â€œOathbreakerâ€ was a chance for Game of Thrones to slow down after two relatively break-neck episodes. After six seasons, this show is full of so many moving pieces that it can feel like thereâ€™s no room to breathe. And although this weekâ€™s episode highlighted how some storylines, namely everything in Kings Landing and Daenerys stuck with the Dothrakis, are losing momentum, it also highlighted two refreshing facts â€” how character-driven Game of Thrones can be and how funny it can be when thereâ€™s time to just let people talk.
â€œOathbreakerâ€ opened at Castle Black, with oathbreaker extraordinaire Jon Snow adjusting, or readjusting, to being alive. Davos is his biggest supporter and wins best pep talker award for getting the understandably shaken Jon Snow to go out and face his men. And for a bit we just get to watch Jon and his friends reunite after they thought they would never get to see each other again. Itâ€™s warm and sweet, and also crude and legitimately laugh out loud funny. Itâ€™s nice to see the ever sour-faced Jon crack a grin every once in a while. Itâ€™s all short-lived though. After he executes his murderers, Jon Snow is done. Davos talks about failing and getting up to go fail again, but it seems Jonâ€™s not interested in repeating his failure as Lord Commander. After all, he had no choice in being brought back. Thorne gets to rest, but he does not. If anything, since this is his second chance, why would he do the same thing he knows didnâ€™t work the first time around? So he hands Castle Black to Edd and stomps out into the snow, his final words, “My watch has ended.”
One thing that’s really working in this season of Game of Thrones is the suggestion that all roads lead back to the Starks. And let me just say that it’s almost unbelievable that five out of six Stark children are alive right now. Those are really impressive numbers (Lannisters are one for three.) Bran’s trips to see the past have been such a boon for the audience, filling in gaps and fleshing out history that we wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. The flashback in “Oathbreaker” of Ned fighting Arthur Dayne of the Targaryean’s Kingsguard, helped give legs to a fan favorite theory regarding Jon Snowâ€™s parentage. Of course, this is all speculation, and I wonâ€™t elaborate since it toes the line with spoilers, but if true, the theory would have huge ripples across Westeros.
Branâ€™s time with the Three-Eyed Raven is getting weirder, if thatâ€™s even possible. When a frustrated Bran whines that he doesnâ€™t want to stay in the cave forever (like only an adolescent could), the Three-Eyed Raven calmly quips that he only has to stay their until he learns everything, like an annoying cryptic teach who is so old heâ€™s grown into a tree. So itâ€™s unlikely weâ€™ll be seeing Bran get in on any of the other action in the world anytime soon, but this also means weâ€™ll have more opportunities for flashbacks, which is a very worthwhile trade. Though it would be great if Leaf and Meera had more to do than just shoot Bran irritated looks.
In one of the lightest scenes this season, we got to check in with the always adorable Gilly and Sam, the latter dealing with a rough bout of seasickness, sailing to the Citadel for Sam to begin training as a Maester. These two are the only vaguely functional relationship on the show. Sam is overprotective, telling Gilly she wonâ€™t be going with him at the Citadel and instead will stay with his family. But Gilly refuses and it seems the whole little family will be heading to school together. Itâ€™s interesting to note that Sam is oblivious to the happenings at the Wall, which does undercut the levity of the scene for the audience.
Back in Meereen, Varys is doing the dirty work of trying to figure out who is funding the Children of the Harpy. Itâ€™s always fun to see Varys at his peak manipulating, and his conversation with the prostitute the unsullied visited was getting to see a master at his work. Another example of the writers infusing much more humor this season is the scene with Tyrion attempting to socialize with Greyworm and Missandei, both the â€œstrong but silentâ€ types. They donâ€™t drink, they donâ€™t play games, and they donâ€™t drink. Tyrion is out of his wheelhouse. When Varys walks in to put everyone out of their misery, we find out that the Children of the Harpy are being funded by foreign cities that the audience has probably forgotten about. If not for the Varys-Tyrion team, this storyline would face the same trouble that Daenerys and Kingâ€™s Landing are facing: theyâ€™re too slow, too isolated, we arenâ€™t invested in the characters enough, and in Danyâ€™s case, basically a rehash of a previous storyline.
Aryaâ€™s storyline is very isolated and slow, yet maintains audience investment because Aryaâ€™s development as a character is the main point of her plot and we actually see her struggle and then overcome obstacles. We understand her goals and her motivation. We can still root for her. The same canâ€™t be said for Cersei or Daenerys, both of characters have remained stagnant. Season six definitely feels stronger than last season, but with the action moving heavily north, there needs to be a way to maintain some level of significance in Kingâ€™s Landing and with Daenerys for the audience to care. But I think we should remain optimistic. There’s a lot of story to tell, especially in King’s Landing, and with the way things are shaping up in previously story-starved locales, like the Iron Islands, things can turn around faster than we expect.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.
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