8.4

Game of Thrones Review: "Breaker of Chains"

Season 4, Episode 3

TV Reviews Game Of Thrones
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<i>Game of Thrones</i> Review: "Breaker of Chains"

Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review Game of Thrones each week in a series of letters.

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Josh,

Here are some ingredients for a bad funeral:

1. Your grandfather steps away from your dead body, disses you in front of your entire family, and nobody has your back.

2. Your younger brother seems pretty okay with your death, and his dominant emotion is excitement that he gets to be king. And also that his granddad is about to explain the mechanics of sex.

3. Your mother thinks your uncle killed you, which isn’t true, and is plotting to kill him while the true murderers are running free.

4. Your father, who you always thought was your uncle, rapes your mother next to your tomb.

I mean, yikes, right? Not a great funeral, Josh, if I’m being honest. Joffrey’s death was bad, don’t get me wrong, but I almost feel like karma waited until he was lying in repose before it really kicked him in the teeth. The only thing missing was his body tumbling off the slab and landing in a funny position, then someone putting it on YouTube and playing it on a big screen while all of King’s Landing watches. Or, God forbid, Daario Naharis peeing on him.

Bad funeral and all, I’m going to take a stand and call this another solid episode, even if it didn’t quite live up to the excellent season premiere or the extra-excellent Purple Wedding. And is it just me, or are the segments with Jon Snow at the wall now the most exciting parts of season four? Friends of mine who haven’t read the book didn’t love Kit Harington (and therefore the Jon Snow character) in the first two and a half seasons, and I somewhat understood. But I think Harington has totally shed his whiny emo side and embodied the maturation of Jon Snow perfectly. Put simply, he’s a badass now (he even made it to the Final Four in the badass bracket), and the uncertainty and sullenness Harington brought to Snow in the early seasons now feels pretty brilliant. It wasn’t a misstep; it was part of the evolution. Now that he’s dodged death-by-wildling and execution-by-Night’s-Watch, he’s invested with power. I particularly loved the scene where Alliser Thorne sarcastically asked for his opinion on whether to attack the wildlings, and everyone turned to hear what he would say. Thorne’s plan backfired, because it showed that Snow has earned a deep respect from his fellow Watchmen.

Down south in King’s Landing, Tyrion’s in deep shit, Tywin seems to want him dead and is stacking the jury to ensure it, and King Tommen seems like he’ll be a perfect figurehead for the high council rule. BUT OH MAN, PETYR BAELISH! I’ve been waiting for this, and I think they executed the escape scene nicely. My one problem was with Aiden Gillen and his increasingly awful voice work. Does every sentence have to be gravel-hissed? He sounds like a dad playing with his son and doing a “dinosaur voice,” or something. People rag on Peter Dinklage for his mish-mash of an accent, but at least his intonation and inflection are always spot-on; Gillen seems to suffer from a hoarse, throaty form of voice immodulation disorder. And like Maggie with her increasingly awful Southern accent on The Walking Dead, it only seems to be getting worse. Which is a shame, because Baelish is too great a character to be transformed into a vocal caricature.

We’ve talked already this season about how Daenerys’ story has become a bit boring as she conquers one slave city after another, but at least this time we got the latest entry into the TV and Film Society for Man-on-Horse Violence. We’ve seen horses get impaled on wooden stakes in Braveheart and beheaded in The Godfather, but a knife in the eye? That’s a new level of animal cruelty. Still, I don’t think it quite did the trick for me. Right now it seems very much like the writers aren’t sure how to keep our interest when the action heads outside Westeros, and are resorting to gimmicks like urination duels and dramatic speeches (lesson: If Daenerys comes to your city with an army, don’t just sit there and let her speak to your slaves…shout, or have the band play, or something) and timely winks. I did think tossing the broken collars into the city was a great touch, though.

Question: When Tywin mentioned Daenerys, was that the first time anyone in Westeros has treated the dragons as fact, rather than fiction or rumor? Seemed like it to me, but my memory could be wrong. Also, as I kick it back to you, let’s try to think of some real-life situations where confrontational urination might come in handy. Maybe when you buy a new car and want to show the salesman that you’re not to be taken lightly?

—Shane

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Shane,

The growth of Jon Snow from petulant bastard son to badass ranger began when he met Ygritte, and the scenes at Castle Black and beyond have been fun to watch ever since. But I thought that among the Final Four of Jon, Tyrion, Daenaeys and Arya, Daenerys stood out last night. It may seem a little over-dramatic, but she’s winning the Free Cities (and actually making them free) through theatrics. Laying siege to a city takes patience and supplies, two things the Mother of Dragons is lacking. But if you turn half that city into allies, the war is half-won before you approach the gates. And the barrels full of chains was an original touch. Her exploits, as you mention, are no longer secret. Even Westeros knows about the dragons.

But there was plenty to keep us entertained earlier in the episode. Baelish also showed off his bad-assery last night, and his scheming has put him well ahead of his Game rivals Varys and Tyrion. By all accounts he’s serving the Lannisters while he steals away the heir to Winterfell. He leaves no loose ends, becoming the last person Tywin would suspect. Meanwhile Tyrion awaits his fate for a crime he didn’t commit. And like Varys, Baelish has risen from humble beginnings, but his ambition would have him rise much further.

Poor Samwell, though. He means well, but I can’t imagine how he thinks Gilly and his namesake baby are safer in that ramshackle town than they were at Castle Black. If he loves Gilly, he’s got a funny way of showing it. Plus he’s getting no credit for becoming the first person to slay a White Walker.

The Hound was merciless in his assessment of the farmer and his daughter, but even Arya kind of knew he was right. That doesn’t make him in the right, but I’ll watch that pair go anywhere. Arya was treating him more like a wayward uncle than an enemy, a little embarrassed by him but still thankful for his company. We’ll see if his thieving changes that.

As for Joffrey lying there with the creepy stones on his eyes, it’s hard to feel any sympathy even with all the ways his wake was being dishonored and defiled. He was not a good king, as his grandfather so plainly put it. Tommen certainly can’t be worse, even with his grandfather pulling the strings.

Confrontational urination, by the way, is my new band name. It’s really melodic garage rock. We’ll only put the actual concept into practice at the DMV, though.

So what do you make about the Dornish prince? He’s almost a caricature, but a kind of interesting one.

—Josh

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Josh,

With Prince Oberyn, I kinda have to laugh at the sex scenes, because it’s so clearly an HBO add-on to the plot. It sort of reminds me of the Ramsay Bolton torture scenes from last season, but far less unpleasant. It’s just one of those things they insist on hammering home, until you’re like, “yes, I GET IT. HE REALLY ENJOYS SEX OF ALL KINDS.” Still, I enjoy his kind of laid-back-yet-tough vibe, and I’m looking forward to whatever’s going down between he and The Mountain after the trial. I have a feeling it won’t be sexual in the least.

Yeah, great call on Samwell. “Hey, I want you to be safe, so here’s a town full of people who hate wildlings and also want to turn you into a prostitute, plus your room is disgusting and probably disease-ridden. Plus other northern towns are currently being raided by wildlings, and they have no qualms about killing women and children, and unlike Castle Black, this particular town has essentially no protection. Love you!” I think the decision is purely from a place of residual bitterness that nobody is giving him his props for killing the White Walker. That would annoy me, too. I’d just keep telling the story until somebody believed me, but my problem would be that I’d start exaggerating immediately, and I’d eventually be like, “and then I looked overhead, and wouldn’t you know it…DRAGON. My toughest challenge yet, but I had a plan…”

I loved the Hound’s line when he asked Arya how many Starks had to be beheaded before she figured out the truth. The problem with his outlook, though, is that he’s basically lost all morality, and Arya hasn’t. She gets that the world is tough, and is already willing to kill, but she also understands that even if the farmer and his daughter are guaranteed to die in the winter, it still isn’t right to steal their silver and hasten the process. She’s got the Stark quality of wanting to do right even when it may not be prudent, but like Jon Snow and even Bran, the deaths of her family have taught her a bit of subtlety as well. Which is why I’m excited to see how those three stories converge as the battle for Westeros continues.

I love the idea of confrontational urine at the DMV, by the way. Probably the only way to ensure good service, although if any government employee is going to urinate right back at you, it’s got to be the DMV clerk, right?

As a last question to you, where do you think the Jaime-Cersei sex scene ranks in the all-time disturbing Game of Thrones sexual oeuvre? Is it number one? Does it stack up to their earlier romp that ended with Bran’s fall, or Stannis and Melisandre creating a demon baby, or the foreplay in the torture chamber that ended with Theon’s dismemberment? This is the important question of the day.

—Shane

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Shane,

Call it Jaime’s wretched detour on the road to redemption. No matter how despicable Cersei is, raping your sister next to the dead body of your son who’s a product of that incest is pretty high on that list of most disturbing…well, anything. There was so much wrong in that scene that I’ll not ever be re-watching this particular episode. What does he see in his evil shell of his sister that leads him to complain to the gods that he’s been so smitten? In all his travels, he’s remained faithful to his forbidden love—forsaking his inheritance, taking up the white of the King’s Guard and ignoring his rational disgust for who she’s become. It’s because—partially redeemed or not—he still shares some of his sister’s merciless savagery.

Yes, this was worse than their original near-murderous fling, worse than the demon-baby conception, worse even than Theon’s dismemberment—because the show is asking us to root for Jaime over Cersei.

In the wake of rape-joke controversy, we’re given a portrayal of rape when the perpetrator has been portrayed sympathetically and the victim is one of the most despised characters on the show. The idea that “she deserves it,” an attitude that only perpetuates rationalization in the mind of rapists, has been planted by the show’s writers. That makes it not only disturbing to watch, but worrisome to see onscreen.

The only scene we didn’t touch on was Davos Seaworth’s endearing friendship with Stannis’ daughter, who’s taught him to read. There are plenty of despicable characters in this world that when you have two likable ones looking after each other, it’s a refreshing interlude. And the Onion Knight, telling Stannis, “It’s okay to use dark magic to win your throne, but not sell-swords?,” is one of the best. So let’s end there instead of funeral-incest-rape.

Please don’t die, George R.R. Martin.
—Josh

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