Chekhov's Gunman

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“A Wet Dream of an Episode,” GAME OF THRONES Season 4 Episode 4- ‘Oathkeeper’

game of thrones oathkeeper season 4 episode 4 brienne

This review is written from the point of view of someone who hasn’t read the books, so keep your spoilers to yourself and keep the criticism in your pocket because I can almost guarantee you haven’t read the book of The Godfather. This review is also littered with spoilers, like a chop shop for those cars from The Fast and the Furious.

It seems like every week, someone preps me for this week’s Game of Thrones by saying, “I hear something big is going to happen this week!” That would have been huge news a couple seasons ago, when the show was still cooking in the microwave, but now that the Hot Pocket is cooked and we’re just chomping into juicy bit after juicy bit, “something big” is sort of expected to happen every week. When something big doesn’t happen (like in last year’s season finale), it feels off. After you have a Red Wedding, it’s hard to go back to regular old blackmail. Already this season we’ve had the death of Joffrey (spoilers), the rape of Cersei, and a whole cavalcade of other terrible things that have happened to the Lannisters. One would figure that a Game of Thrones fan would be jaded at this point, just waiting for this week’s surprising development to take place in the last ten minutes.

There are only a few individual stories to discuss this week, but all of them have big developments that ought to leave even the most hard-to-please fan clamoring for more. It never really came together into a cohesive whole, but it would take a miracle of Sorkinian scriptwriting genius for this show to ever feel like one great machine working in unison. Some of tonight’s stories were more refined than others, some more troubling, some nothing short of the ghost of William Shakespeare reaching down and injecting storytelling life into a plotline that’s been dead since it started.

As usual, we’ll break this week’s episode down character by character and crown tonight’s winner at the end. But first…

Bran’d This Week: The Members of Westeros Who Slept Through Their Alarms and Missed Class This Week

–Stannis and his cunning lot were missing this week, and are making a strong case for renaming this section after them.

–Varys and Tywin, two of Westeros’ most colorful characters. But, at this point, I’ve learned to take Varys more as a privilege than a right.

–Arya and the Hound were too busy leaving poor people to die to be bothered showing up.

–Spanish Ramsay and Evil Shae were at their bi-weekly orgy and simply didn’t want to be rude and cut out early.

–The Boltons also missed out this week, and spent time instead saying things at Reek that will cause the director to feel like they need to pan over to Reek and then cut to someone carrying a sausage.

–Ygritte is missing and no one cares.

Daenerys Targaryan, Megalomaniacal Cover Model of Seventeen Magazine

This week, Danny was very kind to remind us that the apple rarely falls far from the masochist family tree. In her second-coolest city conquest yet (the coolest being the one so cool that it started me naming winners at the end of these reviews), yet another slave city has been dispatched of by the Daenerys Convoy of Emancipation, a locomotive of civil rights so strong that it gets a natural boost to its diplomacy rolls.

The most interesting scene in this segment has to be the one that opened the episode, as Grey Worm slowly learns to read and has some very ominous things to say regarding his, um… disdain for authority. Whether it was textual or sub-textual, there is a very distinct air of revolution in Grey Worm’s words that hasn’t been heard in them thus far in his very subservient previous appearances. And I think it goes further than the day’s planned city-sacking. Something about the way the scene is framed, so dark and underlit, says that our beloved Danny might one day become the target of a revolution of her own, almost as if absolute power corrupts absolutely and often those who seek to do good end up becoming the things they sought to destroy blah blah blah crime novel Saints Row Magneto blah.

Daenerys is a Targaryan after all, as this episode was so kind to remind us when she issued a mass crucifying, and a Targaryan cannot change its terrifying, mass murdering spots. Grey Worm has always been a character with some really interesting potential, and an uprising against Danny, however successful, is the activation of that potential energy.

But, as I so often am with this show, I am probably totally wrong.

Jamie Lannister: I Was Probably Totally Wrong

Are we… are we just not gonna talk about it?

Last week, I did the typical reviewer thing where I went out on a limb for something that I have faith in. I thought that Game of Thrones might have learned from its first questionable rape-y romance, but it seems as if that isn’t at all the case. Some of you might remember the overlong, self-important speech I rattled out last week in regards to Jamie Lannister raping his sister/lover Cersei beside the corpse of their dead child (spoilers), and my defense of it and its possible impact on the show. I was naïve then, thinking that a brother raping his sister within any kind of vicinity of their incest love child/dead king (spoilers), or, even, you know, at all, might warrant a revisiting the next time we see these two in a scene together. Game of Thrones, however, disagrees with this sentiment.

The stewing feeling in my stomach started the night after the episode premiered, when there were countless interviews with George R.R. Martin, episode director Alex Graves, showrunners Debioff and Weiss, and even actor Nikolaj Caster-Waldau, all of whom had very different readings on the scene in question. More than one of them claimed that the scene that was very much rape wasn’t rape. They said that it “became consensual,” which is not how consent works. The feminist in me (real nice guy) wants to rant and rave, but no real good can come from that. It seems as if Game of Thrones isn’t going to offer up any real comeuppance for Jamie Lannister, and will just proceed on his path to redemption as if this were just a hiccup and not a full dead stop. I said last week that the real quality of the rape scene would be seen in its aftermath. And, given the aftermath present, I’m tempted to take back all of the nice things I had to say.

Perhaps the biggest shame here is that Jamie’s material is really good tonight, and would have played beautifully without that added coloring. Nikolaj is just as charismatic and winning as he ever was, choosing to not play his actions as a new change of character and instead to keep on moving as the handsome, devilish rogue. His farewell to Brienne was lovely, as were his scenes with Tyrion and Bronn. He very likely would have won this week without that gross canopy hanging over him, perhaps never moving from over what once was a beloved character.

The Perilous Poisoning Plot Permeating the Program

So, everyone’s involved, right? This is a Murder on the Orient Express/ Hot Fuzz type situation where everyone was working together in congress to take out Joffrey without the noticing.

Two of our Westeros mainstays implicated themselves in the assassination of the king (spoilers). The first was LITTLEFINGER (!), who seems like exactly the kind of person to assassinate a king, but always seems to be 900 steps ahead of everyone with intact genitals, so who knows how deep his involvement really goes? There must have been some strong money involved. I find it hard to believe he did it all to get closer to Sansa (a theory I both thought up and totally dismissed in last week’s review).

The second was Olenna, everyone’s most favorite Splenda Judi Dench in the whole wide world, who I have no doubts in this life or in any other was absolutely involved. It makes no sense for her to lie to Margaery, unless we’ll just find out later that it made perfect sense for her to lie to Margaery, in which case screw it. I’m just going to wait and see on this one.

It’s strange that we haven’t had much Tyrion since he became Undesirable No. 1 as far as Westeros murdering goes. His trail seems to be forever incoming, like the white walkers and dragons of legend. There will surely be a lot of great Tyrion bits later this year, as he weasels his way to not dying somehow, but it’s just strange on a dramatic level that more of these past two episodes haven’t been levelled directly at how much we love him. On the whole, the murder of the king (spoilers) hasn’t gotten the screen time one thinks it might have, but we’ve made big strides where there were strides and everything will surely be unveiled in the ninth episode of the season, where all the interesting stuff happens.

Margaery Tyrell, the Thing That Early Masturbation Fantasies Are Made Of

I think absolutely every twelve-year-old boy had a running fantasy that was exactly the scene with Margaery and Tommen in the bedroom tonight. This may or may not also involve a dead brother, depending on the child.

Natalie Dormer really did nice work as Margaery this week, remaining a winning and incredibly watchable presence on the show. Last week, I asked if there was a better person than Tywin to get the sex talk from, and I do believe that tonight gave us an incredibly close second. Perhaps Tommen can break Margaery’s love curse by not being a huge tool and getting killed by smoke monsters/LITTLEFINGER (spoilers).

This is all just an example of the type of plotline that Game of Thrones does incredibly well. It’s simple, effective political intrigue done with engaging characters and plotting. If more scenes on the show were as straight-forward and effective as this one, I wouldn’t have anything to write about. Keep on keepin’ on, Boring Stannis Plotline!

Tonight’s Winner: The North

I never, ever would have thought, in all my time writing about this show, that I would ever give this top slot to Jon Snow. Or Bran Stark. The fact that both are being gifted it simultaneously is a sign of either the end times or my own slowly crumbling psyche.

My frequent disdain for the events of the Wall and beyond is well-recorded through the annuls of Chekhov’s Gunman. Even a single step in the right direction would have been cause for a tickertape parade. But, for whatever reason, “Oathkeeper” decided to make the North the most interesting fucking place in the entire world.

After seasons of Bran doing fundamentally nothing, he instantly became interesting because things happened to him and “things happening is the number one source of interesting stuff” (Kevin Lanigan, 2014). And Jon Snow, so named because he is as interesting as a blank canvas of white nothingness, got a huge injection of danger and tension tonight by being sidled up next to Locke, a man in the Bolton bullpen who seeks to kill him and his little crippled brother and his other little brother who’s hanging out with Tonks and ohmygod some people might die. “Things happening is the number one source of interesting stuff” (Kevin Lanigan, 2014).

There’s also a truly wonderful “Gee, I Wonder if This Guy’s Evil” moment where we cut in on a man drinking out of a skull. This man is Karl, played by Burn Gorman, who many might know from Torchwood but who I know as The Scientist Who Isn’t Charlie Day in Pacific Rim. Karl is the latest in Game of Thrones’ comically evil bad guys, so that he might be dispatched of with little to no remorse and is worthy of at least one Emmy for almost solely making the North an interesting place to be.

Jon Snow has won the day. I… I don’t even know what to do with myself anymore.

Oh, yeah. And the babies being turned into ice monsters blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda.

Final Verdict: 7/10, for an episode without any real meat to chew but some really great scenes and will go down in history as the moment I looked forward to spending next week with the Night’s Watch.

 

Keep checking back every week for more coverage of Game of Thrones, as well as weekly reviews of FX’s Fargo.

Am I hard on Jon Snow and Bran? Let me know in the comments.

Follow Kevin on Twitter.

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