Another week, another excellent installment of Game of Thrones. In “And Now His Watch Is Ended,” the fourth episode of the third season, the themes of justice and revenge are beginning to show themselves in prominence. Given where the story is going, it is well that we begin to ponder just what constitutes true revenge and justice for heinous acts, and to what extent our characters deserve either.
We’ll start where the episode begins: With Jaime and Brienne, being marched farther and farther from King’s Landing. Jaime, with his hand slung over his next and dangling over his chest like a scarlet letter of shame, entertains revenge even in his defeated state. His pathetic attempt to draw his captors into battle backfires bitterly, and his threats of his father’s justice fall on deaf ears. He is told to put away all thoughts of revenge, lest he lose his other hand and become even more helpless. His words in season 1, in which he says that Bran would be better off to have died rather than live as a cripple, have come back to bite him with a serious vengeance, and perhaps Jaime has finally received a taste of what Brienne calls the “real world where people have important things taken from them.” We must not forget that it was Jaime who pushed Bran from the window, disabling him in the first place, and so his current state is consequent of his monstrous behavior as well as his callousness.
Varys, who gets quite a bit of screen time in this episode, lectures Tyrion on the merits of patience in the pursuit of revenge, as well. Realizing that the law’s justice is of no use to outcasts like them, Tyrion looks to Varys for advice on how to gain “actual revenge against the actual person who tried to have me killed.” What seems at first like a bit of actorly prop-handling business with Varys prying open a crate turns out to be quite a graphic exclamation point to the end of his story, proving to Tyrion the depths of his own desire for revenge and that the slow, quiet pursuit of personal revenge will eventually bear fruit.
To transition from this chilling scene with Tyrion to Varys’ other scene with the Queen of Thorns in which he schemes against Littlefinger is interesting. Varys says that Littlefinger is “one of the most dangerous men in Westeros,” but we’re just seen how dangerous Varys can be himself. I loved his line about how he actually “enjoys” Littlefinger, despite also mistrusting and even despising him. It supports, for me, the theory that all of the political maneuvering currently going on in Westeros is really just elaborate game being played between these two master schemers. Who comes out on top, and how he confronts the influx of the magical dragons, gods and White Walkers descending on the country, remains to be seen, but in the meantime the Game continues to be dominated by these two members of the Small Council.
Theon is also dealing with the ramifications of his own awful behavior. We see him showing real remorse for his actions in this episode, talking candidly about the two boys he murdered and recognizing that his “real father died in King’s Landing.” He, at any rate, sees his dire state as a sort of karmic punishment. “I made a choice,” he laments, “and I chose wrong.” It is a wrenching twist that just as he is beginning to repent he is tricked back into the torture chamber by his seeming-rescuer. I interpret this as all just a cruel joke, a bit of emotional rather than physical torture. I suppose we’ll see what other mind games the creepy servant (whoever he is) will come up with.
Similarly, though less cruelly, the Hound is being brought to justice for the lives he’s taken. Though he shrugs off all of the accusations made by the Brotherhood Without Banners, claiming that none of the war atrocities they name were performed by him, he can’t deny the truth of Arya’s statement that he killed the innocent butcher’s son Mycah. And so he is sentenced to trial by combat and will be forced to fight for his life against Beric. The Brotherhood themselves are quite interesting. They clearly see themselves as vigilantes: Instruments of divine justice on the abundant war criminals across the realm. Like a violent band of Merry Men, they roam the forests searching for soldiers and lords to punish. They adhere to the religion of the Lord of Light, serving the same god as the red witch who advises Stannis, though they seem to lack her crazed zealotry. Instead, they seem calm and assured of the righteousness of their position, certain in their faith and the justice of the eventual outcome. I can’t wait to see how the show depicts Beric and Thoros as we get more into the meat of their characters, and the reasons why they have such strong belief.
Finally, and most stunningly, we come to Dany’s “purchase” of the Unsullied, and no discussion of this episode would be complete without a discussion of that final amazing scene. She shows, as David Benioff puts it, a capacity for cruelty in this episode, although she would certainly call it justice. Having been given command of the Unsullied, she orders Drogon to kill the cruel slave holder (revenge for his inhumane behavior and insults) and indeed all slave holders in the city. Offering the Unsullied their freedom only makes them adhere to her more closely. They have already been stripped of their freedom and almost their humanity: Like Missandei, they have nowhere else to go and willingly serve this kind and regal woman. In a gesture of true self-assurance, Dany throws away the whip. She knows that she does not need it. As Varys notes, Littlefinger may be a force to be reckoned with should he gain an army, but I doubt that any force can reckon with the loyalty and ruthlessness of Dany’s army. The final shot of all eight thousand soldiers marching to war with Westeros, with the three dragons gliding above, was a gorgeous and impressive way to end the episode.