Sunday, May 15, 2016

GAME OF THRONES (S6E03): "Oathbreaker"

Episode 1 of Season 6 (S6E03) of HBO's Game Of Thrones is titled "Oathbreaker." The titles of the episodes are often meaningful and often have multiple interpretations. For example, "Oathbreaker" is the name of the sword that Jaime Lannister gave to Brienne but in common parlance it refers to a  person who "breaks his oath." The men of the Night's Watch famously swear an oath to serve until Death. In fact, here is the text of that Oath:

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."

So, what happens when a member of the Night's Watch dies and comes back to life? Is Jon Snow the eponymous Oathbreaker of this episode? There are many oaths that the people of Westeros swear by. The oath to not do harm to a guest under your roof once you have shared salt and bread with them. The Oath to abide by the laws of men and Gods. The marriage vows. There are many oaths, and there are many people on this show who break their oaths.

As I have said before, "one of the strengths and weaknesses of Game of Thrones is its expansive cast" but in this episode we see the drawbacks of having such a huge cast because in S6E03 we finally return to some characters that we have not seen for awhile. The first of these are Sam and Gilly, who are on a ship sailing to the Citadel with Gilly's bastard baby boy. Sam is horribly seasick but Gilly is happy to be on the journey to their new life together.  Could Sam be the Oathbreaker? By shacking up with Gilly he has broken his oath to the Night's Watch, although his Lord Commander sort of told him to go off and become a Maester, so maybe it's okay.

We also get to see more of Brandon and the Three-Eyed Raven (Donald Sutherland) greenseeing the past. This time it's the important Tower of Joy scene where we may discover who is the mother (and more importantly, the father, of the little baby boy that Eddard Stark brought back from the War and who grew up to be known as Jon Snow. The central question of A Song of Ice and Fire is Who are Jon Snow's parents? Sadly, the scene ends after a thrillingly executed fight scene between Ser Arthur Dayne (widely regarded by experts like Jaime Lannister and Jorah Mormont as one of the best swordsman ever) and Eddard Stark but before Eddard gets into the actual Tower, to find (it is speculated) his sister Lyanna Stark. Could Eddard Stark be the Oathbreaker? It's revealed that he actually did not beat Ser Arthur Dayne in single-handed combat, after all. He did win that fight, but only because Howland Reed, after pretending(?) to be dead came up behind Ser Arthur and put a knife in his neck. Apparently we will have to wait until S6E05 to find out who is in the Tower. But this was still a very important scene because Brandon, watching this pivotal moment from a quarter-century in the past, calls out to his father and Eddard stops and looks around as if he could barely hear his not-yet-born son. Can Bran affect the past? That would be a huge reveal, but we are given no answers but instead swept back to reality with Brandon paralyzed and the Three-Eyed Raven stuck in a weirwood tree in a cave.

The other character we get to see for the first time in a very long time is Rickon Stark, who sadly shows up in Winterfell as a result of some treachery by one of the Northern lords who are still somewhat pissed at the Starks and are trying to align themselves with the new Warden of the North, the odious Ramsay Snow. (Couldn't Ramsay be the titular Oathbreaker? He is definitely a kinslayer.)
Things do not look good for Rickon. You should have stayed presumed dead. I presume Ramsay is going to have some horrible fate in store for the youngest (but not so little any more) member of the Stark clan.

There is one key figure in the story whom we have yet to see anything about this season: Lord Petyr Baelish a.k.a. Littlefinger. What has that sneaky devil been up to? There's an oathbreaker if I ever saw one! Hopefully we will find out in (S6E04) "Book of the Stranger." (But this sounds like it's going to be about the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant.)

The rest of the show was taken up with updating us about what has been happening to our principal characters (Cersei and Jaime are trying to assemble political power in King's Landing to go after their enemies; The High Sparrow is trying to do the same thing, but he does it by persuasion, talking to King Tommen; Qyburn has discovered Varys' network of spiders (the poor children of King's Landing and is attempting to convince them to work for him through the dispersal of free sweets; Arya is no longer blind; Daenerys is stuck in a hut filled with Khal's widows; meanwhile back in Essos Varys learns that all the good that Queen Dany accomplished in freeing the slaves is being undone by the elites in Yunkai and the other "Free Cities." And there was no update on Drogon, who we know is loose, or the other two dragons, who we saw Tyrion release last week!

The highlights of this episode were:
  • For the second consecutive episode Jon Snow had the biggest and best moment of the show when he gave his fancy Lord Commander cloak to Edd and walked out of Castle Black saying the words "My Watch is ended."
  • The look that Grey Worm and Missandei share when Tyrion is trying to pass the time waiting for Varys was hilarious!
  • The vastness of Vaes Dothrak was a clear highlight of the episode. I was curious about what this location would look like, since it's supposed to represent the pinnacle of Dothraki civilization, and how they would distinguish it from previous Dothraki camps we have seen.
  • Another highlight was the sword battle at the Tower of Joy and finally witnessing the prowess of Ser Arthur Dayne, who was outnumbered 5 to 2 and evened up the odds to 1 on 1 before being dispatched by a knife in the back of his neck by Ser Howland Reed.
  • Seeing Rickon Stark and Osha, nearly 3 years after they not appeared on the show since Season 3 was a highlight, but the look on Ramsay Bolton's face when he said "Welcome home, Lord Stark does not bode well for the future happiness of yet another member of the Stark clan.
  • Arya Stark A Girl With No Name has her blindness removed and she can see again! Arya is one of my favorite characters, I hope 
The parts of the episode I could have done without:
  •  Did we really need to see the severed head of another Direwolf? Rickon's is named Shaggydog, and it was presented as proof that Smalljon Umber's gift is really Rickon Stark.
  • The extended focus on the faces of the four traitors who had just been hanged, after we saw their death throes was more than a bit graphic and a lot off-putting.
Grade: 9/10.

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