Not everyone in Game of Thrones gets a happy ending but the only thing that is certain in A Song of Ice and Fire is that everyone’s story will reach an end. As you would expect from Game of Thrones, more stories reached their end but a couple of stories started anew this week.
If you could describe this week’s episode in one word, it would be transitional. We got Jon’s return to the land of the living. Arya is No One. Bran learned a little about the difference between the myth of Ned Stark and the real man. Dany moved into an old folks home. Tommen still has no spine. And Ramsay Bolton managed to consolidate his hold on the North. A lot of stuff happened. It just wasn’t as explosive as the last couple of weeks.
So no one was surprised by Jon’s resurrection. The problem is what’s next. He did his duty as Lord Commander by hanging those who betrayed the Night’s Watch by killing their Lord Commander. Then he walked off. You would have expected Jon to use his return to power at Castle Black and his new Wilding friends to prepare a defense against the oncoming army of the dead. You know, something, something warrior of the Lord of Light that Stannis was supposed to be but wasn’t. (Unless he’s getting a revival too.) Instead, Jon’s wandered off and left Edd in charge of The Wall.
I realize that there’s the need for cliffhangers with TV shows but it’s not like Game of Thrones is going to lose its audience because there isn’t a cliffhanger. If Jon hung the traitorous four and retired to his office, would we think any less of the episode than if he just walked out on Castle Black? It’s not as interesting a talking point but the looming question is going to be what’s next regardless of what Jon does after the ending.
Speaking of what’s coming next, there’s the Lannister Twins Revenge Tour. Cersei thinks she has the upper hand with the undead Mountain and the heart of the King. The problem is that the King’s heart (or perhaps another part of his anatomy) belongs to Maggie Tyrell and the King has always proven himself to be easily manipulated. Case in point, he goes to confront the High Sparrow and is easily diverted into a friendly chat.
As was explored last season, Cersei is still trying to find her place in a world where she doesn’t wield considerable influence over the Iron Throne. Sure, she wasn’t able to control Joffrey or Tywin like she could Tommen but it wasn’t like the events of the Seven Kingdoms were completely outside her influence. Being arrested by the Faith Militant, having the Small Council walk out on her and her son being swayed by the High Sparrow’s charm shows that she has lost control and can’t even find a way to fight back. Cersei may never be redeemed but she might get close to a redemptive arc as we see her adapt to these new circumstances.
Not much happened in Essos. Dany arrived in Dosh Khaleen which is where all the Dothraki were heading anyway which seems awfully convenient. She also might get offed for not immediately checking into the Khaleesi retirement home. So rescue is coming soon as she’s one of the few hero characters left in the show. Tyrion still seems to be wasting away with nothing to do. He lacks the political capital he did in King’s Landing so he’s basically keeping the throne warm for Dany. Varys is doing Varys things, though. He extracts information from a Meereenese prostitute in the most politely threatening way possible and we learn what he means by his birds thanks to Qyburn.
Meanwhile, outside of Westeros, Arya and Bran are probably supposed to seem like they’re on parallel paths that will eventually converge (yes, I know this sentence sucks). The problem is that Bran should be getting epic warging and magic powers but instead is getting a history lesson. If this will eventually lead to Bran finding a way to save humanity (and fan theories indicate that could be coming next week), then it would be worth it. Arya, on the other hand, was supposed to be this Stark avenging bad ass. Instead, she’s No One. How can she play any part in the wars to come if she has no allegiance?
We got two returning characters in Oathbreaker. Sam made a brief appearance on his way home to drop off Gilly and Baby Sam. I kind of get the feeling that Sam’s homecoming, even if it’s supposed to be just an overnight visit en route to the Citadel, won’t go as he hopes. Granted, does anything go well in Westeros?
The other return was Rickon, just one week after I said he wasn’t a major character (and he still isn’t). It was treated as a cliffhanger for the next episode even if we probably shouldn’t care about Rickon since he’s been missing for the last two seasons. I suppose that the real hook is what Ramsay will do to Rickon to get what he wants. The other question is what Ramsay wants. Ramsay has never been as openly ambitious as Roose and doesn’t have Littlefinger around to help him achieve that end. I suppose that we’re supposed to be concerned that Rickon will become the new Reek because Ramsay is violent and insane. At a certain point, they have to give him a little direction of his own rather than being a House Bolton enforcer.
Overall, this wasn’t the big spectacle of an episode that we were treated to over the last two episodes. That doesn’t mean that the advancing of the narrative isn’t still important. The first two episodes crammed a lot of story into two hours in order to get the ball quickly rolling on the season. Oathbreaker slowed the action down so we can catch our breath. It’s the first episode of the season that plays long game storytelling this season.
Other random points of note:
- Of course Jon is allowed to walk out on the Night’s Watch without punishment. Your watch ends upon death. Jon died which discharges his oath to the Watch. He’s basically a free man.
- I just noticed that Conleth Hill’s house sigil during the opening credits is a spider. Nice touch.
- Still no Littlefinger. I’m probably well overhyping what he will be up to upon return but you know that shit will go down when he returns.
- There was an episode called Oathkeeper in Season Four which saw a Bolton plot to kill Jon Snow and consolidate power in the North. Oathbreaker in Season Six sees a Bolton plot to consolidate power in the North that includes attacking Castle Black to kill Jon Snow.
- Anyone else hoping that Jon would drop a “f*ck Olly” somewhere during the episode?
Next week, Sansa and Brienne reach Castle Black which just adds to Brienne’s long list of missed connections with Stark family members. Ser Friendzone and Daario track Dany to Dosh Khaleen which likely sets up either a rescue or the greatest epidemic to befall the Dothraki ever. And Tyrion and Varys try to save what little hold Team Targaryen has on Meereen because someone in Essos has to know what they’re doing.