“And Now His Watch Has Ended” was an excellent example of why Game of Thrones, allowing for the difficulties presented by the impossible density of its plotting, is such great television. It can take Jaime, a sneering, hateful character, and render him so wretched it’s impossible to view him without pity. Or provide a payoff for Varys’s cautious machinations with a grisly revelation that’s already inscribed into my memory. Or shift the Tyrells from seemingly pretty, ineffectual characters (as Olenna pointed out, even their sigil is difficult to respect) to some of the most interesting elements of the show (aided, particularly, with a great performance from Natalie Dormer).
The greatest successes of this episode came late. The Night’s Watch storyline has largely dragged for me, with Sam striking me as an underwhelming Samwise Gamgee knock-off. But the sudden eruption of violence in Craster’s tent was a thrilling culmination of tension that’s gradually built.
But this paled in comparison to the – I don’t use this word lightly – epic conclusion as Daenerys’ hidden plan came to its fruition. Perhaps the outcome was predictable in retrospect, but its execution – the visual effects, the narrative, the acting, the composition – was simply fucking fantastic television.