‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6, Episode 3 Roundtable Review: ‘Oathbreaker’

Each week, twins Adam and David Shimer analyze the latest episode of Game of Thrones from the perspective of a non-book reader. This week they discuss “Oathbreaker,” but first they would like to assign some weekly awards:

Tywin Lannister Memorial Award for Best Political Maneuvering: The High Sparrow managing to get Tommen to go from angrily yelling at him, to wonderingly comparing him to the late great Tywin  

Honorable Mention: Edd managing to be Jon’s only friend who lived long enough to inherit his title of Lord Commander

Eddard Stark Memorial Award for Worst Political Maneuvering: Cersei and Jaime unsuccessfully storming the Small Council and looking like 10 year olds who sat down at a lunch table and sadly watched as everyone else immediately got up

Honorable Mention: Bran constantly complaining about wanting to stay in the past longer, but always getting checkmated by the old-man’s annoyingly metaphoric responses

Brandon Stark Award for Most Boring Storyline: Gilly exploring the wonders of grammar — see sounds like sea!

Honorable Mention: Gilly adoringly (and by adoringly I mean annoyingly) asking Sam if he’s okay as he’s puking into a bucket

Jaime Lannister’s Right Hand Award for Best Fight Sequence: Ned Stark vs. Arthur Dayne was incredible — I would argue the best sword fight in the show’s history (leapfrogging Ned vs. Jaime and Bronn vs. Ser Vardis)

Honorable Mention: Arya completing her blind, homeless training and holding her own against creepy girl

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AS: Who is the “Oathbreaker” that the title of the episode references? There are quite a few options: Lord Umber for giving up Rickon to Ramsay “feeds his stepmom to hounds” Snow, the men that Jon hangs for treason, or perhaps even Jon himself for leaving the Night’s Watch. Breaking oaths has always been a gray area in the show (just ask Jaime about stabbing the Mad King in the back). Sometimes people have to behave dishonorably out of sheer necessity. Ned Stark was the most honorable man in Westeros — or so everyone says — and yet in this episode we learn that he beat the legendary Arthur Dayne only because someone stabbed him from behind. Ned still took the credit for the kill, meaning even his code of honor had limits. Alliser chose to defend the Night’s Watch by murdering his Lord Commander, the High Sparrow continues to prioritize his loyalty to the Gods above his allegiance to the Crown, and Vala the peasant woman betrayed her cause so that she could save her son. Everything Ramsay does, thinks and says is dishonorable, just like Joffrey, but beyond those two cliche villains, the show is filled with ambiguous oathbreakers.

Upon his revival, Jon was forced to reflect on the fact that allowing the Wildlings to enter Castle Black led to his murder. He recognizes now that he failed, and seeing his reaction to that failure made me think about how Robb and Ned would have reconciled their own questionable decisions if given a second chance. Would Robb have beheaded Lord Karstark and gone groveling to Walder Frey? Would Ned have accepted Robert’s offer to be Hand of the King and spared the lives of Cersei’s children at his own expense? These honorable decisions led to their deaths, and while Jon now has the opportunity to “fail again”, they don’t. Thank the Old Gods and the New that Jon is using his second life to leave the Night’s Watch and presumably take back the North from the house that stole it from his family. Two Starks have not interacted since Season One (besides when Bran saw Jon at Craster’s Keep and decided not to say hi because stupid Jojen told him not to). But it seems that a Stark reunion is coming in the near future in some combination of Jon, Sansa and Rickon.

Why are all the Lords in the North so awful? Ramsay and Roose Bolton, Walder Frey, Balon Greyjoy, Lord Karstark and now this new Lord Umber. I can’t imagine a more slimey group of people (unless you throw in Pycelle). Apparently House Stark’s honor never trickled down to their bannermen. The Lord Umber from Season Two was the old man who was the first to proclaim Robb the new “King in the North.” But now his son decided to betray the Starks for no apparent reason other than self-interest, and handed over Rickon, his direwolf’s decapitated head and Osha for nothing in return. For the record, realizing Rickon was now in Ramsay’s possession was one of the most upsetting moments in Thrones history. Osha was one of the brightest characters in earlier seasons — she was the one who orchestrated Bran and Rickon’s escape from Theon. I wish there had been enough screentime to see what her and Rickon’s time at Last Hearth was like, and how Lord Umber’s son fooled her into a false sense of security. Ramsay is going to want to know where Bran is, but I hope the showrunners decide not to put more graphic torture into the show, especially to two likable characters. Jon, Tormund (and Davos?) cannot make it to Winterfell fast enough.

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Let’s hope that their progress towards Winterfell is significantly faster than Dany’s movement over the last six seasons. She has proven to be very skilled at going in the exact opposite direction of the Iron Throne, and now has ended up in what I thought would be a grand temple built for widowed-Khals, but turned out to be a shack about as grand as Craster’s Keep. Tyrion didn’t make much progress as a conversationalist with Missandei and Grey Worm — the only pairing on the show that manages to rival Sam and Gilly for the title of Most Awkward Duo (Jorah and Daario round out the top three). But luckily for Tyrion, Varys made much more headway in his attempt to infiltrate the Son’s of the Harpy. Varys has always been known as a master spy, and the audience has always seen the fruits of his labor. Now we got to witness him work his magic, and it was thrilling. He could have just handed Vala the silver immediately and he may have been successful, but he wanted to ensure that the information he received was accurate. We have only seen Varys interact with other expert manipulators such as Littlerfinger, Olenna and Tyrion, so it was great to see him in a commanding position, utilizing the skills that enabled his rise in Westeros.  

While Varys was showing off, Arya was also improving the skills she needs to advance in the world. It turns out that changing Arya into a blind homeless person was just step five in Jaqen’s assassin training regimen. The only thing that pissed creepy girl off more than Arya beating her in stick-fighting was Arya refusing to put her on the kill list. Jaqen has always emphasized the importance of Arya become “no one,” and yet in this episode it became clear that he wants her to remember her past identity — transforming into something new apparently does not mean you have to forget the old. This gave Arya a chance to reflect on her relationship with the Hound and demonstrate that she was confused as to whether his kindness and depth made up for his past wrongdoings. So maybe she left the Hound in Season Four to die painfully not out of spite, but rather because her feelings towards him were truly conflicting.

Random Thoughts:

-Olenna has always picked her allies carefully, but I don’t know if Kevan Lannister is such a smart choice.

-How could Vala — a poor peasant woman charged with seducing Unsullied soldiers — possibly know such high-level information?

-Daenerys isn’t good at making new friends. Someone should tell her that yelling off a long list of pretentious titles doesn’t constitute a good first impression.

-Alliser’s defiant last words reminded me of when Stannis told Brienne to “do her duty.”

-Unclear if Qyburn’s little birds will come back for more candy after he awkwardly told them that the zombie-mountain was a close friend.

-If only the SEA had been stormy enough to tear Sam and Gilly’s ship to pieces. Than we would never have to SEE them again (ha).  

-Continue to pray to the Lord of Light every night that Littlefinger and Bronn finally return to the show.

-Arthur Dayne, Ned Stark and the Hound vs. Barristan Selmy, Jaime Lannister (with two hands), and the Mountain. Who wins???

-My head will explode if the showrunners ever put the Sand Snakes and Sam/Gilly in the same episode.
M.I.A. this episode: Sansa, Brienne, Theon, Yara, Loras and Margaery, Littlefinger, Bronn and Daario/Jorah

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