I can imagine that this season was something of a headache to adapt.
Season 3 covered roughly the first two thirds of A Storm of Swords, the second longest book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The final third of the book doesn't really provide enough story material to fill out an entire 10-episode season. This has led the writers to incorporate material from the later books in the series, stretch out the existing story material and just make a load of stuff up. And that is what I'm going to talk about because 'Oathkeeper' had more original material than any other previous episode. Everything that is currently happening at the Wall and beyond is like 99% original content. Even scenes that were taken from the books had been tweaked and reworked.
The Wall and Beyond
I’ll start with that final scene which had me screaming “HOLY FUCKING SHITBALLS!!!” at high volume. When Rast laid that baby down in the snow I thought the most we'd see was some White Walker strolling in, picking it up, maybe quickly popping to the shop for some milk and a lottery ticket and then disappearing off into the forest. I never in a million years thought they'd actually take us all the way to the Lands of Always Winter and show what they are actually doing to those babies.
This is huge. This is the first time I can think of that the show has shown us something the books haven't even covered yet. I know this will have a lot of book fans raging, but I’m not one of them. I’m not gonna lie and say I’ve been happy about every single change that has been made -- I’m still bitter about the House of the Undying -- but this was one change I am fully on board with. We need to be reminded of the threat the White Walkers pose every once in a while. At the same time, we can’t just see them stalking through the Haunted Forest with their zombie clique. That has already gotten old. We needed to see something new, something to keep us interested in this lot.
Jon is becoming a stronger leader, something that isn’t sitting too well with Castle Black’s resident mean girls. The Night’s Watch is the only democratic body in Westeros. The members of the watch elect their leaders themselves. Which isn't good for Acting Lord Commander Thorne. He is not well liked by his brothers. In fact, it is fair to say they all hate his guts. Jon, on the other hand, is well liked by his brothers. Starks, even bastard sons of Starks, make for lousy politicians (at least on a national level, on a local level they are okay), but are excellent soldiers. The others can see that and look to Jon for guidance, which he is happy to give. Thorne and Slynt think sending him to Craster’s will solve their problem and clear the way for Thorne to become Lord Commander full time, but this plot could easily blow up in their scheming faces. If Jon and the others come back alive and victorious it will only improve his standing with the rest of the watch.
Jaime went through the episode as if what happened in the Sept last week never happened. It was never mentioned or even suggested once. There was nothing to make us think he was weighed down by remorse for committing such a heinous act. First time we see him in this episode he’s having fun sparing with Bronn (until he had his face smacked with his own golden hand, which is like the Bronn version of “Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself”). Can’t help but feel really annoyed by that. If you are going to have a character commit such an act, then at least have the decency to deal with the emotional fallout for those involved. By not addressing it, all of Jaime's scenes in the episode, including his emotional goodbye to Brienne, felt tainted.
Murder She Co-Wrote
We now know who to thank for Joffrey’s death. The killer was none other than Lady Olenna Redwyne (with Littlefinger’s help). All gifts and thank you cards should be addressed to Highgarden, the Reach, Westeros. Think she likes Milk Tray? Olenna saw Joffrey for what he was and wasn’t going to allow her granddaughter to marry someone like him. Margaery may have been able to manipulate Joffrey, but only to a certain extent. Olenna knew that she never would have been able to fully control him. In time he would’ve come to abuse her as he did Sansa. Best to avoid such unpleasantness altogether and kill him off quickly and marry her granddaughter to his younger, kinder brother.
This revelation left former/future queen Margaery absolutely flabbergasted. She obviously didn’t think her beloved grandmother was capable of doing such a thing. I for one am just relieved that they’re not dragging this mystery out. Game of Thrones has enough unsolved mysteries as it is without adding another one to the pile. I mean, after nearly four seasons, we still don’t know who killed Jon Arryn, who Jon Snow’s mother is (I fall firmly in the L+R=J camp), who paid the sellsword to kill Bran, whatever happened to Benjen Stark or what accent Littlefinger is attempting?
Olenna's admission and Littlefinger's puns rule out any possible involvement from Tywin, who I always suspected was involved somehow. He benefited greatly from Joffrey's death as it gave him a king who not only listens to his advice but is smart enough that he will probably do well on his own once his grandfather is no longer around. Tywin is well aware of his own mortality. He has spoken repeatedly about how he is not long for this world. He wants to ensure that the Lannister brand will continue to prosper long after he is gone. Which is why I wouldn't be surprised if he had something to do with Joffrey's death. As he made quite clear last week, Tywin saw Joffrey for what he truly was - a cruel, cowardly fool who was far too similar to the Mad King for anyone's liking. Tywin saw Aerys lead his house to ruin and no doubt feared Joffrey would do the same to his. After all, what is one dead grandson compared to the continued survival of the family?
Why am I talking so much about Tywin? He wasn't even in this episode. But the kitten-loving new king was. Now is a truly bewildering time for young King Tommen. He’s about to be crowned king, his grandfather is giving him awkward advice about women and sex, his new bedroom has creepy decorations that are keeping him up at night and now beautiful women in revealing clothes with no sense of personal space are sneaking into his room at night and kissing him. On the plus side, no one is threatening to skin Ser Pounce (even in death they keep giving us more reasons to detest Joffrey). Margaery really is as good as her grandmother said. She offered Tommen the affection and companionship a lonely young boy like him clearly craves, with the slightly creepy hint of more later. Tommen, for his part, was just as terrified of Margaery as he was enchanted. I’m not sure if it is because he’s a young boy and beautiful women like her have that effect or because he knows what happened to the last two husbands and fears for his and Ser Pounce’s safety? Probably both.
This week we saw three different sides to Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains and this year's winner of Essos' Next Top Queen. First there was Dany the cunning tactician, who is bold, cunning, listens to her advisers and doesn't take unnecessary risks. She wasn't foolish to risk attacking Meereen. She fought long and hard to get her army and wasn't going to waste it by invading the city. Far better to have her Grey Worm and other sneak into the city and encourage and arm a slave rebellion.
Then we saw Daenerys the liberator, the breaker of chains, strolling through her new city as they cried "Mhysa" over and over again. She needs to be careful and not let all this adulation go to her head. A Messiah complex is no one’s friend. Finally we saw Daenerys the Dragon, the conqueror of the Meereen, who had the slave masters rounded up and crucified, one for every slave child they killed. Ser Barristan urged mercy (something he must've done a lot of in her father's day), but Dany (like her father) has no time for mercy. When we last see her she’s standing atop her new pyramid, overlooking her new city, the banner of House Targaryen flying high for all to see. It was an awesome, but also terrifying, sight. Dany has a taste of what it really means to be a conqueror now. Will she be satisfied with just the Seven Kingdoms or will she try and carve herself out an empire?
Grumpkins and Snarks
--Did Margaery sneak past Ser Boros or did she bribe him to let her into Tommen's room? Either way, Jaime needs to make some serious improvements to royal security.
--Brienne and Pod are sort of like a bizzaro version of Arya and the Hound. By the old gods and the new I hope they cross paths.
--I doubt Sansa will be any better off in the Vale with crazy aunt Lysa and creepy, soon-to-be uncle, Petyr. But I am glad she is starting to seeing through Littlefinger’s lies, half-truths and increasingly confusing accent.
--Locke has arrived at the Wall and wormed his way into the Night’s Watch and Jon’s ranging party. I’m not sure where they are going with this. He worked well in season 3, but I don’t think it is really necessary to expand his character beyond that.
--Karl reminds me a little of a student from my teaching days. He wasn't a psycho murderer/rapist, but he never spoke a single sentence that didn't include the f-word or the c-word.
--Even Jon seems to have forgotten about Rickon. Not once does he worry about where his youngest brother might be.
--So am I right in assuming the White Walkers come from Krypton?
--Olenna is leaving King’s Landing. That’s a shame. The capital is going to be a much duller place without Diana Rigg and her exquisite putdowns. Every scene she’s been in has been a gem.
Daenerys: “I will answer injustice with justice.”
Littlefinger: "Nothing like a thoughtful gift to help a new friendship grow strong."
Jon: "If the Night’s Watch are your brothers then Lord Commander Mormont was your father."
Jaime: "Do you really think it is coincidence she disappeared the same night Joffrey died?"
Tyrion: "No, but Sansa's not a killer. Not yet, anyway."
Three out of four royal kittens.
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