(The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones debuts on April 14th, marking the beginning of the end for HBO’s cultural touchstone. Over the years, we’ve covered all 67 episodes of the series, and are revisiting those original reviews in our new retrospective series titled, “Winter is Coming”. We’re pulling these straight from our vacuum sealed digital time capsules, so step into the virtual time machine with us and read our impressions from way back! With the benefit of hindsight, there is plenty of reasons these reviews will raise some eyebrows)
Unlike the disappointing post-Red Wedding episode last year, “Breaker of Chains” is a fluid episode, full of immediacy, conspiracy, double-crossing, and plenty to talk about. In dealing with the direct aftermath of King Joffrey’s untimely death, “Breaker of Chains” focusses heavily on loyalty, with just about everyone questioning who they can trust after an event like The Purple Wedding. The episode does a superb job of acknowledging the big picture while focusing specifically on moving secondary characters forward emotionally.
King Joffrey makes his final appearance this week, reminding us that while we hate the bastard king, he will be missed. Not only is Jack Gleeson an incredible actor, but Joffrey is one of the show’s most important characters and his death is far more significant than say, Rob Stark. Yes The Red Wedding is perhaps the most talked about episode of Game of Thrones; and yes it was heartbreaking to see Direwolf Grey Wind, Lady Stark, and Robb’s unborn baby murdered, but if they were all still alive, not much would have changed in the grand scheme of things. Joffrey dying is a game-changer; not only is he someone who carried immense power in Westeros, but he was a danger to some of our favourite characters.
“Breaker of Chains” heavy on rape, light on action
Tywin understands the importance of Joffrey’s demise and isn’t wasting any time. Getting right down to business, he already has his eye on the next king — Joffrey’s younger and much smarter brother Tommen (played by newcomer Dean-Charles Chapman). Even as Cersei grieves over her son’s dead body, Tywin Lannister questions his youngest grandson on the virtues of being a good king, while providing examples of the failures and weaknesses of three former rulers. “Your brother was not a wise king. Your brother was not a good king. If he had been, perhaps he’d still be alive,” says Tywin touching on some harsh truths. The reshuffling of power in King’s Landing is just beginning, and prepping Tommen is just the start for Tywin who later recruits Oberyn Martell to fill the open spot on the Small Council. In exchange, Tywin promises Oberyn he’ll arrange a meeting with The Mountain over the matter of his sister’s rape and murder. In their talk, Tywin lists the potential dangers to the crown (the Wildlings, the Greyjoys, Dany, her army, and of course, her dragons), and this time he seems intent on doing things right.
Now to get to what is likely the most controversial scene in the history of the show yet: Jaime raping Cersei with the body of their incest-bred child lying dead next to them was incredibly discomforting to watch. Over the past two seasons we’ve grown to like Jaime, and now he does something to remind us that he’s the guy we hated back in season one. I’ve never read the books, and my position here is to review the series, and not focus on how well it adapts the original source material. From my understanding, in the novel, the sex scene between Jaime and Cersei is a profound act of grief. This change certainly complicates these characters and their relationship. Over the last two seasons, Jamie has lost all that matters to him: his right hand, his reputation as a great warrior, and now the love of his life has turned her back on him. He’s constantly reminded of his failures, and his father practically disowns him. Cersei is the one person that brings him happiness, and lately, she’s done nothing but inflict more pain on him. “You’re a hateful woman,” Jaime tells her. “Why have the gods made me love a hateful woman?” Jaime raping his sister shouldn’t come as a big surprise considering he’s proven that he’s capable of commuting horrendous crimes in the past. Not only does raping Cersei remind his sister of her repeated violation (remember that Robert raped her too), but it’s his twisted way of taking charge of their unholy relationship. And now Cersei, the woman we all hate, is left with nobody to comfort her. In Game of Thrones, even monsters are human and having your audience find sympathy for characters we all despise, is a mark of good writing and solid direction. Rape scenes should be disturbing to watch, and like it or not, the scene exists. The judgment in my eyes, doesn’t rest on the execution of the scene, but the reason for it to exist. Will this mark a pivotal change for Jamie’s character arc going forward, or not? Only time will tell.
If you watch last week’s episode again and pay close attention to the small details, you’ll notice clues littered throughout the entire wedding reception, hinting as to who is responsible for murdering The King. As a non-book reader, I don’t have knowledge of future events, but as I mentioned in my review last week, all signs point to Lady Olenna. From her line delivery of “What kind of monster would murder someone at a wedding?” – to grabbing Sansa’s necklace – to the strategic camera placement – Olenna was clearly in on the assassination. This week, it’s immediately clear that Littlefinger also had a hand in Joffrey’s death. In season 2, episode 5, “The Ghost of Harrenhal,” Littlefinger asks Margery Tyrell after her soon-to-be husband Renly is mysteriously murdered, if she wants to be a queen. It was at the moment that Lord Baelish began planning the entire event, convincing the Tyrells to ally with the Lannisters and arrange the marriage between Joffrey and Margery. Though to what extent, we still don’t know since Margery is still not the Queen. Is this just the first of many more thickly plotted assassinations? Was he banking that Tyrion would be accused of Joffrey’s murder? And is Tywin also a target? Whatever the case, the entire Lannister family is slowly falling apart, and as they waste time hurting each other, they grow weaker by the minute.
Given the title of the episode, there was no doubt we would check in on Dany, the Mother of Dragons and Freer of Slaves, and her ever-growing army. We get yet another display of Dany’s fine leadership and are reminded that Daario is a great warrior. Khaleesi is great at delivering big speeches, but calling forth her catapults and sending barrels stocked full of broken chains over the high walls of Meeren was an interesting strategy. “I do not bring you commands,” she shouts, “I bring you a choice. And I bring your enemies what they deserve.” The end of the episode could be somewhat disappointing for anyone hoping for epic scale battles, but we can only assume that HBO doesn’t have the budget to produce a big battle sequence this early in the season. That said, I hear HBO has a few big action sequences planned in the near future.
– Ricky D
As per usual, I enjoyed watching the adventures of The Hound and Arya. Now that Brienne and Jamie are split apart, they make the most entertaining pair in all of Westeros. I also love The Hound’s line, “How many Starks they got to behead before you figure it out?”
I should also make a quick note that the brief exchange between Tyrion and Pod is especially touching but also quite important. We learn that Bronn’s somewhat a fugitive and that now that Shae and Sansa are gone, Tyrion sends his last true friend away.
Tyrion: “I will not have you die on my behalf!”
Tyrion: “The ominous they!”
Tyrion: “There has never lived a more loyal squire”
Although I like Sam, his romantic relationship with Gilly doesn’t interest me at all. Hopefully, this is going somewhere interesting.
Lady Olenna: “Third time’s a charm.”
When the wildlings attacked a Northern village, I was shocked to see Ygritte kill the dad right in front of the kid.
Davos: “We’re willing to use blood magic to put you in the throne, but not willing to pay men to fight?”
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I love the lighting in this episode, specifically the beams of light shining down on Joffrey’s body.
Pedro Pascal is a fine addition to the cast and absolutely great as Oberyn.
I don’t normally pick up on shifting accents, but Aidan Gillen sounded Irish this week.
Back at Castle Black, Jon Snow is there to remind us not once, but twice, that Mance Rayder isn’t aware that there are only but a number of men serving there.
Jon Snow: “I told the wildings we had over 1,000 men at Castle Black alone. Karl and the others know the truth as well as we do. How long do you think they’ll information to themselves when the wildlings are peeling their fingernails off.”
Game of Thrones, Season Four, Episode 3: “Breaker of Chains”
Directed by Alex Graves
Written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss
Featured music Ramin Djawadi
Cinematography by Anette Haellmigk
Editing by Katie Weiland
Originally published April 20, 2014