Game of Thrones S04 E03: Breaker of Chains

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How do you follow up an episode in which a major (and hated) character is killed and the deck of cards that is Westeros is unexpectedly reshuffled?  Well, if you’re “Game of Thrones,” you pick up right where you left off and pull in some of the other dozen or so plot lines.  And do they succeed in keeping the ever-present taut story-telling, character development, and neck-stiffening levels of tension?  Come on, this is “Game of Thrones,” the show that’s led to a world-wide boom in therapy – both massage and mental.  More after the break… and yes, as always, there are spoilers here.

 

joffrey death

We pick up EXACTLY where we left off after the Purple Wedding,  Joffrey lying in his mother’s lap, his dead stare and bloodied face uncomfortably reminding you that, even though he was an in-bred, homicidal POS who would have ruined the kingdom, he was still just a kid.  A kid with a mom who loved him and grieved for him, despite his failures as a human being.  Said mom, Cersei calls for her brothers arrest, and then Sansa’s as well, assuming that she conspired along with Tyrion in regicide.

tyrion arrest
…maybe picking up that cup wasn’t such a good idea…

Sansa, of course, was pulled from the pavilion by the drunken former knight, Dontos, who went all Terminator at the end of Episode Two with his sudden appearance and message for her to “come with me if you want to live.” Sansa and Dontos make a frantic escape through the back alleys of Kings Landing to the bay, and row through a very fortuitous fog bank towards the waiting ship of creepy uncle Petyr “Little Finger” Baelish, who already knew about Joffrey’s assassination (sort of moves him up on the suspect list). Baelish rewards Dontos not with the promised gold but a crossbow bolt through the face, explaining to the stricken Sansa that drunkards talk, dead men don’t.  Everything Little Finger says and does now seems coated with a layer of slime, and it looks like poor Sansa is going to have her hands full with the GOT equivalent of Quagmire from “Family Guy.”

petyr.jpg
…Giggty..

Later in Kings Landing, as Joffrey lies in the Septa, we find Tywin already making plans, as he begins to advise Joffrey’s younger brother (and new king) Tommen, about what makes a good king.  His answer, wisdom, is actually great advice, but his matter-of-fact appraisal of both Tommen’s capabilities and Joffrey’s incredible short-comings, delivered while the Brat King’s body is still warm makes you wonder how much of Tywin’s DNA is from a reptile.  The “ick” factor increases about 1000-fold after Jamie arrives, and puts the moves on Cersei (because nothing says “hook-up” like seeing your dead kid laid out in a church).  Cersei resists, and Jamie ends up raping her at the foot of the bier holding their dead son.  Remember a few weeks ago when I talked about Jamie developing into a “good guy?”  Well I take that back.  I’ve no clue what that’s all about.

jaime and Cerseitog
…no means no, dude…even if it’s your incestuous twin sister…

I do, however, have a clue that Tyrion is in deep trouble.  The littlest Lannister is visited by the ever-faithful Podrick, who brings him food and news, including that prince Oberyn of Dorne will serve as one of the judges in his trial, that Sansa has disappeared, and that someone offered Podrick a knightship if he testified that Tyrion bought the poison that killed Joffrey.  And Tyrion’s reaction to this final bit of news shows how Peter Dinklage has used the source material to create one of the greatest characters in television.  He urges Podrick to save himself, to offer the testimony if that’s what it takes, but to not martyr himself; and he delivers these lines with the look of a man who knows he is signing his own death warrant.  It’s powerful stuff, and it’s hard to watch the scene without getting a little misty-eyed.

Podrick
…really, it was just allergies, I swear…

In the Riverlands, Arya and the Hound are still heading towards the Aerie, the scarred Clegane hoping to ransom the girl to her aunt.  Arya’s resourcefulness, including her ability to lie on cue, once again puts them in a good spot, as they befriend a Tully supporter and get some much needed dinner.  We get some possible foreshadowing as the farmer explains how the Freys will ultimately get their comeuppance for violating the rules of hearth and home.  The Hound apparently doesn’t get the message, as he robs the farmer the next morning, explaining to Arya that the farmer was weak and already a dead man; and dead men don’t need silver.  It’s a harsh lesson, but you wonder if Arya might need to learn it.

 

crazyeye arya
…on second thought, maybe she’s figured that out already…

Over in Dragonstone, Stannis has received word about Joffrey’s death, and revisits Davos’ betrayal (when he helped Gendry escape).  Seems Stannis feels that if a few blood filled leeches were enough to kill Robb Stark and the Brat King, that a body-fill of royal bastard blood would have delivered him the kingdom.  Davos is trying to raise an army, but he’s running out of time.  Luckily for him, he’s still doing story-time with the precocious Princess Shireen, which leads to an epiphany on how to raise an army.  I’m a little confused about the plans.  We ended last season with Melisandre stating they had to go to the wall to help the Night’s Watch, but through three episodes, they’ve made no indication they’re planning on going there any time soon.

Shireen
…just the cutest little lizard skin tutor ever…

And they better move soon, because our little bunch of crows is going to need a lot of help. The band of Wildlings south of the wall are rampaging towards Castle Black.  It’s interesting, we spent most of last season romanticizing and humanizing the “Free People”, but thus far in season three, we’re really seeing exactly what they are.  A murdering, ravening horde with no compunctions against killing (and in the case of the Thenns) eating innocent, peaceful villagers.  I had hoped maybe we’d see something redeeming, maybe from Tormund or Ygritte, but I guess these folks are what they are.

ygritte and tormund
…which apparently is still really pissed…

Over at Castle Black, Sam is struggling with keeping Gilly safe, and ultimately convinces her to stay in Moletown, the rough and tumble village near the Night’s Watch.  The scene when he discusses this is touching, and a nice echo of Tyrion’s similar actions with Shae from the previous episode.  Gilly took it about as well as Shae, but she seems a little more pragmatic, though I’m not so sure Moletown, with it’s cadre of prostitutes and other shady folk, is much safer for the young wildling girl.

The rest of Castle Black is struggling with keeping everyone else safe, with questions about whether they meet the smaller Wilding band currently led by Tormund, or wait things out.  Cooler heads prevail and Jon Stark finds himself on the same side of his most frequent detractors, when he advices staying and fortifying against Mance.  Those plans become moot when, with the single call of the horn, two wayward Rangers (Dolorous Ed and Giant) come stumbling in and inform them the rebellious rangers still hold Craster’s keep.  Jon knows that the only thing keeping Mance in check is the belief (thanks to Jon rolling a natural 20 on his bluff check last season) that a thousand men hold Castle Black.  Once the Wildlings overwhelm the Rangers at Crasters, it’s only a matter of time before they find they already have the resources to take the Castle and the entire North.  Maybe they can borrow some dragons?

Dolorous_Edd
… I mean, doesn’t adding this guy back to the fold fill you with confidence?

Not likely, since it looks like across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys will be needing them soon.  The long march to Mereen is done and her army is outside the walls.  The Mereenese send out their champion, and after a brief discussion as to who will face him, the cocky Daario Naharis is chosen as the most expendable.

old daario
…maybe if he still looked like this, she would have thought differently…

He makes ridiculously short work of the Mereen champion.  The Mereenese seem surprisingly ill-prepared for the army that’s spent the better part of the season approaching.  Dany gives an inspiring speech about freedom that leads to several awkward glances between the Mereen slaves and their captors, and punctuates the speech by catapulting barrels full of slave collars, removed from the cities she has already freed, over the walls.  The episode ends with one such Mereenese slave picking up the collar and looking thoughtfully while his owner stands behind him, presumably crapping his colorful robes.

Next week?  Will we finally see Oberyn and Mountain  meet?  What’s going to happen on the Little Finger Love Boat?  And will the Mereenese even put up a fight?  Not sure I can wait seven whole days!

 

 

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