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”But what makes a good king?”
Yes. He's really gone. There's no way to undo the events of the 'Purple Wedding.' No tricks. No magic. Gone. Not that anyone but Cersei would be praying to the Gods for his return. That said, the royal prick was so fun to hate that some will surely miss him. HBO was nice enough to give Joffrey a touching tribute but something tells me the network wasn't being as sincere as they were with the last in memoriam. When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. And whatever you do, don't get married! "The Lion and the Rose" remain unjoined thanks to a certain someone's nefarious plot but will the Houses stay separate? And will it matter, when the “Breaker of Chains” finally returns to Westeros? (If she returns to Westeros.) The third episode was another well-crafted, and very difficult, installment that not only picked up all the pieces of the ‘Purple Wedding’ but seamlessly wove the other locations into the fold by focusing on Game of Thrones’ central question: what qualities make a great leader? Someone call Machiavelli.
”Your brother was not a wise king. Your brother was not a good king. If he had been, perhaps he’d still be alive.”
The question is addressed directly early in “Breaker of Chains” when Tywin is ‘consoling’ Cersei and Tommen as they all stand over Joffrey’s dead body. Since the newly deceased king clearly wasn’t the best example, his grandfather begins to school the heir on the finer points of leadership immediately (holiness? justice? strength?) and, for once, the Queen Regent is too emotional to realize that her wise father is stealing away the new ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Or she just doesn’t care. That echoes Jaime’s sentiment when he arrives shortly thereafter and provides his version of consolation. A sweet embrace over their dead son's body turns violent. The two also have sex in front of Joffrey’s dead body in George R.R. Martin’s novels but it doesn't play out exactly the same. Perhaps audiences needed to remember that he’s the kind of man who throws 10 year old boys out of windows. Of course, that was something he did for love. In some way, I think this was him trying to force their relationship to being like it was when they created Joffrey, except it’s painfully clear to both that they’ve changed. Forever.
”I don’t believe that a child is responsible for the sins of his father. Or his grandfather.”
Once he had secured that the new king would heed his counsel, Tywin next move was to visit the obvious suspect for Joffrey’s murder. The Lannister Lord is too wise to think that Oberyn would be behind the conspiracy because, well, it’s just not the Red Viper’s style. Yes, he knows his poisons but he’s not the kind of man to kill a child in that fashion. The Prince of Dorne is another interesting leader, honest to a fault because of his arrogance while also having an eye (for an eye) for justice. And there were two penises in “Breaker of Chains.” Looks like GOT is trying to balance the nudity a bit. A futile exercise, however, probably appreciated by some. What was I talking about? Oh, right, justice. By appealing to Oberyn’s sense of justice, Tywin is able to make a deal with the House that hated his family well before the War of the Five Kings. To sweeten the deal that would bring Dorne, the one region in Westeros that never bowed to the Targaryens, into the fold, seats on the jury for Tyrion’s trial and the Small Council are offered. Oh, and a chance to ‘talk’ with the Mountain. Justice.
”I don’t know. They, they, the ominous ‘they.’ The man pulling the strings.”
Poor Tyrion. While he’s locked away in his cell, saying a heartfelt goodbye to Pod, the only person he can trust, and trying to use his wisdom (or at least cleverness) to figure out who is responsible for the frame-up, we already know that Littlefinger is the man pulling the strings. Sorry, call him Petyr. What a shit. A shit that’s very, very good at the game of thrones. Another win for the cold and calculating. And he’s always wise enough to cover his tracks (you know, with murder) not to mention making others have no choice but to rely on him. Oh yeah, the whodunit is solved! Well, some of it. I guess keeping that bit of information hidden wasn’t as interesting to David Benioff and D.B. Weiss as laying out Baelish's portion of the plan for us to see. It was quite the plan. One that left Margaery momentarily hanging, however, Olenna and her protege are also skilled players so I wouldn’t expect them to twist for long. I hope Tommen likes older girls. The Queen of Thorns makes for a formidable adversary because, like all of the key threats, she’s not overly holy, just or strong, only wise.
”Your father lacks an appreciation of the finer points of bad behavior. So do the Braavosi.”
Did someone say holy? In Dragonstone you can watch the debate between faith and pragmatism in real time. Davos not only represents the latter but is also a big proponent of justice, which is why he kept those bones dangling around his neck. A reminder of his just King Stannis from before he met Melisandre and her Lord of Light. Like Tywin (who knows about Dany’s dragons), Davos is willing to accept the existence of magic in the world but it’s still not the way one wins a war or rules a kingdom. Stannis continues to be a blind hypocrite, claiming that the use of sellswords beneath him while he was just fine sending a black shadow to assassinate his brother. And now that another leech connected king has fallen, his zealotry will know no bounds. Davos refuses to rely solely on the Red Priestess and her promises and gains inspiration from his time with Shireen. They may be too broke to buy soldiers but The Iron Bank of Braavos might lend the rightful ruler of Westeros a few coins. He’s a practical one, that Davos. I wonder if the First Sword of Braavos who almost took his head was Syrio Forel?
”Dead men don’t need silver.”
No episode of Game of Thrones would be complete if it didn’t show the way that the power players’ actions affect the people who aren’t playing. The ones that are just trying to live their lives while the war rages around them. They would probably prefer a just ruler. The people of the North were happy with the inflexibly just Ned Stark. Arya seems to have retained some of that Stark sense of justice despite all that she’s been through, battling with the Hound over his lack of honor. He’s not lying though, winter is coming, the war is raging in the wake of the Red Wedding and that farmer and his little girl will likely be dead before too long. Religion doesn’t save in Westeros. That’s the way things are even though Arya refuses to see it that way. No matter how many Starks are beheaded. Too bad she wasn’t the young King. So much for their nice moment together, talking about where they might end up. And what do you know, they both plan to sail to across the Narrow Sea. One to be a sellsword with the Second Sons, the other to meet up with friends in Braavos. Valar Morghulis.
”You know how to get to Castle Black?”
The people of the North are not faring too well under Bolton rule as the their new Warden has failed to protect them from the band of wildlings ravaging the Neck. Mance Rayder’s leadership strategy is simple yet very effective with fear of death being the primary motivator for the free folk to unite for the first time. Of course, his rule isn’t exactly ideal as chaos seems to reign and the wildlings don’t mind killing anyone. Ygritte makes quick work of that kid’s father before the rest of the band raises the village. And those fucking Thenns, always eating everybody. Except the boy sent as a message. I wonder if Jon is protecting Ygritte by ensuring no Crows are sent their way? He does rally the troops to take care of the former Brothers at Craster’s keep before they ruin Jon’s ruse. Speaking of protection, is Sam The Slayer moving Gilly to Molestown to keep her safe from the men at Castle Black or the impending siege? Or Both? If I was moving someone to protect them though, I’d move them to a safe location. Safer will have to do.
”I am not your enemy. Your enemy is beside you.”
Daenerys is perhaps the best ruler that Game of Thrones has to offer because she’s an interesting mix of many of the qualities listed early in the episode. She’s ‘holy,’ if being holy simply means having faith. She walked into a fire for God’s sake. She’s just, as her work as a ‘Breaker of Chains’ demonstrates. She’s strong, able to look at each and every one of those dead kid’s faces on the way to Meereen. And, so far, she seems quite wise. Definitely beyond her years and it’s because she followed Tywin’s advice. Dany has surrounded herself with good counsel, as she told us during the ‘choose a champion’ sequence. Daario’s bravado was a fun way to end what had been a difficult episode. He’s got some Bronn in him that one, the ‘fight’ reminding me of the sellsword’s battle as Tyrion’s champion. If that wasn’t enough of a show for the people and slaves of Meereen, the Mother of Dragons followed it up with a rousing speech and a most symbolic gesture. The final shot was lovely. Both slave and master in the frame, the former holding an open chain in front of his locked one. She may be the best ruler for Westeros but is she to play in the big leagues?
”Money buys a man’s silence for a time, a bolt in the heart buys it forever.”
The fourth season of Game of Thrones continues with “Oathkeeper” next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Based on the novels by George R.R. Martin, the TV series was adapted by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and stars Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
Those who have read GRRM’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”can head to the next page for a spoiler section and open comment thread...
BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD: Everything beyond this point includes spoilers from George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels.
”A Song of Ice and Fire” Speculation
All the smug bastards (our last name would be ‘Readers’) that have finished all five of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels don’t want simple recaps of the Game of Thrones’ Season 4 episodes, they want to talk about how Benioff and Weiss have adapted the source material for the small-screen as well as the future of the HBO fantasy. On that note, I should also say that I’ve only read the series once (okay, some extended sections twice) so go easy on me if I screw up and/or if there’s something I fail to mention. Now. Winter is coming. And, if it wasn’t clear by now, so are SPOILERS. Final warning…
”I don’t care.”
Going by the immediate reaction, the big sticking point for book readers with “Breaker of Chains” seems to be the rape scene. The way things play out between Jaime and Cersei in the novel is slightly different but let’s not kid ourselves, he’s still forcing himself on her in “A Storm of Swords.” The passage is from his POV, it’s the first time they’ve seen each other since he lost his hand and she says no a lot, even pounding her fists on him, before succombing. You could very well read the Game of Thrones scene the same way, that she eventually wants him but does it matter? Neither scenario paints Jaime in a good light. I think the writers had the same problem here as they did with Dany and Drogo’s first night: Is it better to show someone bullied into saying yes or display it as what it is, rape. He’s so desperate to be the man he was that he forces himself to love her and she him. It’s a powerful reminder of the horrible acts he was once (and still is) capable of committing. Since next week is titled ‘Oathkeeper,’ I imagine that will signal the beginning of his proper redemption story.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to another change from the books that I thought played out well which is Daario continuing to take on Strong Belwas’ duties. It makes more sense for him to be Dany’s champion, since he will also be her champion in the bedroom. And I’ll trade piss for shit. I assume this means he will be the one that saves her from the poisoned locusts but I wouldn’t be surprised if the circumstances of the attempt on her life were altered to reflect his character. I mean, it makes sense for Strong Belwas to want to eat them all (and be big enough to not die) where Daario seems like the kind of man who senses what others do not. Perhaps he will smell something off with the food or maybe it will take a different form altogether. If there’s one thing about Game of Thrones, it doesn’t seem to care too much about the novel’s mysteries. As was the case with the quick reveal that Littlefinger was the one behind Joffrey’s assassination and that he used Dontos, Sansa and the necklace to pull it off. I kind of like the way the writers are doing away with all the aspects of the books that fans love to theorize about like Robb’s surviving and possibly pregnant wife and now the Purple Wedding plot. Tyrion going through the list was like reading comments online.
A general note is that everything seems to be happening sooner in the show than in the books and for the most part, it’s an improvement. Jaime arriving in King’s Landing early allows for Brienne to begin her quest to find Sansa and that’s probably why we got the heartfelt farewell to Pod. If he stays he’ll die so the best squire better find himself a new knight soon. Of course, their path won’t take them to the oldest living Stark but her resurrected mother, Lady Stoneheart. Her introduction seems like another reason to get Brienne’s quest started as soon as possible. The Iron Bank of Braavos is also getting a brought up a lot lately and their representative should figure into the story before Stannis and company even reach the Wall. Game of Thrones is getting as much as they can out of the Arya and the Hound’s time together as well, with the pair having a few adventures that I don’t recall from the book as well as dropping names like the Golden Company. As for Arya’s friends in Braavos, we’re all eagerly awaiting her training with the Faceless Men. Don’t be too eager, I don’t see her setting sail until late this season. But it does look like we’re getting an extra battle sequence since the Crows are going to keep the traitors at Craster’s from talking.
There's probably plenty more to pick apart, so feel free to remind me about everything that I forgot in the comments...
Like I said, The fourth season of Game of Thrones continues with “Oathkeeper” next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.