GAME OF THRONES Season 4 Episode 4
Episode Title: "Oathkeeper"
Writer: Bryan Cogman
Director: Michelle MacLaren
Previously on "Game of Thrones":
The title of this week’s “Game of Thrones” is “Oathkeeper,” which refers to the new sword gifted to Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) by Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). But Jaime is the oathkeeper that the show is trying to turn into an almost heroic figure. And Jaime gets some great moments in this episode that have some heartbreaking pathos. This could have been one of TV’s great redemption stories... if Jaime hadn’t raped Cersei (Lena Headey) in the previous episode.
“Oathkeeper” kind of acts like the rape never happened, which may be because most of the show’s creative team didn’t feel that it was a rape. George R.R. Martin has even said that the sex between Cersei and Jaime wasn’t intended to be non-consensual in the novels. It just didn’t play that way on the show itself. If the director and the writers wanted to convey that Cersei had been a willing participant, it would have taken very little effort to make that distinction. Without it, the whole meaning of the scene changes and it rolls back about two seasons of audience good will towards Jaime.
Admittedly, it’s weird that Jaime would be considered more heroic as someone who screwed his sister instead of someone who raped his sister. But that is the perception. The audience had largely forgiven Jaime for throwing Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) out of a window and for murdering his cousin to escape the Starks. I don’t know if the audience is going to forgive Jaime for that scene last week. Or if they should.
The whole thing is a misstep that the creative team inadvertently allowed to happen. But it doesn’t take away from Coster-Waldau’s terrific performance this week. Jaime’s scenes with Bronn (Jerome Flynn), Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Cersei and Brienne are the beating heart of this episode. In those moments, Jaime has never been more of admirable figure. And there’s an unmistakable emotional bond between Jaime and Brienne as he sends her off on a new quest.
There are full spoilers ahead for “Oathkeeper,” so you should probably skip this review if you missed last night’s “Game of Thrones” or else someone else’s skull will be used for drinks at Craster's Keep.
Because Jaime hadn’t been in King’s Landing for almost two and a half seasons of the show, we’ve only seen a handful of scenes between Coster-Waldau and his onscreen brother, Dinklage. Tyrion can chew the scenery with almost anyone, but there’s more to it with Jaime. That brotherly bond between them feels real and Jaime believes that Tyrion didn’t kill his son. Jaime even acknowledged that Joffrey was his son!
Not that Cersei wants to hear any theories about Tyrion’s innocence. If Cersei could think rationally about Joffrey’s murder then she’d realize that Tyrion wouldn’t be stupid enough to hand the king a poisoned cup of wine himself. At this point, I don’t think Cersei cares whether Tyrion is guilty. She just wants him dead. And much to Jaime’s shock, his sister/lover coldly dismisses him as if he was one of the servants.
After refusing to kill his brother, Jaime decides to send Brienne off to find and save Sansa (Sophie Turner) with the gift of his new sword, a new set of armor and a new squire in the form of Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman). I thought that Pod wouldn’t last long outside of Tyrion’s protection, but this pairing made me smile. It’s perfect. Also, there’s a truly funny moment when Bronn asks Pod if he’s waiting for a kiss and Pod leans in before Bronn tells him to get the horses ready. I doubt that Pod’s new traveling companion will have much interest in kissing unless she was kissing Jaime. Brienne’s feelings for Jaime were pretty overt when she said that she would take the quest of the late Lady Stark and for him.
Meanwhile, the show wasted little time revealing who killed Joffrey and why. Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) was one of the masterminds, but his accomplice was Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg). If you watch the second episode of the season, you can clearly see Olenna take the poison jewel from Sansa’s necklace. So it tracks pretty well and it gives Diana Rigg a much bigger role in this story than I thought she’d have... even if the episode suggests that she won’t be hanging around King’s Landing for much longer.
The downside to the explanation of the conspiracy to kill Joffrey is that it feels like we’re only seconds away from Littlefinger turning towards the audience to make sure that everyone understood what he was talking about. It also was a rehash of scenes that we saw in the previous episode, minus the admission of Olenna’s involvement. That was an oddly sloppy bit of exposition for this show. The one thing that Littlefinger’s scene really accomplished is that it gave Sansa her first glimpse at how creepy this guy is.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys completed her conquest of Meereen by sending Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and some of her trusted soldiers inside the walls with weapons and words of encouragement for the slaves. All goes according to plan and the city falls to Daenerys fairly easily. It’s almost too good to be true... because it is. At her moment of triumph, Daenerys does something very cruel. And more disturbingly, she seems to take pleasure from ordering the crucification of the masters who had previously crucified 163 children on the way to Meereen.
Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) recognizes that this is a mistake and he urges Daenerys to show mercy. But Daenerys has no tolerance for mercy when it comes to slave owners. This seems likely to come back to haunt Daenerys down the line. Or worse, it may make Daenerys into a crueler Queen than she should have been. Daenerys’ strength has been her compassion. She honestly does care for her people and for the plight of slaves. But how far is too far?
Back in King’s Landing, Margaery (Natalie Dormer) gets acquainted with Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) in perhaps the most innocent seduction that this show has ever depicted. Margaery doesn’t try to sleep with Tommen, but if he didn’t have sexual feelings for her before that probably changed when she dipped to kiss him on the lips and planted one on his forehead instead. Also, Ser Pounce is a great name for a cat. I really liked that bit.
At the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) befriends a new recruit named Locke (Noah Taylor). And if Locke looks familiar, it’s because he’s the man who cut of Jaime’s hand and put Brienne in a bear pit. Locke was given a mission by Lord Bolton of the Dreadfort to find and kill the surviving Stark children and this episode pushes him very close to his goal. The thing is that Locke actually makes a pretty great Night’s Watch member and it’s fun to see Jon and Locke play off of each other. Just don’t expect a redemptive turn for Locke.
In a twist that caught me off guard, it was suggested that Jon Snow could rise from steward to Lord Commander if the Night’s Watch choose their new leader. I had just assumed that Ser Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) was going to get the job. But now it seems likely to become Jon’s, despite the underhanded way that Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter) and Alliser send Jon on a near suicide mission to wipe out Karl (Burn Gorman) and the treacherous former members of the Watch at Craster's Keep. But for a volunteer mission, Jon actually gets a pretty good crew together... including Locke.
The bad news is that Karl and company have leverage on Jon even before he gets there. Bran, Hodor (Kristian Nairn), Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Meera (Ellie Kendrick) find themselves captured by Karl and his raping band of thieves. The upside is that Jon Snow’s long missing Dire Wolf, Ghost is also a prisoner there. And a reunion between Jon and Bran seems likely to happen. Although I will be very disappointed if Jon and Bran miss seeing each other again.
For the closing scene in the episode, we get an answer to a question I didn’t think that we’d ever get. The last baby boy of Craster is taken by a White Walker to somewhere we’ve never seen before. And a White Walker who looks unlike any other White Walker takes the boy and apparently transforms him into one of his kind. Very interesting. The White Walkers have been a slow burn threat on this show since the very first scene of the pilot episode. We’ve barely seen them on screen over the course of three seasons. If we’re getting this revelation now, I hope it means that we’ll see more of the White Walkers in the near future.
On the whole, “Oathkeeper” was a pretty solid episode. Aside from Littlefinger’s somewhat ridiculous exposition drop about Joffrey’s murder, almost all of the scenes worked really well. Last week’s episode did somewhat dim my enjoyment of this episode, but it was still a cut above almost everything else on TV.