In the third season’s fourth episode, things that actually feel important, that actually move the plot forward, finally happen, making this episode by default the best one of the season so far. Of course, that’s not to say the episode was by any means perfect. As usual, it offers ups and downs of quality- the good, the decent, and the ugly.
The story at Craster’s ended with a bang, but the buildup to it was still poorly handled. Finally, Rast brings up the radical notion that they might abandon Craster, seeing as he treats them like dirt and barely gives them any food, which they can, and have, easily caught for themselves beyond the wall. What a revolutionary thinker! This is good in and of itself, but it’s offset by the absurdity that everybody in the Night’s Watch doesn’t immediately agree with Rast. Before the big climax, we’re forced to watch a totally dull scene between Samwell and Gilly, and a funeral where Mormont just walks way for no logical reason other than to give all the men the ability to conspire.
Bran has a dream that gives us no new information. We haven’t seen him in two episodes anyway, so who really cares? Before a more interesting scene between Varys and Ros, the two have the audacity to further discuss the astoundingly stupid Podrick storyline from the previous episode, which should have been buried alive forever, never to return. Theon has a long, expositional monologue where he says what his feelings are, in a direct violation of screenwriting 101. Then the story somehow manages to not make any forward progress.
The story with Arya over in the Riverlands is indeed all setup, but it’s at least compelling setup and will almost certainly pay off in the next episode. Varys pursues the question of what’s to become of Sensa; Varys doing almost anything entertains, but the beginnings of both of his scenes are completely unnecessary. Before his discussion of the issue with Ros is the unspeakable Podrick conversation. Later, he discusses it with Lady Olana, but we first have to listen to a pointless monologue by her about how boring her house words are, and then watch as she and Varys parry around the issue for roughly two minutes. It’s just a perfect example of Game of Thrones storytelling – there’s even useless setup within the sequences that set things up.
Jaime and Brienne’s story picks up with the two still in captivity and Jaime suffering physically and, more importantly, emotionally from the loss of his hand. The interplay between the two characters continues to engage, and the writers have impressively succeeded in turning Jaime in this episode into a very sympathetic character.
King’s Landing continues to be the setting of the season’s best storylines, and at the center is the increasingly fascinating Margaery Tyrell. She further softens Joffrey towards her, further subtly manipulates him. What I really appreciate about the story with the two of them is that things are changing. From the beheading of Ned Stark until the beginning of this season, Joffrey has totally bored me because he has been completely one-note. Finally, Margaery is bringing out a more nuanced, insecure side of him. We get to see that he has feelings that are genuinely hurt by his reputation among the people. She’s playing him in a way nobody else in the show has played anyone before. Later, when Margaery offers Sensa an extremely enticing opportunity, we are left to wonder how much of this is manipulation and what Margaery’s ultimate intentions are. It keeps me on my toes and gives me a reason to keep watching. An important note about this scene: at the beginning, Margaery tells a story about something that happened in the past, which I have grown unspeakably tired of in this show; however, I appreciated it in this context, because it’s clear there’s a purpose for the story. Margaery uses it to gain Sensa’s trust. It’s not just exposition.
Despite the poor handling of the storyline at Craster’s, it cultivates in a huge moment that both shocks you in the way only Game of Thrones does, and assures you that the situation will completely transform. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say anymore.
I also won’t specify the huge event that completely alters Daenerys’ situation in this episode, though it is fairly predictable. I will only say that it was thrilling to watch, and featured some gorgeous visuals. One minor complaint about this storyline: we don’t see Daenerys at all in the episode till the very end, so there’s no arc for her within the episode. I just think that’s poor storytelling and could easily have been avoided. In fact, remove the great Podrick storyline, and this could have been a very fitting end to the previous episode.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the episode provided what it needed two: a significant change in the stories of some of our main characters.