Television

Published on April 23rd, 2014 | by Bean

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Game Of Thrones – Season 4 Episode 3 – ‘Breaker Of Chains’

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WARNING – MASSIVE SPOILERS!!!

Opening, brutally, on the late King Joffrey’s swollen and bleeding face, still cradled in his mothers lap, this episode sweeps us up in the chaotic aftermath of a royal assassination. A wise move to retain maximum momentum in the first act (both in episode and season), as the rest of the hour is spent at a more diligent pace. This is not a complaint – I relished each scene in “Breaker of Chains”, as we made significant progress in every quarter.

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Our first step sees Sansa in all appearances making a smart move, allowing herself to be smuggled out of the city onto a mist-shrouded ship by Ser Dontos, the late King’s fool. However, we should know better than to trust Sansa’s faculty of self-preservation and lo-and-behold, who’s waiting there with open arms and an accent of unfathomable origin…but Littlefinger. So, out of the frying pan then. I do feel for her, as she is shunted from torturous pillar to dubious post, but shiiiiiit girl, make some useful allies already. What the specifics of Petyr Baelish’s long term plan are, who knows. An early scene with Varys laid out his ethos; turn chaos to his advantage on an endless climb to supremacy. He is the living embodiment of “the sentence below is a lie…” and Aidan Gillen takes the usual relish in yet another moment of logical duplicity, as he erases the inconvenient Dontos without a second thought. His rationale might actually teach Sansa something useful – she must start developing a taste for the game.

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Two characters who barely pause for breath between moves are the Tyrell women. Callous or not, they know how to play. Olenna reduces Margaery’s tricky situation to functional bullet points; somehow I’ve made Diana Rigg’s glorious matriarchal performance sound tedious – it is anything but. Olenna gives wise council in her practical, honest way. Taking the positive outlook that watching Joffrey die is easier to do than to have been his wife, you can see how Margaery’s ambitions blossomed under such tutelage. It makes me curious about her mother – I don’t recall if she has been mentioned, though we have now met her (wet) father. The small-print loop-hole I mentioned last week (unconsummated = no queen) is in effect, and while Margaery chomps at the bit, Olenna breezily looks towards the future and whoever the next mark will be, taking everything in her stride. I don’t believe they were behind Joffrey’s murder, and strangely that’s not really the focus of attention, even whilst it is under discussion.

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Scenes like this, and so many others from tonight’s episode, are truly rewarding. So far Season 4 is shaping up to be the most satisfying of all; gone are the meandering speeches and slow, cunning machinations – and I love that stuff! For me, there hasn’t been one disappointing episode of this show, but even three chapters in, S4 shows a significant step up in the action. The writers are finding new ways to wring extra tension and meaning from familiar scenes and set-ups. Watching Tywin lecture someone, which again, I never tire of, might have got old by now, even with the incomparable Charles Dance at the wheel. But this time it is the green strappling heir Tommen on the receiving end, and it becomes a guided lesson, more involving for the student and the viewer even as we are led to the desired answers. The scenario now feels more driven, purposeful and succinct, and that the conversation takes place at the vigil of their dead king/brother/grandson adds the requisite layer of inappropriate Lannister darkness.

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The direct fallout of this scene follows the inherent family trait taking a real turn for the worse, as Jaime finds a way to make incest more disturbing at the feet of his dead son. Echoes of Spike’s failed rape attempt on Buffy came to me unbidden and it was difficult viewing, as Cersei protested and finally “succumbed” in a mess of confusion. Nikolai Coster-Waldau’s Jaime is a man utterly devoid of a sense of self; just as he seemed to have finally got Cersei’s number, his desperation bursts forth and what follows is horribly wrong on so many levels. Lena Headey continues to give a devastating performance of a mother psychotic with grief, monopolising the emotional rights and (subconsciously?) turning the tragedy to her own ends, regarding Tyrion’s fate.

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Aaah, alas, poor Tyrion. Stoically hanging in the dungeons, our favourite Lannister shares a poignant exchange with the ever-faithful Podrick. Their moment together in the grimy cell served useful expeditionary purposes, as well as giving fans what I hope is not their last scene. Whilst it doesn’t quite rival the bromance of Bron and Tyrion (Tyribron?!), who despite his mercantile protestations is obviously a loyal ally, Tyrion has a genuine fondness for Pod, expressed plainly here. I’m a sucker, so I got a little choked up. Don’t go Pod – this can’t be farewell..

The final moves in Kings Landing involve Prince Oberyn and Tywin, who form an unlikely, and I think extremely tentative alliance, as co-judges at Tyrion’s upcoming trial. This is preceded by a frankly unnecessary “sexy-scene” about his bisexuality (is this to highlight his malleability?!) and getting some while you’re young. It’s all very clever double talk I’m sure, but this thread feels like a shoe-horned, True-Blood-esque kit-off moment, and the show lets itself down every time it gets gratuitous. The same could be said for beheadings, which are so two-a-penny now, I barely notice them. I get it – brutal, primal, all that good stuff. Just bored of too much meaningless T&A I guess..

Heading North always means more of that brutal, primal good stuff, and the raiding parties of Wildlings/Cannibals don’t let the side down. There was probably a beheading. I definitely remember a child being shown the soon-to-be-eaten corpses of his parents before being sent as a message to the Knight’s Watch. I suppose that gives us an idea of a cannibal’s line in the sand (doesn’t have one), but despite that and a very excitingly shot sequence with some sharp marksmanship from Ygritte, I can’t quite muster the enthusiasm for escapades up here at the moment. As my better half pointed out, it could be the lack of giants.

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Sam and Gilly gobble quite a portion of the Castle Black time, or seemed to anyway; I’ll give this a pass though, as John Bradley West and Hannah Murray are delightfully chivalrous and hopeful respectively; a charming pair to watch stumble about in their courting. Having said that, Sam is surely moon-brained if he thinks Gilly is safer upstairs in a Mole Town pub? Some protection! 

In an episode rife with escape there is a lot of talk of Braavos, a place I’ve long wanted to see, as either a place to flee to or somewhere to ally with. We know a few things about Braavos, this week the focus being the Iron Bank, which a newly-lterate Ser Davos entreats to bankroll Stannis’ (tenuous) claim to the throne of Westeros. A canny move perhaps, though what he hopes to leverage this play with, who knows? The Red Woman’s powers? Hmm.. It is at least proactive, and with Stannis whining and threatening in equal measure, Davos has to make some progress. His sweet friendship with Shireen continues to develop, as she helps him compose the begging letter.

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Other characters considering Braavos are Arya and The Hound, who enjoy the hospitality of a poor farmer and his daughter in three exquisite scenes circling around The Hound’s inability to play nice. He can only dissemble for the length of a meal and a decent night’s kip, and then back to the asshole is he. His consistent amorality/realist views now shows strands of a type of fascist-euthanasia-survival-of-the-fittest. It’s an uncomfortable truth to be faced with, which Arya proves as she wrestles with how she was raised and what she must become to thrive.

Our final section revolves around Daenerys and how she will take Meereen. The show/GRRM once again prove themselves in full control of their assets. First we are given a showy showdown, reminiscent of a recent video I saw of a fight between a kickboxing champion and a marine, but this is just flirting. We could have seen dragonfire, a bloody battle or any number of excessive shows of force, but it would be missing the point. Daenerys and the storytellers flaunt their confidence and righteousness (and budgetry constraints?!) with a simple ending shot of ‘slave contemplating captor’, leaving our imagination to do the heavy lifting. It is all the more powerful for it, relying upon a growing sense of inevitability, both for Daenerys’ claim and Game of Thrones’.

Bean
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Bean

Director at Nina Clark Music / The Musical Walkabout at Nina Clark Music
Bean is the family nickname of Nina Clark, singer, songwriter and professional musician. Nina's many nerdly passions, aside from music, include Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and all things Whedon. (re. GoT, she has NOT read the books, so please be cool - no spoilers!)
Bean
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