Warning: Full Spoilers for Season 4 Episode 4 to follow.
Since one of the key criticisms I had against last week’s episode was its lack of momentum, swapping actual story progressing moments in favour of teases, it’s good to see the show take a confident step forward with ‘Oathkeeper’. Though characters like Jaime and Brienne were back together and moving on, it was the subtle giveaways from characters that appear to be surreptitiously pulling the strings that stole the show in this week’s episode.
Let’s start with Littlefinger; the first person in the show so far who seems to have actually admitted to having played a part in the death of King Joffrey. After hinting at it in last week’s episode, this week all but confirmed his involvement. “A man with no motive is a man no one suspects” he breathed to Sansa Stark in that cold scheming voice, delivering yet again a powerful speech that has become the character’s staple attribute. Also confirmed was the return of Lady Lysa as Littlefinger revealed his intentions to marry her, bringing Sansa along with him for the ride. Meaning the series will make a welcome return to the Vale for the first time since the very first season. But in his conversation with Sansa he left one telling clue about his new friends: “Nothing like a thoughtful gift to make a new friendship grow strong”.
The more hard-core fans will no doubt recognise ‘Growing Strong’ as the words of house Tyrell, home to characters such as Margaery, Loras and of course the delightful Lady Olenna. Whilst morning the loss of Joffery (ahem), Margaery took the gardens of King Landing this episode to discuss the her future with Olenna who finally clued Margaery and rest of us into her involvement in the murder, telling her granddaughter that she wouldn’t let her “marry that beast”. Although not outright admitting anything, it’s a satisfying clue to chew on that, as usual, raises more questions than it answers. But it’s exciting to have more mystery in the show between these characters, and as long as they can keep the pace going, it should lead to a very eventful season finale.
Elsewhere, Daenerys made her move against the third slave city, Meereen. Though her previous stunt of catapulting barrels of broken chains over the walls didn’t exactly inspire revolution, her next move surely did. Sending in the unsullied, disguised as slaves, to directly persuade an uprising did the job in no time and before you knew it the Targaryen flag was flying above the tallest tower in the city. Though it’s still awesome to see her conquering cities on her way to Westeros, it would be nice to have the conquering itself be more than just a one episode event. Even with as much screen time as it got, there was a definite feeling it was being rushed in order to proceed to plot further to whatever may come next. However, it is interesting to see the character progress as a conqueror and what that does to her choice of action. This episode saw her nail 163 slave masters to what looked like crucifixes. It raises the question of whether this will be a choice that will come back to bite her later in the show, or just one more of many character defining moments of Dany as she leaves her childish ways behind and becomes a Queen.
Up at the wall, John Snow has taken on more of a leadership position training new recruits as he plans his move up to Crasters Keep to take out the deserting members of the Nights Watch. Although only a small band of brothers agreed to help him, he may live to regret his choice as one of those brothers happens to be Locke, the same man tasked with eliminating anyone Stark related. And as the episode also saw the helpless Bran Stark and company taken captive by those same deserting brothers, we could be in for another bloody episode next week. It’s almost as if the writers as tormenting us at this point, dangling the remaining, and unsuspecting Stark boys just out of reach of death as if they could be killed at any point. Hopefully, finally, the Starks unlucky streak will end.
This episode took a strange and unexpected, yet very welcome turn at the end. Since the Nights Watch left for the wall, we’ve known Craster’s sons were being taken by the mysterious White Walkers but as of now, the reason was left up for debate. The ghostly creatures have been part of the show since the very first episode, but for the most part they have remained in the shadows. A background threat that, whilst intriguing, weren’t well understood. Well this episode took the first step to explaining, or at least it seemed to, the origins of the White Walkers. Taking the baby to an ominous frozen platform, what looked like their leader took his icy finger and, using some strange magic, turned the babies’ eyes a cold blue, matching those of the White Walker. The real significance here is the meaning of John’s quest to be rid of Craster’s Keep. John might be about unknowingly destroying the White Walkers means of production.
If last week’s episode was a tease of things to come, this week definitely gave us some firm answers to some of the season’s most pressing questions along with some character defining moments. With the clues and intrigue aroused by the rest of the season thus far, “Oathkeeper” saw some of the direct consequences of the work of characters who tend to do their business behind the scenes. And whilst it’s almost one step forward, two steps back in terms of answering questions, the episode was gripping throughout. It’s also commendable of the show runners to finally take away a sliver of mystery surrounding arguably the shows biggest threat; another confident step forward for Game of Thrones.