Game of Thrones: 603 “Oathbreaker” Review
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
This week’s episode of Game of Throne’s presents a very interesting dilemma with regards to how it should be received. On a superficial level it suffers from many of the same issues that the first episode of this series did. Yet the content it delivers between this is vastly more entertaining than the offerings of the series opener.
It would seem that this series is having a bit of a problem with the need to remind us week in, week out that certain characters. This week Daenerys and Tyrion both suffer from this as they feature in relatively minor scenes that add little or nothing to their character or advance their story in any way. It is understandable that HBO would want their main characters to feature in each episode, however it should also be considered that meaningless cameos are not only damaging to the characters themselves but waste precious screen time that could have been used to flesh out some of the more interesting aspects of this narrative. Meanwhile, Littlefinger and Bronn have yet to be seen this series, Margaery has only had a fleeting scene last week, and Jorah the same the week before that, and Sam and Gilly had a scene this week which felt hopelessly out of place with the rest of the narrative. In summary I feel the show’s management of its characters is currently leaving a lot to be desired.
Last week I commented on how well the show reintroduced Bran Stark, this week it is his younger brother’s turn to make a long awaited comeback. Unfortunately this is handled nowhere near as aptly as before with virtually nothing in way of explanation even offered. Sure we can piece together what might have happened, but it seems as if the narrative required Ramsay to have something to assist him in his quest for power in the North, so the writers brought a Stark from essentially nowhere in order to achieve this. Ramsay’s rise to one of the most prominent characters in the show has come of somewhat a surprise to me, it is almost as if they are trying to get the audience invested in Ramsay for when the eventual Battle of the Bastards which they seem intent on foreshadowing does eventually happen.
As for Bran himself, his ability to view the past is utilised once again to good effect finally showing the infamous Tower of Joy scene. Unfortunately they pull away from the storyline before getting to what we all really wanted to see. This is a classic Game of Thrones trick that works extremely well here leaving us at least another week before learning what I assume is the true parenthood of Jon Snow that has been teased since the start of the show. Amazingly I think the show may have given away its hand a bit this week in the following scene where the Three-Eyed Raven tells Bran that he has to stay until he learns the history of the war that is yet to come. Given what we have seen in the trailer with Bran beside the Night’s King, it is logical to assume that is also a flashback. This would suggest that Bran has to learn the history of the leaders on both sides of the battle which would make this week’s scene a confirmation of Jon Snow’s status as The Prince Who Was Promised. Also of note in the Bran scene this week was the Three-Eyed Raven’s comment about how Ned’s story differed from what had actually happened, it is impossible not to see this as a metaphor for how far the show has diverged from its source material. As someone who has yet to find the time to read the books I am not suitably placed to comment on which is better.
Another Stark who is finally given a good week is Arya, who benefits greatly from an extended allocation of the running time. Maybe it wasn’t even actually longer (I didn’t time it) but it certainly felt it as it delivered a lot more than our previous two visits to this particular story did. This episode essentially depicts her transition from Arya to one of the faceless and is delivered here in almost montage style. Unsurprisingly we also see the reversal of her blindness which is undoubtedly a good thing in terms of moving the narrative forwards, but I can’t help but still feel there was some missed potential there in exploring the impacts it had on her. Perhaps this is something they may visit again retrospectively, if not Arya’s story look like it could finally move forward and establish her as a faceless assassin.
The undoubted centre of the narrative this week was the story at The Wall with scenes from here bookending the rest of the narrative. In terms of overall impressions of the narrative then, this is what holds the most influence on my overall opinions of it. Thankfully then it redeems the rest of the episode up to an average outing for the show. Most of the credit has to fall on Kit Harrington who carries the story with his phenomenal acting abilities. It’s not even the dialogue which allows him to shine here, it is his body language which is able to convey his distress at being resurrected, and his torment over executing Ollie. Whilst not explicitly stated anywhere in the dialogue, Harrington is able to make the implication that Jon still cares deeply for his betrayer and that moment’s hesitation before he swings the sword speaks a thousand words.
You probably saw this rating coming given I’ve already commented on the fact that it was a difficult episode to score, and that I found it rather average in terms of Game of Thrones. On the topic of ratings, I am finding the numerical score increasing more difficult when it comes to this show. Given how much I enjoy watching it and the success of the series on a whole the temptation would be as with last year to hand out 9s and 10s week in week out. Frankly that would be a pointless endeavour, so instead I am using a slightly different scoring system where 5/10 represents what I consider average for a Game of Thrones episode. Consequently 0/10 represents the worst the show can go (something I hope never to have to give), and a 10/10 will only be awarded to an episode I feel is at the peak of its powers.
I thought I would clear up my thinking this week given some of the discussion in the comments on the previous two reviews. I feel this allows for better comparison between episodes and allows us to identify the real stand-out episodes a lot easier. It also means that the series total so far is coming it at just (and only just) below what would be average, meaning that despite the aforementioned issues the show is not far off where I would expect it to be at this stage. To further rationalise my scoring system, the unique style of this show as one ongoing story, dropping in and out of interweaving character plots means that it can only really be compared to itself.