In the latest installment of Game of Thrones, the show takes an interesting new direction, with a couple storylines deviating from the original source material. While some book fans are up in arms, “Oathkeeper” will hopefully prove to be an interesting and unexpected new take on several plot lines. After all, as Littlefinger would say, “If they don’t know who you are or what you want, they can’t know what you plan to do next.”
If Game of Thrones has one strength over many, it lies in the moral ambiguity of its characters. Characters have the chance to debase and redeem themselves in the matter of episodes. There are no fully “good” and “evil” characters; moral absolutism is a cruel myth that you believe only at your own peril (just ask Ned Stark).
In “Breaker of Chains,” we once again visit the “problems of the human heart in conflict with itself” (as said by William Faulkner). Last season, Jaime lost a hand to stop the men who wished to rape Brienne; this Sunday, he raped his sister, who also happened to be the love of his life, in front body of his dead son. A couple of episodes ago, the Hound decried thieves (“A man’s got to have a code”), then went on to justify stealing from a dead man walking. Jon Snow, ever a Stark, once struggled to kill a single man (Qhorin Halfhand) for the greater good, but last night was unblinking as he suggested killing several of his own brothers in order to maintain a tactical advantage over Mance Rayder’s wildling army.
People change. Not always for the worst, but not always for the best, either. Each character’s arc may not be– should not be– a straight line upward towards morality and redemption, but rather a sine curve of peaks and troughs. You hope that your favorite characters are on a generally positive trajectory, but you’ll forgive them for a few mistakes along the way. In “Breaker of Chains,” we get down into the ditches with the horrifically flawed Westerosi, and potentially lose a fan favorite in the process.
Game of Thrones started as a wildly unpredictable show, then became almost predictable in its unpredictability. We came to expect that the biggest twists would happen in the penultimate (second to last) episodes of the season. First, there was “Baelor,” when we lost who we thought to be the main character, Ned Stark. It was then we knew this show was going to be different. Then, there was “Blackwater,” where the Lannisters were able to successfully defend King’s Landing against Stannis Baratheon’s assault. The episode subverted our expectations, featuring only one setting instead of the many different parallel storylines. Last season, of course, was “The Rains of Castamere,” also known as the Red Wedding. Though it was a devastating episode, by this point we had come to expect the unexpected. Over the last few years, seasons progressed swiftly to the climactic ninth episode, leaving it to the season finale to roughly tie things up until next time.
The Purple Wedding, as it’s come to be known by fans, kills off a major player in the series in only the second episode of the season. Once again, fans of the show are reminded of their initial sense that nothing in the series can be anticipated. Though Joffrey had it coming for a long time, his death is another bold signal that, in the game of thrones, no one is safe– not even the villains.
In Game of Thrones, power is often a zero-sum game. One house’s loss is another house’s gain. In “Two Swords,” Tywin Lannister literally and figuratively reforges the history and prestige of the Stark family into his own.
The episode opens on a shot of the Stark’s sword, Ice, enveloped in fire: a clever homage to the name of the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire. This greatsword was passed down through the Stark family for over 400 years. It was made of Valyrian steel, which is harder, sharper, and lighter than other swords because it is made with magic. Since then, the ability to forge Valyrian steel has been lost to time, and only less than fifteen weapons still exist.
Tywin Lannister has spent his whole life trying to reestablish the once-great history of the Lannister family after the misrule of his father. The aging Lannister is obsessed with the legacy of his family and what he will leave behind, which is why Tyrion’s very life is such an insult to him. It only makes sense that after having Robb Stark murdered, Tywin would take the giant sword and have it reforged into two smaller blades, bestowing the greatness of ancestral Valyrian steel swords onto his own family. To further this theme, the musical score in this scene brilliantly morphed from the Stark theme song to the Lannister’s “Rains of Castamere” just as Ice was reforged into two separate blades. Though the expression on his face belies nothing, Tywin clearly takes great pride in the fall of House Stark, and is using what’s left of them (Ice, Winterfell, and Sansa) to enhance the standing of his own family.
Note: This season, I will be writing for a new website called KingsLanding.Net. I am very excited for the opportunity to launch this fan page and hope you will follow me over there. In the meanwhile, I will continue to post snippets of my recaps. For the full versions, be sure to check out KingsLanding.Net!
[ETA March, 2015: KingsLanding.Net is no longer available to read my posts from Season 4. You can continue to read all my recaps here on my homepage!]
The fourth season of Game of Thrones is upon us at last. We’ve all grown to miss our friends from Westeros over the last few months. Next Sunday, the oft-tormented characters of George R.R. Martin’s medieval fantasy pick up right where they left off, and if your memory is anything like mine, you might easily find yourself a step behind.
Here’s a guide to help you catch up on the major events of last season so you won’t have to pepper your loved ones with questions, like, “Wait—what desert city is Daenerys in this time?”
I’ve split up the pertinent events under character headings so that you can catch up on the major characters’ arcs from last season. It’s impossible to include every detail, so feel free to go back and read my full recaps here. However, these details should at least help you not be “that guy/girl.”