Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 4 - "Oathkeeper" (TV SPOILERS)


"I will answer injustice with justice!” | "I’ll call it Oathkeeper”

A decent episode that laid the groundwork for fireworks later in the story. Themes of the week are (1) what justice means to different characters and, duh, (2) the keeping of oaths. Lord Baelish’s new Irish accent is coming along nicely, while Cersei seems to have forgotten all about her, um, disagreement with Jaime in the previous episode, Tommen gets to feel the full force of Margaery and Daenerys spills some blood.

Welcome back (or hello if you're a first-timer). I’ll be writing a short, sweet ‘flash review’ of GoT episodes as soon as possible (same day if possible). Let’s go!

Dorky name of the week: “Ser Pounce”, Tommen’s cat. That boy has so much to learn from Margaery.

Main plot movements:
Locke infiltrating Night’s Watch – this is potentially very serious, since we’re being set up for a major fall even if Jon manages to find Bran. Particularly dangerous if House Stark is to be rebuilt by Bran (Arya and Sansa seem a bit less equipped to do this in terms of temperament…for now). On the other hand, could Locke turn good upon seeing Jon Snow’s own benevolent nature?
Bran being captured by bad boys of Night’s Watch (Craster’s Keep edition) – Bran again. I wouldn’t put it beyond Game of Thrones to kill a crippled young boy who is one of the very small number of truly good people on the show. We deserve to see his powers wreak havoc on the Lannisters and the Freys.
Daenerys winning Meereen – seems like the conquest era is over and the governing era is beginning. Will she be as good at ruling as she is at winning? Remember Tywin’s words from episode 3, describing Robert Baratheon’s particular brand of failure: “…a King who thought winning and ruling are the same thing”.
Baelish+Sansa and Arya+Hound heading for the Vale of Arryn + Brienne (and Pod) set off looking for Sansa – there is the potential for all these characters to meet in the Vale, and this being GoT, I'm scared for them...

How and why did the slaves in Meereen write in English (“the common tongue”) on the walls?
Why does Cersei only seem slightly miffed at being raped by Jaime?
What exactly do the White Walkers want?

Game of Thrones draws in a lot of people who just want to see zombies or dragons, and ultimately that’s what goes on the ads. But I get the feeling that the show’s heart is really only in the human and political stories (particularly in Kings Landing), which although full of detestable characters, is painted with more care and colour than the rest of Westeros and Essos. This week, we saw a parable about how people care about keeping their promises and what happens when they don’t. Robb Stark didn’t keep his promise about marrying Walder Frey’s (ugly) daughter and paid for it with his life – not a result that seems proportional to the crime, but remember: in this game, you win or you die. Brienne made an oath to Catelyn, although for the above reason, Catelyn ended up dead. Jaime promised to return Sansa when he got back. Podrick swore an oath to Tyrion and turned down a Knighthood for it. Jon Snow swore an oath to the Night’s Watch and must now defend its existence…basically, a whole lot of oath-swearing going on.

[Imagine if Robb hadn’t broken his ‘oath’ to marry the Frey girl…Frey would never have turned against him for Tywin Lannister. With Robb Stark alive, House Stark would probably have wiped the floor with Tywin Lannister, even if the wily old dog would’ve found new ways to fight back. What this shows us is that events in GoT seem to turn on decisions that initially seem small, although in reality they form part of a big picture. A classic example of this are illegitimate offspring, produced by one night of passion, e.g. Gendry, the bastard who would be King.]

Anyway, on to the episode: we started off with the Targaryen girl. We finally get a more nuanced view of her world, which we've missed since the early days when she had nothing. We get to hear Grey Worm and Missandei's history. Then we get the usual Daenerys-taking-over-a-slave-city story but this time ending with an unusually vicious attempt at justice. Then we get back to more of Daenerys looking fabulous and pouting and posing on top of a building. Still kicking arse. Still no dragons though (are they on holiday or has GoT blown its special effects budget?!).

It's at this point that a potential Queen might stop to think whether it really is worth going all the way to the uncivilised lands of Westeros, when she has a great army, a loving people and (as someone pointed out to me recently) lots of hot dudes in her entourage. In fact, the charm of Valyria and the remains of the old Ghiscari Empire leave her with a lot to play with - she could build rebuild the old Valyrian empire. WHat's more, she could do it her way, without slaves [she's been quite lucky that all the people she's freed have wanted to work for her and none of them yelled "FREEEEEDOM!" as they flew out the door]. But no. Instead, she wants to 'reclaim' what is “rightfully” hers - for the simple reason that her father sat on the throne at some point...never mind that other people sat on that throne before and after, somehow it just belongs to the Targaryens. But no, Westeros it is, no matter how many slaveowners have to be crucified. As Cersei Lannister noted once, "Half the Targaryens went mad didn't they?... What's the saying? 'Every time a Targaryen is born the gods flip a coin'." Cersei would know about madness.

"You gonna fight for him now?"
Meanwhile in Westeros, we’re seeing more of Jaime, whose character arc is completely barmy. He went from Kingslayer to incestuous, preening bumhole to  Bran-crippler to desperate captive of the Starks to buddy-caper guy with Brienne to own-sister-rapist to possible saviour of Tyrion. It looks like Tyrion finally has an ally with some real power (Bronn is sort of useless outside a fight).

In our Bronn/Jaime bromance, Bronn essentially guilts Jaime into going to see Tyrion and performing the role of 'knight in shining armour'. By the way, remember Bronn's line from earlier in the season about becoming a Knight by "killing the right people"? Well, with Jaime, he's face to face with a man who killed a King, which surely ranks at the very top of that game. GoT is full of little parallels like this, which serve to add to the richness of the story. It's hard to imagine that Jaime is the same man who is responsible for Bran not being able to walk (although was the fall what helped him become a warg?). In some cruel irony, Jaime crippled Bran and is now a "cripple" himself (in his own words). Now that this particular inequity has been evened out, Jaime is suddenly a good man with a mean streak. 

Podrick looks forward to 'squiring' Brienne.
"What're you waitin' for, a kiss?!"
In developments that could have potentially significant repercussions, Podrick and Brienne are off to go looking for Sansa, as per Jaime's promise to Catelyn. By the way, did you see the look on Podrick's face? I can't imagine what it is he thinks he'll be doing with Brienne on their odyssey. Anyway, Jaime remains one of the few game-changing characters in GoT because if the game in Kings Landing was to change dramatically, he seems best placed for it - a Lannister, on the inside, with a big heart and a bigger reputation. I think his story will be most interesting. Anyway, like Tyrion, he had to ship his true love off for reasons bigger than them both - in this case, to go find and protect Sansa and because Cersei is gunning for Brienne. On another note, Cersei doesn't seem too upset about her rape. I think this storyline is a misstep for the show, as it's not clear that (a) they understand that we all thought it was a rape and (b) it's not acceptable for Jaime and Cersei to just go back to normal after that. Even GoT doesn't get away with that.

“You don’t think I’d let you marry that beast, do you?”
Speaking of Cersei and Jaime, we finally get told (not shown, mind) who killed their son. Olenna 'fesses up to having Joffrey killed, casually throwing in a reference to Margaery’s necklace as well. My detective work had thrown her at the top of the table so perhaps I should be gloating…but actually, it feels odd, because this explosive fact is revealed almost as an afterthought (a lot of people will say they'd guessed, but the players in the GoT still have no idea). I was expecting scenes of commoners talking about the King’s death (nope), main characters speculating on whom it may be (not really) or Tywin doing a tour of KL trying to find out (nope, although we got some last week). 

We also get an obligatory Margaery-and-Olenna-Tyrrell-in-the-garden (your city is called Highgarden, ok, we get it) scene. Lady Olenna also recounts a bawdy tale about her pre-marital sexscapade with Luthor Tyrell, although I’m having trouble understanding what exactly went on between them such that Luthor was the one having trouble walking the next day. My head’s saying “don’t go there” but my heart is saying “hmm?!”… 

Olenna Tyrell: "He couldn't walk for days afterwards"
“I’m Brandon Stark of Winterfell!”
The Starks just couldn't BUY themselves any luck, could they? Bran stumbles upon the crazed former-Brothers of the Night’s Watch and is basically captive along with his entourage. After last week’s strange rape-that-was-meant-to-be-somewhat-consensual, we have an orgy of rape again, and I’m told this was not in the books. HBO appears to have a contractual boobiness quota and is sure as hell trying to meet it. Craster’s Keep has a new resident psychopath - Karl Tanner, an utterly insane former Brother, drinking from Mormont’s skull who, let's be honest, couldn't give less of a damn about anyone or anything.

Also up North, we get Jon's plan to get to Craster's Keep and subdue the mutineers (before they give away any info about Castle Black) is in motion, but with Roose Bolton's henchman Locke in tow. The internal politics of Castle Black mean that Jon Snow is safe for now because of his popularity, but Ser Alliser is trying to find a way to get rid of him. We'll find out if Jon Snow really does know nothing on the trip to Craster's Keep.

Playing with the big girls now.
Then we get a short sequence with the White Walkers converting more babies into WWs in order to…bolster their baby army?! Not much to say here for now, except the visuals were mediocre, with the borrowing of some lo-fi Walking Dead extra.


In amongst all this, we also have some nonsense from Baelish about not having a motive and so being safe from being discovered. His only chance of safety is to hole up in the Vale, methinks. We also have Margaery nearly getting Tommen to soil his pants, whilst stroking Ser Pounce the cat (as if this show lacked symbolism). Overall a reasonably good episode but not enough plot movement for my liking. Next week I suspect we’ll be back with Arya, Theon, Tywin, Stanns and Ygritte.



Boobs of thrones: Unpleasant scenes in Craster's Keep with non-consensual nudity.

Violence of thrones: 8/10. No-one dies in Westeros but plenty of torture and crucifixion across the Narrow Sea.

Up movers: Tyrion and Daenerys

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