Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Ben Travers
April 20, 2014 9:57 PM
16 Comments
  • |

TV Review: Political Plotting Dominates 'Breaker of Chains' as Season 4 of 'Game of Thrones' Moves Past the Purple Wedding

Macall B. Polay/HBO Emilia Clarke in front of her growing army on "Game of Thrones."

After the shocking events of last week's purple wedding, "Breaker of Chains" served as a reminder of who's really ahead in the game of thrones. Lord Baelish was unveiled as the cuprit/hero who orchestrated Joffrey's death. The Lannisters' weaknesses were exposed on multiple levels, both personal and as intended keepers of the crown. Prince Oberyn showed his worth as a potential dragon slayer. The Wildlings stirred things up to tempt the Night's Watch out of Castle Black, and Daenerys Targaryen continued to build a loyal and massive army with freakin' dragons as back up. More concerning than who's got the edge in an upcoming battle for the ages (this has to happen, right?) is the dismal status of Tyrion Lannister, who seems to have given up hope after losing his freedom, his love, and soon (maybe?) his life.

After picking up the very second we left off with Cersei shrieking over the body of her dead son, we don't see Tyrion again until more than halfway through the episode. Calmly residing in the dungeon, Tyrion looks like a defeated man even before garnering the knowledge to properly frame his predicament. His loyal squire Podrick tells him his wife has fled the city, casting him in an even more suspicious light than he was already in, and most of his allies have been denied access to speak with him before the trial. Even Podrick won't be around after refusing to turn on Tyrion and now being ordered to flee the city to safety. In one of the more touching moments on the show, Tyrion exclaims "I will not have you dying for me," before stopping him as he leaves to pay him sincere thanks. "There has never lived a more loyal squire," Tyrion says.

Helen Sloan/HBO Daniel Portman as the loyal Podrick.

The fate of Tyrion -- honestly, the main concern at this point -- is looking quite dire. Tywin, his own father, is stacking the deck against him, choosing an ally who will echo whatever he's told as the second judge and a new partner for the third slot. Tywin's meeting with Oberyn featured an excellent back and forth between two men intent on getting what they want, and both quite close to doing just that. Oberyn wants to kill Tywn, who he blames for the unsightly death of his family, but is seemingly won over by the promises of a man as untrustworthy as every man making promises on "Game of Thrones." Oberyn doesn't appear foolish enough to blindly follow Tywin, even for a position on the new king's small council and a promise of "justice" for his family. He'll have his own agenda in mind come Tyrion's trial, but how that will affect the Master of Coin's fate is unclear.

Tyrion's last hope appears to be his brother Jaime, the only person requested by the prisoner who wasn't explicitly denied access. Jaime, though, isn't the man he was a week ago. He's become the insolent, incestuous knight who shoved Bran out a window and conceived the demon spawn named Joffrey (not literally demon spawn, but close enough). After earning some much needed love over the course of his own humbling comeuppance as a prisoner, Jaime returned to his original awful self this week. It's bad enough he raped Cersei -- literally, enough, please -- but to do it next to the dead body of their son added unnecessary layers to this incestuous relationship I never dreamed possible. Not forgetting (because that's impossible) but setting aside for a second the diegetic consequences of the loathsome affront, it seemed to have no reason for happening outside of the show's never-ending need for revulsion. Jaime was in a good place and on the right path. He wasn't tempted. He's been frustrated, certainly, since losing his hand, but the coping process is too long removed to blame this deplorable decision on long dormant trauma.

From a writer's perspective, the action seems explicable only by three purposes. One is the aforementioned "Game of Thrones" tradition, a preference for the repugnant shown time and time again through gruesome deaths, rewarding unworthy characters, and repeated rape of named and unnamed women. In terms of story, though, it seems more likely the writers are forging a connection between Tyrion and Jaime to create drama one way or the other. Either Jaime's immense misconduct will serve to explain the betrayal of his brother -- he's fallen off the wagon and thus continues a downward spiral back to the man who shoved Bran Stark out a window -- or his choice to defend him, set up as an act of redemption, perhaps even persuaded to do so by Brienne, who loves him as the man who fought a bear to save her life. I don't know what's going to happen (and please, stop telling those of us who watch the show to just read the books), but I do know Jaime raping his sister needs to result in something more than the end of their weird relationship. Right now, I'm hoping for his death, though that wouldn't bode well for Tyrion.

Helen Sloan/HBO The Wildlings begin the siege.

To close out "Breaker of Chains," we were reminded of two more imminent threats. The first is the Wildlings, whose ghastly pillaging of a town in an ill-fated effort to coax the Night's Watch from Castle Black was as gratuitous as Jaime's earlier actions. "No one boils a potato better than your mom," says a father to his child, the man's last words before an arrow pierces his skull with a sickening thud. Was this meant as comic relief? The death of a father who just wanted to have dinner with his family? I hope not, but no other explanation seems plausible. Throw in Styr making a young boy watch his parents' gruesome demise while promising to eat their bodies only added to the unsettling depiction of what otherwise felt like a throwaway scene. Yes, the Wildlings are bad news. Yes, Styr is a cannibal. Yes, we got that from the last few episodes. The Night's Watch deciding they have bigger problems to deal with -- protecting the idea there's more of them than there are -- only underscored the unwarranted nature of the cannibalistic desecration. 

The same cannot be said for the episode's closing minutes featuring the welcome arrival of Daenerys Targaryen and her army of freed slaves at the walls of Meereen. While her mission was rather redundant for the viewer (we've probably seen Denerys build her army a dozen times in as many episodes), it feels like a necessary inclusion to properly illustrate her character and building power. Trash talking followed by a challenge between warriors resulting in a quick death isn't exactly groundbreaking writing -- the whole thing was very reminiscent of "Troy" -- but writers and co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have proven experts in crafting compelling action and this was no exception. If it works, it works. This did, especially with the launching of broken slave collars into a city of armed slaves. Daenerys again serves as a ray of light in a sea of darkness. Her desert settings are literally awash with bright light, but her mission seems to be based in a place as close to purity as George R.R. Martin allows. While it was a wise choice by director Alex Graves and writers David Beioff and D.B. Weiss to make Daenerys' story the last one we see (as often is the choice), it doesn't quite erase the harrowing memories of objective obscenity from earlier in "Breaker of Chains." 

Criticwire Grade: C+

16 Comments

  • Mark | April 23, 2014 5:03 PMReply

    I have read all the books so far, and I can comfortably assure you that, from the book standpoint, the sex scene between Jaime and Cersei was not intended to be rape. I can also reasonably assure you that the Wildlings come across as much more sympathetic than it appears the series is going for. Let me just make this clear without spoiling anything: I have read all the books. I stopped watching the tv series. That is all I can say.

  • Dave | April 22, 2014 4:29 PMReply

    Though an entertaining read and a mostly thought-out dissection of what happened, the objection to the wildling scene is a bit silly and surprising. If there's anything Game of Thrones intends to do, it is stay honest to human behavior. If raiders sacked your English town back in the day, a very similar scene might play out, and cannibalism isn't even that uncommon in human history (as disgusting as that is). If there was dark humor in the scene, it was in the abrupt change of tone from peaceful day to massacre -- reminding us we're still watching Game of Thrones -- not in the fact that shooting an innocent father in the head with an arrow is in itself actually funny. Small but crucial difference. More than anything, it seems the amount of distaste evoked by the entire wildling/cannibal scene was just as effective on you as the writers had hoped. If you want a crystal clear visual example of why the windlings need to be stopped, now you have one. Object away to the Jaime rape, though...not offensive so much as just awkwardly put together.

  • David | April 22, 2014 10:27 AMReply

    My explanation of Jaime's rape is as a follows. Cersei had just asked Jaime to kill Tyrion, his brother. Jaime looks at Cersei like, "wtf? you serious?" He sees that she is serious. Right before he starts raping her he says that she is, "like the worst person ever." But then, he starts kissing her, and raping her. I think he started raping her because he is demonstrating, through perverted kisses and rape that he is on her side, but that "this is what she gets if she is going to make him kill his brother." Also, this relationship never made sense anyway, but it is what it is.

  • ben | April 22, 2014 8:00 AMReply

    Wah wah wah poor Cersei getting 'raped' by Jaime...Jaime deserves death? What? He's a saint compared to Cersei. And it wasn't even intended to be rape, its just the director and the writers failed at getting the scene across the way it was supposed to be. Seriously I'm sick of the internet blowing up over the slightest of things. Jaime most certainly isn't back to being the guy he was when he pushed Bran out the window.

  • ben | April 22, 2014 7:59 AMReply

    Wah wah wah poor Cersei getting 'raped' by Jaime...Jaime deserves death? What? He's a saint compared to Cersei. And it wasn't even intended to be rape, its just the director and the writers failed at getting the scene across the way it was supposed to be. Seriously I'm sick of the internet blowing up over the slightest of things. Jaime most certainly isn't back to being the guy he was when he pushed Bran out the window.

  • Dave | April 21, 2014 1:04 AMReply

    Baelish was NOT the person revealed to have orchestrated Joffrey's death. He was revealed to be the person that orchestrated Sansa's escape - no more than that. While it may beg the question as to how Baelish knew that opportunity would present itself, that distinction of being Joffrey's murderer is not present. In the interest of not being a spoiler, let's just say that the dialogue we saw tonight did not implicate Baelish.

  • Littlefinger | April 21, 2014 10:53 AM

    Oh come on, the clues are right there: he knew of the King's death literally hours after it happened, while being on a boat waiting at the sea. And this is in the times before twitter, so he had to know about it BEFORE happening. Which makes him at least a co-conspirator.

  • Littlefinger | April 21, 2014 10:53 AM

    Oh come on, the clues are right there: he knew of the King's death literally hours after it happened, while being on a boat waiting at the sea. And this is in the times before twitter, so he had to know about it BEFORE happening. Which makes him at least a co-conspirator.

  • Littlefinger | April 21, 2014 10:53 AM

    Oh come on, the clues are right there: he knew of the King's death literally hours after it happened, while being on a boat waiting at the sea. And this is in the times before twitter, so he had to know about it BEFORE happening. Which makes him at least a co-conspirator.

  • Littlefinger | April 21, 2014 10:53 AM

    Oh come on, the clues are right there: he knew of the King's death literally hours after it happened, while being on a boat waiting at the sea. And this is in the times before twitter, so he had to know about it BEFORE happening. Which makes him at least a co-conspirator.

  • Littlefinger | April 21, 2014 10:53 AM

    Oh come on, the clues are right there: he knew of the King's death literally hours after it happened, while being on a boat waiting at the sea. And this is in the times before twitter, so he had to know about it BEFORE happening. Which makes him at least a co-conspirator.

  • Littlefinger | April 21, 2014 10:53 AM

    Oh come on, the clues are right there: he knew of the King's death literally hours after it happened, while being on a boat waiting at the sea. And this is in the times before twitter, so he had to know about it BEFORE happening. Which makes him at least a co-conspirator.

  • Littlefinger | April 21, 2014 10:53 AM

    Oh come on, the clues are right there: he knew of the King's death literally hours after it happened, while being on a boat waiting at the sea. And this is in the times before twitter, so he had to know about it BEFORE happening. Which makes him at least a co-conspirator.

  • Littlefinger | April 21, 2014 10:52 AM

    Oh come on, the clues are right there: he knew of the King's death literally hours after it happened, while being on a boat waiting at the sea. And this is in the times before twitter, so he had to know about it BEFORE happening. Which makes him at least a co-conspirator.

  • Littlefinger | April 21, 2014 10:52 AM

    Oh come on, the clues are right there: he knew of the King's death literally hours after it happened, while being on a boat waiting at the sea. And this is in the times before twitter, so he had to know about it BEFORE happening. Which makes him at least a co-conspirator.

  • Gabriel | April 21, 2014 2:18 AM

    [Spoiler Alert]

    He indeed is the one who orchestrated the death of Joffrey, and very subtle for that matter. He plants the seed in Olenna's head when he visits Highgarden that Joffrey is not the best suitor for Margaery. Olenna is the one that performs the dirty deed for him. But I agree with you, the series has not shown that yet, only that he planned the escape for Sansa.