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Game of Thrones – “Oathkeeper” Review: An Up and Down Episode

As often seems to happen during the central episodes of each season of Game of Thrones, “Oathkeeper” has some truly excellent moments alongside some less successful elements. The most interesting storylines once again deliver the night’s most intriguing developments, while some stories- such as Dany’s seemingly endless journey to free all the slaves in the realm- continue to drag, repeating the same song and dance over and over again.

Let’s touch on Dany for a brief moment, as I feel as if I have been neglecting her during these recaps. Dany has now managed to free the slaves of Mereen, much like she has been doing for the past two and a half seasons. And, once again, she is hailed has a savior by the newly freed masses, even as she orders the murder of 163 masters in retaliation for their murder of 163 young slave girls on her journey to the city. While I admire that Dany is showing some true Targaryen fire in her continued adherence to the cry of vengeance, I have been bored with Dany’s general story trajectory for the past several seasons. I understand that, on the whole, this storyline has hewed very closely to the novels and it’s simply part of the story as previously written, but I had hoped the series could interject some life into the character- life that has been missing save for brief flashes throughout the past two and a half years. It pains me to say it, but I’m very disappointed with how dull Dany’s tale has become.

In the slightly more interesting, but also really confusing, realm of Thrones storytelling is Bran’s tale. Like Dany, it seems like we’ve spent years wandering with him in the wilderness, so I do think it’s a bit refreshing to get to see Bran interact with other humans. That being said, I’m really not sure where the show is going with this storyline. I assume the plan is to either have Jon meet-up with Bran at Craster’s, or to have Bran and company escape during the upcoming battle- leading to Jon and Bran missing a chance to run into each other once more. The problem with this story is that it feels like filler. Bran appeared to finally have a clue as to where he and his group were supposed to travel. But, this journey off the divined path strikes me as unnecessary and a manipulation of the story to try and stretch more mileage out of Bran’s storyline. When you are watching a great show, you rarely, if ever, can see the fingerprints of the writers within the dialogue or manipulating the action. With this particular storyline, I could see the behind the scenes machinations as clear as day. It just didn’t fit, and I’m wary of how it will resolve itself.

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Rounding out the troubling story developments is a holdover from last week’s episode. Much was written and debated throughout the internet over the past week regarding the Cersei/Jaime rape scene (and yes, it was rape, despite what the episode’s director Alex Graves might say). Rather than rehash things here, I would direct readers to The Huffington Post’s Mo Ryan, for her take on the situation- which closely mirrors my own thoughts. My hope had been, while watching last week’s episode, that the rape of Cersei would serve as a jumping off point for her remaining storyline this season. That the pain it causes might lead to a rift between her and Jaime- creating a chasm between the two that could spur each to begin picking up the pieces of their lives individually. Essentially, I wanted there to be clear fallout from Jaime’s actions that would reverberate within the Jaime-Cersei relationship. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any of that.

Sure, things are frosty between the siblings now, but it appears to stem far more from Jaime’s jailhouse visit with Tyrion and his belief in Tyrion’s innocence. I do believe that their relationship will be forever harmed due to Jaime’s admission that he believe Tyrion is innocent. But Jaime certainly feels no guilt over his actions and Cersei remains too murky of a character to truly show us what is behind her current dark mood. I’m very disappointed that the series would choose to move on from such a disturbing scene without any fallout. Rape and sexual politics has played a large role in the series since its beginning, and this was a chance to show us how such a deplorable action can affect a central character to the story. Instead, we are expected to see Jaime as the roguish friend to Brienne, who still believes in his maligned younger brother, rather than as a man of questionable morals who raped his sister. I expect better from Thrones.

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There are some interesting developments in “Oathkeeper” which serve to push forward several storylines. First, we finally get the play-by-play regarding Joffrey’s death. It was a joint murder between the Tyrells (namely Olenna, the brilliant and devious matriarch) and Littlefinger, with Sansa unwittingly supplying the murder weapon by way of her necklace. Remember when Olenna adjusted Sansa’s necklace at the feast? She was actually removing a poisoned gem. And when Joffrey’s cup was picked up by Margery and placed on Olenna’s table? Olenna took the change to drop the poison in. If you go back and watch the banquet sequence, you’ll be able to catch the entire murder play out in the background of the scene.

We also get to spend some quality time with Jon Snow this week. As mentioned above, Jon is on his way to Craster’s to take care of the mutineers. But more importantly, he’s finally well on his way to becoming an interesting three dimensional character again. We see that Jon has become popular among the brothers, particularly with Locke, the newest Watch member, who you might remember as the gentleman who removed Jaime’s hand last season (who is also on a quest to find Bran and Rickon for his master Lord Bolton). Jon’s new-found popularity is perceived as a threat by the current Acting Commander, which I’m certain will come into play at some point down the line.

Finally, we get to witness the parting of the ways between Jaime and Brienne. The Jaime we see in these scenes is the Jaime we spent last season getting to know- the man who wants to be a better person and be known for more than killing a king. This Jaime has been lost all season- culminating in his rape of Cersei. Without Brienne by his side, it appears that the good Jaime is all but gone, replaced by the facade he has shown for the last decade and a half in King’s Landing. Still, despite Jaime’s recent actions, it’s hard to see Jaime lose his moral compass. Armed with Jaime’s sword and a nifty new set of armor (and a new squire in the form of Pod), Brienne is off to keep her and Jaime’s oath to Catelynn Stark: to find Sansa and Arya and keep them safe. I’m very excited to see where the road takes Brienne on this journey.

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Final Thoughts

Things aren’t looking great for Tyrion. While Jaime may believe him, there’s no way Tywin will be moved from thinking Tyrion is guilty. The walls are fast closing in on him, and Jaime may be his only hope.

— I can’t have been the only person worried Margery was going to make a move on Tommen, right? I’m incredibly glad she didn’t.

— So Sansa and Littlefinger are off to see creepy Aunt Lysa so that Littlefinger can marry her. Even though we can all tell he really just wants to get Sansa for himself, which is also incredibly creepy. Poor Sansa.

— One more bit on the Cersei-Jaime situation. As the entire season is filmed prior to it airing on HBO, there was now way the writers could have known the audience reaction to the storyline would be as strong as it has been. That being said, I find it hard to believe no one thought, “Hmmm. Fans might interpret this as rape. We should at least address this.”

— We get to see what the White Walkers do with the children given to them by Craster: They turn them into baby Walkers. While this scene may be a bit out of place, since we only occasionally get glimpses of these mysterious terrors, it hints that there is a greater danger to Westeros from these monsters than we may have previously believed. The Walkers are organized, have great numbers, and have the ability to change humans into whatever beings they may be. While the wildings may be the immediate threat to the Wall, if the Walkers ever decide to attack, Westeros may very well be doomed.

— This episode (as well as next week’s episode) was directed by the incredibly Michelle MacLaren, who most recently spent time working on some of the best Breaking Bad episodes. The transitions between the different locales and scenes were spot-on this week, beautifully flowing from one moment to the next. MacLaren is one of the finest television directors working today, and I’m thrilled she’s getting the change to work her magic on Game of Thrones.

Rating
7.0
Pros
  • Strong plot movement for Brienne and Sansa
  • Beautiful camera work and scene transitions
Cons
  • Dany is still not doing anything new or interesting
  • Several stories feel stagnant or even false

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About / Bio
TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeanHenegan on Twitter.

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