Game Of Thrones Revisited: 4.03 Breaker Of Chains
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Game of Thrones, the critically acclaimed TV series by David Benioff and DB Weiss and developed from the best-selling series of novels by George RR Martin, has become a cultural icon. The tentpole of HBO’s programming with a stellar cast and mix of medieval-style political drama and war with a healthy dash of fantasy, Game of Thrones has enthralled audiences worldwide. And in 2019, the show will come to a dramatic end in its final run of feature length episodes. In the lead up to season eight, I explore every episode leading up to the final battle for Westeros and the rest of the world, continuing with an episode that deals with the immediate fallout of the death of the latest King of Westeros...
Warning: There may be spoilers for seasons one to seven…
Breaker Of Chains picks up immediately after the closing moments of The Lion And The Rose; the opening shot of Joffrey's dead face kick start a series of dramatic events. Tyrion is arrested while Ser Dontos leads Sansa to safety in a tense flight through the streets of King's Landing as Tywin and Cersei demand her capture. The tension rises further as Dontos sails Sansa out into the mist and a silent ship where Littlefinger awaits. His offer of safety is something that will ultimately be short lived but for now given what happens at Winterfell, but this point, this is a huge development in her story. Sansa is a guest and prisoner at the Red Keep since the third episode of season one. Poor Dontos it seems was more than a fool than we realised though. His gift to Sansa in Two Swords and offer of freedom was less genuine and more a pawn in Littlefinger's schemes.
Cersei's grief for Joffrey is keenly felt; at this stage there is still an element of humanity in her. Her remaining son is soon brought under the sway of her father Tywin with his talk of what makes a good king leaving her alone and exposed as she mourns over Joffrey's body. The scene with brother Jamie was both heartfelt and disturbing. For a brief moment she openly acknowledges that Joffrey was their son as she cries in her arms but his own grief quickly turns to rage. Jamie is a deeply flawed character; for all his growth is season three, raping his sister at the foot of their dead son's body is one act that remains utterly despicable.
With the death of Joffrey comes a period of reflection; for Margaery, she has to decide if she really is a queen. Grandmother Olenna counsels her well; knowing - given the events of season seven - that she was responsible for Joffrey's death puts a whole new light on the power plays, schemes and ruthless acts dominating the capital. It's no wonder that Tyrion, trapped in a cell cannot fathom who committed the act he is now accused of. On a side note, his farewell with Podrick was very bittersweet.
Tywin meanwhile goes straight for the jugular, interrupting Oberyn mid-orgy to offer a seat on the judges panel to determine Tyrion's fate. It's a deliciously ironic twist, putting a deadly enemy and prime suspect, in the seat of power, and shows just how experienced Tywin is in the game, even if he never figures out rival Olenna's actions. Oberyn's open hostility regarding the death of his sister by the Mountain, one of Tywin's men added greater tension to the scene and sets up the infamous battle later this season.
Away from King's Landing, Breaker of Chains also explored the delightful partnership of Arya and the Hound. They were a great double act, Maisie Williams bouncing off older, more established actors like Rory McCann. The trip to the farmhouse hinted at greater redemption for the Hound, taking the farmer's offer of work for payment before turning round and stealing from him, claiming the man and his daughter would be dead by winter. Williams' venomous delivery of "You're the worst shit in the Seven Kingdoms!" was perfect. Thanks to McCann's gruff, aggressive performance, the Hound has been one of the best morally grey characters in Game of Thrones; he'll offer hints of redemption and heroism one moment and then dip right back into being an utter bastard the next.
The scenes at the Dragonstone, were brief but memorable, thanks to Liam Cunningham's utterly delightful performance as Davos Seaworth. He really is one of the show's most underrated performers; in these scenes he conveyed conviction is his attempts to serve Stannis mixed with real heart as he read with Shireen. It's been a joy revisiting his journey, particularly his path towards literacy and he is one character I truly hope makes it out alive in the final season.
There was some momentum further North too. Sam taking Gilly and baby Sam to live at Mole's Town was clearly the case of worst timing ever, given the subsequent nearby Wildling attack. This episode introduces us to young Olly, a man who will later become Jon Snow's downfall. Witnessing the slaughter of his parents and Styr's creepy proclamation that he was going to eat the poor boy's dead parents, really paints a tragic life that will not end well. It's easy to remember his actions at the end of season five, betraying Jon; but he was broken the moment he witnessed this death and destruction first hand. Jon learning of the betrayal and murder of Lord Mormont at Craster's Keep last season continues to add to the drama of the impending Wildling attack. There is as much dissension from within as there is the threat of the approaching battle and you can really feel the desperation of what is to come.
Finally, Daenerys Targaryen comes to Mereen and her storyline continues to improve with each passing episode. After the brief but brutal battle of champions, won by Daario, her rousing speech to the slaves of the city and the catapults of broken chains was another triumphantly uplifting moment, delivered with real gusto by Emilia Clarke. It's a shame that her subsequent taking of the city will see her storyline stagnate again. Her journey to liberate the cities of Slaver's Bay has been a real highlight since the start of season three. At this point though, we're firmly if her rise to glory period and it is a wonder to watch once again.
There is no real dip in quality in season four; the ramification of Joffrey's unexpected death so early on enables Breaker of Chains to reflect upon and develop the world beyond the rule of the latest mad king. The Wildling threat finally starts to gain momentum again, Sansa finally gets a change in direction, Arya and the Hound's relationship continues to delight and Daenerys has yet another heroic moment. This is Game Of Thrones when it was at its very best.