“What Makes a Good King? Ideally, Not This…” GAME OF THRONES Season 4 Episode 3- ‘Breaker of Chains’
This review is written from the point of view of someone who hasn’t read the books. Don’t be mad and keep your spoilers where they belong: screaming inside of your brain at the ignorance of the masses.
Everybody has a fatal flaw. I have a friend who is one self-esteem boost away from going broke on condoms. Superman has Kryptonite. Oedipus has accidental incest. Game of Thrones has Jon Snow. There is always something- something– that stops a thing from being absolute perfection.
This episode of Game of Thrones is one rape scene short of being indisputably great and fun.
Even a lengthy Samwell section can’t spoil proceedings quite like… that. Much last like week’s exciting episode that featured a Joffrey poisoning (spoilers), there was an awful lot that happened this week, but all anyone will be talking about is one scene. I’m hesitant to even talk about it. I’m going to, of course. It’s my job (my self-appointed job that I could leave at any time but that I have too much unnecessary journalistic integrity to do so).
I am going to save it for later, however. I break these reviews down by section, and I am going to save Jamie’s section for just before the end, right before the place where loyal readers will know that I crown the winner. The Scene That Reopened A Thousand Live Journal Accounts will not be crowned our winner tonight, but I expect it to be an incredibly lengthy section with lots of rhetoric and attempts to make sense of things. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we? With a much more pleasant section that’s easier to digest. Let’s just make our way down the list, starting with…
Bran’d, A Section for Those Who the Writers Wrote Question Marks By On This Week’s White Board
–Two King’s Landing mainstays (Varys and Bronn) were missing this week. This is a damn shame, as they fill out the ensemble nicely, but even their absence can only be so bad because LITTLEFINGER IS BACK THIS WEEK.
–Bran, assumedly still forcing Hodor to dig at the base of Grandmother Willow.
–House Bolton took a break this week, and Reek along with them, as Reek can go nowhere without his castrator.
–Melisandre is absent as well tonight, probably off thinking of something really cool and oddly attractive to do.
Arya and the Hound Make Poor People’s Lives Harder
If there is one kind of person that has to fear the presence of Arya and the Hound, it’s innocent people. This week, Arya and the Hound re-enact the Farmer Maggot chapters from The Fellowship of the Ring, a sequence mercifully cut from Peter Jackson’s films. Restating what happened here tonight is futile, as we all knew exactly what was going to happen when someone who looked like a caring human being made the mistake of being nice to the Hound. The world of Game of Thrones is not nice to those who are just regular, normal people. All Farmers Must Die.
It seems like this scene is once again sowing the seeds of discord between Arya and Clegane, almost as if even the most fan artable of Westeros friendships are only temporary. There is a battle going on for Arya Stark’s soul. Not really between any two parties, but for the future that this poor young girl is going to take. There’s the side of Righteous Indignation, rightfully mad at the systematic murder of almost her entire family. There’s the Arya who just wants to kill those who tormented and wronged her, who chants their names to herself like a hateful school anthem. But then there’s the other side, the side that has no name but represents an Arya Stark who loses herself in tragedy. I don’t think anyone can fault the fan favorite if she went down a road that we can’t follow. Everything has been taken from her. All she has is her sword, and the sister she never liked. She has a few siblings in the North, but there are fairly solid odds that she will never see Bran or Jon Snow again. Someone is going to perish before their reunion, as that is how Arya Stark reunions tend to go. It doesn’t help that the most helpful of her compatriots thus far has been The Stranger, who managed to kill enough people to get Arya out of harm’s way. It seems like she’s being set up to become a super assassin, or a rogue at the very least.
It’s the option that makes sense, certainly, but one that will surely break the hearts of those of us who love and care for this young woman. The ultimate victory for Arya is not revenge. She can do better. A wise friend who talked me through a break-up once said, “The best revenge is success,” and that’s exactly what Arya needs. But, sadly, as this is fiction, that’s not what she will get. Eventually -somehow- all of the items on her hit list will be checked off, whether by her hand or someone else’s.
It’s a sad road to go down, Arya, but the choice is yours’ to make.
Ygritte, Laying Waste to Some Dangerous, Vile, Terrible, Innocent Farm People
Again, there is no greater sin in Westeros than being innocent.
The moment a pair of previously unintroduced happy people with their own inside jokes appeared on screen, one just has to know that terrible things are about to happen to them. And they did, approximately three seconds later.
Ygritte and her new Bald Cannibal friends made quick work of the unarmed Farm Folk, the miserable sons of bitches that they are. Westeros is full of moral shades of gray, so it’s almost refreshing to have a group of people who are so comically evil. It’s almost like the first set of slavers that Daenerys met last season. They were so unbelievably, Dickensianly evil that their ultimate downfall felt uncharacteristically a-okay for Game of Thrones.
Also admirable is the speed with which the show is closing the gap on what could have been an excruciating time period between when Jon Snow and Ygritte broke up and when they are reunited/die in each other’s arms. As much as I never really cared for the two of them together, they are even worse apart. At least together we got to be treated to the cooing dulcet tones of Ygritte as she says, “Yeuw knyow nuffin’, Jon Snurr.” Let’s hope that the gap between them (which is apparently one orphan’s sprint long) gets closed up in a couple of episodes so we can deal with the terrible army of icy mother f’ers slowly making their way this way.
Sam. Who Cares?
Is there anyone invested in Not Samwise Gamgee’s journey at this point? There are so many interesting, intriguing, stabby things going on in Westeros nowadays that sidelining that for a stint where Tarly rents a hotel room for his lady doesn’t really hold one’s attention. And it feels so long compared to the screen time that, say, Sansa or Margaery got this week that it makes it even worse. I guess I’m supposed to feel sad because his girlfriend (ever looking like an inbred Anna Kendrick) named her baby after him? That does sound like a thing that is sad. But it never lands, because we just haven’t spent enough time with these two, and she sort of treats him like crap. I know that pickings are slim when the only girl you hang out with on a daily basis is Jon Snow, but Tarly can honestly do better. She might not look like Properly Bred Anna Kendrick, but hopefully he can land somewhere in the middle.
It seems like the show only has room for one boring sad sack at The Wall, and as Jon Snow becomes proportionally more interesting, preparing for the tower defense game that awaits him, Samwell is relegated to Snow’s old tasks of having a really boring love story. The only reason he seems to be in the show at all is that he’s the only one who has even seen any of these damned mythical White Walkers. Either that, or we’re going to follow total cliché here and he’s going to save everyone and everything even though nobody thought he could and it’s going to be very inspirational and we’re all going to cheer, “Yeah, Not Sam Gamgee!” and forget that any of this Baby Mama Drama ever happened…
Davos Invents Bank Loans
That has to be his secret plan, right?
Historically, an illiterate man forcing a child to forge a letter in her father’s hand has only ever been done in the name of acquiring a sum of money to be paid back at 10% interest compounded annually.
It’s more than sad that Stannis is so cruel to Davos (as, to be fair, he is to everyone else who doesn’t sex him on battle maps), because if Stannis once again becomes a contestant to the throne of King’s Landing it won’t be because Melisandre once used leeches to suck the blood out of some poor teenager’s erection, inadvertently turning him into some kind of future serial killer. Not much to discuss here. Mostly just wondering as to how exactly Balon Greyjoy is going to die. I’m sure it’s going to be a big shock to Reek, if he can still feel emotions underneath all those not erections.
Sansas of the Caribbean
We pick up with Sansa right where we left off, with a jester who convinced her to run away using the very persuasive argument of “Come with me.” After escaping Westeros (and specifically after Tywin kindly asks people to not do that), she makes her way to the Black Pearl, where she meets LITTLEFINGER, a character so great and welcome back on this show that his name deserves to be written in all caps.
LITTLEFINGER, in his most LITTLEFINGERian of ways, tells the jester that he owes him 10,000 in gold, and then shoots 10,000 in arrows into his chest, having obviously misspoken. Their scenes together are criminally short, so there is not much to discuss, but the show seems to be adopting the same strategy it used with Arya and pairs Sansa up with one of Game of Thrones’ most dynamic characters.
The Next Time On hints at some juicy material to come, and there is absolutely no way that LITTLEFINGER isn’t involved in King Joffrey’s untimely poisoning (spoilers). God bless you, LITTLEFINGER. God bless your treacherous ways. Happy Easter.
The Continuing Adventures of Spanish Ramsay and Evil Shae
NOTE: I have changed my short hand of Oberyn from “Gay Ramsay” to “Spanish Ramsay” in an attempt to be politically correct, especially in the aftermath of the death of Westeros’ beloved king (spoilers).
Boy, if you thought that this orgy was going to be the most interesting thing involving a penis tonight, you’d be very, very wrong. Twice.
There’s not a lot of meat to discuss from this scene, just the typical Game of Thrones thing of being set up for something really cool down the road. Tywin promoting Spanish Ramsay to the tribunal that will judge Tyrion is a fascinating move, one that I think is surely to help implicate Spanish Ramsay in Joffrey’s death (spoilers), perhaps to cover up his own involvement in it, meaning that he was working with LITTLEFINGER, who perhaps intends to take down Tywin because Tywin set up Catelyn to be killed and LITTLEFINGER loved Catelyn so LITTLEFINGER took out Tywin’s grandson and the King of Westeros (spoilers) and ran away with Sansa because she’s the only thing left in the world that can remind LITTLEFINGER of Catelyn and he can leave King’s Landing in a state of pure chaos. I have solved it! Or that’s totally wrong and Spanish Ramsay just did it.
Tyrion, Doing His Best to Keep Fan Favorite Status
With Arya learning how to kill people, Tyrion really has to step up his game to stay in the public eye. And what better way to do that than with a scene with Podrick that will make the Internet cry?
It’s not like I ever much cared for Podrick. He was sort of a non-entity outside of his weird subplot where he developed Sex Magic. But this was Tyrion sending away his last friend and resource. He shipped off Shae not so long ago, and Bronn probably isn’t going to do much as far as prison breakouts go. This moment with Podrick is heartbreaking, phenomenally acted on both sides. I don’t know what Ser Podrick Payne is going to do from this point on, or who exactly it was that offered him this nobility, but Tyrion’s nobility even in the face of certain death is both admirable and really admirable.
Our boy Tyrion is facing insurmountable odds and has been so perfectly set up by whoever it was that did this poisoning (spoilers) that it seems unlikely that anything short of a full-on assault on King’s Landing is going to pull him out of this one. Unless somehow the Tyrells can be swayed. This is where Margaery and Sassy Old Lady are really going to need to pull out all the stops, which they won’t unless it’s in their best interests, which it currently isn’t, so I’m going to go ahead and start composing Tyrion’s eulogy now to be read on this blog sometime later this season. Pre-emptive RIP, Tyrion. You will be missed by absolutely everyone.
Let’s get the other aspects of this scene, which were all rather good, out of the way now.
The prospect of Tommen being the new King of Westeros is exciting, especially considering how much of a little shit his older brother was (tense-based spoilers). That scene with Tywin was so well done, and actually exhibited a fair amount of acting talent from the Li’lest Baratheon that ought to pay off much later down the road. Sometimes recasting is a great idea (we’ll come back to that later). As Tywin walks off with Tommen at the end of the scene, it’s an oddly hopeful moment. And who better to get the Birds and the Bees talk from than Tywin, who will surely take none of your whimpering and teach you how the vagina works, dammit.
And then, there’s everything else. A bit of a precursor, before going further. I’m going to try and dial back my normally youthful, ironic, and detached tone as I discuss the most infamous scene in the show’s history. Any jokes I do make are merely a defense mechanism, to help humanize and wrap my head around what is perhaps the most terrible and despicable act a human being can commit and is in no way trying to make light of or lessen the gravity of rape, nor is it trying to shame the victims or alleviate the guilt of the rapists. With that, let us proceed…
There is never an excuse to do what Jamie Lannister did in this scene. No amount of grief or feelings of impotence will ever make rape okay. Redemption can be achieved, and ultimately forgiveness, but it will be a long road for Jamie Lannister, who, up until this point, was becoming something of a fan favorite. Certainly something of a personal favorite. I loved his charm, and the tragedy in what was happening all around him.
That… has been totally reset to square one. Hell, he’s way back behind square one. He’s back past the Jamie that pushed Bran Stark out a window in the show’s pilot. A character we so loved has erased all of his good will. Sometimes people are capable of terrible things we never knew were inside of them. And that has to change the way that we see them.
It’s angering to be sure. After all, this show is fiction. There could just as easily have been a total dearth of rape, and our favorite characters could have remained the redemptive, rising stars we thought them to be. But in fiction, as in life, people are often not what we think them to be, or desperately, desperately want them to be. Is Game of Thrones making a point? Are David Benioff and D.B. Weiss trying to make a point?
Game of Thrones is in a unique position in life to reach a seemingly unlimited number of people on a weekly basis. Many will watch this episode days from now, after hearing murmurs and rumors of this fabled “terrible thing that happened on Game of Thrones.” Perhaps they’ll hear about their “favorite show got raped,” as many claim that the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie is going to “rape their childhood.” I don’t know the reason for this scene. I, unlike Evil Shae, am not from the future and cannot tell you what the fallout from all of this will be. Hitting a hard reset on Jamie’s character seemingly at the tail end of one of television’s great redemption arcs is a complete 180 degree turn that would have been impossible to predict for anyone who didn’t know this information ahead of time. I, unfortunately, do not sit in the Game of Thrones writers’ room and do not know why this choice was ultimately made. But I like to believe that it was made with noble intent. Maybe it is aimed at the casual way with which we throw around the word. Anyone who has played online gaming for a length of time greater than seven seconds has heard the word thrown around to mean ‘getting beaten, solidly.’ Outmatched by a superior opponent. And it seems like every time Michael Bay tries to adapt an already-bad 1980’s cartoon show into a modern day action movie, the online community reacts with an explosion, claiming that “Michael Bay has raped my childhood!” South Park did an episode that featured this exact complaint about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and animated Steven Spileberg and George Lucas raping Indiana Jones, to symbolize how they ruined him. Family Guy did an episode all about funny molestation. And, lawdy, do not get me started on the legitimate rape threats leveled at any female content creator on the Internet that dares speak their mind in a way that opposes the majority. Anita Sarkeesian is the prime example, who so dared proclaim that sometimes female characters in videogames are over sexualized.
And she’s far from the only example. I like to believe that Game of Thrones, a show that has given little or no reason for me to doubt their goals and morals, is not using rape as character development for Jamie. So help me God, if this is him coping with his grief… But we won’t acknowledge that as an option. The Game of Thrones writers are too wise for that. They have the HBO-mandatory boob count, sure, but beyond that have they handled the subject of gender impeccably well for a show set in a world and during a period in time where it would have been very easy to ignore writing quality women at all, and have –through Daenerys and Margaery and Cersei and Arya- crafted some of the most potent and memorable female characters of the modern media age. Denioff and Weiss know better than to treat this subject lightly.
The episode itself seems to support this stance. There is nothing sexy about the scene between Jamie and Cersei. Compared to Spanish Ramsay and Evil Shae’s orgy scene earlier in the episode, this scene is treated with stark seriousness, and director Alex Graves shows us no cut or angle meant to arouse the eye or the genitals. This is treated like the terrible, horrible moment that it is, and there is no satisfaction or vicarious living to be had. This is just as terrible as a similar scene in last year’s magnificent 12 Years a Slave, and handled with the same mature reverence as (oddly enough) Adult Swim cartoon show Rick and Morty, which dared do an attempted rape in the fifth episode of the series.
What takes this a cut above the rest, making it perhaps the most mature depiction of the subject I have ever seen, eons above any Lifetime movie about the subject, is the way it makes us understand how these terrible acts occur, and the psychology of the rapist.
Please, don’t start yelling at me.
I’m not saying that it helps us understand and therefore forgive. Nothing about what happened here is okay. But to totally demonize someone, to remove the creator of a terrible atrocity of all their humanity, is to perpetuate our lack of understanding of these terrible acts. We cannot take a human being and ever make them a devil (despite demonization being a perfectly normal immediate reaction to tragedy) if we are to ever truly understand how these things happen and how we might prevent them in the future. What Game of Thrones does is put us right into the mind of a rapist. What Jamie does here is not about sex. It’s about control. It’s about trying to reclaim the manhood he feels he lost by stepping over the bounds that any human should ever go. The mistreatment of people and a lack of care for our fellow man is what breeds the worst sorts of people into society.
But please, please, please, please, please, please do not misunderstand me.
Nothing (NOTHING) that Cersei did justified what happened to her. There is no act a human can commit that will ever justify their being raped. Cersei is a cruel woman, yes, but she in no way “got what was coming to her.” If you see or hear anyone say this about this scene tonight, please stop affiliating with that person in every possible way as they are the dregs of society, second only to those that actually commit these crimes.
Okay, for my own sanity, that is all that I am going to say on the subject. Despite how well I think this scene was handled tonight, I cannot name it tonight’s winner, because the real test of its greatness will be done in the weeks to come, as we witness the fallout from this sequence. For now, on to Tonight’s Winner…
TONIGHT’S WINNER: Catapults of Freedom
It sort of feels like Daenerys is off in her own show right now. More so than any other character separated from the main action at King’s Landing, Daenery’s shifts in action feel like something more fantastical or exciting. Danny is off making Troy, while Westeros is stuck in Enemy at the Gates.
The events at the city gates tonight were just plain exciting. Daenerys has Freedom Fighting down to a science. She came prepared with a fantastic speech that acts doubly well as a video resume, and has more than her fair share of handsome men willing to fight for her honor.
In tonight’s Best Comedic Use of Penis, we get a literal pissing contest between a mystery champion and our boy Handsome, who looks different than handsome used to. I would have felt really bad for the new actor in this part if he had been recast into it only to have been killed off of it in his second appearance, but there is little to be truly worried about on Danny’s Really Above-Ground Railroad. Any obstacles are dispatched of quickly and with minimal body count, usually involving dragons or Daenery’s entourage of men who are spectacularly good at killing things. It’s a truly thrilling episode that promises a wonderful battle scene in Episode Four fought in a city with lots of pyramids. God, I love this show.
Final Verdict: 8/10, for a daring move and a solid episode that is surely going to lose them some viewers and reawaken a million long-dormant Live Journal accounts.
Do you think Jamie is capable of redemption? Leave your comments below.
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