Game of Thrones 6.03: “Oathbreaker”

This will be more interesting than Grey Worm’s stories. I promise.

As Jaime Lannister would attest, in the world of Game of Thrones, there are very few things worse than an oathbreaker. And in last night’s aptly titled “Oathbreaker,” we saw a variety of that very act. First there was Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), who knowingly spurned the Dosh Khaleen and the Heart Eater’s Club (dibs). Then, we traveled back in time to the Tower of Joy (more on that later) where a pair of Kingsguard knights ignored their vows to the Mad King. In Winterfell, we saw Smalljon Umber seemingly disregard his fealty to the Stark family by handing over the long-forgotten Rickon and Osha to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), along with the head of Rickon's direwolf, Shaggydog. And then, we ventured even further north to a foursome of treasonous men standing on the gallows. Their crime? A short-lived assassination. Then, mere moments after these men gasped their last collective breath, Jon Snow broke the sacred vows of the Night’s Watch. Or did he?

Riser of the Week: No One

Damn, that was a fantastic sequence featuring Arya’s ongoing training. Watching Arya slowly start to defend the Waif’s relentless attacks, cut with her blind potion making and death prayer recital, made me want to throw on a grey hoodie, run up some steps, punch some frozen cows, and listen to Eye of the Tiger. It seems that Arya has finally and successfully transformed into No One, another anonymous soldier of the Many-Faced God. Hopefully this god proves a good judge of character and commissions No One to not only return to Westeros, but to help complete the death prayer of the recently-erased Arya Stark. Mayhaps she’ll start with Walder Frey.

Honorable Mention: Varys, one of the game’s true chess masters who was finally allowed to play a round. It had been a while.

Faller of the Week: Tommen Lannister

Tommen (Dean Charles-Chapman) alluded to some sage advice from the late, great Tywin Lannister about surrounding one’s self with the very best council, but perhaps the bit of grandfatherly guidance he should have recalled was that “any king who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king.” Now don’t get me wrong, Tommen had every reason in the world to be angry at the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). Both his mother and wife have been locked up, and his mother, who was only released after a degrading march through the streets, is now being forbidden from paying respects to the body of her murdered daughter – his sister. I’m not saying that Tommen should have gone in there with drawn swords and murdered the High Sparrow and his flock, but what started out with a kingly roar ended with a lion putting his tail between his legs. Some praise must also be given to the High Sparrow, who deftly deflected Tommen’s outrage and manipulated the young king with hardly any trouble. Don’t sleep on the High Sparrow. I’m not yet ready to put him in the same league as Varys and Littlefinger, but he’s close. And rising.

Honorable Mention: Rickon Stark, for there might legitimately be nothing worse than ending up a prisoner of Ramsay Bolton.

Backstory of the Week: The Tower of Joy

Young Neil Patrick Harris, erm, I mean young Ned Stark gets ready for battle.

Book readers know all too well of the Tower of Joy, the legendary battle between Ned Stark and his companions (including the frustratingly elusive Howland Reed) versus the Targaryen Kingsguard that featured Ser Arthur Dayne, arguably the best swordsman in the world. Despite being outnumbered, the Kingsguard held their own, killing everyone but Ned and Howland. As depicted last night, it was an impressive fight, made even more remarkable by the stunning swordsmanship of Arthur Dayne, who truly lived up to the hype. (Big round of applause goes out to the show's stunt team. Unlike the frequent cuts used in the duel between the Mountain and the Red Viper, they let this fight breathe, and it showed. Bravo!) Were it not for a blindsided attack from a thought-dead Howland, Game of Thrones would be a completely different story.

Bran (Issac Hempstead Wright), who is watching the fight unfold via the magic of the weirwood trees, assumes the fight will unfold just as the legend goes – with Ned defeating the world’s best knight. But Bran soon learns that legends are often fabrications, and history is written by the victors. Personally, I think Ned let the legend unfold how it did not for a desire of fame, but for nobleness. Arthur Dayne was too revered of a knight to be killed by a dagger to the neck. By letting the world think he went out nobly, he allows a man merely fighting for duty to retain his honor.

Ned has long been one of the sole bastions of truthful and noble behavior. He lied to protect Cat when she took Tyrion hostage, and he lied to save Sansa’s life, knowing it might cost him his. The best liars tell the truth all of the time, until it’s time for that single, necessary lie. Ned knew that, and when we return to the Tower of Joy later this season and follow Ned to the top – to Lyanna screaming out in pain – I believe we’ll see Ned’s biggest lie of all.

Item of Power: Jon Snow’s Cloak

Just Dolorous Edd’s luck.

Does Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) know how to end an episode on a dramatic note or what? Between dying, not dying, and now leaving the Night’s Watch, it’s been one Oh Shit! moment after another. I think we should all prepare for a new Jon Snow – one who won’t laboriously attempt to please and save everyone, but will rather protect himself and his allies first and foremost. In other words, welcome to Jon Snow Revenge Tour. I’d grab your tickets while you can.

Now, for those of you worried that Jon has just become this episode’s titular character, let me remind you of the Night’s Watch 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 fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, 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.

If you wouldn’t mind, please go back and read that second sentence in the oath. Until my death. I don’t think anyone would dispute that Jon Snow was dead. In fact, he lived and died at his post. He fulfilled his vows. And now, there’s nothing stopping him from leaving The Wall and traveling south. After all, there must always be a Stark in Winterfell. (But please, for the love of all that is Littlefinger, do not leave before Sansa arrives. That girl needs to catch a break.)

Maester’s Musings:

  • Good to see Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) again. I always enjoy catching a glimpse of a new part of Westeros and I’m looking forward to seeing the Tarly home of Horn Hill as well as Old Town. Especially the Citadel.
  • That leaves us with two main characters we've yet to see: Bronn and Littlefinger. Quite frankly, this is unacceptable and needs to be fixed. 
  • I’m not yet entirely sold on the Umber betrayal of House Stark. This episode beat us over the head with the importance of oaths, and I think it speaks volumes that Smalljon refused to formally bow or pledge fealty to Ramsay. Yes, he handed over Rickon and Osha, but I’m holding out hope that it’s part of a larger plan to overthrow the Boltons. Also, that severed head looked entirely too small for it to belong to a direwolf. For reference, check out this link and see how large the head of Grey Wind was when it was affixed to Robb Stark’s head after the Red Wedding. My guess? Osha’s about to distract Ramsay while the Umbers unleash a bloodthirsty Shaggydog into Winterfell. (A man can dream, right?)
  • While I’m still not over the Tower of Joy tease, hearing that Bran won’t permanently entwined in the weirwood makes me happy. I’m a sucker for reunions.
  • Staying with Bran for a second, it seems all but confirmed that Bran’s shout to Ned was heard, at least in some capacity. This makes me wonder how extensively Bran will be able to communicate with the past. My first thought was that he might be responsible for turning Wylis into Hodor. We’ve already seen Bran warg into Hodor’s head. Might it be possible that he attempts to communicate with the young Wylis, addressing him by the name Hodor? Could this spook Wylis enough to permanently change him into Hodor?
  • Sticking further with that, it’s part of the common record that the Aerys Targaryen’s devolution into the Mad King began when he started hearing whispers in his head. Could this be part of Bran’s doing? Or Bloodraven’s? I’m not necessarily sold on these theories, but they definitely seem to be questions worth asking.
  • In lighter news, did anyone catch that Maester Pycelle fart?
  • Watching Jaime and Cersei sit at the deserted Great Council table solidifies that they truly only have each other. Things aren’t looking good for the Lannisters.
  • Except Tyrion, that is. While the small talk might be a bore in Meereen, the forthcoming action most certainly will not be. With enemies in every corner, perhaps a move to safer (and western) shores is in the cards? I hear Dorne might be looking for some allies, and Tyrion is probably the only way to make a Dorne scene worth watching. 
  • And finally, cheer up Jon. Tormund might not think you're hung, but at least Olly is!

See also: Game of Thrones 6.02: “Home”

 


Joe Brosnan works at St. Martin's Press and manages Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.

Read all of Joe Brosnan’s posts for Criminal Element.

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