After a crazy past two episodes, Game of Thrones slows down with Oathbreaker. But is this change of pace for the best? Or is it a grind?
We return to a slower, more political pace to the show in this episode, with more of a focus on character dynamics than we’ve gotten since season 4. Let’s break it down!
Beyond the Wall
We continue our flashbacks into the Starks’ past with a trip to the deserts of Dorne. Here, we witness a defining moment for Ned Stark – him and his companions vs two of the best fighters ever, with his sister’s life at stake.
The Tower of Joy is one of the most hyped-up, theorised-over sequences in the book, so seeing it on screen is pretty awesome. They really did justice to what I’m guessing will only be the first half of this flashback. The casting was, as usual, amazing; Robert Aramayo plays a Ned Stark that’s recognisable as the Bean he’ll grow into, while Luke Roberts plays a fantastically badass Arthur Dayne. If I’ve any complaints, Aramayo’s accent seems a bit… off, but his actual acting’s great.
The two v. seven battle royale was so cool! The choreography of this fight scene was thrilling. If they didn’t nail it completely than Dayne’s duel-wielding could’ve looked impractical and silly, but they really pulled it off. Dayne’s duel-wielding because he’s that good, and his fight looks like a cross between Star Wars and your usual brutal Thrones swordfight. You can see why he’s the Sword of the Morning, one of the most badass fighters ever known. The Tower of Joy is easily one of my favourite fight sequences yet from Thrones.
I can’t embed it, but here’s the fight with lightsabers. It’s pretty great. https://youtu.be/4CTJEZXtr94
Of course, we don’t get to see what’s in the tower yet – that’s probably going to be a major revelation for later. Bran gets pulled back to the cave (again), and Bloodraven says some vague things about Bran’s education (again). While I’m absolutely loving the flashbacks, I do hope that something happens in Bloodraven’s cave besides talking and flashbacks. This plotline’s great so far, but it could stagnate easily. Also, Bloodraven looks silly, like he’s behind a booth in the tree rather than part of it. Bit disappointed with that. Overall, however, Bran’s storyline offered up some valuable insight into the past of the series, and I really enjoyed it.
Once again making me reconsider ordering these reviews geographically, the content at the Wall was once again the standout of the episode. Jon’s back, but what the hell happens next? What’s he like, and how has he changed? What’s it like to die and come back? And what’s he going to do with the Night’s Watch traitors?
Kit Harrington was amazing tonight and I honestly think that Oathbreaker was his best episode yet. I’ve always thought he was a great action star ever since The Watchers on the Wall and Hardhome, but he’s never really shown off his acting chops like this before. Jon Snow seems broken, depressed and almost nihilistic after his glimpse of oblivion and much of this is clear from Kit’s acting. His sheer shock at being resurrected in the opening scene was particularly impressive, I really felt for him.
Holy crap, that last scene! Kit Harrington, Owen Teale and Brennock O’Connor knocked it all the way out of the park. Owen Teale’s last monologue was fantastic, some great character writing. After being foggy about his motivations to kill Jon in Mother’s Mercy, it’s fantastic that they’ve given him some great explanations for his actions. Is he a good guy, or even particularly likable? No. However he’s clearly got his own sense of morals and of ‘honour’, even if it’s hypocritical. You can see O’Connor’s pure, undiluted hatred in some great silent acting.
And Kit Harrington, wow. You can tell that he’s been seriously affected by the resurrection experience. He’s not reluctant because he feels they’re redeemable – he’s reluctant because he knows that he’s dooming more people to endless oblivion. A Jon with serious post-death trauma is an unexpected way to go, but I’m really liking it so far.
Of course, he walks out. It’s unfortunate because the Watch has been Jon’s home for the past few years, but there isn’t much more Jon can do there. Besides emotional reasons he’s been betrayed by the leaders, Castle Black’s been overrun, the only major power who cared about them was slaughtered. His options for consolidating the Watch are either dramatic and time-consuming reform or just saying ‘screw it’ and focusing his efforts somewhere else. I hate to say it, but I agree with Jon’s choice.
Alliser Thorne: “I had a choice, Lord Commander. Betray you or betray the Night’s Watch. You brought an army of wildlings into our lands. An army of murderers and raiders. If I had to do it all over knowing where I’d end up, I pray I’d make the right choice again.”
Jon Snow: “I’m sure you would, Ser Alliser.”
Alliser Thorne: “I fought, I lost. Now I rest. But you, Lord Snow, you’ll be fighting their battles forever.“
No Brienne-Sansa-Pod scenes this episode, but we do get some Ramsay fun!
So, Smalljon Umber stabs the Starks in the back and gives Rickon, Osha and Shaggydog’s head to Ramsay. I enjoyed Smalljon greatly in this episode. The guy seems like a mix of Wildling mannerisms and Northern lordship, which is fun, especially in his disrespect to Ramsay. After Ramsay’s stratospheric rise to power in the last season or so, it’s great to see someone talking down to him he can’t afford to kill. It’s also nice to see some humour in a pretty grim Northern plotline. Here’s hoping his refusing to kneel to Ramsay is foreshadowing a future betrayal, because it’ll be a damn shame for such a fun character to be on the Bolton’s side.
Your father was a cunt, and that’s why you killed him. I might have done the same to my father if he had not done me the favor of dying on his own.
-Smalljon, so close to becoming my favourite character.
It’s great to see Rickon, Osha and Shaggydog reintroduced, and once again I’m loving how this season is picking up on dropped plotlines. Between this, the Ironborn and the Riverlands, I’m going to be a happy fan this season. Of course, it’s tragic for him to reappear in such a terrible situation, but I can’t wait to see where his plot is going. I’m really hoping we’re not going to get another ‘Ramsay tortures his hostage’ story again – we saw it with Theon and Sansa, we get it already. As noted by many people, Shaggydog’s head seems a bit small. While it could be a bad prop, I’m hoping that the direwolf isn’t dead. We barely see any of them due to CGI costs, it’d be a shame to lose out on another one.
While I’ve been liking the slower pace this episode overall, it didn’t work for King’s Landing. This is mainly because the pace has been slow for the past five or six episodes. Not much changes this episode. There’s some talk of having a trial by combat against the Faith, the small council snubs Cersei and Jaime, and Tommen once again flip-flops.
The problem with Cersei and Jaime being locked out of the Small Council is that we don’t feel it’s important. This council hasn’t done anything publicly, we haven’t had any POV there. We haven’t seen them wield power or even do damage control on the Faith, so it doesn’t really feel like they’re doing anything. Maybe this is related to Jaime’s complaints about all the problems they have on hand (Dorne and the Faith, primarily), but the conflict there just doesn’t have stakes. Maybe if we have a couple of scenes where we can see how the Kevan-Olenna duo actually rules, this could be rectified. On paper, they’re a great combination.
The Tommen scene… I like Chapman as Tommen, and Pryce as the High Sparrow, but after Tommen’s conflict between choosing between his mother and Margaery last season, him choosing between his mother and religion isn’t that original. I recognise he’s supposed to be a bit weak, but it’s just not great. Maybe this plotline could heat up, but for now it feels like Tommen’s character is going in circles from ‘I want to be strong!’ to ‘aw geez I don’t know’ too much.
Sam and Gilly were reintroduced in this episode too! To be honest, it’s basically just a catch-up scene. John Bradley’s excellent and hilarious as usual, and I can’t wait to see where his plotline goes in future episodes. Him meeting his family after being through so much sounds like a great story.
Here we get a montage of Arya becoming a Faceless Man at last. It felt kind of rushed to me. We watched a season and a few episodes of Arya having trouble letting go of her Stark identity and following the rules of the Faceless Men, but over the course of ten minutes this season she seems to have finally become No-One. This seems like another storyline that could really heat up in the late season, but for now it’s just been very ‘meh’.
The Dothraki Sea
Daenerys arrives in Vaes Dothrak, only to find that her many titles don’t actually help her with the Dosh Khaleen. It was as fun as usual to see Dany’s many, many titles get ignored, but this scene was mainly setup for the Daenerys and the Dothraki plot. Not much to say about it. I thought the head Dosh Khaleen did a good job, being equal parts condescending and sympathetic. I hope she doesn’t get burned by Drogon.
We start off Meereen with a fantastic scene from Varys. Conleth Hill nails every monologue or one-on-one scene he gets, and this is no different. I really missed him last season, and love that he’s getting good material. He’s a master manipulator, but he doesn’t always have to manipulate people by being a horrible person. In a world of Littlefingers and Tywin Lanisters, it’s refreshing to see someone who does things the nice way. The cinematography in this scene was excellent, with Varys starting in a sitting position (below his target) and moving higher and lower depending on how threatening he’s supposed to be. It’s a thing that Thrones has done before (most commonly in King’s Landing scenes), but it’s always a good one.
We then cut to Tyrion trying (and failing) to make conversation with Grey Worm and Missandei. A lot of people didn’t like this scene, but I don’t mind it. It did need to be shorter though, it felt a bit like filler. The joke of Tyrion being out of his element and Grey Worm being stoic was funny at first, but went on too long.
The true history of the world is the history of great conversations in elegant rooms
-Probably my favourite Tyrion quote this season.
Meereen vs. the Slaver Cities of Essos… It could be quite good, but it’ll need some interesting twist on it, or it could just end up as a repeat of Daenerys’s plot from season 3. Besides that, considering we’re pretty much guaranteed a battle sequence in episode 9, I don’t see how they’ll have the budget to do justice to battles with three massive cities. I could be wrong and it could be great, however. Either way, it’s good to see that the characters in Meereen are going to get some forward motion, and hopefully leave the city soon.
- So I guess the Tower of Joy finally gave us a good Dornish scene. Heh.
- I can see how the Tower of Joy could be confusing to show-watchers who haven’t binged the series recently. It’s been years since Robert’s Rebellion was described in any detail, let alone since Howland Reed of all people was brought up.
- Couldn’t they have just mashed up Arya’s story from the past three episodes into one or two? It seems dragged out.
- Between the Dothraki and the upcoming kingsmoot, there’s a surprising amount of democracy in Game of Thrones this season.
- More fun continuity tonight, with the Umbers, Rickon and Osha turning up again, the Tower of Joy, Varys’s birds, and the Slaver’s Bay political situation being turned up.
- I’m a bit disappointed that Tyrion doesn’t seem to be having much of a personal arc this season. Over the past three episodes he’s just been business as usual. Of course, that could change.
I’m bad at this, clearly.
- I suppose now is the right time for the Tower of Joy, isn’t it? GET HYPE
- Yes! Although they didn’t finish the sequence.
- Euron Greyjoy will make his presence known in the Iron Islands, and Yara will react. I doubt the kingsmoot will happen in episode 3 though, it seems that the Tower of Joy will be the episode’s main setpiece. Unless they can find some way to parallel the two, it might make the episode a bit bloated.
- No Iron Islands this episode.
- Sansa, Brienne and Pod will finally get a move on.
- No Sansa, Brienne or Podrick either, so this one’s dead wrong too.
- Theon won’t appear. At the most he’ll get an emotional goodbye with Sansa, Brienne and Pod.
- Got this right!
- Ramsay will face problems gathering support in the North, and do something sadistic which helps this. He’s probably going to have a good time next episode, to make his fall later on even harder.
- While Ramsay did have a good time and we can expect sadism, Rickon kind of fell into his lap. Ah well. Half right, I guess.
- Cersei will give Tommen some bad advice and Jaime will be annoyed? Maybe?
- The High Sparrow certainly gave Tommen advice, but that doesn’t make the above more accurate. To be honest I think I’m going to stop predicting a Jaime/Cersei split, it’s just getting my hopes up.
- Jaime will do something rash against the Faith Militant.
- Jaime’s didn’t really do anything but be sarcastic this episode.
- Arya will get a new position as some other downtrodden member of Braavosi society. Go figure.
- Nope, she finished her training instead. Yay!
- The dragons will break out or Tyrion will release them… I hope. Two weeks seems a long time to wait for dragon stuff to happen.
- Well, it seems we’ve still got two living WMDs beneath the pyramid… They’re just okay with this?
- Daenerys has got to arrive at Vaes Dothrak this week, right?
- Jon’s going to come back, and he’s going to be pissed. Some people will lose their heads, I guarantee it.
- Well, the traitors died, but Jon’s not pissed. More traumatised.
Well I certainly did better this week than last week. I got some vague details, but no real specifics. Here’s next week’s!
- I can’t really see a reason for Bran to appear next episode. It’s still too early for him to find out what’s in the Tower of Joy.
- Jon’s going to meet with Davos and convince Tormund to go south with him. It’ll be very emotional.
- Rickon and Osha will get sadistic treatment from Ramsay. If the Umbers do have something up their collective House sleeve, it’s too early to reveal it.
- Cersei will tell Tommen to do something, Tommen will go ‘ah jeez I guess so’. The Small Council will agree to this, and we’ll get the scene from the trailer where Jaime, Mace and various armies prepare to take on the Faith. Or Tommen will just flip-flop some more while Jaime and Cersei cling desperately to power like incestuous dogs on a bone. Please let it be the former.
- Sam won’t appear.
- I think that Arya won’t appear next episode, but if they felt like her Faceless Man training was important enough to put in every episode thus far I guess we may have to follow up on it. The only thing for her to do at this stage is get a new case and a new face.
- It’s probably about time for Jorah and Daario to arrive in Vaes Dothrak.
- I can’t see Meereen going from talking to warring in one episode, so I guess next episode will be setup for that. Maybe they’ll deal with an envoy from the Slaver Cities, or be packing up to go.
- Greyjoys will be back! Euron’ll introduce himself, but no kingsmoot until later. Basically what I predicted for last episode.
- No Dorne (please).
I realise that I may seem harsh on this episode, but it’s better as a whole than as individual episodes. After the odd pacing of season 5 and the crazy rush of episodes 1 and 2, I’ve missed slow-paced, setup episodes that focus more on politics and character interactions. It’s just a shame that some of the political parts don’t quite hit the mark. I quite liked this episode, and I think that it’ll be good on a binge-watch. And of course, the Tower of Joy was awesome.
Rating: Eight unresolved plot threads out of ten.