Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ S06E03 “Oathbreaker”

By May 9, 2016
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Welcome back, Throne Geeks! We’ve arrived at the third episode of season six of HBO’s Game of Thrones and I think The Waif’s summation of Arya Stark aptly describes last nights show, called “Oathbreaker.” As Arya tries to come to terms with her feelings about The Hound (whom she left for dead at the end of season four), The Waif comments, “she sounds confused.”

A lot of characters are confused in this episode, as are, I expect, a number of viewers. Once again, the show covered a lot of ground, but while the first two episodes of the season had energy and flow, “Oathbreaker” felt more uneven. Most of the scenes were nothing more than check-ins with very little in the way of forward story momentum or emotional resonance. Though the events happening in the North remain compelling, the scenes in Mereen, Vaes Dothrak and on the way to Oldtown, felt like mere exposition/filler.

And then there was Bran’s vision of The Tower of Joy…even for book readers like myself, who have analyzed and fantasized about that moment for years, this was a confusing scene.

But let’s dive in and see if we can’t make some sense of all the confusion, shall we?

In the North

The show gets off to the perfect start by honing in on a very astonished Ser Davos Seaworth at Castle Black. He’s picked up where we left off last week: Jon Snow has been brought back from the dead. The following scene is a fantastic showcase of wide-eyed acting and near hyperventilation as Davos, Melisandre and Jon all try and come to terms with what has happened (Ghost, of course, acts as if Jon coming back is perfectly normal). Melisandre is most interested in what Jon saw on “the other side” (which is a chilling “nothing”) while Davos tries to keep Jon from giving in to his confusion and initial sense of despair at having been murdered by his brothers for trying to do what was right. Coach Davos tells him to pick himself up and fight on, and so Jon faces those gathered in the courtyard. Luckily Jon can’t get too inside his own head as Tormund and Edd both welcome him back by cracking jokes about the size of his pecker and his brown eyes (we’d all be in trouble if they had turned a bright blue. There are handful of crackpot theorists out there who are saddened by the fact that Jon did not return as a White Walker). It’s good to have friends who will make sure you don’t get a god complex.

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But it’s not all fun and games for the returned Lord Commander as he must dispense some justice to the leaders who mutinied and stabbed him: Othell Yarwick, Bowen Marsh, Alliser Thorne and Olly. After giving their final words (Aliser “I fought, I lost, and now I rest. But you, Lord Snow, will be fighting their battles forever.” Olly refuses to speak or look at Jon), Jon hangs his former brothers…and then gives up his black cloak to Edd. Does Jon’s death and subsequent resurrection absolve him of his oath to the Night’s Watch? In his mind it does, and so he walks away from Castle Black (presumably with a wildling army at his back). Does that leave, like, 20 guys guarding The Wall?

Over in Winterfell, Ramsay is trying to consolidate power as the new Lord Bolton, but his current guest, Lord Umber, isn’t exactly clamoring to bend the knee. For those that remember him, the old Lord Umber was called The Greatjon and he was one of Robb Stark’s most loyal bannerman (he was the one who declared Robb King of the North). I can’t remember if it was shown, but the assumption seems to be that The Greatjon died at the Red Wedding, and though the new Lord Umber is no fan of Ramsay’s (he calls him out for murdering his father, Roose), he nevertheless has a problem he needs help with: The wildlings that Jon led south of the wall (The Umbers hate the wildlings as much as The Nights Watch does). Though he won’t bow or kneel to Ramsay, he does offer him a gift as a way of forming an alliance: a wildling woman, a boy, and…a direwolf head.

Poor Shaggydog :(

My worst fear has come true: Ramsay has a hold of another Stark; Rickon (as well as his wildling minder, Osha). The smart move for Ramsey would be to kill Rickon straightaway (because his claim to Winterfell is greater than Ramsay’s, even as Sansa’s husband – males inherit before females), but Ramsay’s focus on getting Sansa (and Reek) back may lead him to use Rickon as a bargaining chip. This can’t end well, can it?

At Sea

There’s another terrific storm at sea as we check in with Sam, Gilly, and baby Sam for the first time this season. Sam is terribly sick as their ship sails for Oldtown, only he’s more worried about letting Gilly know she won’t actually be coming with him to The Citadel (where men train to be maesters). While this has all the potential to be a big problem as Sam promised they would stay together, Gilly accepts his plan to have her live with his family at Horn Hill (he likes his mother and sister. His Dad, Randyll Tarly, on the other hand, was the guy who told him he would kill Sam if he didn’t join the Night’s Watch. Not sure who gets Dad of the Year on this show…Randyll? Tywin? Roose?). Instead, Gilly is very sweet and calls Sam the father of her son (my sister, who I watched this episode with, wonders if she might possibly be pregnant…). This, of course, does not bode well for the happy couple as happiness is usually short lived on the show.

In Essos

Dany’s endless walking has finally landed her back in Vaes Dothrak (looking much grander than in season one – thanks, bigger budget!). As she is brought before the Dosh Khaleen (where all the widows of khals live out their days) she once again finds that her list of titles and haughty manner impresses no one. She also finds out that she may not end up as a part of the Dosh Khaleen after all since she broke the rules by not joining immediately after Drogo’s death. Ever so conveniently, however, there is something called a Khalar Vezhen happening! All the khals have returned to Vaes Dothrak for some kind of meeting, so it will be they who decide what is to be done with Dany. My guess? Drogon will make a timely appearance and Dany will end up with more than just one khalasar at her back, ready to not only take on the Sons of the Harpy and whatever cities they have backing them, but maybe (finally), Westeros, as well?

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In one of the better scenes thus far shot in Arya’s storyline up in Braavos, we are treated to a serious Faceless Man training montage. Arya not only learns to work without her eyesight, she also plays a game of Truth with the Waif (who seems to get more satisfaction than she should out of beating Arya with her stave whenever Arya answers untruthfully). Not only do we get a convenient recounting of the members of Arya Stark’s family (remember her baby brother Rickon?!), we also get a curious exchange in regards to Jon. The Waif hits Arya when she says she has four brothers (aha! Jon is not Ned’s son!) but then says nothing when Arya corrects herself and says Jon is her half-brother (so…Jon is Ned’s son?). The most revealing part of Arya’s conversation, however, is her admitting that she had taken The Hound off of her “List” before she left him to die at the end of season four. The Waif calls Arya confused (hey, our unofficial theme of the week!) and asks for the other names on the “List.” After Arya answers Cersei Lannister, Gregor Clegane, and Walder Frey (the man responsible for the deaths of Robb and Catelyn), The Waif insists there is a fourth person Arya wants to kill. At first watch, it seems as if The Waif believes she is on Arya’s list, but it’s possible the fourth name is Arya herself. Once she reveals that she is a match for The Waif with her stave, as well as passes some sort of smelling test, Jaqen once again offers Arya her eyesight in return for her name. Arya again claims she is no one (though she does so as she sits beneath an effigy of a Weirwood – the symbol of The Old Gods) and, at Jaqen’s behest, drinks from the fountain in the temple (which is what people drink when they come to die). Instead of dying, however, Arya’s eyesight returns. This seems to confirm that she has successfully become no one. Or that she’s become an adept liar. Time will tell?

Meanwhile, Varys may not like the climate in Mereen (or having to climb lots of steps) but he does know how to track down information about the Sons of the Harpy. While Tyrion, Grey Worm, and Missandei awkwardly try and have a conversation in the other room (Tyrion is desperate for conversation…and wine, of course. He also likes games, but neither Grey Worm or Missandei seem too interested), Varys interrogates the prostitute that had been helping the Sons of the Harpy in season five. It turns out she has a name – Valla – and a son, which Varys uses to his advantage to find out who has been funding the terrorist group: The Good Masters of Astapor (hardly surprising), the Wise Masters of Yunkai (also not very surprising) and some pro-slavery types in Volantis (ok, that’s at least a little surprising). Grey Worm and Missandei want to go to war because they believe thats the only language slavers will understand, but may have a different conversation in mind. How cryptic.

In Kings Landing

As Varys’ new little birds help him in Essos, his old little birds (now seen to be actual children) are now working for creepy ex-Maseter Qyburn, and, by extension, Cersei. While Jaime cracks a few jokes at Ser Gregor’s expense (don’t poke The Mountain, Jaime! He definitely understands you), Cersei demands that Qybrun spy on all her enemies (and there are a lot of them: Dorne, Highgarden, The North). Cersei is back and ready for heads to roll (she also makes clear to Jaime that she is simply waiting for The High Sparrow to formally charge her with her alleged crimes so Gregor can stand for her in a trial by combat…seems unlikely he’ll lose).

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Cersei and Jaime then try and crash a Small Council Meeting, citing past precedent that the Commander of the Kingsguard has a seat. They want to focus on Myrcella’s death and the takeover of Dorne by Ellaria, but the other members of the council aren’t having it. Kevan Lannister (Tywin’s brother), Olenna Tyrell, Mace Tyrell, and Maester Pycelle want nothing to do with Cersei or the monster that guards her, and so leave the meeting.  Seems like Cersei and Jaime are on their own…especially since Tommen is busy being won over by the High Sparrow in the sept! Oh Tommen, you may be sweet but your naivete is going to get you killed (prophecy!). Despite trying to intimidate The High Sparrow into freeing his mother (and bride, presumably), the holy man cleverly turns the conversation to his advantage and starts to convert Tommen (I particularly liked his take on The Mother) – this guy might be more deviously clever than Peytr Baelish and Varys combined! He sounds so reasonable, but there’s no way this he’s is actually that devout, right? Right??

Flashback of the Week

Ok, what is very likely to be the most talked about/controversial scene of the week is Bran’s vision of the events that happened at The Tower of Joy when Ned was a young man. After Robert’s Rebellion ended with the death of both the Mad King Aerys (at the hands of Jaime Lannister) and Prince Rhaeger (at the hands of Robert Baratheon during the Battle of the Trident), Ned and five friends rode to Dorne to find Ned’s sister, Lyanna Stark. Guarding a tower where it seems Lyanna is being kept (we hear screams coming from it) are two members of the Kingsguard. Bran conveniently recognizes one as Ser Arthur Dayne (though how he does, I have no idea…there are no photos in Westeros and I don’t imagine there would be a lot of paintings of a guy who was sworn to protect an ousted royal family…). Dayne is known as The Sword of the Morning and is considered one of the best knights in the history of Westeros…which he proves by killing just about all of Ned’s friends (his fellow Kingsgard goes down pretty quickly). The fight, I’ll admit, was pretty impressive as the actor playing Dayne, Luke Roberts, convincingly fought with two swords (!) and is only defeated when Ned’s injured friend, Howland Reed (the father of Meera and Jojen) stabs him in the back. Bran is shocked that the event does not go down the way it did in the story he’d heard “thousands of times” from his father (the story portrayed a much more honorable version where Ned defeated Dayne himself). Ned rushes toward the tower as he hears cries coming from it but The Three Eyed Raven stops Bran from following. Irritated at being held back, Bran calls out to his father who, strangely, turns around as if he’d heard his future son. Seeing nothing, however, he turns back and Bran wakes up in the cave of the Three Eyed Raven.

For book readers, this scene is a frustrating tease and for non-book readers, it must be just plain confusing. Thematically, the lesson Bran learns is that history didn’t necessarily play out the way it’s depicted in history books or in stories, which should be very important going forward (it also shows Ned in a less than idyllic light, which is interesting). But to not follow through on the flashback is only flimsily explained away by the Three Eyed Raven and leads to a rather unsatisfactory exchange between him and Bran that basically means that both Bran and the audience will have to remain confused about whats going on with these visions for awhile yet.

“Oathbreaker” seems likely to be one of those Game of Thrones episodes that will work better upon a second viewing after the season is done. All the set-up will, theoretically, pay off in scenes down the line, but it’s too bad it wasn’t directed to work better as a stand alone piece. There were too many scenes covering too many storylines. What is revealed in Mereen, on Sam’s ship, and in Vaes Dothrak felt incomplete without subsequent scenes in the same episode. I would rather have had a second scene with Sam furthering their story than checking in with Dany. Or vice versa. Same with Tyrion and Varys (though at least those were entertaining, even if the information learned wasn’t exactly surprising or all that interesting). In fact, each of those scenes could have been boiled down to a line or two (“Gilly, you’re going to have to stay in Horn Hill with my terrible father.” “Looks like the Sons of the Harpy are being funded by slave masters from other major cities.” “Welcome back to Vaes Dothrak, Dany, but you’re not in the Dosh Khaleen just yet because you broke the rules. The khals will decide what to do with you.”) that could have been better placed in whatever scene that comes next in each of those stories.

Still, Jon’s story line is firing on all cylinders and Ramsay is poised to create even more mayhem in the North. I’m more invested in Arya’s story that I have been in a long time and I’m curious to see what Cersei and Jaime do next (Tyrion too).

Best Moments:

  • Everyone’s reactions to Jon’s resurrection
  • The Waif is looking at lot less smug as Arya montages her to way to becoming even more badass than usual

Most Shocking Moments:

  • Ramsay gets his hands on the youngest Stark (and another direwolf gets his head chopped off…)
  • Jon hangs Alliser Thorne and Olly (along with Yarwick and Marsh) and then leaves The Nights Watch

Best Quotes:

  • You were dead. And now you are not. That’s completely f*cking mad, it seems to me. I can’t even imagine how it seems to you. – Davos to Jon
  • You’re eyes are still brown. Is that still you on there? – Edd. I think so, so hold off on burning my body for now. – Jon. That’s funny…are you sure it’s still you in there? – Edd
  • You are not the queen because you are not married to the king. I do appreciate these things can get a bit confusing for your family – Olenna to Cersei
  • And now it begins. – Arthur Dayne. No, now it ends. – Ned
  • And now my Watch is ended. – Jon

Biggest Questions:

  • What does Ned find int he Tower of Joy??
  • Is the popular theory that Brynden Rivers, aka Bloodraven (bastard of King Aeon IV) is actually the Three Eyed Raven true? He would be just over 100 years old if it was true, but he told Bran he’d been waiting for a thousand years in this episode…
  • Are Jon and Sansa really going to miss each other now that he’s left Castle Black?! Will two Starks ever occupy the same space again?!

Well that’s it for our look at episode three of season six! An uneven episode to be sure, but not without some highlights and I’m very curious to revisit it after the rest of the season unfolds. What do you think, fellow Throne Geeks? Did you feel let down? Are you confused by what happened at the Tower of Joy (or in any of the other story lines)? What are you looking foward to next week (Baelish is back!). Sound off below!

And be sure to keep checking in here at GeekNation for all the Game of Thrones coverage you can handle!

Rachel Cushing
Rachel is a television editor by day and either a Jedi knight, vampire slayer, or elvish warrior by night. In between she makes time for movies, movies, and more movies (plus a few books, television shows, and then…more movies). When she’s supposed to be sleeping, she writes about movies as well, both here on and on her own blog. Tweet her @RachelJCushing
  • David Johnson

    Basically isn’t Jon handing Edd the cloak making Him the New or Temp Commander of the Nights watch.

  • David Johnson

    Is that Jon being born in the Tower Of Joy????? Not Ned’s Son but His…………

  • David Johnson

    2 Excellent Episodes but with only 10 to work with they have to start laying some story arcs now!!!!

  • David Johnson

    Maybe the last breathing Direwolf will sit on the Iron Throne!!!

  • David Johnson

    Biggest Question #WhereIsLittleFinger?????????