Game of Thrones – season 4, episode 4, ‘Oathkeeper’

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It was a strangely subdued instalment of Game of Thrones this week. For those who binge-watch multiple episodes at a time, the scene sequencing between episodes would have little effect following on from the final moments of last week. However, for the week-by-week consumer there was a strangely stalling experience as two of the major plot threads reached an anticlimactic conclusion early in the episode.
The mystery of Joffrey’s killer was also solved in a rather offhand manner. But no one ever really thought it was Tyrion, did they?
Littlefinger’s stated MO of creating confusion may have been … confusing, but in many ways that’s the point. Because we can’t figure out his underlying motivations and goals it makes him a dangerous player. His unpredictability coupled with the will to accept the risks of action makes him a chilling force to reckon with.
While Littlefinger may have provided the means, it was the Queen of Thorns who took the opportunity. And the Queen of Thorns isn’t limited to light regicide; her tutelage of Margaery in the ways of feminine wiles was hilarious. At least until the younger Tyrell puts her skills into use on the significantly younger boy king Tommen. At least we know after the controversy of last week that there are some boundaries the show is not prepared to quite overstep, at least yet.
A beautiful scene between Grey Worm and Missandei gives real depth to Daenerys’ mission of conquest. Despite her inspirational rhetoric and heroism, Daenerys often comes across as some kind of Angelina Jolie/Madonna/Bono hybrid with added dragons. Surely ending slavery is a good thing, but when it’s done with more than a whiff of a Western messianic complex then it can become a little grating, especially when we’ve only ever truly seen the story from her perspective.
The short sequence featuring Grey Worm and Missandei’s back story, followed by the rousing of the slaves of Meereen of rebellion, is a welcome reminder that there lie whole swarms of people with their own motivations for playing their roles.
If we were ever to truly believe that Daenerys was simply a tabloid star masquerading as a warrior princess then the mass crucifixion of slave masters of Meereen should help fix that. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a hint of the famous Targaryen blood lust in Daenerys and serves a reminder that her father was known as the Mad King.
As Barristan suggests, mercy be a stronger act of power than the justice meted out by Daenerys. If the show’s history tells us anything, it’s that rigid concepts of justice are not always the best way to rule. Both Ned and Robb Stark found out that justice may seem a simple idea in theory, but often results in a convoluted set of consequences.
“Justice” is also what Jon Snow pledges to deliver to his brothers of the Night’s Watch, pledging to avenge the betrayal of their former commander. Behind this simple concept lies a web of hidden motivations. Alliser Thorne allows him to leave in the hope of disposing a rival, pushed by the conniving Janos Slynt, while Locke sees an opportunity to find one of the missing Stark kids.
Speaking of which, Jon’s true intentions is not justice for his black-coated brothers, or to keep vital information out of the hands of the Wildings, but rather to find his brother Bran.
Justice can be a difficult ideal to practise and an oath as hard to keep.
The “oathkeeper” of the title is equally applicable to the name Brienne gives her new sword as it is the fluid loyalties of the Night’s Watch and Jaime Lannister.
He’s in no position to honour personally the words he promised to the now deceased Catelyn Stark, by charging Brienne and Podrick to locate and protect Sansa, Jaime can at least attempt to fulfil its spirit.
The complexities of Jaime’s situation aren’t particularly apparent to Brienne, though. It was hard to read whether she intended the sword’s name as an affirmation, a promise or a slight. There can be no doubt as to how Jaime read it.

2 responses to “Game of Thrones – season 4, episode 4, ‘Oathkeeper’

  1. Ummm, there was kind of a massive scene at the end of the episode that might be worth mentioning in any wrap-up….

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