Monday, April 21, 2014

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Breaker of Chains

One of the sad ugly things about life is that some day it will end. Everyone you love is going to leave this world. You yourself will one day be gone. I hope it doesn't happen for decades but of course it might happen tomorrow. Most people don't spend a lot of time thinking about this. When it happens to someone they love they can be momentarily or even in some cases permanently crippled by grief. But Tywin Lannister is evidently a person who has spent some time thinking about such things. If he is touched by anything so pedestrian as grief he does an excellent job hiding it. Someone has to do the hard things. In Westeros in general and the Lannister clan in particular that someone is Tywin Lannister. This episode was transitional after last week's bombshell but there were important clues dropped about past and future events. I loved Charles Dance this week. He showed yet again why the show is so fortunate to have him in the Tywin Lannister role. As Tywin, Cersei and Tommen perform the Westerosi equivalent of sitting shiva over Joffrey's corpse we see that Tommen is confused, Cersei is heartbroken but Tywin is coolly pragmatic. Tywin informs Tommen that he is the new king. 
Using the Socratic method, Tywin starts teaching Tommen what characteristics a man needs to be a good king. Some of this dialogue is taken from GRRM's comments that morality doesn't necessarily make an effective leader. Tywin is a bit Machiavellian as he gives Tommen real life examples that holiness, strength and justice aren't as important as other things like wisdom. Tywin intends to see to it that Tommen is wise enough to listen to him as assuredly Joffrey was not. Tywin thought Joffrey was a bad king. Cersei is not thrilled by her father starting his tutoring lessons before Joffrey is even buried but of course Tywin ignores her.

One Lannister who doesn't ignore Cersei is her brother Jaime. Jaime is entering as Tywin and Tommen are leaving. Jaimes orders out everyone else so he can be alone with his sister. Cersei is convinced that Tyrion murdered Joffrey and wants Jaime to kill him. She doesn't want Tyrion to make it to trial. Jaime is outraged by this and in a shout back to his first season line "The things I do for love" uttered just before he shoved Bran out of a window calls Cersei hateful while bemoaning he loves her so. Of course his love is hardly platonic. In what could be seen as a rape by some lights, Jaime decides to have his sister right there next to their dead son's body. I was reminded of the scene in the original Straw Dogs. Cersei initially fights and says no but gives in. Is she enjoying herself? It's up to the viewer to make that call. The concept of spousal rape doesn't exist in Westeros of course but brother-rape probably does. Or does it? Cersei can hardly go to the authorities. It would be useful to know what, in particular, women thought of this scene.
Of course the big question is who killed Joffrey? That may or may not become evident. Sansa has escaped the city with Dontos who helpfully had a boat stashed nearby. He rows her out to an anchored ship where Sansa discovers that her rescuer is none other than that pimp of pimps, Littlefinger. When Dontos asks for his reward, Littlefinger has him killed and informs the angered Sansa that 1) Dontos could not be trusted and 2) the "family heirloom" which Dontos gave to Sansa to wear was a cheap fake recently procured by Littlefinger. Ominously Littlefinger also reminds Sansa that people probably think she killed Joffrey. In a brief tete-a-tete between Margaery and her grandmother, Lady Olenna reminds the not all that disconsolate Margaery that she's better off not staying married to the abusive Joffrey and though technically she's not the Queen, the Lannisters still need the Tyrell money, food and other resources.
We see that the Hound is not actually above some robbery, much to Arya's dismay. The Hound has contempt for weakness. At Castle Black, Sam is worried about Gilly being raped or molested by the Night's Watch men and makes arrangements to get her to Mole's Town. Gilly takes this the wrong way. She thinks he's trying to get rid of her. It's an echo of the Shae:Tyrion relationship. At Dragonstone Stannis is excited to learn of Joffrey's death but upset that he doesn't have the resources to do anything about. Well s*** always runs downhill and in typical boss fashion Stannis blames Davos for this. Harried, Davos comes up with the bright idea to write something in Stannis' name (well have Shireen write something in Stannis' name) to the Iron Bank, infamous for lending to great lords and kings and for always getting their money back.

It wouldn't be Game of Thrones without some entirely unnecessary sexposition. Like the infamous scene with Littlefinger laying out his nature in front of Ros and another prostitute, I thought the set piece with Prince Oberyn and Ellaria Sand engaged in an orgy with both sexes to be unnecessary and too graphic. We already know that Oberyn is a sybarite. Do we need to see this spelled out yet again with full frontal nudity? I didn't think so. If you want porn there are tons of it available elsewhere. Thankfully this is cut short when a business minded Tywin enters and asks to talk to Oberyn in private. Twyin is suspicious that the famously vengeful Oberyn, known to use poison, may have murdered Joffrey. Oberyn confirms that it was poison but claims he had nothing to do with Joffrey's death as unlike Tywin he doesn't hold children responsible for the actions of adults. Showing something close to amusement, Tywin asks Oberyn why doesn't Oberyn just attack the unarmed Tywin right then and there. Oberyn responds that he wouldn't be able to escape but would be drawn and quartered the next day. Oberyn also says that he and Tyrion talked of Elia Martell's rape and murder, not of poisons. 
Seemingly satisfied, Tywin comes out of left field with a pragmatic offer for Oberyn. He wants Oberyn to be the third judge at Tyrion's trial. He also wants to give Oberyn a seat on the Small Council. Tywin, perhaps through Varys, perhaps via other networks, is aware of Daenerys' dragons and her intentions towards Westeros. He knows that only Dorne resisted a dragon armed invader. And if the price to fully bring Dorne back into the fold is a "meeting" between Oberyn and the Mountain, well Tywin might be willing to arrange that. Tywin denies ordering the Mountain to rape and murder Oberyn's sister. Left unstated is the expectation that Oberyn will vote to convict Tyrion.

Tyrion, as you might expect, is a bit depressed in jail. He's cheered when his former squire Podrick brings him food but upset when he learns his trial judges will be his father, Mace Tyrell, and Oberyn Martell. Tyrion has always been one of the smarter players. He points out to Podrick that if he were going to murder the king, deservedly or not, he'd make sure he was far far away from the scene. Tyrion muses that the murder might have been Tywin's work to get a more pliant relative in charge but most definitely wasn't Cersei. He knows that Sansa, despite her flight, is no killer. Someone has gone to great lengths to set Tyrion up. Tyrion also learns that his would be witnesses are already being pressured not to testify for him or worse yet, lie and testify for the other side. This includes Podrick. Worried, Tyrion dismisses Podrick, urging him to leave town, as the people asking him to lie are not likely to take no for an answer.

Previously Tormund told Ygritte that given her skill with the bow, that if Jon Snow is alive, it's because she wanted him to be. We see the truth of that statement when Ygritte leads a wildling attack on a settlement south of the Wall, putting an arrow through a father's head as he talks with his son. It's critical here to step back and show that despite what we might think of any of the primary characters and their relations with one another, war is not a good thing. It's questionable as to whether the wildling attack here is even war and not a war crime. The people they attack and kill are not warriors and include plenty of women and children. It's no different than what the Mountain and his men did in the Riverlands. Well maybe it's a little different. I don't think the Mountain is a cannibal. At Castle Black the Night's Watch argues over next steps. Everyone is spread out. There are little more than a hundred men at Castle Black. 

The surviving rangers return bringing more news of the mutiny and Karl's murder of the Lord Commander and Craster. Captain Obvious Jon Snow says that come hell or high water they must remove Karl as he knows of their true numbers and can't be allowed to give that information to Mance Rayder. Daenerys marches on Meereen. Here, both the slaves and the masters are of various races. A Meereenese horsed champion comes out to meet Daenerys and her army. He urinates on the ground in contempt of Danerys' status as a woman who leads an army of ex-slaves and eunuchs. Grey Worm, Jorah, and Ser Barristan, all ask to meet this man in single combat but Daenerys gives that honor to Daario. With style and intelligence, similar to that of Bronn, Daario does the unexpected and kills the Meereenese rider. Daenerys has a great speech reminding the slaves within the city of the freedom that she brings. She bombards the city with barrels of broken shackles. Her confidence and authority is near a zenith.

What I liked
  • Charles Dance really is a boss. As I've said before his Tywin Lannister is not someone I'd want as a father or a supervisor, but he is someone I'd want on my side. He's one of the more competent and intelligent administrators around. And if he has fear he certainly doesn't show it. He works at what is best for his family. He's not losing himself in grief or lust. He either has a plan or will work one out pretty quickly. The man exudes authority. He's a monster of course but he's an intelligent, rational, cultured one.
  • Being reminded that the Hound, despite his protectiveness towards the Stark girls, is a bully, thief, thug and not a man with any real moral rules. He has contempt for weakness, probably as a result of his long ago abuse at the hands of his brother, Gregor aka The Mountain.
  • Davos' sense of humor with Shireen.
  • With the examples of both the gentle man and his daughter who are robbed and assaulted by the Hound and the son who sees his mother and father killed by wildlings we learn again that there is little honor to be found in war. Unarmed people just trying to get by are the ones who suffer the most.
What I didn't like
  • Not really into seeing more nudity, especially male nudity. I think that's just the lazy way out. The scene with Jaime and Cersei getting busy had no nudity but was far more emotionally involving that that with Ellaria, Oberyn and their whores.
  • Gilly not understanding that being the only woman around a bunch of desperately horny men, many of whom are rapists, is not a safe or stable environment for her. I know your sister is your mother girl but can you really be that stupid?
*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes.  If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea..
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