Warning: This recap for the “Oathbreaker” episode of Game of Thrones contains spoilers.
Much like the token in a game of Plinko, there’s just no telling which storyline a Game of Thrones character might fall into. Tyrion’s arc began with the Starks before ricocheting into King’s Landing and then bouncing into Meereen. Daenerys too has skittered between the Targaryens and the Dothraki to various slave states and now back to the Dothraki. But if there’s a storyline you’d LEAST want to end up in, it would have to be Ramsay Bolton’s. Certainly the most reprehensible character on Game of Thrones, Ramsay’s a guy made almost entirely of cruelty and sneers. And it’s in this storyline, unfortunately, that poor Rickon Stark has just landed!
Obviously the Stark family has decreased in number since Season 1, but as the youngest and least-seen member, Rickon always seemed safe from the usual atrocities that befall his siblings on a regular basis. No more! His extended vacation in obscurity ended this week when one of Ramsay Bolton’s allies discovered the (surprisingly mature looking) preteen and captured him. Now it’s only a question of what horrible thing(s) Ramsay will do to Rickon, and how, if at all, Rickon will escape from his clutches. In light of all the truly grotesque acts perpetrated by Ramsay during this show, the stakes are clear: We are rooting for Rickon in a way we’ve never had to before. Get out of there, gurl!
As an episode, “Oathbreaker” was not quite as action-packed or eventful as these latter seasons of Game of Thrones have tended to be. Full of quiet moments and relaxed conversations, this hour was much more about checking in with characters’ mental states than wowing us with revelation. Still, storylines moved forward in satisfying (if stressful) ways. Let’s talk about it!
We began with some follow-up on one of Game of Thrones’ weirdest (and most weirdly sexy) twists: Jon Snow’s resurrection!
The naked, blue, dead hunk was now just a naked hunk again, and he seemed just as shocked to be alive as Ser Davos was. But they weren’t the only ones with questions.
Melisandre immediately began grilling Jon Snow about the afterlife and what he’d seen. Nothing! He hadn’t seen anything in the great beyond. Death had been nothing more than a dreamless sleep for him. Melisandre was bummed that Jon Snow hadn’t gotten to spend any quality time with the Lord of Light, but she still seemed pretty jazzed that her magic had worked, and it was clear she was now Team Jon Snow in the conflicts to come. Which: Yes. Best matchup possible? I ship ’em.
At this point Jon Snow appeared before his supporters, and they took the news of his return surprisingly well! Though this was a world in which dead things were now coming back to life in sinister ways, Jon Snow was so beloved that nobody seemed particularly nervous about his sudden resurrection. (It helped that his eyes stayed brown.)
We then finally checked in with Sam and Gilly, who were now on a lurching ship on their way to visit Sam’s rich family. Sam had plans to go to Maester grad school, which was a problem in that Gilly wasn’t technically allowed to go with him. Then the scene included six straight minutes of Sam vomiting into a bucket, which seemed excessive, but this show has always been about bold decisions.
Oh, this was great: Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven visited the time when Ned Stark was a young hunk looking to rescue his sister Lyanna from a tower prison thing. Apparently Young Ned Stark was besties with Meera’s father, and in this scene they squared off with a bunch of guards and ended up murdering an enemy knight with some bad sportsmanship (they stabbed him in the back).
The main takeaway from this scene was the further reminder of the importance of Lyanna Stark. Though the Three-Eyed Raven refused to let Bran see into the tower, we could hear Lyanna screaming, which may or may not have been because she was birthing JON SNOW. (C’mon, is there anyone who doesn’t already assume that Jon Snow is Lyanna’s son?) One amazing thing that happened in this sequence was when Bran Stark called out to Young Ned Stark and Ned seemed to hear him. Meaning this wasn’t just a dream sequence, it was very possibly actual time travel? That’s my theory, anyway.
Meanwhile, Daenerys was whisked away to the massive Dothraki camp where, apparently, all the hordes had gathered for some kind of huge Promise Keepers situation. There she was forced to hang out in that temple with all the khaleesi widows, and the main one shamed her for having dared try to live an independent life post-Khal Drogo. Again, except for getting a makeunder, Daenerys didn’t do much except take the verbal whipping. But at least she’s not hanging out in Meereen anymore!
Speaking of Meereen, Varys was still there, and at least he was getting results. Remember that one prostitute who helped the Sons of the Harpy murder Unsullied soldiers? Varys put his spies to work and was able to identify her as a weak link in the terrorists’ chain. Using both threats and actual bribery, he grilled her for information about who was funding their operation and then persuaded her to leave town. Though Meereen is obviously one of the least fun plot lines this show’s ever had, I loved to see Varys using his special form of scheming for the common good. Maybe HE should run the place?
We also checked in with Tyrion and learned exactly one thing: He was SO bored. Grey Worm and Missandei would just sit at the table in silence, and he’d try to crack jokes or whatever, to no response. What a party!
The one thing this episode did confirm was that whenever Varys had referred to his “little birds,” he meant actual children? At least that seemed to be the case when Cersei’s beloved necromancer Qyburn busted out his candied plum stash in order to re-recruit all of Varys’s spies, and the spies looked like extras from Oliver Twist. Now, normally children should probably not accept candied plums from necromancers, but what child can resist hanging out with a giant, lumbering undead abomination in an underground laboratory? Yes, Zombie Mountain (a.k.a. Ser Gregor) was still stalking King’s Landing like a big, purple-skinned weirdo, and Cersei was just about the only one who wasn’t freaked out about it.
There was a great moment when Cersei and Jaime (and Zombie Mountain) interrupted a King’s Council meeting and inserted themselves into the proceedings to the protest of Lady Olenna and Cersei’s uncle, who was now the Hand. Maester Pycelle was right in the middle of ranting about Zombie Mountain being a literal terror when they all showed up and started demanding that the Sparrows get HANDLED. Which, finally!
As for the High Sparrow, he had a face-to-face conversation with Tommen that didn’t go as we might have expected. The scene began with Tommen boldly (and satisfyingly) ranting at the High Sparrow about having overstepped the Sparrows’ duties as religious leaders. But leave it to the High Sparrow (and Jonathan Pryce’s soothing, grandfatherly speaking rhythms) to borderline convert Tommen right there on the spot. By the end of the scene it appeared that Tommen suddenly agreed with the Sparrows’ beliefs. Aw, man. If this means Margaery’s going to have to stay imprisoned even longer, I will be bummed. Free Margaery!
Though Arya was no longer a street urchin, she was not yet finished getting her a** beaten with a stick. In a sequence that’s the closest to a training montage this show’s ever had, Arya got her a** handed to her over and over again until she finally started developing skills as a blind martial artist. After passing a series of other tests — including renouncing and abandoning her famous kill list — she passed one final test: drinking from the poison well without fear. For her efforts she was awarded her eyesight!
But now the question was, where did this leave our beloved Arya? Would she truly be an emotionless assassin with no real vendettas anymore? Was that a character anybody wanted to follow or root for? And what if the House of Black and White was maybe not the force for awesomeness we’d been lead to believe it was? Can’t wait to see where this is going.
Rickon! Rickon Stark was back in Winterfell, but it was not under the best circumstances. He and Osha had been captured by someone looking to curry favor with Ramsay Bolton, and to make matters even sadder, look what happened to his dire wolf!
Also, one wonders if Rickon had been fully informed yet about the various tragedies that had befallen his family? He knew about the Red Wedding, right? Or the various deaths and assaults his other siblings had endured? Well, either way, he was now back in the GAME. (Of thrones.)
We then concluded at Castle Black, where Jon Snow’s killers were now facing their reckoning. Each of them were allowed final words, and while Thorne actually made a good point (he was not sorry for being more loyal to the Oath than the Wildlings), Olly just sort of sneered in petulant rage at Jon Snow. To his credit, Jon Snow took on the responsibility of being executioner, and after a moment’s hesitation finally brought the sword down.
At this point Jon Snow decided his time with the Crows had now ended, so he hung up his dandruff-covered fur coat and walked out the front door. He was now a free agent, and his calling was elsewhere. Fair enough! (How many blizzards can a person possibly put up with?)
“Oathbreaker” was an episode about facing the consequences of past events while attempting to move forward. Nearly every character had to take stock of what they’d been through and then actively decide to continue, but, since this is Game of Thrones I think we can expect one or more of these strategies to fail brutally. Fortunately, even a quiet episode like this one suggests that we’re heading ever faster toward an endgame in which the various plot lines will finally converge. And while our heroes will almost certainly continue to face hardships on their respective journeys, at least they’ve never been more free.
What did YOU think of “Oathbreaker”?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.