Game of Thrones 4×03 – Breaker of Chains Review

GOT.CerseiTroubling episode, no? Well, more troubling than usual that is. Let’s talk about what transpired tonight on our favourite cutthroat show, Game of Thrones. Most of the episode consisted of the immediate aftermath of the Purple Wedding (a framed Tyrion, a Sansa on the run!) while the rest of it was spent playing catch-ups with some of our other favourites. Beware of SPOILERS.

‘Breaker of Chains’ sets us up for what is sure to be the trial of the century, preparing us for the far-reaching ramifications of Joffrey’s murder, interspersed with scenes of Dany at Slaver’s Bay, Arya and The Hound on their way to the Eyrie, Jon Snow, Samwell Tarly and Gilly at Castle Black- Littlefinger and- haha jokes, he’s no one’s favourite. Okay, maybe he’s someone’s favourite- but not mine.

But first thing’s first, should we get right into that scene? I think we should, because the fandom is split, I mean really split, about what occurred in the Sept between Jaime and Cersei. On one hand, this series has never shied away from using rape as a plot device, while it’s not pretty you should know what you’ve invested your time in, and on the other hand there’s a chance that something has been lost in the translation from the page to our screen that changed what occurred in the Sept from consensual sex to outright rape. As someone who sped-read through all five books in the span of a week after binge-watching the first season, yes it’s possible when you’re procrastinating, I won’t pretend to be an expert on the finer details. However having said that, this was one of the scenes that stuck in my mind for a bit after reading A Storm of Swords because of the ew factor. I mean, c’mon guys- nasty incest is already gross without the added factor of nasty rapey incest beside the corpse of your nasty inbred child in your world’s place of worship? Ya nasty.

In the book, the scene could be interpreted as consensual- although the fact that the chapter is told from Jaime’s POV kind of pulls that into question. All of the information that is given to us reflects his subjective perception of what’s going on, and upon a second/third glance at the scene, Cersei does also protest at the start in the scene on the page. So is it really consensual in the book? Portraying something completely from a particular character’s point of view is hard to do onscreen, the closest way to mimic the book’s format would be to have a voice-over narrating and that’s just all kinds of no, amiright? It could be that by simply taking what occurs at face value and translating it onto the scene, stripped of any internal focalisation, the show depicts a much more unbiased account of what went down in that Sept. Ya dig?

I don’t want to spend anymore time talking about it, because other things did happen in this episode, but I’m curious to see what others made of the scene other than the usual ‘ew, naaaasty incest again‘. I continue to lament Cersei’s lack of agency and how it’s informed the development of her character- and the continued perpetuation of the patriarchy and how shitty it is for women in Westeros. We’ve got fans yelling about how the Sept scene undoes Jaime’s development so far (losing a hand for saving Brienne from rape and all that jazz) but what of Cersei’s?

 
Say what you will about Cersei, but that woman loves her children. Her character is defined by the men around her, Cersei is the daughter of a power-hungry man who married her off to a drunkard that never really wanted her, and the female half of a twincestuous relationship- with the other half not hearing her say no on the occasions she does say no to nastiness- she hates her younger brother not just for his being a dwarf but for -in her eyes- killing their mother and perhaps one day bringing about her own demise. Not to mention the fact that she spawns a monster of a son- who by the very fact that he was male was given the power (if not the respect) she felt she deserved. She wants to be her father, but she can’t because she’s a woman. Oh to be a woman ‘of power’ in Westeros, huh? Kudos to Lena Headey for her performance. For someone who hasn’t read the books she sure can embody that haughty, crazily trying to make up for her complete lack of agency, ruthless and utterly protective of her children lioness rather well. Joffrey was a monster but, as I said last week, his death was a tragedy for someone- his mother.
 

 
Tywin, not too bothered by the death of his eldest grandson, merely points out to the next in line (the sweet-tempered Tommen) that he is the next in line and gives him a history lesson on what makes a good king- over Joffrey’s grave and in the face of his grieving mother. Cersei’s expression as they walk off is one of sad-realisation that her role, after everything she’s put in or sacrificed, is so reduced that she can’t even keep her children from dying or at the very least in her own care.
 

Someone, for whom Joffrey’s death was not a tragedy was the Queen of Thorns. While Margaery is unsettled by what she witnessed, further strengthening the idea for viewers that she wasn’t involved in her new husband’s early demise, the Queen of Thorns is quick to say what we we’re all thinking, “You may not have enjoyed watching him die, but you enjoyed it more than you would’ve been being married to him, I can promise you that.” Lady Olenna needs to be around to show me how to life like she does- and how to poison kings without any of the backlash.

It’s good to see Arya and the Hound doing well- and the Hound continually teaching Arya the facts of their hellish life. Even if it means smashing and stealing from a farmer and his daughter who did nothing but take them in and give them food- after Arya’s quick wits saw her easily lie to the poor man about the Hound being her father and fighting for the Tullys. Which brings me to a very important question that’s gnawed at me since the Red Wedding, what happened to the Blackfish? Catelyn’s uncle? I mean I know what happens to him in the books, sorta, but we haven’t heard a word about Arya’s baddass great uncle. If the larger theme of this episode is the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’, the Blackfish is sure to have survived the Red Wedding. The Hound really hammers the idea that the weak die and the strong survive into Arya’s head- reminding her that most of her family is without a head for thinking that their world was an honourable place where justice prevails and the good come out on top.

Closer to the wall we’re confronted with the danger of the Wildlings breach and what it means for those poor folk caught in the crossfire. Once again, the Wildlings are the fittest in this case and when those Thenns tell that young boy they’re going to consume his mother and father the idea that being part of ‘the fittest’ perhaps means losing most of your humanity. We get to see Jon Snow! And he’s showing some sound judgement in regards to how the Night’s Watch should approach the ‘Wildling Problem’. Seeing Ygritte exercising her right as a free woman was great, but man the brutal killing of innocent folk is always a difficult thing to watch.

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones - Breaker of Chains

And finally Daenerys Targaryan, ending the episode with a bang. She catapults barrels full of broken slave collars, a symbolic move and one that should prove fruitful, working in her favour as she diplomatically navigates herself, again, into the position of the people’s champion- she has the eyebrow down pat. It doesn’t hurt that she is also a rousing orator and her champion, Daario, basically owned the slave masters of Meereen’s champion. Dany doesn’t use her dragons this time, choosing the simpler avenue- her words. For a young Queen who initially began with less agency than Cersei, she has become one of the main power holders of the show. Sure, it’s all the way across the Narrow Sea- but everyone knows that eventually Dany will find her way to Westeros. Eventually.

 

Honourable Mentions:

– Because I spent so much time up there on other things I didn’t get to discuss my favourite heartbreaking scene from the episode. Tyrion’s conversation with his squire, Podrick. You come away heartbroken and fearful- both for Tyrion and the most loyal squire in all of Westeros- because it’s just not fair, is it? I’m sorry, but if you didn’t feel anything during this scene you’re a monster. Because Pod not only tries to smuggle Tyrion all the things he refuses to betray him- thus putting a bulls-eye on his own back. Honour is a dangerous thing to have in Westeros, especially in King’s Landing.

 
– Ugh, Littlefinger returns. That slimey slimey man. Sure he saves Sansa- but why? Also, he knew what would occur at the wedding, because he had something to do with it? Why does he crush the necklace? Why have it given to her to take it, crush a stone and throw it down onto Dontos pin-cushioned corpse? Spoiler alert, I do believe the foreshadowing is strong in this one. Alayne Stone?
 
– “When it comes to love, I don’t choose sides.” Oberyn explaining bi-sexuality in less than ten words tho’. I will admit, while his seksi time scenes may be lulz- I feel it detracts from his overall baddassery. When Tywin interrupts to speak to Oberyn about poisons, serving as the third judge in Tyrion’s trial and whatnot you find that Oberyn’s poison backstory is really stripped down. There’s more to this Dornish man than seksii-times with both men and woman and his excellent wordplay- he founded his own sellsword company for Stranger’s sake. So here’s to the show giving us more bamf and less fudgery.
 
– Samwell and Gilly and little baby Sam join us, hi Cassie, this week. It’s understandable that Sam would be protective of Gilly- he’s a decent bloak if a bit of a dunce- so duncey everyone thinks he’s bullshitting about killing a Wight. However he just comes off as patronising and his efforts a bit in vain.
 
BOOK SPOILERS AHOY! Seeing Gilly’s baby again makes me wonder, have they completely shafted the so-called Wildling Prince storyline? Mance Raydar’s wife, Dalla, his baby (the Wildling Prince) and Dalla’s hot sister Val are noticeably absent- both onscreen and unmentioned. It’s an odd choice considering the large part played by Val at the Wall, which involves the Wildling Prince- Gilly’s baby and the Red Woman and an eventual trip across the Narrow Sea.
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