Game of Thrones: 6.03 Oathbreaker
Most Game of Thrones seasons take us through the trials and tribulations of our Westeros set characters at a treacle-like speed but with Oathbreaker something's changed. I'm not sure what's been put in the writers room coffee but plot lines are coming thick and fast and chugging along like a locomotive that's derailed and the brakes have failed. Plot lines that would take episodes to resolve or even, god forbid, seasons, are moving nicely here.
After lasts weeks double hit of baby killing and necromancy - yes Jon Snow is alive - you would be right in worrying about what happens next. Would Oathbreaker be an anticlimax, or would we get some satisfaction from last week's cliffhanger ending? Well luckily as I mentioned above we get our answers straightaway. Davos Seaworth is standing over the gasping body of Jon Snow, just as shocked as Jon Snow is, that he is alive. How alive, future episodes will surely answer, but for now, alive. The scene plays out well, understated, with a good performance by Carice van Houten as Melisandre, as she enters shortly after the resurrection, shocked that it actually worked. You can almost see the cogs in her brain whirring in her eyes as she seizes on what whatever hope she has left, that the Lord brought back Jon for a reason, that Stannis was not the Prince That Was Promised, but "someone must be".
Jon's arrival in the courtyard after suiting up in the armour of The Night's Watch and his Lord Commander's cape, is met with dumbfounded shock as he looks upon the Brothers below him. The scene works well, a sense of shock is felt around the courtyard as Jon embraces a dumbfounded Tormund and Eddison Tollett.
Finishing off Jon's scenes off for this week is the public hanging of his murderers at the 'Mutiny Of Castle Black' from last season, namely Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck, Alliser Thorne and Ollie. Asking for any last words from Alliser, Jon is told that his resurrection is not right, he replies "Neither was killing me". It's a stinger of a moment, a well written reply, I gritted my teeth at this point to stifle a fist pumping scream, it's something you want to see as a viewer, a little bit of bite, a bit of anger from a character so softly spoken at times. At the scene's end, Jon cuts through the rope to hang the group. At one point it felt like Jon would give clemency, but no, he swings hard and true cutting the rope. Jon ends the scene by giving his Lord Commander cloak to Edd and decrying "my watch has ended". Shock, despair, disbelief, what happens with the character now is anybody's guess, ahead of the books with open road ahead, exciting times.
If Game of Thrones was to ever be made into a romantic comedy pastiche Sam, Gilly and baby Sam would be its core group. Sailing towards Old Town, Sam comically retching into a bucket, having never been on a boat before, they discuss where they are going and why. The interplay between the actors who play Samwell and Gilly, John Bradley and Hannah Murray, is tender and sweet. You feel the connection between them, all who wander are not lost, and Sam's speech about keeping her and baby Sam safe is a lump in the throat moment.
With the Three Eyed Raven at his side Bran has another vision in Dorne at the Tower of Joy. He finds himself looking on scene with some gravitas. Two remaining Targaryen Kingsguard stand at the entrance to the tower blocking the path of a gang of men, led by Eddard Stark. Ed tells the guards to stand down, they argue. They fight with the Kingsguard shouting "and now it begins" with a reply from Edd with "now it ends". The fight choreography at this point stands out to me more than anything. In modern films and TV we get the close up action ala the Bourne films or Nolan's Batman films but here we have well thought out fight scenes that you can actually see whats going on. The Kingsguard have dual swords that they swing 360 degrees as the group attack as it would be in real life. No waiting to attack here, just brutal full on action. The scene works well because of this. The emotional pay off here is when Bran learns that his father lied about the end to the fight, where he believed his father killed the last guard, this actually falls to a dying Howland. The scene ends with Bran crying out "father", Eddard seemingly hearing him through time and space. An interesting note for future visions, can Bran communicate with what he is seeing?
More subtle comedy is finding itself in Game of Thrones we find ourselves at King's Landing in the company of Qyburn and his little birds (the children he uses to spy with) where they are being handed out sweets. Enter Jaime, Cersei and Ser Gregor Clegane. It made me laugh out loud when the children set eyes on Ser Gregor. It's subtle and easily missed but their look of shock at how tall and menacing he is is hilarious.
At a small council meeting, Grand Maester Pycelle, Kevan Lannister, Mace Tyrell and Olenna Tyrell are discussing various matters, Qyburn's experiments, Margaery and Loras Tyrells release for example. Jaime, Cersei and ever present Ser Gregor burst into the room, shocking the meeting. The tension fills the air as each side play off against each other, with each side arguing their rightful place in the grand scheme of things, Ser Kevan gets up and leaves, angered at the rhetoric being spoken. I can imagine Westminster being something similar to meetings like this. The political wrangling and intrigue is beguiling and you really have to listen to what is being said to understand every word and every sentence, look away, lose concentration and you are lost.
Nearby an angry Tommen visits the High Sparrow to ask for Cersei to visit the final resting place of her daughter. Tommen is growing in stature, growing from a timid young boy to the king he needs to be. Frustrated at the High Sparrow's comment, you can see Tommen grow before your very eyes. He leaves just as lost and uncertain but he is growing as a character.
Talking of political machinations, the greatest one at this is Varys. So slimy and conniving, his spirit animal is surely a snake. We find him in Mereen at the Great Pyramid, holding court talking to a murderous prostitute called Vala. Varys blackmails her, by granting safe passage and coin to a new safe life far away if she can fin out who is funding The Sons of The Harpy. If she doesn't, she will be executed, leaving her son orphaned. The actor who plays Varys, Conleth Hill, is fantastic at portraying his character. It makes my skin crawl seeing him slither about on screen. He'd make a good prime minister.
Tyrion, a bit part player in this week's episode passes the time by trying and failing to create a drinking game with Missandei and Grey Worm. Tyrion is a fantastically complex and comical character. He is the one I look out for each week. Varys enters the room to inform them of who is funding the Sons of The Harpy. The group discuss what to do next and where to attack next with Missandei decrying that Meereen would be left undefended.
Daenerys, stripped of all her power but not her will, is walking the Dothraki towards Vaes Dothrak and is shown the way into the Temple of The Dosh Khaleen by Khal Moro's bloodriders. Here she is confronted and stripped by the High Priestess of the Dosh Khaleen and put in her place. Emilia Clarke, has grown into the character she plays so well, although stripped naked she plays the character with a quiet intensity. She may be stripped, emotionally and physically, but she proudly states that she is the "mother of dragons" whether people understand that or not. Her character of Daenerys is a wanderer, looking for new things and new power. How this will play out in the grand scheme of things, is anyone's.game.
We find Arya, yes you guessed it, fighting with sticks. This is getting a bit samey now. Just say the words, regain your sight and move on, but no, stubborn to the last, she will not give in. Being asked about her list by the waif, Arya is told its too short, "what name shall I add?" she replies. More backbiting, a common trait through this episode. With the waif beating on her continuously, Arya finally learns to block. Jaqen gives her the option to drink a bowl of water, taken from a well, from which people have drunk and died in the past. He says that if she is no one, she has nothing to fear. Raising the bowl to her lips and her sight is restored. Jaqen asks her again "who are you?" "No one" Arya replies. If this is rock bottom, look out for the resurrection of one Arya Stark in future episodes.
One problem I've always had with Game of Thrones since the start is the mind boggling number of characters in it. It's incredible hard to follow at times, it's one reason I have yet to read the books, similar in scope to The Lord of The Rings series, I watched the films before reading the books to help me visualise characters better. With Game of Thrones I'm quite happy following the core group but when characters last glimpsed seasons ago come back I get lost in the scene, trying to work out who is who. Step forward Rickon Stark - the youngest of the Stark boys, from season three. I had to look it up. I was confused; he has been captured for Ramsay Bolton as a bargaining chip. The scene was supposed to be tense but the life of it was sucked away from me because it's not a well know character. Hopefully he will play a fuller part in future episodes.
Overall Oathbreaker was a satisfying episode with revelation and revelation spewing forth and future storylines set up. At this pace we won't have to wait for the one episode where everything kicks off once a season, it'll be happening every week no doubt.