Season 6, Episode 3: ‘Oathbreaker’
Jon Snow wakes with a great gasp of air. Newly returned from the dead, his wounds inexplicably healed, one sees on his face the apparently unquenchable desire for brains so common to the newly arisen. But Jon Snow is a righteous man. Just as Lazarus chose not to strike carnivorous and take a bite from the Redeemer, so Jon Snow sets aside his unspoken hunger in order that Ser Davos and Melisandre may feel at ease. Asked by Davos what he remembers of death, Snow echoes his biblical forbearer by stating unequivocally that he remembers nothing. Nevertheless, one cannot be unchanged by oblivion, and so we see Jon Snow return from death -already pensive once in life- a changed and troubled man. In new health he executes his assassins, takes off his garb and declares his night’s watch done and over.
Elsewhere at Winterfell, the once thought-to-be-burned-alive Rickon Stark –along with Osha, the wilding- is delivered as a gift of truce by Smalljon Umber to the charming but often unpleasant Ramsay Bolton. Given Ramsay’s general propensity for castration, rape, patricide, and gifting severed penises to his friends, this development suggests a grim near future for all concerned, we are very sorry to say.
In happier news, Arya continues to be attacked with wooden sticks, but is finally learning to defend herself. In fact, she is doing the otherwise beleaguered Stark family so proud that her sight has been restored –although we cannot but help think this would have all happened a lot sooner with a basic training montage.
It is not too late, however, for her brother Bran to accelerate his mystical training via the magical auspices of Kenny Loggins. The Three Eyed Raven, stuck inside a tree for the last one thousand years (which must have been rather tedious), is continuing to furnish the lad with precarious visions of his family’s past. Why, it’s old Ned, and he’s not dead, but fighting in fact, just after the death of the Mad King. A woman’s scream rings out from a tower, Ned runs towards the voice, and the vision ends. That Three Eyed Raven sure is a tease.
Tensions, meanwhile, are continuing to fester at King’s Landing, what with the High Sparrow disallowing Cersei to see the body of her daughter. King Tommen, bless him, tried his best to change the Sparrow’s mind, but the Sparrow, being a very nifty man, had all the right responses to dissuade him. Queen Margaery is still in prison, and beginning to smell rife; while Cersei and Jamie have decided to dispatch a series of urchin spies (“little birds,” street children) among the seven kingdoms for their own nefarious purposes.
Three episodes in, and Game of Thrones has settled comfortably back into its typical rhythms. If ‘Oathbreaker’ was short on major surprises or developments, just consider how hard it is to top a resurrection. The show is stronger for allowing its plots a sense of space, as opposed to overcrowding each episode with compacted action. The strength of Game of Thrones has always been its character development, and the nuance of its characters -whether that lie in pathos, depravity, or some sketchy moral limbo in-between, which is where many of its primary characters tend to fall. That they are realised as compelling, three dimensional characters is due to the relativity of ethics which the show allows for –meaning that Ramsay Bolton, for instance, is a multi-faceted monster rather than a cardboard one; and that Cersei is not merely a conniving bitch, but a painfully bereaved mother.
Nevertheless, that same depth can be easily usurped when space becomes merely static. That Arya’s training (including everything before her blindness), for instance, has gone for over a season without much payoff, threatening to become purely repetitious. Similarly, one gets the idea that Daenerys’ confinement among the Dothraki widows could go on in the same way, back and forth for a long time to not much avail.
Yet the show, due to its large, mosaic mode of storytelling, has always been greater than the sum of its parts, and that continues to remain true. While it may falter under scrutiny, its flaws aren’t particularly grating when ingested under the broad guise of entertainment.
‘Oathbreaker’ may have been treading water, but it did so elegantly.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10