Just about every show is going to have its occasional "table-setting" episodes. TV drama is getting pretty audacious these days, and the stories it's trying to tell can often take some time to get all the pieces in place. Especially when you're part of a creative team trying to deal with the restrictions that come along with producing a television show. So it makes sense that most good shows are going to need an episode or two here and there to put all the characters where they need to be. With a show as sprawling and bold as Game of Thrones, it's not really a huge surprise to spend the first few episodes of a season putting things in place. Rarely does it pay off quite this well, though.
Because now we're in straight up kill mode.
Game of Thrones is an interesting show, because in a lot of ways it doesn't concern itself with the thematic. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of thematic dealing in Game of Thrones. But I don't know that this is the show's main appeal.
In a show like Game of Thrones, we're tuning in to see crazy shit go down a lot more than we're showing up to see the exploration of deep themes or a compelling emotional through-line. It just so happens that the machinations that cause this shit to go down happens to be as fascinating as the going-down of the shit itself.
Still, those things are all there, and that's why Game of Thrones is the success that it is.
This third season finds Westeros all fucked up, and basically falling apart at the seams. Pretty much everyone wants to kill everyone else, but what's interesting is the show's insistance upon zooming both in and out, to show us the micro in its relation to the macro. On both sides, no less. Game of Thrones is constantly showing us how the other half lives, and reminds us in the process that nothing is ever really too far removed from its other half to begin with.
"And Now His Watch Has Ended" is concerned with influence, in particular, and the ways that each character manifests and/or uses it. Sometimes it's tough to come by. Basically every scene involving the Lannisters this week revolves around their attempts at manipulating the dynamics of their influence. Tyrion's sole scene consisted of him appealing to Varys that he might find out why his own sister tried to have him killed. In the mean time, that very same sister is doing literally the exact thing that Tyrion did last week, and basically asks Tywin to, y'know, tell her more stuff OK? She promptly gets dressed the fuck on down.
Man, it really sucks in King's Landing ever since Dad showed up.
Jaime's not doing any better, in terms of influence. He tried to use his last week, and is now basically having to learn how to jerk off all over again because of it. Trying to wring what little influence he has left out of his now-essentially-nonexistent sword skills only earns him a bellyful of horsepiss. For a few seconds, at least.
Over by the wall, dickbag Craster has way too much influence, and the Crows are getting pretty sick of his shit. Like, seriously, they're pretty convinced that he's got a ton of food somewhere, just like Hurley did, and that he's keeping it all for his fat self. And his daughters. The daughters that he bangs.
This guy's gross, and has to go. Let's kill him.
Anyway, someone basically makes fun of him until he gets mad enough to earn himself a knife through the chin. It's pretty badass, and all appropriately fun and games (of thrones) until someone loses a Jeor. It was a pretty surprising scene, and one that definitely earned the episode its title. The elder Mormont will be missed. Of course, the ensuing melee gives Sam a chance to escape with Gilly, in what's sure to be the most grating C-plot ever.
Apart from the final five minutes, the most meaty bits of this episode come with the unspooling of Littlefinger's plans. We've been pretty clear that he's got creepy-as-fuck designs all over Sansa, but we weren't really clued in on why. Turns out, he's excited about what a marriage to Sansa will imply if and when Robb's army falls. As Varys aptly puts it, Littlefinger's danger lies in the fact that he'd "watch Westeros burn to the ground, if only to rule over its ashes." Or something like that. Anyway, as soon as Varys figures this out, he promptly brings it to Olenna Tyrell's attention, who should really just have her own show. They immediately set about telling Sansa that Ser Loras totally likes her, and might even like like her, and Sansa buys it because she just got her first period like, a season or two ago, and also has no idea what homosexuality is or looks like.
And that about does it. We do get an interesting bit with the Brotherhood without Banners, which, as a group serves as a great reminder that everyone who's clamoring for power in Westeros is really just making life super, super miserable for literally everyone else that's just trying to live there.
Interesting, the ways influence can work.
Oh, and also...
• Did we already know that the Brotherhood without Banners were also super into the Lord of Light? It'll be really neat to see how that connection plays out.
• Poor Jaime.
• Poor Theon.