It’s hard to say that “things are getting real” on a show like “Game of Thrones,” which axed its main character in the first season. But in the fourth episode of the third season, “And Now His Watch Is Ended,” things are truly returning to realness.

We open just where we left off: Jaime Lannister, who got his sword hand chopped off at the end of the last episode, is forced to wear the amputated appendage around his neck as he rides. The near-catatonic Jaime falls off his horse, and the hunters mock him, making him drink horse urine. Jaime manages to steal a sword, but is hardly a threat using his off hand. Locke threatens to take the other hand if he tries to escape again.

Later, Jaime’s still (understandably) morose, but Brienne manages to shame him into eating. She also thanks him for saving her. Last week, Jaime told their captor Locke that the Lord of Tarth would pay Brienne’s weight in sapphires to see her unbesmirched, but he was lying -- Tarth is called the “Sapphire Isle” for the blue of its waters, not any rich gemstone mines.

Tyrion meets with Varys, looking for help in discovering whether Cersei really sent Ser Mandon Moore to kill him during the Battle of the Blackwater. Varys, busying himself with a mysterious giant crate, counsels patience, and tells Tyrion about how he was made a eunuch: A sorcerer bought him from his master, gelded him, and used his private parts for a magic ceremony. Hence, Varys has it in for anyone who uses magic.

Then Varys opens up the crate to reveal the sorcerer who maimed him all those years ago. Patience really is a useful virtue, it turns out.

“The revenge you want will be yours in time,” Varys tells Tyrion.

Bran has one of his ominous visions, in which Jojen shows up to tell him to climb a tree to meet the three-eyed raven. He gets up on a branch, and then suddenly his mom, Catelyn, appears and tells him not to climb, and he falls. Kid can’t catch a break, even in dreams.

Ros, the former whore who’s always good for a bit of exposition, meets with Varys to inform him about Littlefinger’s plans. It seems Lord Baelish is taking two feather beds with him on his trip to the Vale, which obviously means he plans to steal Sansa away (or he just has a really bad back).

Time for royal wedding planning! While Lady Olenna and Cersei are hashing things out for the Great Sept of Baelor (basically the National Cathedral of Westeros), Joffrey is happily giving Margaery a history lesson about how various Targaryen nobles met bloody ends. There’s the sound of crowds outside, and Joffrey balks -- thinking back to when the rioting commoners tried to kill him -- but Margaery assures him that if he loves the common people, they will love him back. They step out, side by side, to greet the cheering crowd, while Cersei watches, her face a mixture of fear, suspicion and envy.

Later, Cersei complains to her father that Margaery’s manipulating Joffrey. Tywin says that’s probably a good thing. Cersei, like Tyrion, is also fishing for some recognition from her dad, and, like her younger brother, gets shot down. (Tywin: “I don’t distrust you because you’re a woman; I distrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are.”)

Theon’s rescuer takes him toward a castle where Yara is supposedly holding out. Theon is spilling his guts to his new friend, about his envy of Robb Stark, and his regrets over the sacking of Winterfell (“I had a choice. I chose wrong.”) The lad jimmies open a back door to the castle, and leads Theon to a dark room ... which turns out to be another torture chamber. The whole escape was a ruse.

Varys confers with Lady Olenna, worrying that Littlefinger is about to steal away Sansa. If he marries her, that would put him in a prime position to take over the North if Robb meets an unfortunate end. Olenna dispatches Margaery, who makes some very enticing overtures -- once Margaery marries Joffrey, she could marry Sansa to her brother Loras, and send her off to the Tyrell stronghold of Highgarden.

Beyond the Wall, the Night’s Watch brothers’ resentment of Craster boils over. An argument leads to one of the brothers killing Craster, which sparks a full-on mutiny. The Lord Commander, Jeor Mormont, is killed; Sam flees with Gilly and her baby boy.

Arya, Gendry and the Hound have reached the secret hideout of the Brotherhood Without Banners, who’ve taken it upon themselves to fight for the peasants of Westeros. They all seem to have gotten religion, too: the faith of the red god, R’hllor, which Stannis and Melisandre have accepted. The Brotherhood’s leader, Beric Dondarrion, charges the Hound with the murder of Mycah, the butcher’s boy who was Arya’s friend, and sentences him to trial by combat.

Daenerys shows up to complete her bargain with the Astapori slave masters. Her dragon is handed off, and she gains command of the Unsullied soldiers. Then she starts speaking to them in High Valyrian -- a big surprise to the slave master Kraznys, who didn’t know she spoke his language (and has been secretly insulting her the entire time). Kraznys can’t get her dragon to obey.

“A dragon is not a slave,” says Daenerys.

Then she commands Drogon to set Kraznys on fire, and tells the Unsullied to slay the slave masters of Astapor.

After the city is sacked, Daenerys tells the Unsullied they are free, but can come fight with her still if they wish. To a man, they agree, and Daenerys Targaryen rides out of Astapor with an army at her back.