Monday, April 28, 2014

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Oathkeeper

Well. That was different. Benioff and Weiss have consistently said that they are adapting the entirety of A Song of Ice and Fire, not just a one to one book to season ratio. They are the creators of a television adaptation, not slavish recreators of a series of novels. Last week, with the alteration of the Jaime-Cersei encounter that became quite obvious. This week there were even more dramatic changes from the book narrative with scenes that were very different from or simply did not exist in the literary version. I have mixed feelings about this but I'll discuss that more after the season. The creators know some of Martin's intended ending so I must hope that they had good reasons for changes. I will say that this episode kept me on my toes more than usual because I honestly had no idea what was going to happen next. And if a show can do that then it's a good show. Anyway enough about the books. I suggest reading them. Let's not discuss them here.* 

When we last left everyone's favorite platinum blonde princess she was shooting barrels of broken shackles over the walls of Meereen. Daenerys interrupts Missandei and Grey Worm, who are bonding over shared stories of loss, to tell Grey Worm that it's time. Grey Worm doesn't look too happy at having his "me" time with Missandei interrupted but hey, it's not like he can do anything with Missandei anyway. Jorah, lame as he is, has a better chance with Daenerys because he has his original equipment. You can't drive a manual without a stick.


Grey Worm leads a group of Unsullied into Meereen via the sewers to a slave meeting. The slaves are considering their chances of uprising, which don't look good. However after an inspiring Grey Worm speech the slaves' fortunes look better when Grey Worm unveils a wonderful assortment of machetes, falchions, short swords and daggers. In an evident stand in for the unseen uprising a particularly stupid slave owner is caught out in the open and stabbed to death by a thousand slaves from the casts of Gladiator, 12 Years a Slave, Django Unchained, Glory and Spartacus. Shortly afterwards Daenerys enters Meereen to adoring cheers. Barristan counsels her to show mercy to some of the surviving slave owners but possibly getting high on her own supply a self-righteous Daenerys has 163 of them crucified in a deliberate payback for the dead children. She also has her family sigil flying from the highest point in Meereen. The Targaryens are back.

Jaime is getting better sparring with his left but still can't beat Bronn, who "cheats". Of course Bronn doesn't recognize the concept of cheating in fighting. Bronn doubts Tyrion killed Joffrey. Poison is not Tyrion's way nor does Bronn think Tyrion a murderer. Jaime visits Tyrion, who as you might suspect is a bit down. We know that Tyrion didn't do it of course. We also know that Peter Dinklage can emote more with his eyes than many actors can do with 10 minutes of dialogue. Tyrion repeats to Jaime that neither he nor Sansa killed Joffrey, his brother's son.
Speaking of Sansa she's on a ship to the Eyrie, where Littlefinger is to marry her aunt Lysa. Proving that despite what some say about her being the slowest Stark, she actually has some brains, Sansa works out that Littlefinger killed or helped kill Joffrey. What she doesn't know is why. She knows Dontos didn't do it on his own. Littlefinger, looking every bit the proud teacher, asks Sansa if she noticed a stone missing from her necklace. Littlefinger points out that it's always best to be the man no one suspects. He found Joffrey unreliable; his new friends were adamant that Joffrey had to go. And who might those new friends be? Well who did Littlefinger meet with to arrange a marriage with Joffrey? Why that would be the Tyrells. And by Tyrells I mean Lady Olenna. While telling her granddaughter that she'll need to move fast to cut Tommen off from Cersei's influence, the Queen of Thorns also flatly states that Tyrion didn't murder Joffrey. Lady Olenna says there was no way she was going to leave Margaery to Joffrey's tender mercies. So there you have it. Littlefinger and Lady Olenna murdered Joffrey.  


Did you notice at the time that Lady Olenna came over to talk to Sansa and fussed with her necklace? Did you see her palm a stone? Did you catch her laughing up her sleeve about how murdering someone at a wedding was horrid? Of course you did because you're smarter than the average bear. Taking her grandmother's advice about men (boys) Margaery sneaks into Tommen's room to talk to him. The new plan is that they will get married to cement the Lannister-Tyrell partnership. Tommen is nothing like Joffrey. He's more malleable. And Margaery won't have to worry about being beaten or used for target practice. Cersei, who's constantly drinking and practicing her screwface, blames Jaime for Joffrey's death. She wants him to increase Tommen's guard. Cersei is suspicious of Jaime's release and wants to know if he would find and kill Sansa. When he demurs and says that Tyrion is innocent, Cersei has her answer and coldly dismisses him. Possibly feeling a bit chagrined, Jaime gives Brienne a new suit of armor as well as one of the swords melted down from Ice. He's charging her (and himself) to honor her oath to Catelyn Stark and find and protect Sansa Stark (Arya is thought dead). You can see that Brienne cares very much about oaths and hopes that Jaime does too. Brienne names the sword Oathkeeper. At Jaime's request she takes Podrick as her new squire.


At the Wall a newly confident Jon Snow is sharing fighting techniques and his knowledge of the Wildlings with an attentive audience. One audience member is Bolton's man Locke, who we know is charged to find and kill Bran, Rickon and Jon. When a jealous Alliser Thorne breaks up the tutoring session, Locke tries to bond with Jon by sharing his bogus story of exile to the Wall. A worried and observant Janos Slynt warns Thorne that Jon Snow is getting too popular. They should let Jon lead the attack on Craster's Keep in the hopes that he'll be killed and be unable to contest the election for Lord Commander. Thorne agrees and allows Jon to go, but with only volunteers. In a speech that is reminiscent of too many other cinematic wartime speeches to list, Snow convinces a handful of his brothers to follow him. He gets more than Thorne or Slynt thought would go. Locke volunteers as well even though he's technically only a recruit.


At Craster's Keep we see that instead of one demented rapist killer we now have several. Their leader is Karl, who after Rast balks at an order to "go feed the beast", gives a soliloquy on why he's so evil and dangerous. The whole thing was very reminiscent of Apocalypse Now. When a boy is born the women moan that the proper thing to do is to give it to the gods (leave it exposed for the White Walkers). Karl agrees. The suitably frightened Rast hurries to obey as he is unwilling to fight Karl. It's probably that Karl is drinking wine from Lord Commander Mormont's skull that does the trick. Rast leaves the baby in the woods and goes to feed the "beast" or rather Ghost, Jon Snow's direwolf. Of course he torments/teases the animal. Bran, Hodor and the Reeds are nearby and hear the baby crying. Against advice Bran wargs into Summer to go see what's going on. Bran/Summer sees Ghost locked up but the bond is broken when Summer is caught in a trap. Getting close the next morning, Bran and his party are captured by the rogue Night Watch members. Hodor is beaten and stabbed. But it's not until Meera and Jojen are threatened with rape and murder that Bran reveals his identity. We also learn that White Walkers apparently reproduce by placing human babies inside a small version of Stonehenge and touching their flesh/cutting them.

What I liked
  • The reveal of the Littlefinger-Olenna plot was very nicely done. I also liked or rather was impressed with how Littlefinger switches back and forth between a tutor/protector of Sansa Stark and something considerably more sexual/sinister.
  • Ned Stark and Robb Stark were surrounded by traitors and murdered by those they thought they could trust. Jon Snow is also surrounded by people who would like to see him dead and/or people with no honor at all. The difference is that he knows it. He's not aware of Locke (yet???) but he's certainly picked up on Thorne's hostility and knows that Slynt was involved in Ned's death. I am interested to see how the show handles this going forward.
  • I liked the Tyrion:Jaime initial discomfort and acceptance of the sibling incest. Tyrion's attitude is non-judgmental, at least as far as Jaime goes, because he loves his big brother.
  • I liked Bran revealing his identity to protect his bannermen. Again, House Stark may be down but when you have mutual loyalty like that are you out?
  • The constant interplay of the class tension, whether implicit in Bronn taking Jaime's golden hand and beating him with it or Karl slapping Bran and saying that elsewhere he would have lost a hand for that crime was really well done. As has been repeated throughout the series, regardless of who sits upon the Iron Throne, the feudal system is not really one that is fair or decent for peasants. When the best someone can hope for is to have a "good" lord like a Stark or Tully, there might need to be some social changes.
What I didn't like
  • I don't think that Jon Snow would have been uncurious about where his direwolf is. So I didn't like that at all. I'd have to go back and rewatch the show to see exactly when Jon and Ghost parted company but it seems to me that capturing a fullgrown direwolf is not an easy task.
  • Sam realizing that maybe taking a woman away from being surrounded by rapists and thieves and putting her in a whorehouse might not be the best move. Dude, that was like obvious at the time. But you do the best you can. Stop whining.
  • The scenes at Craster's Keep were a bit much, not just on their own but in combination with other unnecessary nudity. We know that the men there are rapists. This menace and the fact that the women's lives have worsened could be shown in a understated way. In the movie Winter's Bone when a wife doesn't obey her husband the man tells her in a cold quiet tone "I told you once already with my mouth". Sometimes less is more.

*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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