Largely a string of disconnected check-ins, “Oathbreaker” is a quiet episode of Game of Thrones that captures the moments in between the scenes that propel much of the regular narrative. From it, we are allowed several interesting takes from the periphery that serve to flesh out the larger world of Westeros and beyond.
There appeared to be a real attempt to slow the pace with this episode, to allow for consequences to sink in for several storylines. Just take Meereen for example. We open the scene waiting with Tyrion, awkwardly grasping for something to talk about with Misande and Gray Worm as he waited for Varys to arrive. There was no reason to film this rather than opening with Varys, but in doing so, we are forced to dangle, waiting uncomfortably for something to happen- a direct parallel to the apprehension Tyrion and rest of the inner-circle feel in Dany’s absence. The potential of Tyrion, hero of the Battle of the Blackwater, waging war throughout Essos as Gray Worm urged plays up the uncharted path this season has taken now freed from the books’ dictates.
I’m a little concerned that Bran’s sole capacity this season will be serving as a vehicle for delivering potent flashbacks to events that the series needed to address but had no other manner of unpacking. While this would turn his character to a bit of a macguffin, the sheer brilliance of the scene it delivered on was well worth it. A pivotal scene in the history of Westeros, we are dropped into the moments after a younger Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon have slain Rhaegar Targaryen. Young Ned has tracked his abducted sister to a remote tower where he must do battle with legendary Ser Arthur Dayne, Sword of the Morning and all around badass. Unlike the story he told his children, Ned only won the standoff after his opponent was stabbed in the back. As the sound of a squealing baby rings out, Ned races up the tower and we are cut off along with Bran before we can learn more.
Speaking of consequences, the siblings Lannister are both anxious to set King’s Landing to rights again. I have no desire to be on the other end of Cersei’s shit list. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cersei and Jamie work an angle with Qyburn and Franken-Mountain to throw a Lannister coup against the Small Council and the Tyrells. The X factor in all of this is King Tommen. The “at-risk youth” king is portrayed as ineffectual and naïve, and he is, but only for as long as he remains reflective. This is what makes his meditations with the High Sparrow so intriguing, considering that it runs counter to his family’s interests.
Watching get Arya get beaten with a stick for three weeks has been as brutal as it was intended but all the more rewarding watching her advance. She has come to terms with her emotions and mastered her former self. In adding her own name to her kill list, effectively ending Arya Stark, she is able to truly become the “no one” that the Faceless God demands. I look forward to see where her role takes her now that she has let go of her past.
I’ll mention it only in passing as it really was quite forgettable a scene but Daenerys is now at Vaes Dothrok, where all the widowed Khalessi’s are taken. Stripped of her dragons and her armies, she is left to face the consequences of the Dothraki, all these seasons removed. Her storyline has once again become the meandering distraction it had been in season three. Here’s hoping some dragons are on her horizon soon enough.
And where would we be without the Boltons of Winterfell to bring everybody down? Ramsey holds his first court after slaying his father in cold blood. A rather blunt Umber is requesting an alliance between their houses but he refuses to bend the knee, knowing the Boltons are inherently dishonest. He does however offer to sweeten the prospect with a gift. Having picked the wrong time to flee toward the safety of Stark bannermen, the Umbers, the long lost wildling caretaker, Osha, and Rickon Stark are revealed as bounty. With Sansa in the wind, Rickon is an even better claim to Winterfell. To prove the boy’s heritage to Ramsey as much as the audience who hasn’t seen him in years, the severed head of Shaggy Dog is unceremoniously tossed onto a table. These direwolves really get a bum rap on this show. They would have been better off if they were just left in the woods way back in episode one of season one.
This episode was bookended with Jon Snow’s first gasps of new life and his first steps in a new path. Kit Harrington offers a haunting portrayal of resurrection and bitter betrayal. After having seen his murderers put to death, Jon Snow passes Lord Commandership to Dolorous Ed before leaving the Night’s Watch. If ever he were on a hero’s journey of self-discovery, the moments after literal rebirth seem as good a place as any to start in earnest.
Daavos Seaworth continues being the most interesting character this season. He is pointedly agnostic, but it is his odd devotion to Jon Snow and faith in Melisandre’s abilities that have been on display throughout. He serves as the shaman guiding a neophyte in a vision quest. He is the boatman on the river Styx who carries the body from life to death. He has facilitated Jon Snow’s transition from death into new life both literally and figuratively.
He remains at Jon’s side after his waking to further impart guidance insisting, “You go on. You fight for as long as you can. You clean up as much of the shit as you can.” Before dispatching him with a decidedly zen blessing, “…Good. Now, go fail again.”
Episode Winner: Young Ned Stark (Who wouldn’t watch him in a prequel series?)
Episode Loser: Shaggy Dog (R.I.P.)
Quote of the Episode:
Arthur Dayne: “Now it begins.”
Young Ned Stark: “No, now it ends.”