Game of Thrones: 404 “Oathkeeper” Review
Reviewed by Thomas Firth.
It was a well-crafted episode this week in what seems to be the beginning of a rise in tension. Whilst, once again, there was nothing blatantly game-changing that unfolded, there are a few significant changes. And what’s notable about some of them, to those who have not read the books, writer Bryan Cogman seems to have brought a new storyline to the table, different to Martin’s original one. Both Jon’s decision to cross the wall to Craster’s Keep and Bran’s capture are new encounters, but fresh ones nonetheless.
Following last week’s controversy over the non-consensual sex between Jaime and Cersei, I think people were expecting some sort of reaction in this episode from either one of the characters, just to explain perhaps how it could be catalogued as ‘rape’. Unfortunately, we were given a sidestep, almost as if the scene hadn’t even occured and Cersei is once again worrying about her surviving children. Jaime, on the other hand, is being portrayed entirely different to last week’s forcefullness. Not only does he show mercy to Sansa by ignoring his sister and insisting that Brienne find the young Stark unharmed, but there’s also a hint of affection towards the female knight. This actually remains true to the novel, but does contrast the feelings we were given last week. Perhaps a minor continuity error on the writers’ part, but for the viewers it’s quite disconcerting.
The strengths came in droves this week, with Daenerys’ ‘siege’ depicted in a very realistic light, and the visual effects must be commended for its shots of the Pyramid of Meereen and the city itself. It’s also quite a surreal moment when the lone master is confronted by a horde of slaves. And, as she always does, Daenerys answers with justice, and 163 masters are crucified for their injustice – revenge, you might say, for their cruelty. Contemplating the fact that we were left with an unusual cliffhanger last week, it was important that they went straight from that into the new episode. The theme of enslavery was also apparent between Missandei and Grey Worm who’s discussion was based on their roots in life and what they deserved in the future. It’s particularly important for us to witness what Daenerys’ ‘freedom’ is doing to those she’s ‘freed’.
Another anxiously-awaited development was more information on the Purple Wedding. Sansa is finally made aware of the fact that her necklace was the poison and the discussion between Lady Olenna and her granddaughter, Margaery, concludes the fact that it was inevitably Olenna herself who took that terrible chance. She’s the reason we’re all smiling. Simultaneously, Baelish makes it clear that he has been situated in the Vale, but returned briefly to the shores near King’s Landing in order to contribute his part in the murder. And so another journey begins for Sansa, but can we be absolutely sure she’s safe? With Game of Thrones… never.
The final scenes, as always, were a triumph. It seems two Starks (a Stark and a Stark bastard) will be reunited soon after Bran and his cohorts are captured by the severely obscene Karl and Rast, who are currently housed in Craster’s Keep. As most bad guys are, Karl is disappointed when he gets his new arrivals to reveal all their secrets too easily; he was eager to play a ‘game’. But their game could get a little more tricky when they discover that a horde of white walkers appear to be preparing for something. The assumption here is, that the babies that Craster had been contributing to the gods (as they’re referred to) have each been transformed into young walkers? This is only a theory, and perhaps this means that all White Walkers were men once? This can be considered historically inaccurate as the histories of Westeros state that they came before the men, along with the Children of the Forest. Whatever theory becomes true, this is definitely a defining moment in Game of Thrones, and is as frightening as the scene we were given in Valar Morghulis when the army marched on the Wall.
Cogman’s style of writing is obviously different from that of Weiss and Benioff’s, because he clusters the scenes in one location, by first showing what happens in Essos, then King’s Landing, and then the Wall and beyond. But this style is also a little limiting. With so many characters and locations in Game of Thrones, it is important to encompass all of them simultaneously, allowing for the viewer to be able to flick back and forth freely between scenes.
One initial problem I had with this episode was the scene between Tyrion and Jaime, which isn’t featured in the novel. It does nicely link with Jaime and Cersei’s discussion, but the repetitive side is showing again, with Tyrion once again insisting that Cersei would love to see him dead and is always finding opportunities to punish him. There are some elements of a brotherly relationship, but it doesn’t add anything new to the plot.
But let’s not forget why this episode was given its name. On her new journey Brienne is not only accompanied by Podrick Payne, who’s escaping the wrath of Cersei, but also by a new Valyrian steel sword, which she aptly names “Oathkeeper”, which is perhaps a symbol of her constant devotion to either him or Catelyn Stark. It’s nice to see that even after her death, Catelyn’s wishes as still being remembered, and it does seem hopeful that Brienne will complete this particular mission.
Perhaps lessened by the fact that it’s a middle episode, Oathkeeper is definitely strong. Appropriate character development and an impressive cliffhanger make up for its flaws, and its another example, that Game of Thrones will almost never fail to be fan-pleasing. With a new King in the process, Margaery seems to already have her claws in the marriage, and there’s no doubting there’ll be some vital developments later on. Let’s hope the next week goes by quickly so we can binge on more!