It’s kind of become a tradition for a series of Game of Thrones to start somewhat slowly and get better a few episodes in, because that’s just what happens when you have a cast that could fill a small country and when they all have plotlines in different parts of the world. True to form, ‘Oathbreaker’ seems to have brought the show back into the swing of things, with an exciting action sequence, some building revelations and no Dorne appearances, which at this point I’m counting as a positive.
Perhaps the most important plotline of the episode was Jon Snow coming to terms with being brought back from the dead at the end of last episode. “I did what I thought was right, and I got murdered for it”, Snow lamented, which is probably the Stark family motto by this point. Luckily, Davos was able to provide some motivational spirit and rouse him back into the fight, thus proving that Team Stannis is still awesome even when one-third of it is dead.
It’s good to have Kit Harrington back. He gives a solid performance this episode, most notably when having to decide whether to send his killers to the afterlife, or lack of it, from whence he had just came. It ends with the death of Sir Alliser Thorne, which despite everything is kind of a shame. He was a compelling villain with some understandable motives, who even had some heroic moments as the wildlings breached the Wall. Then there’s Olly. Screw Olly.
The other best part of the episode was the flashback to the Tower of Joy. Bran went back to just after Robert’s Rebellion, where the top three members of Prince Rhaegar’s Kingsguard were adamantly defending something from a young Ned Stark and his men (also, kudos to the actor who played Young Ned for a fairly great Sean Bean impersonation).
It culminated in a vicious swordfight which came down to Ned Stark versus a duel-wielding Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. The latter got to cut down Ned’s crew one by one first of all and then he actually disarmed Ned, thus giving us a legendary swordsman who actually lived up to the legend (unlike Barristan Selmy getting beaten by rich debutantes in masks, or Areo Hotah getting casually stabbed from behind).
What else was there? Speaking of sympathetic villainy, King Tommen seems to be slipping towards the dark side a little more, turning to Cersei for help on how to take down the High Sparrow. That should provide interesting material for future weeks, just as Cersei triggering another trial by combat against the zombified Mountain will.
We also had a scene of Varys doing what he does best, talking an informant for the slavers into helping him out, which served as one of the better parts of the episode.
Also, despite all those posters with “THE NORTH REMEMBERS” written on them in big letters a few series ago, it seems the North isn’t remembering much of anything, with two of Ned’s former bannermen immediately turning around to kill Jon Snow and work with the Boltons. On the bright side, we finally got to see Rickon and Osha again, but only alongside an emotional gut-punch: they killed his direwolf, Shaggydog, offscreen. I’ll pour one out for another character who should have been awesome and died an ignominious death (see also: Doran Martell, Roose Bolton).
It’s hard to rate episodes of Game of Thrones. The constant long-running storylines mean it’s nowhere near as episodic as some other shows, and a lot of them are entertaining build-ups to a shocking episode down the line. Still, Game of Thrones on its average day is better than most other shows in their prime, and this week’s episode was no exception.
Still, every recent episode has ended on a game-changing moment. This week’s was Jon giving up his position as Commander of the Night’s Watch and storming off into the distance, presumably just in time for Brienne and Sansa to just miss him next week. Sorry, Brienne. Should have been quicker at getting out of the trash compactor.