Any Game of Thrones episode with a name like “Breaker of Chains” is undoubtedly going to star Dany, Mother of Dragons and Freer of Slaves. But “Breaker of Chains” also did a lot more, orienting characters and viewers in the aftermath of last week’s big moment. A Storm of Swords is an excellent book, and the episode sticking so close to the source material made it an episode filled with necessary world-building, history and purpose. How many Starks are they going to behead before you hit the jump?
In Westeros, there’s no time to linger in mourning, or just about anything else. This was illustrated pretty clearly with Jaime and Cersei having violent but passionate grief sex, with the body of their incest-bred child lying cold on a slab next to them. Tywin already has his eye on the next king — Joff’s younger and much more innocent brother Tommen — questioning him on kingly virtues, and giving him (and us) a history lesson along the way, with examples of the trials and triumphs of former rulers. The question of this episode was one of loyalty, and Tywin wants to ensure he and Tommen are fully together moving forward.
Margaery, meanwhile, wonders what her role is in King’s Landing now that Joff is dead. Their marriage wasn’t consummated, leaving who is to rule in question. “Breaker of Chains” was an opportunity for backstory and a brief consideration of the past before moving forward, like when Oleanna, Queen of Thorns [POSSIBLE BOOK SPOILER] (and the poisoner, according to George R. R. Martin) [/SPOILERS] discussed her unfortunate marriage, and loyalty to one’s spouse (regarding grief, anyway). Tywin invoked the past again himself when he parlayed with Oberyn Martell, promising to allow him to “speak with” The Mountain over the matter of his sister’s rape and murder, in exchange for him sitting in judgment of Tyrion. The ultimate purpose is to unite as many people to the Lannister cause as possible against Wildlings, Greyjoys, dragons, and R’hllor knows what else. Again, it’s an issue of loyalty (however short-lived).
It’s also something Stannis wrestled with, chastising Davos for not getting enough bannermen to his cause (which led to the great reply: “We’re willing to use blood magic to out you in the throne, but not willing to pay men to fight?”) The men of the Night’s Watch have an issue with army numbers as well — Jon told the Wildlings that they had 1,000 men manning the wall, when the reality is more like 100, many of whom are injured or infirm. Jon is ready to kill the leaders of the rebellion who are hiding out at Craster’s in order to ensure their silence. Putting someone in their grave is the only way to make sure someone stays as silent as the grave, as Littlefinger tells Sansa after he puts an arrow through Dontos.
“Breaker of Chains” was a fluid episode full of machinations, but also character building. It revolved around a theme of loyalty, which is so important, yet also so in flux after an event like The Purple Wedding. The episode did a great job of acknowledging the larger arcs, while focusing specifically on moving characters forward emotionally. Arya and the Hound bond over a ruse as father and daughter, but splinter apart again when the Hound (loyal only to himself and to his stomach) steals from the farmer who takes them in. “They’ll be dead by winter,” he tells her with a shrug. “Silver’s no use to a dead man.”
The stark reality (no pun intended) of Westeros’ grim world is never in question on Game of Thrones, and “Breaking of Chains” was a somber episode with only a few hints at humor. That’s ok. In the previous hour, we got to experience a grand event and cathartic emotional release when Joffrey died. But things move forward, quickly. The hour concluded, as it should per its title, devoted to Dany’s freedom mission across the East. There were no dragons to conquer Meereen, only strength and cunning. And, perhaps, a healthy dose of wisdom. It is what a ruler needs most of all.
Episode Rating: A-
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I loved that the ending was basically (in Oprah’s voice): “and you get a collar! And you get a collar, and you get a collar …”
— The reveal that Littlefinger was behind Sansa’s escape from King’s Landing lacked a little punch thanks to his super overt conversation with her last season to get her to leave there. Still, a great moment. But … what’s up with Aidan Gillen‘s accent this season? Is he a pirate now?
— A lot of history was dropped by the farmer who offers Arya and the Hound food and shelter, regarding the Tullys (remember them?) and the friggin Freys.
— “How many Starks are they gonna behead before you figure it out?” – The Hound.
— Oh Oberyn and Ellaria, reminding us about sexposition … sigh. All of the other characters got through their backstory stuff without titties hanging out, so I guess HBO felt viewers had earned it … (there was one penis, yes, but, the balance is WAY off).
— “The ominous they!” – Tyrion. His quips and dialogue to Podrick when trying to work out the whodunnit was top-notch.
— Sam + Gilly flirtation = they are the geeks of Westeros, and I love it.
— “There has never lived a more loyal squire” – Tyrion. Pod did display some true and sincere loyalty in this episode.
— I always think Daario is kind of useless, and had forgotten about the scene that ended the episode. Very nice work.
— “The king is dead, the Greyjoys are in open rebellion, Wildlings march on the wall, and in the East, a Targaryan has three dragons …” – Tywin.