TV Review: "Game of Thrones" 4x03: "Breaker of Chains"

Spoilers at the bottom, as always, color coded:

Green will be spoilers for “A Storm of Swords”.
Red will be spoilers for “A Feast for Crows”.
White will be spoilers for "A Dance with Dragons".

Ugh here I am again writing something I was supposed to have written weeks ago. Either way, I am at least happy to say that a bulkload of work has been taken off my shoulders so I will once again focus a bit more on writing here.

I gotta say that because it’s a two weeks old episode, I almost didn’t want to even write the review, but then I imagined what it would be like to see the season’s reviews listed in the TV page with a noticeable gap after episode 2, and my eye twitched itself upside-down. Eh, let’s just do this.

Like I said, I’m writing this two weeks after it aired, which means I’ve also seen the fourth episode of the season by now. The thing I have noticed the most is that this has to be, by far, one of the busiest seasons of television I have ever seen. After Joffrey’s death and the Red Wedding (remember it technically just happened), the climax of “A Storm of Swords” begins, and it’s a veritable shitstorm. “Game of Thrones” is making it far more apparent than the books did because it’s not limited to a handful characters’ POVs. This episode felt much longer because there’s so damn much going on.

It feels like a problem that the show has to cover so many plotlines in so many different places. It should take a bit of a toll on the overall plot’s pacing. So many characters to cover, we only get one scene for each in this episode (and the next). Again, considering that this started with the death of a king (the biggest shit detonator in a story about successions), or rather his murder, it hit the ground running. But only for the characters of King’s Landing—which let’s be honest, is where we wanted to be post-Purple Wedding.

Ser Dontos gets picked off early into the episode by Littlefinger, who does some grade A creeping, finally showing up in season four. I am a bit disappointed that Dontos went MIA for two entire seasons (he’s in constant contact with Sansa in the books), so no one really gave a damn that he got bolts to the face.  It feels like such a huge step forward to finally see Sansa leave King’s Landing, but the fact that she’s doing so with Littlefinger who, if you remember, had a giant stiffy for Cat, makes her story even more interesting. We can never trust in Sansa’s safety.

If you think this story has a happy ending . . .
Tommen is obviously going to become an important character, or at least a figure of power (or a talking, walking plot point) now that he’s to ascend to the throne. The scene involving Tywin immediately taking him under his wing was very good because it shed an interesting new light on Papa Lannister: he deals with what he has to deal to make shit work. You can see in the details of Charles Dance’s performance that Tywin is relieved that the new King will not only be someone who isn’t a dumb little shit, but a genuinely nice kid whom he can train. Tywin might be a bit of a villain, but nothing he said to Tommen about what makes a good king was villainous. It didn’t even strike me as manipulative. Tywin is a great character.

I don’t want to talk much about the scene between Jaime and Cersei. It was gross(er) in the books and it was gross here. The acting was phenomenal and it was just as uncomfortable as it had to be.

Something that’s become clear is that the writers here are being extremely careful with the absurdly intricate plotting of the story. They’re adding filler without letting us know it’s filler, and using it to deepen the characters. The best example is the scene after Oberyn’s foursome. First off, it made me laugh a lot—seeing tight-ass Tywin Lannister talking with Crowd-Fucker Martell was hilariously uncomfortable. They’ve manage to make Oberyn much more important to the main plot before he’s important to the main plot (in episode 8). I don’t know what’s gonna happen in Tyrion’s trial, but it sure as hell looks interesting.

“Game of Thrones” has a formula in which after a huge event, they take one episode to reshuffle the deck and point the cast in new directions. “The Rose & the Lion” was one of the big event episodes, and in episodes 3 and 4 we’re left with the aftermath—a lot of good byes, it seems. We as viewers, at this point, are 90% sure that Tyrion is innocent of killing Joffrey, so what Pod tells him in the dungeon sounds like the base for a major conspiracy going on against the Imp. This adds a few layers to the whole whodunit scenario of Joffrey’s death. We know Littlefinger was involved in some way. In episode 4 we learn who did the actual poisoning. Was Tyrion purposefully put on the spot to take the heat (like he seems to think), or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Tyrion is having a shitty time this season, having to let go—for different reasons that both involve Cersei—to his lover and then his loyal squire, all while facing a trial and possible loss-of-head. He’s barely been in it, but he’s still Tyrion; his speech to Pod about not letting his loyalty get him killed was amazing and Dinklage is still killing it. Having him ask Pod to get the fuck out of King’s Landing is yet another great example of story tidying up. The unlikely coincidences of the book are far more deliberate and carefully executed.
"One of these days, Arya! Zing! Boom! Straight to the moon!
The cool thing about scenes with The Hound and Arya is how unpredictable they are. We understand their relationship, but the thing is so flaky and fragile that we don’t know if in this particular scene they’re gonna get along or fight. They start getting along, discussing each other’s plans for the future, then going with the good old Farmer and having lunch, all with both of them being both of them. The Hound being a big grumpy pants and a bit of a bully, Arya being quick-witted and razor sharp. But that’s the cool thing. We love seeing them get along (remember the end of episode 1), but their relationship works best when they don’t know if they are okay with each other or if they really want each other dead. It’s a grown-up version of the “will they won’t they” dynamic. That’s why after the hilarious dinner scene, which was incredibly shot to make Hound look even bigger than he is, when Hound reveals he’s still an asshole, Arya is so disappointed she reverts back to hating his guts. I don’t know if the audience was disappointed; I want them to get along all the time because those have always been their best scenes, but that would make for less interesting drama.

I always forget that I love Davos because he’s not in the show enough. I love Stannis as a character even if I don’t like the point in which his story is right now, so it’s good to have a character like Davos brightening things up. I don’t know what kind of cojones-enhancing potion the man took but what’s up with his brass balls? He gave lip to Stannis and Shereen left and right, all while maintaining his “I’m one of the very, very few legit good guys in this world” charm. Seeing him read with Shereen will never get old—it’s just adorable. We got a glimpse of what kind of filler Stannis is gonna have this season, and I’m a bit worried about the writers’ ability to keep track of the massive repercussions of their changes (involving the Iron Bank?), but I trust them.

Up near the Wall, I confirmed that disliking Styr’s appearance, and the Thenns in general, wasn’t just because of the intro. They’re the corniest, most ridiculous villains I’ve ever seen, and should be in stuff like “Once Upon a Time”, not “Game of Thrones”. Yes, I appreciated the North hamlet sacking to reminds us that 1, Tormund is a monster (he was a pussy in episode 1); 2, Yggrite is pissed the fuck off and Jon Snow is in real danger. However, despite the Thenns’ brutality, the whole bit with the kid “I’m gonna eat your parents rarr!” was painful. The fewer scenes that dude has, the better.

Motherfucker with a huge beard slashing people in half.
THAT's the Tormund I love so much from the books.
I don’t know if it was the arrows in the ass or getting his heart broken but it’s amazing what they did to Jon in this season. Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve barely cared for Jon Snow in the boosk and in the show, so it’s amazing that they made him into a great character, a huge badass, a likeable fellow and all played by a guy who finally learned to deliver his lines. Having seen future episodes only confirms that S4 Jon is completely unlike S1-3 Jon. Leading towards the next arc, Dolorous Edd and Grenn return from Craster’s Keep. The plot at Castle Black thickens hard, because even if we all forgot about Mance Rayder (he hasn’t been in the show for more than 10 episodes), he’s still a huge looming danger.

I can’t help but think that they didn’t handle Sam very well this episode. He’s supposed to be a very smart kid, and taking Gilly and her baby from Castle Black to Molestown was retarded. I’m sorry you little twerp but there’s literally no advantage or safety in having her away from Castle Black. She’s alone, exposed and also surrounded by horny strangers (they even make a point about the place where Gilly stays being a whorehouse). You really think she’ll be safer there from rape than she would be in Castle Black? You goddamn idiot. She’s gonna get hurt and it’s gonna be your fault.

Finally, an interesting Dany scene. The Champion of Mereen scene in the books is both awesome and disgusting (let’s just say Daario peeing is . . . different . . . in the books). Daario is far more charming this season, and we get to see him be a badass—or maybe we got to see the Champion being a huge idiot. Either way, Dany is well on her way to taking Mereen. I gotta say that the catapulted ‘bombs’ they put on so many trailers turning out to be merely a message felt like a bait-and-switch. I was hoping for some destruction, and nothing.

Reader Observations:

  • The Hound says he might go to Braavos and be a sellsword. My fucking god how great that would’ve been.
  • I'm disappointed about the lack of Yggrite this season. Are they seriously making it easier for the fans to say good bye when she gets it? It's like they want us to forget her already.
  • On the other hand, they're doing a great job at making Tywin likeable. His tandem death with Shae is going to be an epic second-screen experience to read Twitter.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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