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After last week’s climactic Purple Wedding, there was bound to be a momentum let down this week. However, I found “Breaker of Chains” to be one of the series’ weaker episodes on the whole, largely due to its attempt to jam so much story into the hour.
One of the reasons last week’s “The Lion and the Rose” was so successful was because we spent so much time in a single location with the same group of people. We were able to check-in with all of King’s Landing’s residents, but it didn’t feel rushed. The episode was clearly building to a climax, but it made time for the necessary additional character beats while doing so.
In contract, “Breaker of Chains” jumps throughout Westeros and over to Mereen at breakneck speed, spending mere moments with certain characters and giving us just enough to continue pushing several stories forward. From a book-reader stand point, it is clear that this episode is meant to set each of the stories onto it’s season path, but I suspect the episode may have even been a bit more frustrating for non-book readers, as much of the dialogue and action may seem pointless without knowing the future context. Considering that Game of Thrones has the largest cast on television and supports more storylines than several dramas put together, I understand that it is necessary at times to have episodes such as this, where the action continually jumps, so that each character can get their due. But it certainly can make one wish for several more character deaths to trim the cast a bit and make the storylines more streamlined.
While the episode may be a weak one, there are still a few stories of particular note. First, we discover one part of the answer as to who killed Joffery. Unlike what Cersei believes, Tyrion did not have anything to do with the poisoning death of the king (more on Tyrion a bit later, as he has a particularly wonderful moment in the episode). In actuality, it appears that the newly returned Littlefinger (who has orchestrated Sansa’s rescue, RIP Ser Dontos) had a hand in the assassination.
Speaking of Littlefinger, he’s back to his super creepy ways. Let’s not forget that he has mentioned in the past his love for Catelyn- and that Sansa certainly looks like Catelyn did when she was younger. While I’m glad Sansa is finally out of the city, I’m not entirely certain that Littlefinger is much safer than living in King’s Landing. But considering she’s currently wanted for murdering the king, perhaps being on a boat with a creepy guy is better after all.
As we saw last week, things have gone from bad to worse for poor Tyrion. Locked in prison for murder, he’s unable to figure out how to get out of this situation. He even has to release Pod from his service, lest Pod be dragged down with him. It’s one of the more beautiful moments of the season, watching Tyrion (who is so often quick with a sharp barb) lose everyone who means something to him. He truly is a good person, which is such a rarity in this world. Now Tyrion’s only hope is that Oberyn Martell can sway the vote at his trial, which seems quite unlikely as the other two judges are to be Tywin and Mace Tyrell, who won’t vote against Tywin’s wishes.
Our other two particularly interesting scenes come, much to my surprise, from the Jon Snow storyline (I know, I really can’t believe it either). It appears that the Wildlings who have made it over the wall have come to accept the Threnns’ presence and their particularly lovely brand of killing (I’m trying to decide if I should be worried that cannibalism is appearing on two of television’s best shows, with both Thrones and Hannibal now featuring it semi-weekly). Watching the Wildlings sack the village is one of the more disheartening moments this season, and is particularly hard to watch.
Meanwhile, at Castle Black, things aren’t going so well. It turns out the turncloaks who killed Craster and Lord Mormont last year have taken up residence at Craster’s house. This wouldn’t be such a problem if Mance wasn’t on his way there, and under the impression that Castle Black is staffed with 1,000 men instead of the mere 100. While Jon’s lie to Mance has kept him from invading outright, it has now placed the Watch in between a rock and a hard place. Should they go after the turncloaks so that they don’t tell Mance the truth? Or should they just let Mance come, as there isn’t much they can do to stop him anyway? Either way, this is the most interesting Jon Snow has been in several seasons, which is a small miracle. Here’s to hoping it keeps up throughout the rest of the season.
— Once again, we are reminded that Oberyn and his paramour Elia are fans of free love. And, apparently, Tywin is not a fan of free love. A pity, as it might loosen him up a bit.
— Now that Joffrey is dead, little Tommen (or, not so little Tommen, as his was aged significantly between seasons) is now destined for the throne. He definitely appears to be different from Joffrey- or, at least much more subservient to grandpa Tywin.
— After seasons without it, we once again get Twincest this week. More importantly though, Cersei actually states out loud that Joffery was Jaime’s son. Very interesting, since she has, in the past, refused to do so.
— Finally, Arya and the Hound continue to be one of the more wonderful pairings this season. Arya proves she can play at the deception game quite admirably by convincing a lowly farmer to take them in for the night. However, the Hound continues his lessons in the brutality of the world by robbing the man, telling Arya that those who are weak are beyond help- a lesson Arya is loathe to learn, but one she must if she wants to survive.