'Game of Thrones' Season 4, Episode 3: spoiler discussion
The night is dark and full of spoilers. Below we'll be talking about the HBO series Game of Thrones, up through and including tonight's episode, "Breaker of Chains." Any discussion of future episodes — or information from the books — is off limits.
Am I the only one who rewatched last week's episode in preparation for tonight, just to make sure Joffrey's demise was fresh in mind? That probably says far too much about how I felt about him as a character, but it set the stage just right as tonight's episode took off from the exact moment we ended on. Operation: Blame Tyrion is in full force as the guards haul him off and try to track down Sansa, but the episode's first revelations aren't far behind. None other than Littlefinger is behind Ser Dantos' seemingly heroic efforts to whisk Sansa away. It doesn't get Dantos much, however, as he ends up lying in a boat with a bolt in the heart.
Littlefinger directly take responsibility for Joffrey's death, but it certainly would make a lot of sense. The assassination has the triple-play advantage of creating a distraction during which Sansa can be kidnapped and brought to Littlefinger; it takes one of the Westeros' most clever minds — Tyrion — out of play; and furthermore, it creates a whole lot of unexpected unrest around the Iron Throne. "Chaos is a ladder," Littlefinger said last season, and Joffrey's death has certainly created quite a bit of it to climb. That said, it's going to be a little disappointing if it was simply Baelish acting alone. There are so many people with so many motives, I'm crossing my fingers for a more elaborate death plot — one that Littlefinger is just milking for all its worth.
Tywin's not wasting any time either, already tutoring his grandson Tommen to be a better, smarter king than Joffrey ever was. He's not shy about calling out Joffrey for being the cruel idiot that he was, either, not even in front of Cersei. Westeros has never been a land for sentimentality, of course — not if you want to live (see Stark, Ned). Margaery, usually so composed, actually seems to be faltering in the wake of Joffrey's death, wondering if the death of a second husband means she might be cursed, but Lady Olenna won't hear of it. You did good work with Joffrey, Olenna tells her. "The next one should be easier." The next one as in her next husband, or the next one as in the next Lannister? Keeping the Lannisters and Tyrells aligned is certainly in everyone's political interests, but Tommen looks like he's about 11 on the show, and the prospect of the new king and Margaery hooking up is more than a bit creepy. Which probably means it's a slam dunk for Game of Thrones.
You know what else is creepy? A brother and sister getting it on next to the body of their dead son. And that's exactly what Cersei and Jamie do. It's been a long time since we've seen some truly unsettling on-screen incest on the show, so I suppose it's about time, but like the best moments of Game of Thrones it was actually a surprisingly layered and complex moment that was about a lot more than just the act itself. Jamie, angry at Cersei's constant rejection since he returned. Cersei, unable to pull herself out of the grief of losing her son, and incapable of coping as power and control slips out of her grasp. The taboo of their relationship itself, something that only they have been able to share and understand, being taken into an even more perverse direction. Jamie not caring despite Cersei's cries to stop, the nobility he started to show while traveling with Brienne vanishing instantly.
In counterpoint, there's Gilly and Samwell. Call me a softie, but it's really hard to not root from them. They don't care about politics, power, or any of the other concerns the dominate the show. They're simply just two people dealing with the most basic concerns. They're so innocent, I know it's just a matter of time before one of them gets tortured, beheaded, or eaten alive by one of those crazy Wildling cannibals (maybe all three). When the day comes I will mourn them as needed, but in the meantime they just earn one big Awwwwwww every time they are on the sceen. Samwell, ya big lug.
Tywin continues to line up the post-assassination pieces to his advantage, enlisting Prince Oberyn to help in Tyrion's trial (and promising him a seat at the King's Small Coucil as a bonus). And can we talk about the way the scene opens, by the way? So far every episode this season has had at least one scene that seems designed solely to showcase what a badass Oberyn is, and if Benioff and Weiss are trying to turn him into Prince YOLO it's certainly working. Those that have read the books have seem particularly excited for Prince Oberyn to show up, and I understand exactly why.
Tyrion used to fill that same role, actually, but he's moved far away from it at this point. With his family lining up against him, and Sansa MIA, there's pretty much nobody to get his back except for his squire Podrick. Podrick refuses an offer to testify against Tyrion, even turning down a lordship, but Tyrion knows what dire straights he's in and tells Podrick to get out of dodge as quickly as possible. I haven't read the books so I don't know where this storyline is headed — and if you have, please keep any future revelations out of comments — but for the moment I'm getting nervous at how quickly and cleanly Tyrion's storylines are being tied up. Shae's out of the picture, Sansa's gone, he's sent Podrick away... there's a lot of ground being covered that will make it awfully easy for Tyrion to disappear from the show should Cersei get her way and he meet the executioner's block. So, I'm just going to say a little prayer.
Dear Game of Thrones. Please don't kill Tyrion Lannister. He's the only survivor from the first season that is becoming a better person rather than a more horrible one. Also Peter Dinklage is brilliant. Don't be a jerk and kill him. Sincerely, Bryan.
Back with the Night's Watch, Jon Snow is continuing to come into his own. He's the lone voice of reason, telling all the stubborn idiots what needs to be done while the rest of his comrades seem obsessed with self-destructing. But then some real urgency comes into play: a group of deserters are riding north, where they'll no doubt be taking captive by Mance Rayder and his forces. The only problem is, the deserters know that Castle Black only has about 100 men — Jon Snow told Rayder last season that they had 10 times that — so if the deserters are captured it could trigger an immediate attack during which Castle Black would fall. The only option, Snow says, is to find the deserters and kill them first. Cold blooded, Jon Show. I like it.
Of course, no episode would be complete without Daenerys Targaryen taking one more step on her Neverending Journey Towards Eventually Fighting Somebody in Westeros, Maybe. This time she approaches the city of Meereen, whose slaves she hopes to set free (so she can command them herself) because that's her thing these days. There's a good little action moment with Daario (I've now decided I firmly prefer the new Daario over the the actor that played him last year, and his nerves-of-steel standoff with Meereen's horse-riding warrior in this episode was the deciding factor).
That said, I am starting to get a little tired with Daenerys and her endless trek. Not that the way she takes on this new city isn't clever — she uses catapults to deliver slave collars so the slaves can imprison their masters — but it all feels awfully minor. A lot of viewers started to feel this way last season, but there were enough new twists and turns in Khaleesi's saga that I was engaged. Now it feels like she's just taking on another city to free more slaves in order to add more people to her army. Of course, tonight's episode ends with one of the Meereen slaves grabbing a collar and sharing a long look at his master, so maybe there's most exciting action to come up ahead.
What did you think of tonight's episode? Was Littlefinger acting on his own? If not, who was helping him? Will Jamie give in to Cersei's demands to side against his brother? And will the show make the horrible mistake of killing Tyrion?