Let’s bitch it out…I’ll admit that I was uncertain how this episode of Game Of Thrones would play out because I was worried that things would go back to normal, despite the cataclysmic changes resulting from Joffrey’s death. Luckily series co-creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff pace ‘Breaker Of Chains’ in such a way that offers everyone a chance to reconcile the changing rules of the world (even when they clearly have no idea that it has taken place).
Obviously the scenes that take place in King’s Landing are the ones most affected by Joffrey’s poisoning. Tywin (Charles Dance) immediately bypasses Cersei (Lena Headey) in her grief and zeroes in on young Tommen, eagerly reinforcing the necessity of the small council and the role of the Hand. Cersei is either too distraught to care or she has so little interest in grooming the next king because she barely bats an eye…at least not until Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) arrives. She announces that she wants vengeance against their brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), but Jamie is uninterested in doing anything but consummating their relationship (something she’s refused since his return). The resulting scene is extremely uncomfortable to watch (as though seeing a brother and sister sleep together isn’t uncomfortable enough) as Jamie rapes his sister on the floor of the Sept next to the body of their deceased son. I don’t really know what to feel about this: I like Jamie and frequently feel annoyed by Cersei’s righteousness, but this is pretty deplorable (and let’s be clear this is rape: she says no and struggles and he forces himself on her).
Gah…okay moving on.
Tyrion’s position is no less compromised (though obviously in a different way). Imprisoned in the dungeon, the imp is forbidden from speaking with Bronn, forced to rely on Pod (Daniel Portman) to bring him news about his forthcoming trial. His father Tywin is stacking the judges against him and as a loyal squire Pod has been not-so-subtly marked for death. In one of several “goodbye for your own good” scenes in the episode, Tyrion implores Pod to leave before he’s killed for his ties to the imp. It’s a nicely emotional scene that acknowledges that even if Tyrion was caught unprepared by the royal assassination, he still understands the rules of the game enough to know when to send his allies away for their own safety.
Lest we think Tyrion is overreacting, the fate of poor Ser Dontos reveals that no one is safe when it comes to murder plots. A connection is all that’s required to cost Dontos his life after he delivers Sansa (Sophie Turner) to Baelish (Aidan Gillen), who promptly murders Dontos for his trouble. In such a way Sansa now finds herself in a very dangerous situation: like Tyrion, she’s guilty by association, and the fact that she’s run has implicitly confirmed her guilt. At this point she has no other option but to trust Baelish – the very man who told her that King’s Landing is filled with liars. In this way, Sansa’s entire world has once again been completely affected by the death of a single man. (Side Note: man, is this girl unlucky)
Sansa’s only real competitor in that category is Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). You’ve got to feel some pity for poor Margaery, who despite her cunning now finds herself twice-widowed. As the girl exclaims dejectedly to her grandmother Oleanna (Diana Rigg), she must be cursed. Naturally Oleanna reassures her that Joffrey’s death is the equivalent of dodging a bullet, humourously suggesting that Margaery will be that much more prepared for husband #3. Ha ha!
With three of the five kings dead (Joffrey, Renly and Robb), Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is feeling the pinch to step up and make his claim for the Iron Throne. The problem is, of course, he hasn’t got an army to make a move, something he rather pointedly blames Davos (Liam Cunningham) for. There are several mentions of the world across the Narrow Sea in this episode (Tywin and Rory McCann’s the Hound both mention it, as well), so it’s intriguing that Davos believes a loan from the Iron bank of Braavos can solve their problems. What is involved in that deal?
Which leaves us with Arya (Maisie Williams), who continuing adventures with the Hound provide further education in the changing nature of the world. After they encounter a naive farmer and his daughter on the road, Arya thinks that sweet-talking her way into a meal and shelter means she understands the way of the world. Instead she learns a cruel lesson when the Hound beats the man and steals their silver, suggesting the man and his daughter will be dead by Winter. Arya hasn’t let go of the ideals of a just world (the same world that would have rewarded Sansa and Margaery with suitable husbands in exchange for being proper ladies) – she’s only starting to learn that the rules of decency, civility and hospitality no longer apply. Parents are killed and eaten in front of their children in the North and kings are poisoned at their weddings in the south. The world has changed…
- Sam (John Bradley) provides the episode’s other goodbye when he dispatches Gilly to the village away from Castle Black, believing that the 100 men of the nightswatch cannot be trusted. As much as I don’t really care for these characters, this storyline is a good demonstration of how Weiss and Benioff have learned to let the individual components of the episode play out so that the set-up and execution doesn’t feel rushed or superfluous.
- If there’s one man in the capital who’s not a liar, it’s probably Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) who seems to say exactly what’s on his mind, regardless of whether he’s speaking to a whore or the Hand. There’s a refreshing honesty to the Dornish Prince; he appears to be the sole member of King’s Landing who is unaffected by Joffrey’s death (which makes sense considering his sole reason for being there is to kill the Mountain. He has no interest in the other politics of King’s Landing). Now that he’s entering into negotiations with Tywin, it will be interesting to see whether Oberyn’s values are tainted and compromised like so many before him.
- Aside from Oberyn, the only other character who appears to be setting their own rules as opposed to following (or falling behind) them is Dany (Emilia Clarke). Just as she has with her past two “conquests” she approaches Meereen as a liberator, appealing to the slaves with both words, as well as the catapulted shackles of the freed people. I half expected the episode to end with the slaves turning on their masters in the same kind of explosive finish as we saw in last season’s finale, but it appears that Meereen may be a tougher nut to crack (not that Michiel Huisman’s Daario noticed when he dispatched their emissary with ease).
- Oleanna (to Margaery): “You did wonderful work on Joffrey. The next one should be easier.”
- Stannis (chastising Davos): “I will not become a page in somebody else’s history book.”
- Tyrion (arguing his innocence in Joffrey’s death): “I like to think if I was planning a royal assassination, I would arrange it in such a way that I wouldn’t stand there looking like a gawking fool.”
- Tyrion (realizing Cersei had no involvement in Joffrey’s death): “Which makes it unique as far as King’s Landing goes”
What are your thoughts on how the show handled the fall-out from Joffrey’s death? Was Jamie’s rape of Cersei one of the more disturbing images of the season/series? Who’s learned the hardest lesson this week: Arya? Sansa? Margaery? Tyrion? Do you wish we were spending more time with anyone? Do you care about Gilly’s safety? Sound off below, but please remember our Spoiler Policy and refrain from posting anything from the books that hasn’t happened in the show.
Game Of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO