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Game of Thrones: “Oathbreaker” Review

"Game of Thrones" (HBO) - Oathbreaker

One Watch Ends in ‘Oathbreaker,’ Another Begins

SPOILERS FOR THIS EPISODE OF GAME OF THRONES DOWN BELOW

Last week’s episode couldn’t give us any more bells and whistles and flashing lights that the wait is finally over. Jon Snow’s alive, which anyone who’s been following Game of Thrones or read A Song of Ice and Fire figured out for themselves long before the episode. To be perfectly honest, Jon’s resurrection was only a matter of time.

What many of us couldn’t be sure of was whether this was still the same Jon Snow that was murdered last season. Would he suffer from amnesia, forgetting who he was before death? Would he be in complete Azor Ahai mode? Well, in Oathbreaker, he’s still the mopey bastard from the previous five seasons. The only difference this time around is a handful of stab wounds not going away anytime soon. Props to Kit Harington in this scene, despite much of it being heavy breathing and getting used to his bearings.

Within moments of resurrection, he already has much hype to live up to. The men at Castle Black and the Wildings already label him as a god. Even Melisandre (Carice van Houten) realizes that after years of backing the Stannis train, it’s time to back a new horse. Is Jon Snow, “the Prince that was Promised” as Melisandre suggests? Well, someone has to be. Congrats Jon.

What’s most satisfying this week at Castle Black is Jon finally gets his revenge on those who betrayed him. For the third straight episode, the writers are on another killing spree. This week, Ser Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale), Othell Yarwyck (Brian Fortune), Bowen Marsh (Michael Condron) and that punk Olly (Brenock O’Connor) get the axe. As fun as it’s been to hate Thorne the past five seasons, he does go out more honorably that others at Castle Black. Cough Janos Slynt. Then there’s Olly. There hasn’t been a death this satisfying on the show since Joffrey in Season 4. Even to the end, he hates Jon, refusing last rites and that final glare of hatred is to die for. Literally.

Jon’s not done in this episode just yet. As the title Oathbreaker suggests, he’s ending his life-long service to the Night’s Watch. What a loophole death can be. And Jon’s using it to his advantage, bailing on Castle Black and the Night’s Watch for the time being.

In Winterfell, Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) begins his reign of terror as the new Warden of the North. Perhaps that’s an overstatement considering he’s not committing patricide this episode or feeding brand new mothers and infants to his vicious dogs. The brief check-in concerns more with rallying the houses of the North together and tradition. Smalljon Umber (Dean S. Jagger) refuses to bend the knee to Ramsay, breaking tradition. But it seem like this new generation in the North is altogether breaking tradition. Fortunately for Umber, he comes bringing gifts in the form of Osha (Natalia Tena) and Rickon Stark (Art Parkinson) and his decapitated direwolf Shaggydog. Where have they been hiding since Season 3?

That seems to be the trend so far in Season 6 – drag long-lost characters back into the fold. Last week was Bran and the Greyjoys. This week, it’s Osha and Rickon. It’s better late than never. Still, neither one will probably have a big role to play in the major endgame. After last week’s we hardly know you return of Balon Greyjoy, Osha and Rickon are nothing more than pawns in Bastard Bowl 2016.

Speaking of Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), we get our second flashback with the young Stark and the Three-eyed Raven (Max von Sydow). If last week’s tease of Ned and Lyanna Stark as children was any indication, we’re diving headfirst into the Tower of Joy this episode. Let’s get this out of the way first. Like it or not, R+L=J remains unconfirmed. The confrontation between a young Ned (Robert Aramayo), Howland Reed and Arthur Dayne (Luke Roberts) is simply a tease. The choreography is solid and the dialogue is such a tease of what’s to come that when the flashback’s all over you just want to scream. Like Bran, we want more. Patience is not a strong suit here.

Further south, Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) are on their way by boat to Oldtown with Little Sam. It’s the first time we’ve seen them since last season. Not much happens except Sam gets seasick too many times to count and we learn Gilly and Little Sam won’t be welcome in Oldtown. So expect Gilly and the baby to get dropped off with Sam’s relatives before he begins his maester training. Unless the storyline results into something substantial, this will be filler the next few weeks.

King’s Landing is much of the same story. Qyburn (Anton Lesser) is sending his child spies all over the Seven Kingdoms. Even facing the threats of the Faith locally, Cersei (Lena Headey) demands spies in the North, Highgarden and Dorne. Yes, Dorne is still being brought up in conversation. At least, the expository news of the Sand Snakes ruling Dorne is much better than some quickie trip.

Instead, we see more rifts in the Small Council this episode as Twin-cest and Zombie Mountain (Hafbor Julius Bjornsson) refuse to leave the chamber claiming their rights to sit alongside the rest of them. By the way, the whole Ser Robert Strong persona for Zombie Mountain is clearly out the window after three episodes. He’s Ser Gregor Clegane again. No questions asked. And he can still scare the living daylights out of that ever-annoying Pycelle (Julian Glover).

Elsewhere in King’s Landing, Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) finally confronts the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) in the Sept of the Faith Militant. The boy king, still powerless against the Faith is finally starting to stand up. But he’s still in a rock and a hard place as the High Sparrow demands Cersei still be put on trial even after that infamous shaming. It’s practically a guarantee at this point that a trial by combat is on its way and so is the highly-anticipated Clegane Bowl. The sooner, the better. The Faith has had the upper hand a bit too long at this point.

There’s plenty happening across the sea too, Dany (Emilia Clarke) is brought to Vaes Dothrak to spend her days with the other khal widows. As usual, she’s still spouting off all her high and mighty titles to the other Khaleesis. She’s told that like the others there, she was destined to rule alongside her khal, but it didn’t go according to plan. After no Dany action last week, Oathbreaker don’t propel the plot forward that much. Wait until Jorah and Daario’s (absent this episode) subplot converge with Dany’s for it to finally take form.

The same goes for what’s happening in Meereen. Varys (Conleth Hill) is the only one actually getting any work done, questioning a Sons of the Harpy loyalist. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) can’t even get a conversation going. Tyrion tries with a drinking game and fails. Once Varys has his info, the Meereen quartet strategize once again on how to defeat the Sons of the Harpy. Attack the other cities again or keep the fight in Meereen. The three arcs are slowly building towards a much larger confrontation. It may still take a while for all the pieces to come together.

Last up in Braavos, Arya (Maisie Williams) is welcomed back into the House of Black and White. Training with the Waif (Faye Marsay) continues to follow beat by beat. Until at last, she unleashes her inner Daredevil, anticipating moves without sight. Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) continues to break her down, but Arya’s more resilient than ever. Her reward. Her eyesight returns.

Season 6 continues to undo the consequences of last season. Jon Snow’s back. Now Arya’s no longer blind. Does it diminish the impact of the Season 5 finale? To some degree, yes. But you also have to ask where is the show heading next and why did we need three episodes of detours to reach that final destination.

Oathbreaker doesn’t measure up to last week’s episode. Out of the three episodes so far this season, it is the weakest by accomplishing very little for a good portion of the episode. Still there’s plenty of solid groundwork laid down in the Tower of Joy flashback (despite no WTF moment) and satisfying deaths in Thorne and especially Olly. Hopefully Book of the Stranger next week will be the rebound we need.

Next Week’s Preview:

 

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Written by
Matt Marshall has been reviewing films since 2003, starting with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." He specializes in home media, including 4K UHD, Blu-ray as well as box office analysis. He has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from St. John Fisher College and resides in Rochester, NY.

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