Joffrey Baratheon is dead but while we cheer in the real world, in-universe it’s chaos on the scene as Cersei accuses Tyrion of poisoning her first-born son. Sansa flees King’s Landing only to find that her saviour is an extremely creepy little man with an accent that he can’t quite decide on. As far as Game of Thrones episodes go, this one is a little lacklustre, in my opinion. Sure, things are happening but this is a transition period for the show – now that the War of the Five Kings is over for all intents and purposes, the show’s focus is going to be shifting towards the North where the Night’s Watch is battening down the hatches and prepare for Mance Raydar’s attack. The attack won’t be coming any time soon though – the build-up is far too climatic for anything less than a season ending battle-royale. This means that in the meantime, the showrunners must gently move the various pieces into place. This episode, ‘Breaker of Chains’ is all about getting the characters to where they have to go and while there are a couple of solid scenes, there are a few that make me want to murder a child.
Sansa’s escape from King’s Landing and her subsequent discovery that her creep stalker, Littlefinger, was behind the plot was well-executed, for the most part. My long-standing issue with Aidan Gillen isn’t so much with his interpretation of the character (not that there is a lot of room for interpretation to begin with) but rather with his execution of that interpretation. Look, I know that Gillen isn’t a bad actor and in fact, there have been plenty of times in earlier seasons when I’ve been quite impressed by how convincing he was as Littlefinger. This scene is not one of those times; the biggest issue is the inconstant accent. Normally, I don’t pay much attention to how consistent the accents are in the show, though if you think about it, the show does do a good job of differentiating Northern accents from Southern ones – the Dornish accents are almost Spanish/Southern European in fact. No, what annoys me is that he changes accent within the same scene and in between lines sometimes and more importantly, he puts on this particular affectation when the character is being underhanded (which, given the character in question, is always) that really just gives the whole thing away. We’ll be seeing more of Littlefinger this season and I really hope Gillen improves or he’ll end up spoiling some amazing scenes.
Let’s not get too caught up in the negativity though. While Joffrey’s funeral scene had some issues (ok, a lot of issues) it wasn’t all bad. Dean-Charles Chapman, who is our new Tommen – I’d be impressed if you even remembered that there was an older one – plays the new, much more tractable King of the Seven Kingdoms and his conversation with his grandfather Tywin was an interesting one. It wasn’t fascinating or absolutely spell-binding but if we’re looking for redemption for the scene, that conversation is a good place to start. There is some spark of chemistry between Chapman and Dance and I’m hoping that the two have more interactions this season. It might be a little nit-picky but I felt it would have been better had the writers decided to use the various rebel kings instead of historical ones. For example, Renly was ‘just’ (or something) but was murdered by his brother. Robb Stark was strong but couldn’t keep his kingdom together. Stannis was ‘pious’ (though to the wrong god, I guess) but lacked the people’s love and Balon is irrelevant, so forget about him. I know it wouldn’t have fit perfectly and the conversation as it stood gave the audience some exposure to the history of Westeros but I think that extra history is more than the casual viewer is interested in and might raise a false flag that these people are important to the story.
Ok, so that was the good/okay parts. The gut-wrenchingly terrible part however, was how director Alex Graves completely ruined Jaime Lannister’s character. For those who don’t know or readers who forgot, in the novels, Jaime and Cersei do have sex but it is a.) not on their dead son’s body and more importantly (never thought I’d see the day where there was something more important than not having sex on your dead son’s body) b.) it was consensual. The scene in today’s episode did not look consensual and it ruins all the character development and forward progress that Jaime has made in the last season. What really gets me is how unnecessary the scene was – even if it were consensual, it’s just plain fucked up that Jaime would be turned on by his sister’s grief and his son’s death. The other major issue (and there’s really no lack of them) is that most people will see this scene, then see Cersei act normally as though nothing happen, and think that it’s incredibly bad writing that her character is utterly unaffected by being assaulted. I wouldn’t even blame them.
So anyway, with that out of the way, I’m free to talk about some of the better scenes in the episode. We get an oddly lengthy sort of slice-of-life scene where Arya’s hatred for the Hound is renewed. It seemed for a while that with time, Arya’s resentment towards Sandor would abide but she’s right in claiming that he is ‘the biggest shit in the Seven Kingdoms’. Personally, it was kind of hilarious hearing Maisie Williams yell at Rory McCann and that was partially because of how petulant the line sounded but I’m not very sure if I like how cruel the Hound is in the show. Sure, he was hardly a saint in the novels either but him killing innocent people without being ordered to feels like a departure from the source material. Then again, I’m an unabashed Sandor fan, so I’m definitely biased here.
As the unlikely adventures of Arya continue, with plenty of foreshadowing of the Second Sons and Braavos, we turn our attention to the North where things are heating up, though unfortunately not literally. The survivors of the mutiny at Craster’s Keep have returned and we are presented with the grim reality of the Night’s Watch’s situation. They are a hundred people, of whom perhaps three quarters are fighting men. They must somehow hold the Wall against a hundred thousand. As Jon puts it, even if each man killed a hundred, there would still be enough to face-roll the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. The attack on the mutineers is interesting because it is presented as absolutely necessary – something that worth the risk of losing a huge (relative) part of their fighting force over. The argument presented makes sense and it gives the storyline more to prolong itself until the inevitable clash at the season’s climax. I should also mention that I really liked Kit Harrington’s performance this week. I’m not generally a Jon Snow fan but I do like Kit and I think this season is really his chance to shine. I hope he takes it; we need some solid, well-delivered speeches in our lives.
Last but not least (well, ok, kind of the least) we have Dany and her ongoing quest to become Abraham Lincoln. Her storyline, more and more, is becoming a footnote to the overall plot as the plotlines show no signs of converging. Still, this scene was entertaining and I think this new Daario is beginning to grow on me. The fight between him and ‘champion’ of Meeren was somewhat anti-climactic in how short it was but otherwise gives us a good glimpse of Daario’s character; he won’t fight honourably if honour won’t help him win. That, and he also has a showman in him that picks some pretty high stake situations of manifest itself. On a more serious note, the final image of the episode was really powerful, I felt. Throwing barrels of collars at the slaves is an exceptionally interesting way of provoking rebellion in the city. Most of those slaves will probably die in the attempt but I wonder if Dany thought that through? We’re also reaching the part of the story where my memory of events is getting really hazy so I’m watching each episode with new-ish eyes.