There have been times in the past where I’ve been fairly critical of the HBO adaptation. Given how closely I’ve followed the novels, I think it’s almost inevitable that I’ll eventually turn into one of those bitter book-only fans that criticize every single aspect of the adaptation. Thankfully, I have not become that despicable creature just yet which means that I can say with compunction that this Game of Thrones episode ‘And Now His Watch Is Ended’ is one of the best episodes of all three seasons so far. It had enough of everything – intrigue, character development, major plot advancements, small touches of humour and bigger chunks of action. It felt like one of the most complete episodes of the show that I’ve seen in a long, long time. Having said that I don’t think it’s particularly necessary to go through every scene in detail, so I’ll focus on maybe the top three best sections of the episode.
I’ve mentioned before that one of the biggest challenges any text to visual adaptation faces (be it novel to TV, comic to movie, manga to anime even) is that the characters’ thoughts are often utterly impossible to capture properly. Instead, it falls on the actor, director and screenwriter to re-craft the scene such that the emotions and internal changes are properly displayed. It doesn’t sound simple and I’m sure that in practice, it’s harder still. Yet, those rare times when all three of the aforementioned line up perfectly, it’s spellbinding. The fallout of Jaime’s disarmament is not one such scene but there are makings of it clearly visible. Coster-Waldau is able to flip his character’s initial cockiness convincingly enough that he could draw the audience’s pity despite themselves. The reason I mention the challenges earlier was because the scene that I’m most eagerly awaiting in Jaime’s arc is his hot tub interview with Brienne. It was a riveting scene in the novel and one of the few times in fiction where characters are fully honest with each other and I have high hopes for the adaptation’s handling of it.
The next great scene from this episode was Theon opening up to his pseudo-saviour. The twist itself became a little predictable towards the end – Iwan Rheon, who plays the bastard of Bolton, seemed just too good to be true though that’s probably more just me looking at it in hindsight. I’m actually looking forward to seeing more of Rheon, especially since he seemed able to play up the ‘good boy’ act really convincingly but at the same time could put a really creep grin on when needed. It’ll be fun (is that the right word?) to see him break Theon down mentally and physically. Back to the topic at hand, Theon’s admission that his ‘real father lost his head at King’s Landing’ hit me surprisingly hard. I hadn’t expected something I already knew to affect me quite that strongly and I firmly attribute the fact that it did to Alfie Allen’s acting. Seeing his performances in this season and the last makes me rue that his character will probably be out of action for a good while in the tail end of this season and some of the next (unless they show a good deal of how he is broken, which they might) but at the same time makes me eagerly anticipate his return as Reek.
I think the scene at Craster’s Keep should get an honourable mention. It was clean, well-executed and genuinely tense for large sections of it and whenever I say this, it’s really higher praise than it sounds like simply because tension is so hard to create and maintain when the viewer already knows what’s going to happen. The main problem with the mutiny at Craster’s though is that I don’t feel attached enough to the character involved. I like Grenn and Ed, Mormont and Sam slightly less so and don’t really care about the rest at all. That soured the scene a little though at the time I didn’t know what it was exactly that was bugging me. It’s still a great scene all in all, though.
Last but certainly not least, was Dany’s thoroughly badass ‘conquest’ of Astapor. Unlike in the previous scenes though, having advance knowledge of what would happen did spoil it a little for me though for once, I can unreservedly praise Clarke’s performance. It was a little weird hearing Valyrian in her accent but I can hardly fault her for that. Beyond that, the visual of the Unsullied army marching out of Astapor was simply stunning (see above) though I am surprised that this scene happened so early in the season. Is Dany going to take over Meereen this season too? It seems like a lot of plot to cover within this season but I’ll take more over less any day of the week.
There are a few more minor comments I had about this episode, which can also serve as my final notes for the episode:
- The show is usually great with taking seemingly unrelated stories but then highlighting certain aspects of the story to show its relevance to the characters at hand. Tywin, Varys and Tyrion do this frequently and a great example of it is Catelyn’s admission to Talisa that she once prayed that Jon die (that was such a great scene, really). However, this episode fell flat in that regard. It felt like they wanted Varys’ story out but didn’t really have a good reason for it and so forced it in anyway.
- The younger actors are aging fast. Isaac Hempstead looks closer to 18 than 10 in his scenes and it’s becoming fortunate that Bran cannot stand or they’d need to pull some funny camera tricks to get Bran to appear the right height. Likewise, I keep forgetting that Sansa is supposed to be around 15 in the story at this point. It guess it’s lucky that she seems (and is) younger than Dormer.
- Speaking of Dormer, she is absolutely killing it as a two-faced, conniving Margaery. I don’t if this is an indication that the Margaery we see in the books shares the same personality though. It’ll be interesting to see if that is the case in later books.
- The whole big dick Pod thing is actually pretty hilarious when they discuss it in that much detail.
That’s about it, thanks for reading folks! Feedback is always welcome and appreciated and if you like please hit follow, spread the word, leave a comment or just come back again next week, same time, same place, same channel!