REVIEW: Game Of Thrones 6×3 “Oathbreaker”

Let’s pick right up from where we finished last week.


 

AT CASTLE BLACK

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Davos’ eyes are wide with awe and incredulity; he is a man whose every previously agnostic belief has gone up in flames. The presumably well-rested Jon’s breathing mirrors the Onion Knight’s; it’s sharp, rasping, and reflects the bewilderment of the man from whom it emanates. Jon slowly sits up and, his face a picture of horror, inspects his punctured torso. He’s no Frankenstein’s monster, but a petrified, confused, and vulnerable young man whose brutal murder took place only seconds before. The sparse dialogue magnifies the awe of Davos and the haunted, thousand-yard stare of the post-traumatic Kit Harrington.  Recounting the scene of his murder, he’s reduced almost to tears by the memory of Olly’s dagger plunging into his heart.

Melisandre is in awe of the resurrected Lord Commander but, unlike her Geordie counterpart, shoots straight for the bigger, divine picture, asking Jon: “After you died, where did you go? What did you see?” An uncomfortable silence fills the room. Jon shakes his head: “Nothing. There was nothing at all.” This is undoubtedly the show’s most bleak and nihilistic exchange and it comes off exactly as intended; Davos and Jon are shaken by unequivocal, first-hand proof that the blackness of oblivion awaits. Melisandre, however, is unperturbed and drops a massive, if understated, bomb: “The Lord let you come back for a reason. Stannis was not The Prince Who Was Promised, but someone has to be.”
THERE IT IS. FINALLY. THE HYPE TRAIN WILL DEPART THE STATION SHORTLY.

The first on-the-nose mention of a prophecy which is supposed to define the story’s end-game, and we’ve had to wait 5 and a bit seasons for it! Take your bloody time, GoT! Anyway, Jon’s reaction to his presumed destiny is less than heroic. Whether or not Azor Ahai is his future, right now he’s desperately trying to understand how and why he’s come back from the dead, and whether or not he’s still the same Jon Snow who may or may not have known nothin’. Davos, the new father figure on the Wall, pulls up a chair and proceeds as usual to be the most relatable character on the show: “You were dead, and now you’re not. That’s completely fucking mad.” When Jon tries to be a mopey teenager, Davos shuts him down. The pep talk seems to embolden Jon, as the next thing we see is he and Davos stepping into the Castle Black courtyard to greet the crowds of wildlings and loyal men of the Watch, assembled, we assume, by the promise by Melisandre of “you’re about to see some crazy shit, boys.” She stands detached from the gathering, her steeliness returned, surveying the scene of her grandest triumph.

The musical chorus backing definitely lends itself to a scene of awe, but the reactions of the members of the the crowd are disappointingly neutral and flat, as may be expected from extras. Practicalities of en masse acting aside, it’s frankly lazy film-making that Tormund must literally say “They think you’re a god.” If that’s the case then make an effort to show us!
Tormund is like a cool and crass uncle,
citing the apparent diminutiveness of Jon’s penis as evidence of his lack of divinity. It’s a laugh out loud moment that’s very welcome. They embrace, Jon with a wince, and the unlikely friendship becomes stronger still. Jon’s most loyal remaining ally, Edd, embraces the returned Lord Commander. The friends share a joke and everyone watching pretends they’re too hard to cry. Minor gripes aside, this is a wonderfully constructed sequence, simultaneously bleak, funny, and moving in one impossible-to-deal-with package. Most importantly, it is thoroughly believable and completely absorbing. Bravo, Game of Thrones.

THE TOWER OF JOY

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Moving on, the scene we’ve all been waiting for: The Tower of Joy.
The scene’s arrival was untelegraphed by the episode, meaning that, when we saw the Stark armour-clad men riding towards the tower, we literally squealed with excitement. “Yes!”, we went, “we’re finally going to find out the truth about Jon!” Right? Right?!
Nope.
Despite the lack of answers, we’re still treated to a damn finely crafted scene that oozes cool. Awaiting Ned, Howland Reed and the rest of their soon to be not-so-merry men are two knights in Targaryen armour, one of whom is Ser Arthur Dayne, the legendary swordsman and awesomely dubbed Sword of the Morning. He and Young Ned exchange some cool, if rather predictable and generic, ‘ard bastard dialogue before the dick-swinging gives way to a swordfight.
And what a fight it is; Arthur Dayne taking on the whole damn bunch of rebels on his own once his companion falls early in the fight. The Sword of the Morning dual-wields longswords in a feat of hipster weapon mastery which would feel bang at home in the Star Wars universe. One of Ser Arthur’s swords is Dawn, the famous blade carried for thousands of years by the Dayne’s most worthy warrior. For a weapon so significant in the lore of Game of Thrones, it’s disappointing not to have been shown the sword in greater detail. At the very least it should have been afforded a distinctive design.

Howland Reed is badly wounded in the opening exchanges of the fight, which continues with some terrific, exhilarating choreography until only Ned and Ser Arthur remain. It’s as this point that GoT’s irritating habit of telling not showing once more rears its head. When Bran, present in the company of von Sydow’s Bloodraven once more, queries how his father was able to defeat so accomplished a fighter as Dayne, Raven makes it pretty clear that we’re to expect something unexpected. Why can we not just see the damn moment as it happens, without it being telegraphed? Literally screenwriting 101: don’t tell what you can show. When it becomes clear that Ned has no hope against the legendary knight and all hope is lost, a knife is thrust through Arthur’s back. Standing over him is Howland, gaping wound and all. Ned picks up Dawn and cleaves its owner to death with it. A rather ignominious and undeserved end for such a colossal figure.

Ned keeps hold of the sword and makes for the steps of the tower looming over him. Bran calls out and Ned appears to hear him, briefly turning in his future son’s direction before heading up the stairs to the screams of a woman, presumably Lyanna. As Bran makes to follow him, Bloodraven continues his nasty habit of cutting off the vision, blue balling us all in the process. We hope this contrived withholding of information doesn’t continue for much longer, because we want answers and the plot is in need of accelerating.

Regardless of its premature end, there are important points we need to take from this scene. Firstly, if Ned allowed the story that he defeated Arthur Dayne in single combat to proliferate for so many years, this displays an ability to keep secrets, and suggests that the famously unimpeachable honour of Ned Stark, for which he died no less, may not always have been so. Secondly, it is not just the Reed children but Howland himself who must become an important character. As far as we know, he’s the last survivor from that fateful day at the Tower of Joy, meaning that he is the only one who might be able to confirm what happened there. Aside from Bloodraven himself, Howland could well be the only man who knows whether or not R+L does in fact equal J.

Finally, we must ask the question of Bloodraven’s motivation. Does he actually know everything, as he implies and, to that end, can we trust the visions that he and Bran share as gospel truth? It’s possible that he could be attempting to manipulate the boy into fulfilling some nefarious purpose, editing the past in order to sway Bran to his way of thinking. Whether or not it’s an unintended consequence of von Sydow’s style of acting, Raven appears to have a hidden agenda or, at the very least, be privy to something that he’s not letting on. Perhaps he’s so eager to limit Bran’s time inside of the visions because he has first-hand experience of interfering with the past which didn’t go too well. It seems that Bran shares this ability. We hope not, because time travel is a can of worms that just should not be opened, not to mention the fact that the ability to dabble with events gone by significantly detracts from the impact of said events.

TO VAES DOTHRAK

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Let’s move on to the perpetually actionless Daenerys. The Dothraki riders dump her in the temple of the Dosh Khaleen, which literally means “council of crones”. Not a flattering name for the most powerful and holy women at the head of a society, is it? You might recognise the room from season 1; it’s the place Dany ate the horse’s heart. We get a glimpse of their status within the Dothraki culture as one of the older women rudely tells the riders depositing Dany to bugger off, which they do surprisingly meekly. Once she’s changed into some appropriate, burlap sack-esque clothes, Dany as always goes about moaning at everybody that she’ll lop off their heads blah blah blah and bellowing her various, self-appointed titles.

Once she’s stopped acting like the rich, spoiled brat she is, the older woman informs her that there is to be a great meeting of Dothraki khalasars that will decide her fate. Sounds ominous, right? Maybe not. We know that the Dothraki, being basically the Huns, value strength above all else. If Daenerys can display her strength in some way, perhaps a massive dragon-shaped way, to the whole of the Dothraki society, maybe they’ll all bend the knee and essentially become her massive, blood-thirsty cavalry. It’s a little predictable, hell we’ve basically been shown it in the trailers, but we’d love to see them riding into battle as once. We’re fed up with Dany being stuck, kicking up dust in Essos and hopefully her journey will pick up pace from here on out. In related news, the 2 man Daenerys fan club continues to plod on towards her, though we’re not sure what they’re hoping to accomplish against tens of thousands of Dothraki soldiers.


BACK IN MEEREEN

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The Sons of the Harpy’s insurgency continues to be a pain in the arse. Maybe what Dany needs more than an army of horsemen right now is an intelligence network, and it just so happens that she’s recently acquired one.

In Mereen, we see Varys finally taking the lead in a scene. He’s doing his best Mycroft Holmes impression as he interrogates the prostitute who lured that one unsullied to his death ages ago, remember? The GoT has an irritating knack of utilising things and people mentioned very briefly seasons ago to further plots. He politely threatens the woman and offers her loads of money to bugger off, but not before sharing what she knows. As it turn out, the Sons of the Harpy are being funded by the slave masters of the other slave-centric cities. Surprise, surprise. Meanwhile, Tyrion tries to draw blood from a stone i.e instigate conversation with Missandei and Grey Worm as they await Varys’s return. As Varys’s little birds of Essos fly off to do their thing, his Westerosi network has a new master.


IN KING’S LANDING

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Qyburn, a.k.a Doctor Frankenstein, is recruiting the spying children to his cause. What’s the easiest way to get a little kid on your side? Give them sweeties. He becomes the Child Catcher as they all take their prizes and scuttle off. As Cersei, Jaime, and the Mountain walk in, it’s clear that House Lannister is gearing up for war. They stage a coup of the Small Council, now headed by Kevin Lannister and the Queen of Thorns, who indignantly scatter, not before Diana Rigg (who’s evidently loving her role) can fire off a couple of zingers at the twins. Pycelle basically shits his breeches as he walks past the Mountain, about whom he was bitching seconds earlier. We want to see the Mountain splatting people up! Looks like we’re about to get it, as it’s the centre of the discussion between Jaime and Cersei. We get a hint that Ser Robert won’t have to take on every member of the faith militant; Cersei will demand a trial by combat, and zombie Mountain will doubtless be her champion. Seriously, though, everyone knows that he’s not a real guy so surely someone surely must call them out on her OP, literally not even alive, champion.

But who’s going to be the champion of the Faith (which actually sounds pretty cool)? Are we about to be given some shameless fan service? No religious warrior has been introduced as yet, so it seems just as likely as any other scenario right now. Ready for… CLEGANE BOWL! SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!

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Speaking of this storyline, Tommen has gone off to see the High Sparrow to try and be a mean, hard nut Lannister just like mummy and daddy. Unfortunately, he’s just quiet a nice bloke so, instead of intimidating the Faith with the crown, sits down for a nice chat. Tommen seems to be beguiled by the High Sparrow and his dodgy knees. Whether or not this is a front to become closer to the heart of the Faith in order to more easily dismantle it, which we doubt, remains to be seen. Maybe the promises that the king made to his mother have already been thrown out of the window. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Tommen’s buddying with the High Sparrow is the catalyst for Cersei to begin the battle with the Faith in earnest. Conversely, the head of the Faith could be trying to ensnare the King, seeing him as a sensitive, insecure young man and an easy target. Either way, the Lannister – Faith dynamic is about to get interesting, and bloody. We hope bloody.

IN BRAAVOS

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Arya is becoming Rocky. In what’s a pretty nicely constructed training montage, she eventually overcomes the Waif, becomes Daredevil, and learns to sniff things. Jaqen clearly feels she’s ready, and gives her a drink, drawn from the well of death, which restores her sight. Whether or not she has actually become “no one”, or has simply managed to billy bullshit both Jaqen and the Many Faced God remains to be seen. Expect some conflict with the Waif and some increasingly Luke Skywalker – Yoda training to come.

WINTERFELL

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Smalljon Umber, the coolest guy this side of Oberyn, strolls into the great hall of Winterfell to see Ramsay. He seems to know, and sympathise with, Ramsay’s killing of his father, continuing to call out the newly anointed Lord Bolton on his shit. Ramsay appears to respect this forthright attitude, and looks pretty impressed by it if anything. To cement the Umber’s loyalty to House Bolton, Smalljon turns over Rickon (yep, he still exists) and Osha, throwing in the head of Rickon’s direwolf for good measure. Ramsay greets the young Lord in an ominous tone. Are we going to see some flayed Stark next episode?

Unless the Umbers are putting into practice an elaborate scheme to to dismantle House Bolton and its grip on the North, weaker now with the passing of Roose, GoT is portraying all of the non-Stark Northmen as one-dimensional turncloaks. The Umbers are Stark Loyalists. We hope they don’t make a mess of the characterisation, but it looks likely that they have. Perhaps this ostensible removal of nuance is for the sake of simplicity and the acceleration of the plot, but it’s a shame nonetheless.

THE WALL

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And we come full circle to finish off the episode. We’re back with Jon Snow, in walks Edd: “it’s time.” Time for justice! The conspirators, most notably Alliser and Olly, have their necks in nooses, ready for the short drop and sudden stop, as Pirates of the Caribbean puts it. After some stoic last words from Ser Alliser along the lines of “I’d do it again, I tells ya!”, Jon swings his sword and releases the prisoners from their watch. We’re treated to a disturbingly graphic depiction of men being hung to death, bodies twitching and eyes bulging. Soon enough, their bodies are still, the looks of horror lingering in their eyes.

There was much debate in the G4me0ver offices as to whether or not Jon had been changed; made colder by his death as was Beric Dondarrion, the guy with the eye patch who got cleaved up by the Hound seasons before. We finally settled on: not really. He’s still humble and conflicted, if anything even more hesitant than he would have been before to execute THE PEOPLE WHO MURDERED HIM. Does NO ONE remember the time that Janos Slynt said some shit and jon was like “Right, outside, let’s do this” and straight up decapitated him, even after he admitted he was weak and wrong? He’s set quiet the benchmark. The Starks, it seems, have quite the propensity for showy executions.

Even in the wake of his betrayal of his Lord Commander, we can’t help but admiring Ser Alliser. He was consistent and true to his vow, even in the face of his own death. Yes he was wrong to have killed Jon, but his reasoning was bang on. Not like impenitent, screw-faced little Olly, his whole life rendered meaningless by Jon’s return from death. Would Jon perhaps have spared Olly from the gallows in another life? Maybe we’ll get some on the nose, expositional chatter from him in the coming episodes explaining to us that he feels a bit darker.

In a move that unquestionably would not have occurred to the pre-death Lord Commander, he takes off his fluffy, cosy coat and hands it to Edd whom we imagine turned to the crowd and said “I am the captain now”. Jon drops a cool and ominous line: “Now my watch is ended” as he walks, bowling like a gangster, out of Castle Black. He’s broken his oath, hence the episode’s title. Get it? In a manner which we’ve bemoaned time and time here at G4me0ver, the epic, epoch-shifting moment is shot in such a dull, flair-less manner that really does the scene little justice.
Will the wildlings follow Jon, and presumably Davos and Melisandre, in riding south? Will he bump into Sansa, Brienne, and Pod on the way? Finally, will he turn back to Castle Black to pick up some things, especially a coat, because it looks pretty bloody chilly out there?
Let us know what you think down below.

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Matt and Dan

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