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Game of Thrones: Oathkeeper

"You don’t think I’d let you marry that beast, do you?"

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.

I’m unsure about the changes made to events slightly south of the White Walker’s Fortress of Solitude/Day Care Centre. I’m okay with what is being done Bran’s storyline (apart from all that horrible Hodor cruelty) because it needed fleshing out, but Jon’s feels like treading water. Sending him and some of his brothers off to deal with Owen Harper and the other traitors at Craster's is a distraction, a way of keeping them busy while Mance continues his slow march south. I understand the reasoning behind this decision. Tormund, Ygritte and the other wildings are in no hurry to attack Castle Black. Jon and his brothers need something to do until then, otherwise we’d be subjected to scene after scene of Thorne trying to provoke Jon by calling him shit like “traitor’s bastard” while Janos Slynt stands there sniggering like he’s in high school. Are those two permanently attached at the hip now? We never see one without the other these days.

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.

King's Landing

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?

Educating Tommen

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.

Slaver's Bay

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.

Reminder: The comments on this episodes are appropriate for newbies. If you haven't read the books, you're safe! If you have read the books and would like to talk about upcoming events, please do so here, in our new Season Four spoiler thread.


  1. I was so relieved when I heard people complaining about all they added in this episode. I thought I'd simply forgotten the whole Bran thing. Glad to know I'm not (that) crazy.

    They're treating the Jaime thing like it didn't happen. His interaction with Cersei was tense, but no more so than usual. I can understand him being the same, but her? I'm choosing to forget about it entirely.

    Hurray for the introduction of Ser Pounce, one of the series' most important feline characters. Hopefully he'll protect Tommen from Margaery's creeping. Woman that kid is like 11 years old back off. I like that they didn't make her complicit in Joffrey's death. As awesome as that would've been, it's not exactly in character for her.

    Did anyone else go to an Avengers place with the last scene? I mean the tapping, the eyes turning blue…just saying, there's serious crossover potential.

  2. Now I am seriously going to be disappointed if it doesn't turn out that Loki was behind everything.

  3. It's becoming increasingly clear just how spectacularly everyone screwed up with Jaime and Cersei last week. Jaime's hurt puppy face when Cersei was cold to him and her coolness but without apparent distress towards him all suggest their relationship is in pretty much the same place as at this point in the books, with her being dismissive and him being hurt. It doesn't fit with the show's magnificently ill-judged mis-step last week at all and like you said Mark, all the extremely sappy scenes with Brienne - which would otherwise have made my little shipper heart glow with joy - felt tainted. Still, as a veteran of many vampire shows, I will, like sunbunny, not watch that scene again and pretend it never happened, hopefully eventually forgetting about it. And then I can go enjoy those longing gazes - haven't seen such wistful eye-flirting since Pride and Prejudice.

    I loved the new stuff with Jon and Bran though - Bran in particular was desperately in need of something to do. It was bizarrely horrible seeing Hodor get hurt though, and if Meera (or Joejn or Bran) gets raped I will really need to have words with someone (props to Meera's actress for the sheer terror when she saw what was going on. Less rape next week, please).

  4. Tainted is the perfect word. It was hard to know how to take the Jaime scenes this week. It seems pretty clear that the creative team didn't intend last week to play as a rape, because to me Cersei merely seemed peeved that Jaime was taking Tyrion's side. Not that she'd been sexually assaulted by her dead son's corpse. And they made sure to give us lots of what they view as clear rape at Craster's Keep for comparison purposes. Ugh. What a colossal screw up!

    I'm not crazy about their adaptation choices for the other "just North of the Wall" bits either. I guess we'll see where it goes, but for now it's making me feel like the whole thing is coming off the rails. Maybe I should find that exciting, but I like this show better when I have a pretty good handle on where it is all going, even if there are minor change ups along the way. There's just something about knowing the general shape of things to come that enhances my enjoyment of the series.

    I did like Brienne and Pod pairing up a little early and riding off together. I'm hoping they'll be as fruitful a pairing as Jaime and Brienne were last season.

  5. Oh, jeez. That should be "next to" her dead son's corpse. Not "by." Good grief, I just made the whole thing worse. Shudder.

    (Don't try to comment on reviews when small children are in the background trying to get your attention. It inevitably leads to embarrassing word choice or spelling failures.)

  6. As someone who's way behind on catching up with the books, this was the first episode where I could really sense that most of the stuff was made up for the show. I would notice here and there, but in this episode it seems really obvious. It's got a sorta meandering roundaboutness to it that's slightly off-putting. I still maintain that they should've been splitting each book up into 2 seasons each, but now it really seems like they're gonna beat Martin at his own game.

    Interesting to see Dany go all marauding warlord on Meereen, seems she's more Targaryen than we were led to believe. The season's young, maybe I'm I'm just reading too much into it. The other shoe's gotta drop for her eventually though, right?

    Brienne's new armor looks friggin' awesome. Jaime and Bronn's little sparring match showed that Jaime was right about needing a more practical appendage. Maybe he should invest in a hook to be used for battle, while the Hand of Midas is just for social occasions. Though really a royal bodyguard should be ready for a fight at all times.

  7. Great review, Mark.
    I was laughing out loud several times when reading it.

    Favorite ep if the season so far. All of the 2 person scenes were spectacularly written.

    Anyone else slightly worried for Cersei's proclivity for alcoholism?

  8. Excellent review, Mark.

    I don't insist that the TV series has to be the same as the books just because, but if you have a master storyteller like GRRM, deciding you can do better than him is a perilous occupation. There have been patches of badness before (coughTheontorturecough), but this is the very first episode that overall I found kinda boring. And some was just silly. I know Bran wanted to free the direwolf, but how dumb were they approaching in broad daylight with no weapons, no plan and no hope? Trying to inject some action is one thing, doing it by making the characters as stupid as a bag of hammers is entirely another.

    (PS I'd repressed House of the Undying! Grrr!)

  9. What a fantastic review, Mark! I was inappropriately laughing at your descriptions of the episode.

    Initially, I thought it wasn't going to be a memorable episode until that final scene. I actually did gasped because I really expected the White Walkers to eat the baby. (What? It's GoT, crazy-wrong things happen all the time!)

    There were a lot of terrible things happening in this episode (such as the happenings at Owen's House of Horrors) and some that left me perplexed. Overall, I can see how this episode was basically a bridge between everything that's happened in the season and whatever is to come.

  10. I don't have anything brilliantly insightful to add except to echo what a great write-up that was, Mark. You made me laugh out loud at least three times while reading it. I will say that the show does not grab me like the reading the books did, as the show skips so much excellent and well written dialogue and description. And yes, I too hate the excessive Theon torture nonsense, and the rape scene next to Joffrey was absurd. But I'm binge watching so maybe I'll hit a string of good shows soon.


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