Emilia Clarke is still on fire in Season Three of HBO’s “Games of Thrones.”
We’re feeling a little prescient this week after noting, last week, how commanding Clarke has been in the sequences set in the Slaver’s Bay city of Astapor, where her character, Daenerys Targaryen, is negotiating with the vile and condescending slave breeder Kraznys mo Nakloz (Dan Hildebrand) for an army of The Unsullied, identical-looking eunuch warriors, stretching in helmeted rows to the horizon, rigorously bred and trained until every trait but unflinching obedience has been burned away.
Various other storylines are moving forward in good order in this episode (SPOILER ALERT):
- Jamie is dealing somewhat less than manfully with his case of ghost limb syndrome. “I was that hand,” he says, confirming our sense that the Kingslayer is facing a monumental existential crisis.
- Dianna Rigg’s Olenna Redwyne, the matriarch of House Tyrell, her head full of Sansa’s unsavory revelations about Margaery’s betrothed, goes for an insinuatingly intimate walk-and-talk with Lord Varys, no doubt plotting a course of benefit to both.
- Margaery, meanwhile, seems more than capable of molding Sansa’s “monster,” Prince Joffrey, into whatever somewhat-less-twisted shape she has in mind–as Joffrey’s mum, the ever watchful Queen Regent, Cersei Lannister, is only too well aware. More plotting ensues, in a high-level father/daughter conference.
- The explosion of retributive violence at Craster’s Keep is one of the few unambiguously just and gratifying fight sequences in the entire story so far, the serial. Not even a storyteller as devoted to shades of gray as GRRM could find cause to quibble in the elimination of this serial daughter rapist, who reduces human beings not merely to the level of meal worms but pasty white grubs.
- And there is another lovely scene in which Bran Stark gets to run and hunt in his shape-shifting dream state, now with a companion, Jojen Reed, who can tap into the same dimension, which as a result takes on a slightly more solid, in-between level of reality. It will be interesting to see what transpires in that realm as the series continues.
Ultimately, though, this episode is a Daenerys Stormborn special, easily the most satisfying since the Season One finale.
Daenerys would be hard character for anyone to play, much less a 25-year-old with only a couple of other credits on her resume, one of them a Broadway show that is about to close. Perhaps this is simply a near-perfect match between a performer and the one quality that must be conveyed for this storyline to work. But it’s a tough one, and she’s doing a great job.
Dany is utterly single-minded, and how to play that without turning people off? Her only goal in life is to take back the notably ugly throne she regards as a family heirloom. The one thing we need to believe above all, in order to become invested in that quest, to not regard it as delusional or psychopathic, is that she really could be a queen — even more, that she deserves to be one. Quite a feat for one so young.