Ryan Anderson

Science, Fiction, Life

Recap & Review: Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 4 “Oathkeeper”

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People seemed to like my recap/review last week, so here we go again!

We start the episode off with Gray Worm getting language lessons from Missandei, and a brief glimpse at their lives before they became slaves. Or, in the case of Gray Worm, the extent of his psychological damage. One of the nice things about the show is that it can do scenes like this and flesh out non-point-of-view characters. This scene segued into the taking of Meereen, with Gray Worm and some Unsullied sneaking into the city with weapons and arming the slaves. We get just a glimpse of the slaves trapping one of their masters in an alley and rushing him with a large number of knives. One weird part of this alley ambush scene was that there were words written on the wall… in English. Right on the heels of Gray Worm’s language lesson, and his speech to the slaves that so strongly reminded us that the people of Essos mostly don’t speak English, it was weird for the slaves’ threat to their masters to then be in English. If the show didn’t feel like inventing a written language, then why not just skip the red writing altogether?

I noticed that this week they did show a few slaves who seemed to be causcasian, and there was also mention of previous slave revolts, so that helps a bit to address some of my complaints about the tendency for these scenes in the show to be simply “white people show up and save brown people”. Still, I’m glad we’re transitioning to the next stage of Dany’s story where she has to come to grips with ruling all of her new subjects. We got the tiniest hint of this upcoming struggle when Barristan tried to advise Dany to be merciful to the captured slave masters, who are now her subjects. Of course, she had no interest in mercy for slavers, and she had 163 of them crucified just like the child slaves that the masters had placed along the road to Meereen.

From Meereen, we go to Jaime and Bronn practicing their swordsmanship again. After slapping Jaime down with his own golden hand, Bronn ¬†manages to make Jaime feel bad about not visiting Tyrion in jail yet. This scene also serves as a nice reminder of Tyrion’s previous trial at the Eyrie, reminding viewers of those events before we return to the Eyrie next episode.

Cut to Jaime in Tyrion’s cell, failing to make Tyrion feel better by saying that his imprisonment by Robb Stark was way worse. They discuss the hopelessness of Tyrion’s situation, with particular emphasis on the fact that Cersei wants Tyrion dead by any means necessary. Jaime wants to help Tyrion, but when Tyrion suggests helping him escape, Jaime says that it’s impossible, especially since he’s the head of the kingsguard and Tyrion is on trial for regicide. They also discuss whether Sansa might be the killer, and that Cersei has put a price on her head.

Speaking of Sansa, she’s still on a boat with Littlefinger. She asks where they are going, and Littlefinger tells her they are going to the Eyrie for him to marry Lysa. She also asks him if he killed Joffrey, which leads to the first in what will be many examples of Littlefinger being a creepy dude while also teaching Sansa his crash course in being a power-hungry manipulative backstabber, who is also smart enough to avoid physical danger. It is my strong suspicion that these lessons of theirs are going to be very important for the future of Sansa’s story.

Anyway, Sansa is shocked to learn that her necklace played a role in the assassination. Littlefinger explains that his loyalties have shifted from the Lannisters to some new friends who wanted Joffrey dead (at this point the camera shifts to show Margery and Olenna walking in the garden, while Littlefinger’s voice continues), and that he enabled the assasination to “make a new friendship grow strong.” This was a nice nod to particularly obsessive book readers who may know that “Growing Strong” are the Tyrell house words.

Margery and Olenna chat in the garden about their next steps, and much to my surprise, Lady Olenna admits to Margery that she is the one who poisoned Joffrey. I was sure they would at least to wait for this reveal until the episode focusing on Tyrion’s trial, but apparently not! This way was rather anticlimactic, but then, find out out that Olenna did it is not really the exciting part is it? The exciting part is watching to see how Tyrion gets free when everyone is convinced he’s the culprit, including most of his own family members.

His siblings have a tense encounter where Cersei questions Jaime about why the Starks released him, and then questions his loyalty given that he swore to return the Stark girls to their mother. She is outraged when he refuses to hunt down Sansa and return with her head. Cersei is also annoyed that only one kingsguard is posted at Tommen’s door, and orders Jaime to place more men there. This scene begins with Jaime greeting Cersei formally as “queen regent”, and ends with her dismissing him just as formally.

What’s really weird about this scene is that it completely ignores what happened last episode. I said last week that I hoped the show had a really good reason for changing a consensual sex scene in the books to a rape scene in the show, but it appears that the show is going to proceed as if nothing happened. Yes, Jaime and Cersei are more and more at odds, but their unraveling relationship was already clear without tossing a random rape scene in. What’s most concerning is how this episode clearly thinks Jamie is a good guy and Cersei is evil/crazy. This whole confrontation, it’s clear that the viewer is supposed to be siding with Jaime. After all, Cersei is angry at him for doing whatever was necessary to get back to her, she orders him to hunt down and kill an innocent girl, and she tells him how to do his job protecting the king. And yeah, it would be easy to side with Jamie in this scene, except for the part where he raped her last episode. For all her many failings, Cersei is not a weak character, but we’re suppose to think she is going to do nothing about being raped other than chide her rapist brother for not posting enough guards on Tommen’s room? I’m just failing to see why this major change was made if they don’t plan to follow through with it.

But, moving on. We get to see Jamie being a sympathetic and nice guy to Brienne (please just ignore the voice in your head that keeps reminding you that he’s a rapist who throws children out of windows). He gives her his Valyrian steel sword and a sweet suit of armor and asks her to track down and protect Sansa. In a change from the books, he asks her to name the sword instead of naming it himself. The name is the same: “Oathkeeper”, but coming from her it’s a not-so-subtle jab at him rather than the ironic self-deprecation that we see in the books.¬†Also: Pod is going with Brienne! I liked this change. In the books, it takes him a while to catch up with her, but this way we get another wonderful odd couple to travel around with.

Back in the castle, we see Margery follow Olenna’s advice and pay her future husband a late-night visit. This scene was wonderfully awkward, but was great at showing Margey’s skill at manipulating Lannister boys, and at knowing right where to draw the line, kissing the boy on the forehead before leaving. Also, can I just say how great it is that Ser Pounce is now in the show? It’s actually a smart and concise way of differentiating Tommen from Joffrey. Joffrey killed things with his crossbow, Tommen raised a kitten and named it Ser Pounce, and that basically tells you what you need to know about the brothers.

And finally let’s talk about what happened at the Wall and beyond. Jon is training new recruits and who should appear but Locke, on his mission from the Boltons to kill Jon. Not that Jon knows it yet, since Locke is posing as a newbie who just happens to know how to fight. Jon is sent back inside to clean chamber pots by Allister Thorne, who is then advised by Janos Slynt that maybe that foray beyond the wall might be a good way to get rid of Jon Snow. They meet with Jon later in the mess hall, where Allister is messily eating some chicken. Messily eating seems to be shorthand for “this person is loathsome”, see also: Lord Denethor, Steward of Gondor. John gets permission, but is only allowed to take volunteers, a neat way for Thorne and Slynt to see who Jon’s friends are.

Cut to Craster’s keep itself, where we are very quickly reminded that the mutineers are bad guys. The show lays it on really thick here. Not only is what’s-his-face drinking out of Lord Mormont’s skull, but he is encouraging his men to rape Craster’s wives “until they’re dead”. To fulfill the show’s nudity quota for the episode, we get a brief glimpse of several of the wives without clothes on, being taken by some of the mutineers. There’s even an out-of-focus rape going on in the background of the shot while what’s-his-name rambles drunkenly about growing up on the streets. It’s almost as if this show doesn’t really get that rape is a horrible thing. They’re using it here as an excuse for nudity, because why else would these women be nude or partially clothed? They live in a shack in the arctic. So is the young male demographic supposed to find it sexy to see these women partially clothed…while being raped? There’s all sorts of things wrong with that. Are the showrunners going to argue that showing these rapes was necessary to establish that these are bad guys? Because I’m pretty sure drinking from a human skull establishes that pretty well!

Anyway, one of the wives comes forward with a newborn, who is set out in to cold as a sacrifice. Nearby, Bran et al hear the baby crying and Bran wargs into his wolf to go investigate, only for the wolf to first find that Ghost has been locked up, and then get captured himself. Bran et al. rush into the camp and are promptly captured, and the mutineers do some Hodor-baiting (I was really hoping Bran would warg into Hodor and kick some butt, but alas). They also discover that Bran is Bran, and are pleased to have such a valuable captive. Also: Jojen has a seizure.

I’m really wondering what HBO plans to do with this storyline, which is entirely new. I can’t see how Jon and Bran can meet and still have things go as they’re supposed to, but I don’t see how they wouldn’t meet either. One thing’s for sure, it is really exciting to watch the show and not know what is going to happen. Is this what it’s like for non-readers the whole time? No wonder this show is so popular!

And speaking of things that are totally made up and not in the books. How about them white walkers? We get to see one pick up the sacrificial baby, and carry it to some sort of icy stonehenge, where the king of the white walkers (?) comes out and turns the baby into a walker?! That was certainly… interesting!

One thing’s for sure, the show is getting much more confident in deviating from the books, and in this case, it might even be getting into territory that is in future books. It’s exciting to be seeing things as a new viewer sees them, but also a bit scary for people like me who hoped that the books would remain well ahead of the show so that we can experience events in the “official” novel setting before seeing them on the screen. I suspect this is just a taste of things to come…

1 Comment

  1. Great review. We enjoy your take on the show. We were confused and not trusting our memory regarding Bran being taken captive by the mutineers. Good to know that was not in the books.

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