Season Six, Episode Three — “Oathbreaker”
By Jarrod Jones. I can’t be the only person missing the lyrical dialogue of GRR Martin this season. Feels like now that Game of Thrones has caught up with the King of Procrastination, the show is doing without the tantalizing bon mots and the menacing song-and-dance we enjoyed so well in previous seasons. (Ah, Varys. Your ass used to be beautiful.) With little from A Song of Ice And Fire informing the trajectory of HBO’s sixth season of Game of Thrones (at least in adaptable content), David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have their work cut out for them in making this insanity sound compelling — remember, all the happenstantial nudity and wild blood-letting in the world only goes so far. “A wise man once said the true history of the world is a history of great conversations in elegant rooms,” Tyrion said this week. He was right on the money, per usual.
It makes me think of how Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson lifted directly from Tolkien’s final chapter of The Return of the King to give Gandalf the White’s onscreen words about the afterlife an existentially terrifying (but no less beautiful) strength. It’s but one example of how vital source material can be to an onscreen adaptation — and for the most part, Season Six of GoT ain’t got any source material. (I’m also pretty confident that Martin isn’t stuffing Weiss and Benioff’s inbox with choice bits of dialogue every week.) What we’ve been offered is nearly an entire hour’s worth of drone about fates and fealty and other such period-appropriate platitudes. Makes me feel like I’m watching Troy, and no, that’s not a good thing.
So, Tyrion’s Sydney Greenstreet-like elocution aside, this week downshifted its momentum while paradoxically charging forward. We saw the return of the not-so wee Rickon Stark this week, left at the mercy of Ramsay Bolton (Shaggydog! Noooo!), which will likely amount to something before this season ends. (Hope he makes out better than Theon did.) Cersei, Jaime and Tommen have found that, without their poppa Tywin around, the Lannister name just doesn’t have the sway it used to. (Even Uncle Kevan has a shitty attitude about it.) And Dany? I’m exhausted just thinking about Dany right now. Just suffice it to know that name-dropping doesn’t always open the doors you want them to, so maybe knock it off — especially when you have nothing else of value to say.
WHAT WORKED: Ramsay needs the Umbers to take the Wall (I guess he’s actually going through with that now?) and the Umbers need Ramsay to wipe out the Wildlings, so now that Greatjon Umber has died his heir arrives to Winterfell to meet with its current lord — something the loyal bannermen have not done since Robb and Catelyn were murdered. Though Smalljon Umber won’t suffer any vows of fealty, nor will he take the knee: “Fuck kneelin’, and fuck oaths,” my newest, most favoritest character said to Ramsay. “I’ve got a gift for you.” It was nice to see Ramsay shift in his seat as Smalljon spat on every ounce of patience the Bolton Bastard had in his reserves. ‘Tis a pity that poor Rickon (and Osha) had to join the party.
Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven gotta go back in time again (cue that Huey Lewis) — but wait, are they actually going back in time? Bran chases after his young father, Ned (who was chasing after the screams of his dear sister Lyanna at the Tower of Joy — !!!), and yells after him. Ned pauses, turns. What just happened there? “My father heard me,” Bran protests to the Raven. “Maybe. Maybe he heard the wind.” The Raven knows all, like how we’ll wait around another seven weeks to find out what the hell is waiting in the Tower of Joy. But the thought that Bran might have the ability to alter the past is certainly an intriguing one. “The past is already written. The ink is dry.” Sure it is, Raven. Sure it is.
“Nothing. There was nothing at all.” – Jon, referring either to the abyss of death, or what Benioff and Weiss recovered from their well of Martinisms this week.
Jon: “I failed.” Davos: “Good. Now go and fail again.”
BEST MOMENT: Arya is No One. The only moment this week that got me to sit upright was the Rocky-esque montage of Arya Stark tossing her name aside to become No One. (It would appear that being No One comes with a few perks, including wiping that smug grin off The Waif’s stupid face.) Either Jaqen’s ability to read people has diminished, or Arya’s gotten really good at poker faces — whether or not she remains with the Faceless Men remains to be seen. Arya’s fate is still very much up in the air.
EPISODE’S MVP: Jon Snow. Kit Harington’s default facial expressions (glum, dour, glum & dour) are put to incredible use this week, as the newly-resurrected Lord Commander sends his betrayers to the gallows. There has been much speculation as to whether or not death would change our beloved Stark Bastard. On the surface, he appears to be the same (he even cracks a joke, which !!!), but there’s a roiling vengeance behind those dreamy eyes. It was only when he looked into the twisted, hateful face of Ollie that he gave himself pause before doing in the traitors. Sentimentality, it seems, is still very much a part of Jon Snow’s emotional arsenal. To a point.
– Okay, you guys. JON WAS DEFINITELY WEARING PANTS LAST WEEK.
– The stories are true: Ser Arthur Dayne is downright lethal with those swords. But it seems that Ned Stark’s victory over the Sword of the Morning had more to do with sheer luck than Stark legend would have us believe.
– Grand Maester Pycelle is back! He’s looking rather spry, and hey — he can still throw around shade like white-hot insanity. (Psst… The Mountain can still hear you.)
– Rickon’s back! Aw, and sure enough here comes that adorable Shaggydo–OH MY GOD.
– Speaking of Rickon, the last time we saw the youngest boy Stark was in Season Three, when Bran sent him off with the Wildling Osha to the House Umber. One line of dialogue from Smalljon gives away that his father Greatjon — who you’ll remember, had his fingers nibbled off by Robb’s direwolf in Season Two — has died, which means that Stark loyalty certainly has an expiration date. Poor Rickon.
– How does Smalljon know that the Wall is infested with Wildlings? Who’s sending out ravens from the Wall — was it a forlorn Alliser Thorne hedging his bets in secret, or maybe it was Ser Davos, who’s spent his downtime finessing his growing fascination with vocabulary? I dunno, but it sure seems that Smalljon isn’t taking the news lightly. (He is teaming up with the greatest shit stain in all of Westeros, after all.)
– Not present for this week’s skirmish: Sansa, Brienne, Daario, Ser Jorah, Littlefinger (though from the looks of this preview, all that’s about to change!)
6.5 out of 10
Next: “Book of the Stranger”, soon.
Before: “Home”, here.