While I assume GoT show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss made an executive decision early on to beef up the role of Tyrell matriarch Lady "Queen of Thorns" Olenna, played by Diana Rigg, I'm going to go ahead and take credit for her increased magnificent presence in this week's episode.
And when her scene is only second in terms of awesomeness, you know it was a good episode. "And Now His Watch Is Ended" -- so named because of the latest in a string of Night's Watch brothers to bite the dust -- upped the ante on the series' wow factor considerably.
Locations Highlighted in the Opening Titles (* = new): King's Landing, Harrenhal, Riverrun, Winterfell, The Wall (or north of it, anyway), Astapor
Ser(s) Not Appearing in This Episode: Robb Stark, Talisa, Catelyn (minus Bran's dream sequence), Edmure, the Blackfish, Stannis, Melisandre, Davos, Jon Snow, Mance Rayder
Well, they took my advice and gave the man a hand. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) gets to ride with his severed limb cozily secured around his neck, and the humiliation and hits keep on coming, until it becomes obvious the Kingslayer isn't even half the man he used to be without his hand. He can't fight, and that may be worse than death. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) mocks his despair, which actually works. Then she asks why he lied to Locke about Tarth being full of sapphires to save her. I don't think he even knows, and he's in no shape to argue about it.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), in what must have been the Nathan's Hot Dog Challenge of pride swallowing, goes to ask Varys (Conleth Hill) for proof of Cersei's plot to kill him. Varys tells of the black magic that took his manhood. "The sorcerer called, and a voice answered," to explain his eagerness to assist the effort against Stannis and the "Red Woman." And also to show Tyrion the [man who took his] dick in a box, assuring the new Master of Coin revenge will (eventually) be his.
Back at Craster's, Gilly (Hannah Murray) is trying to keep her new son a secret. No real reason, she just doesn't want him left out as a buffet for the undead. Rast (Luke McEwan) begins sowing the seeds of discontent about their host, and in what feels like a rushed development (until you remember these guys have been freezing their balls off and getting murdered by zombies for weeks), several brothers kill Craster and the Old Bear himself. "And Now His Watch Is Ended," indeed.
Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) dreams of the three-eyed raven again. And dream falls again. That's it. They're not really fleshing out his storyline this season, are they?
Okay, this Podrick the Love Machine shit is getting annoying. But the sexual dynamo talk between Varys and Ros (Esme Bianco) is merely a segue into a discovery that Littlefinger might be planning to bring Sansa with him to the Eyrie.
But more on that later, because now it's time for WEDDING PREPARATIONS! Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) needles Cersei (Lena Headey) about the unfairness of male throne inheritability, while Margaery (Natalie Dormer) encourages Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) to smile and wave to the masses. Cersei's not happy, and less so when her warnings to dad Tywin (Charles Dance) about the Tyrells' influence on her son the king fall on deaf ears.
Theon's Mysterious Benefactor hints that maybe his dad Balon was complicit in his torture. Theon (Alfie Allen) laments his decision to betray the Starks, rather loudly, as the pair sneak into Deeppwood Motte to link up with Yarra. Only -- whoops -- the Mysterious Benefactor is actually a Mysterious Sadistic Asshole who takes him to be bound on a brand-new torture rack.
Lady Olenna's Sansa-related discussion with Varys -- in which he warns her Littlefinger wants Sansa so he can lay claim to the North should Robb fall -- is fantastic. Margaery is one step ahead, suggesting to Sansa she could marry Loras and move to Highgarden. "Would you like that?" Is that even a question? Shit, I want to move to Highgarden. Marrying Loras is negotiable.
Out in the wilds, Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) takes the Hound (Rory McCann) (and Arya and Gendry) to meet the leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners, Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), who's been "reborn in the light of the one true god," i.e., the Lord of Light. There's a nifty back-and-forth as the Hound denies the charges flung at him, and he's mostly right, until Arya (Maisie Williams) reminds him of that time he murdered the butcher's boy at Joffrey's order. The sentence: trial by combat, with Dondarrion, who looks a lot like Casca the Eternal Mercenary from those Barry Sadler books. This should be good.
Only in Essos, it seems, do the deserving die. They really saved the best for last, as Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), who we knew all along really had no intention of exchanging Drogon for 8,000 Unsullied, shows these men of will what will really is. And oh, did she mention she speaks Valyrian and has known what Kraznys was saying about her all along? That's a face burnin'.
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Dat scene, when Daenerys orders her new army to slay the slavers and strike the chains off their slaves, then orders Drogon to immolate him, was -- in the immortal words of Chris Farley -- awesome.
Last night's installment was enough to make me forgive the dearth of Tyrion the last few weeks, and finally (and emphatically) cemented Daenerys's status as somewhat not to be fucked with.
Stuff That Will Piss Off Book Purists: Varys never got revenge on the sorcerer who gelded him; Theon never showed contrition for his actions; Varys and Ros never had a Sansa-related confab (unsurprising, since Ros doesn't exist in the books); they're leaving out the middleman in Littlefinger's Sansa plot: Ser Dontos.
Next week: Now Dany has an army of implacable warriors. Ho ho ho.