RSS
Game of Thrones recap: Revenge is a dish best served hot
In tonight's episode, heroes and villains pursue revenge, as Daenerys scores a fiery victory for the slaves of Astapor
 
Don't mess with the dragon.
Don't mess with the dragon. HBO

Revenge will be yours in time. If you have the stomach for it.

— Varys

Over two-plus seasons, we've heard a lot about how Varys, Game of Thrones' simpering, omnipresent information specialist, is a eunuch. But until tonight's episode, "And Now His Watch Is Ended," we never knew why. In a conversation with Tyrion, Varys reveals that as a boy, he was sold to a black magician who castrated him and burned his "parts" as a kind of ritual. "Was it a god, a demon, a conjurer's trick? I don't know," says Varys, revealing that the nightmarish childhood incident was the impetus for his symbolic revenge in season two against Stannis and Melisandre, who specializes in the kind of magic that caused Varys' disfigurement. But when it comes to revenge, Varys is just as content to be literal as symbolic. Indeed, when he opens a mysterious crate, we find the very sorcerer who castrated Varys so many yeas ago. After tracking him down, Varys has had him shipped to King's Landing to exact his long-awaited revenge.

Revenge isn't exactly a unique theme in popular culture (there is, after all, a TV show on the air that is literally called Revenge), but there are few shows that trace the long-term (and often unexpected) consequences of vengeance as well as Game of Thrones.

"And Now His Watch Is Ended" was even more obsessed with revenge than usual, calling back to wounds our characters have been carrying for ages. Angry, starving turncloaks from the Night's Watch attack Craster for his perceived self-centered-ness and scorn. Arya finally gets back at The Hound when she convinces the kangaroo court of the Brotherhood Without Banners to hold him responsible for killing Mycah — an event which happened in the show's second episode. And then there's poor Theon, who betrayed Robb to avenge his father's defeat in a war he was too young to remember. "My real father lost his head at King's Landing," says Theon, speaking of Ned Stark. "I made a choice, and I chose wrong."

But among all the revenge in "And Now His Watch Is Ended," one character is conspicuous for his lack of interest in it: Jaime Lannister. At this point, we've spent enough time with Jaime to appreciate just how cagy he can be. He patiently bided his time for weeks as a prisoner of the Stark camp before Catelyn finally set him free, and he teased and prodded Brienne for days as he looked for the perfect moment to attempt his escape.

Given the ruthlessness and resilience he's shown, one might expect Jaime to be hungry for the blood of his captors, who sliced off his hand at the end of last week's "Walk of Punishment." But losing his right hand — or his sword hand, as Jaime tellingly calls it — has taken the life out of him in a way that renders him all but unrecognizable as the sneering lion who pushed Bran Stark out of a window in Game of Thrones' first episode. "You can't die. You need to live to take revenge," insists Brienne. "I don't care about revenge," Jaime replies, in yet another scene that manages to take an erstwhile villain and make him almost likable.

And then there's Daenerys Targaryen, who settles yet another score in "And Now His Watch Is Ended." "I will take what is mine, with fire and blood," Daenerys once promised, and she certainly lived up to that oath in tonight's episode, which featured no shortage of both as she turned on Kraznys, winning an army and freeing a city's worth of slaves.

Daenerys is so far removed from the action in Westeros that it can be easy to lose sight of the long game she's playing. We know Daenerys is more than capable of revenge — just ask Mirri Maz Duur or Xaro Xhoan Daxos — but there's a thoughtfulness and a rationality to the way she's seeking revenge that separates her from the pettier players in this game of thrones. With her latest and greatest revenge behind her, Daenerys can set her sights across the narrow sea to Westeros — and based on what we've seen so far, I wouldn't want to be the next person that crosses her.

Read more Game of Thrones recaps:

Game of Thrones recap: 'Walk of Punishment'
* Game of Thrones recap: The women of Westeros
* Game of Thrones recap: 'Valar Dohaeris'

 
Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor and film and television critic for TheWeek.com. He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticPOLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week