The Speculative Post's Review
Indeed, Game of Thrones is itself an institution of uncompromising moral decency. The sorts of narratives to which we are treated each week are chock-full of uplifting scenarios and upstanding individuals who exemplify the courtesy and chastity of our Victorian predecessors-in-uptightery. For example, Game of Thrones would never show its impressionable audience the heartless murder of a loyal retainer- oh wait… However, it certainly would never see a character robbing an innocent farmer and his adorable daughter- ah. Well, you can bet your lucky stars that D.B. Weiss and company would never stoop to wholesale slaughter and cannibalism- fiddlesticks!. Okay, okay, but at the very least, we can all rest secure in the comfortable knowledge that our beloved program would never depict incestuous rape- oh shit. Uh, that is, incestuous rape in a temple- dammit! What I meant was incestuous rape in a temple next to the corpse of an incestuous lovechild- OH FUCKING HELL, NOW REALLY THAT IS JUST TOO MUCH.
Okay, dropping the Victorian overtures, I’m just going to come out and say that the aforementioned scene really bothers me. We’re used to seeing some pretty depraved shit on Game of Thrones, but this has got to be the most disturbing thing that has ever happened. And it really upsets me, because I was sooooo looking forward to the idea of liking Jaime, a project that is not going anywhere after this.
"It's a trick. Get an axe."
Very very disturbing content aside, “Breaker of Chains” is a magnificent episode. It hit all the right emotional and narrative notes to create a perfect storm of empathy and curiosity. For the first time since last season’s “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” I am absolutely dying to see what’s next. Which is not to take anything away from the intervening episodes, but even the Red Wedding and Joffreycide didn’t leave me with the same burning desire to see the plot move forward as this episode did.
First off, Petry’s back! Hooray! I guess? Look, I’ll level with you guys. Every season, it seems like Aiden Gillen gets hammier and hammier, and it’s getting a little out of hand. Someone needs to sit that guy down and say “Hhey Aiden, did you hear that Christian Bale was cast in Game of Thrones!? Yeah, NEITHER DID I, so knock off the goddamned gravelly-ass Batman voice and just talk normally, like you did in the good old days of Season One when people actually liked you.” Though to be fair, Baelish IS kind of like Batman. They both have oodles of money and give off the appearance of being aloof playboys. They are both haunted by obsessive thoughts of unfulfilled past relationships with women: Bruce Wayne with his dead mother, Baelish with Catelyn Tully. And they both focus this obsession into a singular drive towards a new goal: to honour his mother’s memory, Bruce Wayne wants to fight crime; to honour his unrequited love’s memory, Petyr Baelish wants to, er, score with her daughter. He might say “keep safe,” but come on… We all know that boat trip is going to be full of phrases like “oh shoot, look at that, my robe just plum fell right off” and “just think of me as the imaginary friend you never tell anyone about”… So yeah, ol’ Pete’s basically the Dark Knight of close-talking sexual predators. And that little almost-but-not-quite-a-smirk of his totally reminds me of Michael Keaton, too.
Did anyone else get a little misty-eyed at Podrick and Tyrion’s heartfelt goodbye? I know I sure did. And the best part is that Tyrion’s development over the years has seemed organic and believable. We would normally never think of Tyrion as the type to selflessly face death in order to protect his squire when not doing that was an option. And yet, from the moment he walked into that cell I was like “oh geez, I’m going to start tearing up by the end of this, I just know it. I am no good at keeping it together when bromance is afoot!” Also, in case anyone’s wondering, I just this very moment created a Nickelback tribute band called “Bromance is Afoot.” We’re awful.
"I'm the hero Westeros deserves"
Clearly the best part of the episode is the fact that we got some more Houndrya™ material. We didn’t even get that much of it, except for The Hound robbing the Riverlands’ version of Ned Flanders and Arya predictably calling him out. But it was amazing. When Maisie Williams screeched “you are the worst... Shit... in the Seven Kingdoms!” I was filled with a greater measure of unrepentant joy than could be contained even by the lyrics to “We Are the World” written out in Comic Sans on turquoise stationery (the “i”s are little hearts too!). Williams gets better and better with each passing season. No one else could have made a kid with Arya’s horrifying past sound like a real kid at that moment. Anyways, they’re totally best buds, you guys, and it’s awesome. Yeah, I know, something’s probably going to happen to break them up or something and blah blah blah but SHUSH! For the moment, let me savour each and every moment of sweet sweet Houndrya™ goodness before some horrible thing reminds us that this is the “realistic” fantasy universe, where no one is ever happy and circumstance releases messy bowel movements all over everything we cherish all the time.
Speaking of this supposedly being the “realistic” fantasy universe, would someone mind telling what in the hell we watched in front of the gates of Meereen? Seriously guys, I’m only going to say this about two or three more times every time he appears: Daario Naharis is super lame. He’s like this series’ version of Peter Jackson’s version of Legolas. Also, why does he have so many buckles on his leather tunic? Is it made of old belts or something? Yeah, buckles are cool, but that’s clearly an unreasonable number of buckles. No way do all of those fasten something to something else. Do I need to come right out and make a Game of Steampunk joke mocking this, or can we all just imagine it in our heads? While we’re at it, in what sort of realistic fantasy universe does the most skilled single combatant in Meereen ride around like a chubby Cheech Marin and pee on things for dramatic effect (and also, why was “dudes peeing” the episode’s visual theme- there’s an awful lot of it for one hour of story)? The whole business felt so contrived that I really got yanked out of the “believability” project that the series is normally going for. The Essos scene was otherwise pretty good, though. I got a little rush of pride on behalf of Jorah when Dany called him her closest friend. Ah, Jorah… Bromance is afoot (seriously, if he ever dies this show is dead to me)!.
"This is so demeaning. Back in Winterfell we had Fraggles to pick our radishes for us."
In other news, how about those orgies, eh? I’m a little conflicted here. I think it’s awesome that the show is not shying away from having an openly bisexual man in the cast who is also supposed to be cunning and deadly; normally, U.S. media would be loathe to depict a bisexual dude as anything but androgynous and slightly goth-y (if they would even acknowledge bisexuality as being a thing for guys at all), so Oberyn is largely a good get for the purposes of breaking up the straight white male parade. But all they ever really show him doing is having lots of sex while also making a big deal about the fact that he swings both ways. This seems to be verging dangerously close to feeding the stereotype of the hyper-sexualized LGBT dude- not to mention the stereotype of the hyper-sexualized swarthy not-quite-white dude (Oberyn is pretty much Rudolph Valentino, after all). I suppose, in the end, Oberyn was created by George R.R. Martin, who’s not exactly known for his ability to convincingly write characters who aren’t horny young white guys, horny old white guys, or old white guys who have gotten too wizened to care about being horny anymore. We’ll see how it turns out, I guess. In the meantime, despite initially finding him kind of off-putting, Oberyn has quickly climbed the ranks and I’m really enjoying him now. I think the implication that he’s older than he first appeared actually gives him some depth and gravitas, and his back-and-forth with Tywin was a veritable Masterpiece Theatre for passive-aggressive alpha males, courtesy of Pedro Pascal and Charles Dance.
I’m going to quietly pass over the fact that Hannah Murray has been added to the main cast for Season Four, because yeah, that’s really what we need is more awkward domestic comedy featuring Sam and Gilly, Westeros’ answer to the lame formulaic fish-out-of-water romance question no one asked. Something compelling better come of this eventually, because as it is, I kind of wish the white walker had gotten them.
I could go on quite a bit longer about “Breaker of Chains,” but I think I’ve covered most of the important bits (okay, I didn’t talk about Davos and Shireen’s Reading Rainbow, which I probably should have, because Davos has some good one-liners, but whatever, when something actually happens at Dragonstone besides religious executions and jokes about smugglers, then I’ll write about it). This may not go down as one of the all-time greats, but I have a feeling it will remain one of my very favourites (except the horrifying incestuous rape in a temple next to the corpse of an incestuous lovechild. That I could have done without).