Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 3 'Oathbreaker'
Game of Thrones continued its moralistic journey through Westeros this week, with its new episode entitled 'Oathbreaker'. The topic of oaths and vows has always been a subjective topic at the best of times in Westeros, as Jamie Lannister once noted, 'So many vows...they make you swear and swear', As times gets more and more desperate, it would appear that the lines are getting more and more blurred for many major players.
For me, there is only one place to begin to unravel this episode and that is at the Tower of Joy. This is where Bran, accompanied by the Three-Eyed Raven, uses his abilities to view the Legendary Sword fight around twenty years previous in the Dornish Mountains between Ned Stark and the Kingsguard of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. When Ned and his five comrades arrive to find his kidnapped sister, they are met by two of the Kingsguard, Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Gerold Hightower, who guard the entrance to the tower. As events unfold, two things become very clear, 1) that this particular variation of the Kingsguard were particularly effective, and 2) Ned has been telling a very select version of the story to his family over the years.
The battle ends with Ned, seemingly outmatched, being saved by his friend Howland Reed, Meera's mysterious father, who stabs Dayne in the neck just as he is about to kill Ned. Ned then finishes Dayne off with a singular swipe. This certainly isnt the honourable Ned Stark that Westeros has heard about off over the years, and makes his contempt for Jamie 'Kingslayer' Lannister seem arguably very hypocritical. If Ned wasnt ashamed, why not just tell the real story over the years, and indeed, if he is covering this up, what else is he covering up about the events of the Tower of Joy. We will doubtless find out soon, but in the meantime, we are left with the image of Ned heading for the tower, but stopping briefly after Bran calls his name. If Bran does have the power to manipulate and involve himself in situations rather than simply observe, this becomes a potential game changer for the whole of the Seven Kingdoms and beyond.
On a side note, this is probably the scene more than any other that I was waiting for from the books. A few small adaptions aside, I felt the writers were faithful to the books while ensuring TV viewers also understood the plotline easily. I was concerned that in the Spanish Desert, the battle scenes might feel a little bit lost or busy with eight fighters, but the show did a great job from a choreographical and filming perspective to alievate these concerns. I had always imagined Sean Bean would come back for this Scene, but as soon as Robert Arayamo spoke I knew the Game of Thrones casting team had nailed it again. You genuinely believed Arthur Dayne played by Luke Roberts could defeat anyone on the planet with his dual wielding swords.
Perhaps more relevant to the 'Oathbreaker' title, Castle Black continued its clear out as Jon Snow, newly resurrected, ensured that the Nights Watch population fell by another 10 % by hanging the traitors including Thorne and Olly. I found this scene fascinating, with Thorne steadfast to the end that Jon is the 'Oathbreaker' and this just further shows the blurred lines of black and white in the show. Owen Teale, who played Alliser Thorne, has being fantastic all the way through from Season one and his will be a major loss for the storyline if they continue to gravitate around Castle Black.
As far as Jon's resurrection is concerned, I thought it was very effective to have minimal speaking in his inital return scene, as it added to the sense of uncertainty and potential dread. I was pleasantly suprised to see Jon's sense of humour had not been lost when he chatted with Tormund and Edd, yet his final scene of walking away from his comrades and the Wall seemingly suggests a darker and more selfish Jon in the future. Where does Jon go from here?
Touching on Meereen and Kings Landing, I felt these Storylines were the weakest of the episode. There certainly a lot of human statements that the writers seem to be trying to cram in here regarding real world politics but it feels like on the whole they are wasted scenes. I enjoyed Varys being Varys, but found the rest of Meereen to just be tedious. Likewise, I enjoyed the High Sparrow's manipulation of a highly strung Tommen, with Jonathan Pryce still in great form as the High Sparrow. However, Kings Landing on the whole feels very stagnant, and after Jaime and Cersei's initial reactions to Myrcella's death, very little has been accomplished to stand against their enemies since. I guess the 'Oathbreaker' here is featured around Qyburn, who was removed from the Citadel due to questionable experiments.
Here, the latest 'Oathbreaker' generation of the Umber's,Karstark's and Bolton's meet to decide on Westero's least likeable lord. Lord Umber makes his case by presenting a gift to Ramsay, with the gift in this case being of the human variety. The very boy that the Umber's swore to protect , Rickon Stark, is handed to Ramsay, along with Osha and the head of the deceased direwolf Shaggy Dog. While its great to have such a talented actor as Art Parkinson back on the show, I do fear his re-appearance maybe relatively brief based on Ramsay's current temperament.
Elsewhere, Arya continued to come into her own in the 'House of Black and White' seemingly becoming a match for Waif while also regaining her eyesight. While a girl is now seemingly no-one again, the look on Waif's face when Arya mentioned 'Walder Frey' suggests to me Arya is not the only one coming to terms with her past identity. I'd like to see them explore Waif's history more in depth but appeciate time may not allow for this.
Dany's storyline again centered around power, or lack of it, amongst the Dosh Khaleen, many of whom had high hopes and aspirations like Dany currently does before they became part of the collective group. Is Dany really going to have to ditch her individual wishes for power and join the Dosh Khaleen?? One thing for sure, if Dany, through diplomacy or violence can get the whole Dothraki onside in one venture, she will have an army that will be unrivaled in Westeros or Essos.
Overall, this episode continued a strong streak for Season 6 and gave us a good range of character storylines and locations to further the overall arc of the show. I thought the Tower of Joy was fantastic, as were Jon's scenes and the ending , with Jon's singular line, was particularly strong as he simply noted ' My Watch has ended'. My main concern sometimes is that the show is losing too much strong acting talent at the moment ( Stephen Dillane, Owen Teale, Peter Vaughan, Michael McLetton), and yet at the same time I see young actors like Robert Arayamo , Eddie Eyre, Luke Roberts and Dean Jagger step up to the plate without missing a beat and realise just how good Nina Gold and the Game of Thrones casting crew really are! Game of Thrones season 6 seems to be hitting its stride, with much more to come...Now if we can just get back to the Tower of Joy next week this would be much appreciated.