Tuesday, April 29, 2014

(TV) Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 4 "Oathkeeper" TV Review

This week's GOT episode was much like its predecessor, compelling TV without much happening. However, here was a lot of setup for future developments that could prove our prediction right that Season 4 of this great show could be its best season yet.

"Oathkeeper" began with Grey Worm and Missandei together with the latter helping that former brush on his "common tongue". There hasn't been much character development with Grey Worm or Missandei but in this short but telling scene we see both former slaves attitude towards the past as Missandei probes the leader of The Unsullied past less than willing to share accepting his identity as an Unsullied.

Their short chat was interrupted by the Mother of Dragons who orders  Grey Worm and a company of the unsullied to sneak into Meereen and inspire the slaves to rebel against their masters Which they do in short time as they arm the Meeren slaves with blades.

We then see a sight we’ve seen before and hopefully by the end of this season never see again of Dany and her cohorts by her side walking through a jubilant and uber-grateful band of former slaves throwing their chains in her path. It’s a great scene but one we’ve have seen before and would do well not to see again.

Dany scenes are often the best scenes in the Game of Thrones and show off the epic scale of the show and it’s production values but it doesn’t move the story forward or tell us much about her character we don’t know already.

However this episode we get to see her unforgiving side as Ser Barristan suggests that his queen should show some royal restraint to the former masters of Meereen, she replied with a brilliant line that she’ll “answer injustice with justice” before crucifying the former masters of Meereen as they did the 160 dead girls used as mile markers in the first episode.

 Next we’re off to king’s landing and land right in the middle of another training session with Jamie and Bronn. From the outset we see that Jamie gotten a little better fighting with his weaker left hand but its still hampered by his need to win a fight fairly as Bronn ruthlessly takes his false golden hand and slaps him to the ground with it when their swords clashed.

We saw his need for a fair victory in battle when he started a fight with Ned Stark which ended prematurely thanks to a Lannister guard lancing Ned in the leg. He could have killed Ned right there and then but opted to strike the Lannnister guard for ending the fight in full flow. However we’re more than confident that a man who has pushed a boy out a window, killed a cousin in aid of a minute hope to escape imprisonment and raped his sister at wake of their incest born son won’t have a problem using every dirty trick in the book win a fight in light of his new disability.

Jamie calls time on the session and then asks Bronn if he thought his brother killed his son. Bronn, knowing murder isn’t his paymaster’s style says no then challenges Jamie to go see him then fills in the kingslayer on why he was Tyrion’s second choice at The Vale when he was sentenced to trial by combat.

Sure enough taking Bronn words to heart, we find Jamie seated against a wooden pillar with his younger brother. The Lannisters are a ruthless bunch particularly to each other but in Jamie and Tyrion we get the only genuine and loving relationship in a family where genuine and loving goes to die.

We haven’t seen much of Jamie and Tyrion in the same room talking but in “Oathkeeper” we taste of what we have been missing for most of this show’s three year run. Peter Dinklage and Nikolas Coster-Waldau share a great scene where we see two brothers put in an impossible position but still find that they still feel for each other.

Despite his suspicion, it’s hard to believe that Jamie would think Tyrion was capable of killing his incest born son as from the off we get the sense that Jamie has been and still is the only thing between an unloving and cruel father and an equally unloving and cruel sister from putting his baby brother’s head on a spike.

Next we’re with Petr “Batman Voice” Baelish and Sansa talking about his role in the boy king’s demise. After we learn that they’re heading the eyre where her aunt lives who will marry Baelish, Sansa asked Baelish if he killed the boy king which he answers along the lines of “yes, but not alone”. This was a good scene where we see Baelish test if the meekest wolf the Stark’s pack had learned anything about the game of thrones given her recent nightmare spell in the vipers nest that is King’s Landing.

Sansa is one of the less popular characters in the show not because of what she has done but a bias among most if not all TV watchers share: a real dislike for powerless characters. She has been for the most part the most powerless character in a show packed with either strong or powerful characters who either kill or manoeuvre their way to power or to keep it. Sansa on the other hand has been tormented by King Joffrey, sneered at and bullied by his mother and used as a political pawn by just about everybody else.

While in an impossible position, it could be argued that her siblings have been in worse conditions and have clearly learned more about survival and indeed power in the same space of time than she has. However, there are signs that Sansa is learning about the game as she clearly doesn’t trust Baelish (who does?) but knows she’s better off with her auntie than she is in King’s Landing with a rage filled Queen mother out for blood. In this scene, we get an insight into how the murder of the boy king might had been carried out and a motive we can all get behind as the boy king did have a deadly talent of treating his allies just as badly as his enemies.

In the next scene, we find out who that “reasonable” party is as we drop in on Margaery and Olenna Tyrell having a garden side  conversation about what happens next. Needless to say but Natalie Dormer and Dame Diane Rigg have been fantastic in their scenes together and their scenes are quickly becoming one of the many treats in the show. This week the hard-nosed game players set their sights on what is to be done concerning the next in line and how to handle him.

In this great scene we learn just how great a game player lady Olenna is as she recounts how she stole a husband from her sister and revealed what we suspected from the off, the Tyrells had a hand in the murder of the boy king. Not happy with being the second most powerful house in the seven kingdoms, the Tyrells had the means, motive and opportunity to pull it off and with good reason as the boy king was a nightmare that would have got worse with age.

The Tyrells are just as power hungry as the Lannisters but we get the sense that they just might be better in charge of the seven kingdoms as none of them appear to be sadistic psychopaths, pathologically cold, calculated and manipulative no matter what the circumstance (even at the wake of a dead grandson) or obsessed with family legacy and house standing as the clan from Casterly Rock.

Next were at the wall and the brothers are getting ready for oncoming onslaught soon to be provided by the wildlings either side of the wall. We find Jon teaching the new recruits how to deal with the wildings as he continues his trend of accepting his role as a man of the nightswatch. We also see Bolton Lieutenant Locke among the new recruits and a demonstration of his skill as a fighter as he brutally makes easy work of a fellow recruit.

Jon notices straight away that the new recruit is no slouch with a sword and soon enquires to get the lowdown on his “story” which Locke sells pretty well. While we see Jon become more popular among his fellow, the seething hate Ser Alister Thorne has for the bastard of Winterfell only gets worse.

Thorne has always hated Jon Snow for no real reason other than he’s high born but then he seems to be an equal opportunity pain in the ass as he doesn’t give two hoots who likes or hates him knowing full well that most of the brothers, save Janos “Baby Killer” Slynt, feel the latter. However, he gets a word from the not so wise but all too cruel Slynt reminding him that if they were to select a Lord Commander, he won’t win as most people don’t react well to people who instill hate into just about every person they meet.

Slynt continued pouring his brand of poison down Thorne’s ear suggesting that Thorne sanctions Jon’s dangerous mission to wipe out the mutineers before they can be intercepted by the wildlings now bearing down on the south.

Next we’re with Cersei drinking her way through King’s Landing supply of Dornish wine as she still mourns the loss of her son. Jamie, with as much formality that can mustered by a brother toward his sister and lover, enters into her chambers both seemingly forgotten the much talked about events that transpired at the wake of the boy king. Much has been said about that scene and what it was, wasn’t and what it meant but for sake of brevity and relevance, we won’t mention it here.

Jamie and Cersei aren’t exactly a match made in heaven and main the reason for this is dead obvious, Cersei is exactly like her father save her capacity to be irrational and Jamie is anything but save his capacity to commit the reprehensible.

This big chasm becomes clear in this short but telling scene as Cersei, in her own probing way questions his oath to Catelyn Stark as if to question his loyalty to her before Jamie swiftly reminds her of the inconvenient fact that the matriarch of house Stark is dead. She’s ordered to Jamie to kill before and she does it again as she asks him track and kill Sansa Stark to which Jamie notably said nothing.

She then reveals her knowledge of Jamie’s visit to Tyrion, who she believes, with no evidence whatsoever, killed her son despite a large list of suspects with greater means, motive and opportunity than her little brother. We’ve already stated her and father’s irrational and almost pathological hate but in Cersei’s case the hate is deeper as aforementioned she can be as irrational as her father is cold and uncaring and can act on past wrongs (whether they exist or not) she feel were done against her.

Despite her brother and lover protestation about their little brother’s innocence but all he gets back is her irrational hate for brother citing his understandable animosity towards a sister and a father who have hated him from birth failing to realize just why he might hate a sister that’s pulling all the stops to get his head on a pike and a father who once told him that he was tempted to throw him into the sea as a baby.To end the scene, Cersei returns the favour of being overly formal by dismissing him by his title as Lord Commander.

After a short scene where see Margaery take a page out of her grandmother playbook of grand strategy. We’re back with Jamie who so far has central to an episode had been well directed and written but so far was easy to identify as an episode setting what’s coming up in the next few weeks.

This time we’re with Jamie and Brienne, a notably much more palatable scene between two people who like each other with something in common, the need to serve and keep oaths. In their scene we see Jamie and Brienne with Brienne reading Jamie’s “achievements” out aloud, all of which frankly leaves one obvious conclusion, if these are his achievements one would hate to see his failures.

We have seen don’t see many acts of kindness in Game of Thrones and for the most part this episode was no different save Jamie giving Brienne the valyrian steel swords given to him by his father and new armour as he tells her to keep her oath keep the Stark children safe from harm. Brienne, clearly not used to acts of kindness, looks upon her new sword and armour and promises to find Sansa for Lady Catelyn and for Jamie which clearly touched him.

However, Brienne was less than pleased with her third gift bestowed on her in the form of Podrick “the greatest squire that ever lived” Payne. Ever the lone wolf, she made her reservations known about her new road companion who made things worse by calling her “Ser” which is bad enough but is compounded when you take into account her insistence to not to refer to her status as a “Lady”. For his loyal service to his lord, Pod get a present of his own, the axe Tyrion used during the Battle of Blackwater Bay as Bronn hands the squire the axe.

Thanks to The Hound, we’ve learned that not everybody is a fan of naming their sword but in in the week’s episode we learned that not everybody who names their weapons are “cunts” as Brienne calls her new sword “Oathkeeper”. There are many odd couples that litter this show from Jon and Sam to Arya and The Hound which are all great to watch but Jamie and Brienne is arguably the best of the bunch as it is the most genuine as they both exchange long glances as Brienne and Pod hit the road.

The events so far at the wall for the last four season have often been the weaker part of the show but this season it’s clear that events at the wall are just about to warm up. Back at the wall, we’re with Jon and Sam with still regretting his soon to be costly decision of moving Gilly to Moles Town which is a worse place for her be with a pack of professional murderers about descend on the town and her new roommates being shifty as it gets.

Thorne, taking in Slynt’s advice, sanctions Jon’s mission to kill the mutineers but offers no men to aid the mission telling him that he can only take volunteers. Save this season, we haven’t seen much of Thorne but what we have seen of the man tell us he’s no politician as he knows full well Jon well liked which means he’ll easily summon volunteers (which he does, including Locke, with a rousing speech. The look on his face was priceless. ) and if he should succeed in killing the mutineers (more on them later), it’ll only strengthen his leadership bid when time comes to select a new commander.

Game of Thrones has never shied from brutal and/or sexually explicit scenes but the scene that catches us up with the mutineers was particularly hard to watch. With all the articles donated to deconstructing the events of last week’s episode, one can only imagine the amount of lip service that will be lent to the scene that showed us the wholesale rape of Craster’s wives and daugthers by the Mutineers. The show has gone out of its way to make the point that many of the men of the nights watch are the worst of the worst and in this little corner of hell, it showed

Westeros has its fair share of violent and sadistic nutcases but in Karl, the leader of last season mutiny, may just top the lot in a very strong field. We find Karl in this drinking wine from the skull of the late commander Mormont and boasting proudly of his past as an assassin in Gin Alley. Usually in fiction characters that are this evil die and die ugly but in Game of Thrones, this trope dies a horrible death.

As if we didn’t know up to this point that the mutineers weren’t evil bastards beyond repair, they, thanks bone chilling prompting from Craster’s abused daughters, continue the heinous agreement struck by Craster to hand over his new born sons to the whitewalkers. This horrid scene goes to show the real number Craster pulled on his daughters as not only did he subject to abuse and incest but psychosis they somehow made a religion out of giving up their sons up to a supernatural force that offers nothing in the way of redemption, salvation or even hope.

After one of the mutineers leaves Craster last son out in the cold for the whitewalkers to pick up, we catch with Bran and the gang in front of a camp fire interrupted by cries a baby meaning that they’re not too far from Craster’s Keep but unfortunately, not too far away from the murderous mutineers.  Bran worgs into summer to find out the source of the disturbance only to find Ghost, Jon’s direwolf, locked up before an unknown force attacks summer and brings Bran back to consciousness. Sure enough in the next scene Bran and the gang stumble across Craster’s Keep spying on the mutineers and it isn’t before long when the mutineers capture them.

Bryan Cogman, writer of last night’s episode, must have thought we hadn’t picked up on the obvious fact that the mutineers were nasty bastards as in the next scene we’re greeted with a gang of mutineers taunting then stabbing Hodor, chained up, confused and in real pain after being stabbed in the leg. It was a short horrible scene but so far all the scenes involving the mutineers have been horrible from the mutiny itself till now. Things don’t any better as Karl, via threatening to slice Meera’s throat, makes Bran tell them who he is.  

And just when we thought we were done, we find out just how the whitewalker swell the number of their ranks as the baby left in the cold by the mutineers as a whitewalker rides through the snow and places the poor mite on an icy altar. Ahead we see darkly figures as one walks towards the baby picks the it picks and places an icy nail the babies’s cheek turning it’s brown eyes icy blue. The reveal of the darkly figures face was creepy yet somehow familiar as he looked like Darth Maul spent an age in a meat freezer.

The show hasn’t shown us much about the whitewalkers but this week we also find out that despite their super strength, ability to raise the dead and freeze dead whatever lays in their path, shit still rolls downhill as it looks like even the whitewalkers have a chain of command and have to meet numbers to keep their bosses happy.

In sum, things are certainly going to heat up in the next few episodes after two episodes straight of laying groundwork for what’s to come. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when Jon and his company of fellow crows bear down the mutineers and what Locke does when they find Bran.

‘till next week!!!

This episode was directed by the excellent Michelle McClaren (responsible for that brilliant 13th episode "to Hajillee" of Breaking Bad in its final season) and written by Bryan Cogman
Episode Rating: 7/10

Connect with us on Twitter @TCRblogspot and check out our review of last week’s episode “Breaker of Chains”

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