdoms with his sisters atop their fierce dragons.
In this episode, Dany proves that you don’t mess with the Mother of Dragons. If you do, well, you’ll be reduced to ashes and be skewered relentlessly by eight thousand spears at the hands of the Unsullied.
The previous episode left viewers with the surprising bargain that entitled one of the Astapori slavelords to one of Dany’s dragons in exchange for eight thousand Unsullied warriors. The Unsullied are the most feared forces in all of the world, and follow any command without question. They are more than men in their unwavering devotion to command and their superlative skill in the art of war.
Both of Dany’s Queensguard, Jorah Mormont and Ser Barristan Selmy, both argue Dany’s decision, saying that a dragon is precious and has value beyond counting. Dany perseveres, having crafted a decisively clever plan: out of the three dragons, she has chosen to give Drogon to the slavelord, the most wild and dangerous of the trio. Oh, and Drogon has also been trained to spit fire on command, making him a perfect tool in Dany’s plan.
Danaerys’ presence in the scene is of utter calm and confidence. She is complete control of her emotions and knows that this moment is destined to solidify her journey to win back the Iron Throne of Westeros and take her rightful place as the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
Dany walks onto the platform with her two Queensguard at her side, holding the reigns to Drogon, the dragon that she birthed from the stone eggs some time ago. The Unsullied that she has purchased stand rank and file around them, eight thousand deadly spears poised and ready.
The slavelord is so excited that he hands Dany the golden whip which controls the Unsullied, and she in turn hands him the reigns to Drogon. Before long she says a simple word in Old Valyrian, the native tongue of Astapor and Essos, and the slavelord is showered in bright flame that burns him to cinders.
She then turns to the Unsullied, addressing them as men, as people, rather than as slaves. Danaerys despises slavery, and hates what it has done to the people of Astapor. She has a good heart, yet she must be strong and do what needs to be done to abolish the horrors of the world around her. And that usually means killing–lots of killing.
Dany proclaims that each of the eight thousand Unsullied are now free men, and that they may turn and walk away if they so choose. She wants only free men to join her cause, to join her because they want to, not because they have to. The Unsullied stare in blank silence, but soon they give voice with their spears, tapping them against the stone ground. Soon all eight thousand spears are ringing in the plaza.
Satisfied with her plan, Danaerys issues her first order for her new free army: to kill all slave owners, slave lords, and to strike off all collars and chains, and to not harm any women or children in the process.
At once the Unsullied comply, turning the plaza in a gruesome bloodbath and freeing all of Astapor from its horrible bonds in one fell swoop. She has freed the city, and has become immortalized in history for doing so.
Dany drops the whip and the Unsullied are seen trudging across it, smashing it as if it were nothing more than what it is–a simple whip.
With her new army, Danaerys Stormborn marches out of Astapor, her dragons soaring the skies above, and heads into the sunset…