Many had predicted to whom or what the title of this week’s episode, ‘Oathbreaker’, was referring. ‘Oathkeeper’ (S04E04) had been a reference to the Valyrian steel sword that Jaime gifted to Brienne, after they had sworn an oath to Catelyn Stark protect her daughters. It follows, then, that ‘Oathbreaker’ would reveal the demise of one of Arya, Sansa or their protectors, Brienne and Jaime. Well, talk about a red herring – Brienne and her Oathkeeper failed to appear at all.
So to what, or whom, was ‘Oathbreaker’ referring? An alternative explanation would be Jon Snow, who reneged on his position as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Having executed his own murderers, including young Olly (in a child hanging scene that verged on excessive, I might add), Jon Snow removed his coat and handed it to Edd, who was suggested in last week’s review as potential Lord Commander.
With all of the rumours flying around relating to Jon Snow’s lineage, this was hardly surprising, since Jon’s fate clearly lies away from Castle Black. However, as so many fans have pedantically pointed out, Jon has not broken his oath: Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. Well, we all know who died in last season’s finale. So if that’s accurate, and Jon has broken no oath, who does the title refer to? Perhaps Alliser Thorne himself, the real traitor at Castle Black.
There was also the question of the repercussions of Jon’s resurrection. Would he suddenly be evil, perhaps he would lose a part of his soul, maybe he’d just pull a Khal Drogo and turn into a vegetable ready for roasting. In fact, beyond a bit of ageing, a few scratches, and an apparently ‘small pecker’ Jon Snow seems to be fine. So where is the cosmic balance? Well, in a concurrent plot line that has been so heavily ignored that it must have crow’s feet by now, Rickon and Osha finally appeared in this week’s episode – only to be handed to penectomor-in-chief and cynophilist Ramsay Snow.
Of course, Rickon’s fate looks
Reek bleak (sorry). However, another notion is worth entertaining. Smalljon Umber – the man responsible for Rickon’s ‘capture’ – and his family have long been loyal to the Starks. Previously refusing to join the Bolton’s, Umber’s reversal may be a ruse. Indeed, he refuses to pledge fealty or kneel to Ramsay, which may be of no significance, but could reflect his intention to betray Ramsay’s trust. It’s the schadenfreude everybody yearns for the most. The troubling part of this theory is the head of Shaggydog, Rickon’s direwolf. Nevertheless, this new relationship promises to excite.
Another character whose plight had gone silent, temporarily, is Samwell Tarly, along with his partner, Gillie, and her son. A tender moment between Hannah Murray and John Bradley, it seemed to lack any real significance beyond a refresher scene.
Danaerys’ part in this season continues to trudge along slowly. Nothing of great import occured, though her fortunes still appear worrying (notwithstanding her inexorable rescue by Jorah and Daario.
In what is fast becoming the most interesting part of this season, we were treated to another flashback courtesy of Bran and the Three Eyed Raven. Arguably the best choreography in the show’s history, the fight between Lord Stark, his comrades, and Arthur Dayne was fantastic. Rather than following the age old cliche of a group men fighting one enemy, one at a time, and dying, The Sword of the Morning was at one point battling four men with his dual-wielded swords. In terms of the story significance, we were tormented by the Three Eyed Raven’s decision to cut the memory as Ned entered the Tower of Joy. As screams could be heard, it seems inevitable that Lyanna Stark will be discovered giving birth to Jon Snow – confirming the theory that the bastard was in fact of royal blood, the fruits of an affair between Rhaegar the Mad King and Lyanna.
The tale of the girl with no name continued with Arya initially receiving further beatings at the hands of The Waif. Suspension of disbelief is all well and good – viewers have seen dragons, Whyte Walkers and resurrections – but this part is a little too clichéd and nonsensical. In a montage set over an indiscriminate amount of time, Arya eventually becomes skilled at fighting an opponent with 20/20 vision, whilst blind. Like a thousand martial arts films, this convoluted message is practically stuffed down the collective throats of the audience, that fighting is not all about what you see. Perhaps that’s right, but seeing certainly helps.
The reality is that those without vision have a much harder time seeing a sword lunging at them than those with it. With that aside, the direction of the story retains interest. Arya appears to shed her identity, but will this be at the expense of her list? Doubtful. With Needle hidden away at Braavos docks, it seems unlikely that Arya will manage to entirely set aside her thirst for revenge, and who can blame her? Certainly, the audience likes and expects bloodshed, and it would be a major anti-climax for a girl to truly have no name.
In King’s Landing, writers created a re-imagining of Frankenstein as The Mountain, subject to some kind of horrific scientific experiment, bumbled around looking threatening. With him at her side, Cersei appears to have rediscovered some of her confidence, crashing a meeting of the small council with Jaime to reassert herself in the political court. Of course, Tommen destroyed any semblance of our faith gained in the previous episode, falling for the religious chat-up lines delivered by the glib High Sparrow. One fan also deftly pointed out a piece of foreshadowing – in the third episode of the fourth season, wherein Tywin told Tommen ‘Any king who must say ‘I am the King’ is no true king.’ Helpless in the face of the High Sparrow, we hear the young king meekly state ‘I am the King’.
Despite inciting less rousing excitement, this episode, while not entirely revealing, pulled at some very loose threads. ‘Oathbreaker’ has set into motion a series of events to inaugurate the rest of the season, and thus was a relatively strong episode. In yet another dark, hilarious twist in the sad story of Sansa Stark, she will likely miss Jon as he has left Castle Black, meaning her torrid tale will continue. The fight between Ned and Arthur Dayne was as good any other, and its surrounding story will excite a huge portion of fans and viewers, as the fabled R+L=J theory appears to reveal itself as reality. And at the risk of beating a dead horse, thank the seven billion gods for not revisiting Dorne just yet.
Dir: Jeremy Bodeswa
Scr: David Benioff, George R.R. Martin, D.B. Weiss
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Liam Cunningham, Carice Van Houten, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, John Bradley, Hannah Murray, Art Parkinson, Natalia Tena.
Prd: David Benioff, George R.R. Martin, D.B. Weiss, Duncan Muggoch, Peter Welter-Soler
Music: Ramin Jawadi
Episode Number: 3 of 10