TV Review: "Game of Thrones" 4x04: "Oathkeeper"

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".

There’s a point early in the books when someone says that when a Targaryen is born, it’s like the gods are throwing a coin in the air, as they turn out to always be either total badass geniuses (Rhaegar) or total tools (Aerys II or Viserys). The book wants you to think that Dany is one of the good Targaryens like her eldest brother, but I had my doubts.

“Oathkeeper” kind of proved to me that Dany is slowly climbing the steep stairs of Mount Crazy to join Cersei. Though I totally liked that short scene with Grey Worm and Missandei (who is unbelievably beautiful), and how Dany took down Mereen from within, the following bit in which Dany has all the slave masters nailed to crosses outside the city was weird. I know they play Dany’s psychology as it being “Justice”, but they even make a point of Barristan going “Wow this bitch is going bananas”. I sincerely think that Dany might become a type of villain, and none of the new additions in the show is changing my mind. The only thing that worries me is that the Daenerys Targaryen Fanclub in the real world doesn’t seem to think she’s wrong. That’s some “The Following” shit right there. 

Oh and that shot of the Targaryen flag over the Harpy was awesome, even for someone who also wants all the Targaryens dead.

“Oathkeeper” is a huge moment for the show. Not necessarily because there’s a significant twist within the story, but because for the first time since it began, both readers and non-readers got the taste of surprise together. I’m of course referring to the final scene. Like most vague revelations in this story, everyone got some fresh material to analyze and theorize on, especially considering the fact that apparently Martin gave up on keeping a schedule and just kinda told D & D the whole soup. What you saw there is not only show canon, but also book canon.

The rest of the episode, like episode 3, was an expertly handled busy slideshow of changes and good byes. Did you notice how the scene-by-scene transition in this episode was completely seamless? Every scene, either thematically or by dialogue, was linked to the next one, which kept the whole thing very neat and helped smooth out the jarring pace of the season.

Jaime played an important part in King’s Landing, deciding for the first time to visit Tyrion at Bronn’s suggestion. It’s sincerely nice to see that there’s still a bit of love left between Lannisters. Jaime is so likeable here that it took him a whole two minutes for people to forget about the faux-rape fiasco. It’s also refreshing to see Tyrion in what’s been, and will be, a largely Tyrion-less season.

But it was Jaime’s two scenes with Brienne which did it for me. I had the chance to see Oathkeeper (the sword) in the “Game of Thrones Exhibit”, and was very disappointed by the design—it’s too girly for my taste (at least Brienne’s armor is pretty badass). The scene with their good-bye, which also tidied up her eventual encounter with Podrick was expertly written and acted. I’m falling for Gwendolyn Christie; she handles her character so well, and it’s a shame she’s being torn from Jaime, as the two have some unbelievable chemistry together.

The scene between Sansa and Littlefinger felt a little bit superfluous. I like that they’re beginning to show Sansa as someone who isn’t a complete moron anymore, and is more or less following the happenings. Still, despite the good dialogue and top notch acting from Aidan Gillen, this bit felt more like a segue into the scene between the Tyrells.

As every scene featuring Olenna Tyrell, this one was a gem that worked on many levels. First, we get a clear resolution to the plot behind Joffrey’s murder, and everyone who was, or wasn’t, involved. Olenna tells us a bit more about her youth, which is always interesting and in this case very funny. Sadly, we also get the passing-of-the-torch scene in which Olenna leaves all responsibilities of her family to Marg, as she’s leaving King’s Landing to go back to Highgarden. It’s a shame to have the character go, because she’s one of the greats.

And how about that scene with Tommen? They’re making it easy for us to like the prospect of the new king who will be replacing Joffrey. He’s just a nice kid, who likes cats. Marg’s late night visit was pure gold: a detailed example of the writers’ knack for easy setups. Just a few words from Marg and we’re in for a world of plot—what exactly is she planning to do beyond getting married to a king for the third time (she really has a bad track record)?

Jon Snow keeps growing as an actor and a character. I’m glad there’s conflict now at the Wall because there really hadn’t been a lot until this point, mainly because all the interesting stuff with the Wall characters always happened to the North. First off, the sudden appearance of Locke at the Wall blew my mind into chunks because I never thought he’d ever find himself there, much less befriend Jon. It’s so easy for the writers to endear a character and make him even tolerable.

Still, Locke’s sudden appearance aside, the conflict is a bit flimsy, if still interesting. Thorne and Slynt are huge fucking dicks who want to get Mr. GreatHair Von Prettyface killed, so they cook up a plan to have him leave the wall and fight the mutineers at Craster’s Keep, where he’s likely to get killed. They just didn’t count on Prettyface McAbspants to be so popular, and he ends up taking a bunch of rangers to set up what should be an awesome confrontation at Craster’s Keep.

After this, all that followed was a vignette of excitement for a book reader like myself. Finally I began to understand what they were going to do with Bran’s story, which they had mostly exhausted in season three. In a series that’s been killing off characters that don’t die in the books, I was legit nervous throughout Bran’s scenes, because I had no idea what they could do with a character like Jojen or Meera. Seeing Summer get captured was also pretty shocking.

But nothing as shocking as the final scene, in which we finally get to see the Lands of Always Winter, what the White Walkers do with Craster’s babies, and of course where the White Walkers come from. This is a massive game-changer because even people who read all the books had no idea of any of that. I know some smug assholes will always want to be one step ahead of their non-book-reading friends, but this revelation made me even more excited about the show—suddenly I can learn things  from “Game of Thrones” that I would’ve had to wait for one or two more books to learn. This episode proved that even we who have read the books are prone for big shocks and surprises. Honestly that makes me feel much better about watching the show—I’ll have a lot to discuss by the metaphorical water cooler, even with people who haven’t read the books.

Reader Observations:
  • ·         (Beyond “A Dance with Dragons”) Apparently that Darth Maul looking fellow is the Night’s King, a legendary former Captain of the Night’s Watch, centuries ago. What the fuck?  
  •  Brienne and Pod are together in episode four, which makes me wonder how much their story will have to be padded. I wonder if the Lady Stoneheart reveal will be made with Brienne, or with a random Frey.
  • Who knows how long the Craster's Keep story can go on for. None of this happened in either book, but it's a good way to lead into Jon Snow getting chosen as Commander of the Night's Watch.

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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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