Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 3, Episode 4 of HBO's "Game of Thrones," titled "And Now His Watch Has Ended."
Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind."
But Muhammad Ali spoke for the characters of "Game of Thrones" when he said, "You kill my dog, you better hide your cat."
Yes, revenge is the theme of this week's episode. Everybody wants some.
The very first image was Jaime Lannister's severed hand, hanging from his own neck. After his left-handed escape attempt fails, he's ready to give up, but Brienne tells him, "You can't die. You need to live. To take revenge." She's right: cutting off the guy's hand for no reason is one thing, but making him drink horse piss -- that's entirely uncalled-for! When Jaime moans that he's got nothing left to live for, she reminds him that he's spent his whole life sucking on a silver spoon: "You have a taste -- one taste of the real world, where people have important things taken from them, and you whine and cry and quit." I may have jumped out of my seat at this moment and applauded.
Tyrion Lannister wants revenge on whoever tried to have him killed. He wants Varys to give him proof that it was Cersei, then complains that he doesn't have enough "influence" to do anything about it anyway. Varys responds by telling the utterly spooky story of how, as a boy, he was neutered by a kinky sorcerer. (I sincerely hope never to hear the phrase "he burned my parts in a brazier" again.) Then, he reveals that the giant wooden box he's been busy prying open contains the old monster. "I have no doubt the revenge you want will be yours in time," he concludes, "if you have the stomach for it."
Some people's appetite for vengeance is more ravenous than others. The Brotherhood Without Banners doesn't feel right executing Sandor "The Hound" Clegane without solid proof that he's at least killed some children or something, so they sentence him to trial by combat. This strikes me as unwise, but maybe the Brotherhood's chieftain Beric Dondarrion has some special fighting skill that will make up for what appears to be a 16-inch height disadvantage.
The rangers of the Night's Watch, by contrast, are starving for retribution -- and the fact that there's sawdust in the bread isn't helping. They're so hungry that the funeral pyre for their fallen comrade smells like Thanksgiving, and the insane ravings of their host (honestly, incest may be the least annoying thing about this guy) finally spark a mutiny. Lord Jeor Mormont seemed like a decent enough fellow, but his willingness to look the other way as Craster impregnated his countless daughters and sacrificed his 99 sons to the Others will probably help the guy who rammed a sword through his back sleep at night. I'm just glad Samwell Tarly had the presence of mind to find his lady friend and her newborn son and spirit them away from the mayhem. Here's hoping they make it to the Wall before the White Walkers find them.
I'm afraid I wasn't too surprised when Theon Greyjoy found himself back on the X-shaped cross, mainly since a bunch of you hinted in the comments last week that something like this would happen. Turns out his mysterious companion practices a very pro-active form of sadism, which I can only imagine is revenge for something or other. Maybe he's a Stark loyalist? If so, I wonder if he'll share the news that Bran and Rickon are alive with Robb and Catelyn. I did feel a speck of sympathy for Theon when he said, "My real father lost his head at King's Landing. I made a choice, and I chose wrong." You really, truly did, you stupid jerk. And now you're paying the price.
And then there was the very best reprisal of all: the one where Daenerys Targaryen sicced her dragon on the foul-mouthed slaver Krasnys and ordered her army of eunuchs to kill their erstwhile overseers. Krasnys seemed to know the jig was up when Khaleesi revealed that she not only comprehends Valyrian, but grew up speaking it. At that point, he had to figure his French waiter routine was going to have serious consequences. Sorry, sucker: Dragons aren't slaves, and this one just torched your ass.
I spent about five seconds wondering how the Unsullied managed to distinguish between the people they were supposed to kill and Daenerys' friends, and another five asking myself how it's possible that not one of these 8,000 men was like, "You guys have fun -- I'm gonna spend the rest of my life doing watercolors and working on my suntan." But then I decided it was much more fun to watch the pretty pictures of justified bedlam. As the three dragons soared above the plain where Daenerys' army marched, one thing was clear: these Starks, Lannisters and Baratheons have no idea what's about to hit them.
And now for some stray observations:
- "I don't think I've ever seen a man drink horse piss that fast." T-shirt, please!
- "Prodigies appear in the oddest of places." Varys' line about Podrick, coupled with this show's persistent fascination with gender-role reversals, made me think King's Landing could soon play host to its own Magic Mike.
- "There aren't more than 700 people of any importance." This reminds me of Mark Halperin's old theory about how a Gang of 500 influencers actually drives the national political conversation. The precise number may change, but I think there are a lot of people in the world's power centers -- D.C., New York and beyond -- who really believe this to be true, and they're all as sickeningly out of touch as Cersei is.
- Speaking of gender-role reversals, I liked the way Olenna Tyrell got Cersei thinking about what a "ridiculous arrangement" patriarchy is. And I loved the way Tywin slapped down her newfound feminism by remarking, "I don't distrust you because you're a woman. I distrust you because you're not as smart as you think you are." Also: He more or less promised to cut Joffrey down to size, which is something I think we'd all like to see.
- I enjoy watching Margaery play Joffrey like a warped violin, and I enjoy the pain it causes Cersei. That said, I expect Cersei ("you mean the Queen Regent?") to put her anti-Margaery campaign into overdrive. I also expect the ensuing battle to be highly enjoyable.
- This was a great episode all around for Varys, who is growing on me (like a non-existent ... never mind). A few weeks back, I was wondering what Littlefinger wanted with Sansa Stark, and now we have the answer: a queen who could make him King of the North. The solution is obvious to Varys and Olenna both: Sansa must marry Margaery's brother, Loras. Sansa seems to like the idea, but I suspect she'll be a bit less enthusiastic when she finds out the dude likes boys.
- Plot points aside, has there ever been a better-written scene of dialogue than the one between Varys and Olenna? It started with "a spider in the garden" and got better from there. "What happens when the nonexistent bumps into the decrepit?" "Actually, I rather enjoy him. But he would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes." Somebody give these two a spinoff!
- "You're a bastard. A daughter-fucking, wildling bastard." I wouldn't wear this on a shirt, but I might put it on my refrigerator.
- For the record, I still think The Hound and Arya will team up.