This week’s episode promises that Daenerys…will get to do something next week.
A very subdued episode this week from Game of Thrones, which makes sense: you need a certain amount of resolution after as huge a moment as the death of Joffrey, and it’s clear that Breaker of Chains’s main purpose was to set the stage for the huge events due to happen later this season. It’s probably the weakest of the season so far, albeit by no means bad, and it will probably look better when viewed against everything still to come.
There were quite a few new additions this week – nothing that deviates from George R.R. Martin’s novels, but showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are evidently keen to flesh out characters who don’t get as much limelight in the books as they perhaps deserve. Margaery’s discussion with the Queen of Thorns about her status following Joffrey’s death gives us context for the Tyrells’ situation, and the scene where the various Lannisters talk about king-to-be Tommen’s prospects lets us see a bit more of TV’s most dysfunctional family.
Tommen has been recast for season four – now played by Dean-Charles Chapman, and considering how little screen time he had in the previous seasons, this scene acts as our introduction to him. Slightly oddly, Chapman previously played Martyn Lannister, one of the children Rickard Karstark murdered in revenge for his own sons’ deaths. Tommen seems like he’d be a considerably better king than Joffrey, and the scene also gives Charles Dance more time to shine. Shortly afterwards, they’ve changed it so that Jaime rapes Cersei, instead of the consensual sex that happens in the book. We’ll see how this plays out, but it’s not a good change.
Dance’s Tywin Lannister gets another new scene, involving an encounter with Oberyn Martell in a brothel. They’re going to some effort to give both these characters a lot more time on screen, and it’s very welcome, especially since Dance seems more like the show’s MVP with each episode. The scene in question is a very well-played, icily polite conversation between two men who obviously hate each other, but equally obviously need each other, and it’s probably the best of the episode. Also, given that the scene is set in a brothel, it gives us this season’s first – and overdue – instance of male frontal nudity! It doesn’t even balance out the scene it takes place in, let alone the show as a whole, but it’s a start.
The final new scene this week shows us the wildlings massacring a village south of the Wall, and contains a conservative estimate of 20 deaths (it’s safe to assume there were more offscreen), making up for the comparatively bloodless episode last week. Ser Dontos, the drunken knight who gave Sansa her necklace, also gets murdered on the orders of Littlefinger, who is revealed to have been behind Joffrey’s death. Littlefinger is responsible for pretty much the entire plot, so this shouldn’t come as too great a surprise. His reappearance also provides the opportunity to award Aidan Gillen with the award for Most Inconsistent Accent, since he seems to get more Irish with every season.
We also return across the sea to Meereen, where Daenerys Targaryen is beginning to lay siege. It’s a good sequence, and the ending in particular – which sees her army use catapults to fling barrels full of removed slaves’ collars into the city – is a great cliffhanger for next week, even if the final shot lingers a little too long in its efforts to ensure the audience has grasped what the barrels contained.
There’s also a very nice action beat involving Meereen’s champion having a ‘duel’ with Daario Naharis. Daario wins by simply flinging a knife into his opponent’s horse’s head, then killing the rider as he struggles to rise. Once again, pragmatism trumps pageantry in a Game of Thrones fight scene. It recalls the trial by champion in the Eyrie way back in season one: “You do not fight with honour!” / “No. He did.”
Still, there is a notable omission from the novels here. In Martin’s books, Daenerys has on her side a fat eunuch called Strong Belwas, a former pit fighter who spends all his time eating, fighting, and boasting about how amazing he is, and he acts as her champion at this point of the books. He’s one of the story’s precious few comedy characters, and his absence is keenly felt amongst all the grimness of the HBO show. Considering that he uses the champion of Meereen’s banner to wipe his arse, there was a big missed opportunity for a laugh here. As such, he wins the award for Most Frustratingly Absent Character.
Once again, not an awful lot happened this week to change the various Houses’ standings on the scoreboard, since Stannis Baratheon is still sitting on Dragonstone being an arrogant nuisance. All the same, five points can go to House Targaryen for the attempt to foster a slave revolt in Meereen. We’ll see next week if it was successful.
Lannister: 10 / Stark: 20 / Baratheon: 20 / Targaryen: 25
As mentioned earlier, Breaker of Chains once again starts killing people off, in keeping with this season’s tagline, “All Men Must Die.” Between Ser Dontos, the champion of Meereen, and roughly 20 people in that northern village, we bring our body count to a nice, even 200. Not bad for three episodes, and there’s much more to come.
Don’t miss last week’s GoT recap: The Lion and the Rose saw things heat up
All images: HBO