HBO’s Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Episode Review: “Oathkeeper”

So it looks like last episode’s much-discussed scene between Jaime and Cersei was just the tip of the storytelling iceberg when it came to departures from George R. R. Martin’s books. There was a lot of outright rage at what those changes would do to Jaime’s character long-term in regards to the plot. Which is to say nothing of how That Scene would or could change Cersei emotionally. Well, we didn’t get any real reflection on last week’s event from either sibling which was a disappointment.

Major episode spoilers ahead. Book spoilers are allowed in the comments, so be careful.

Instead, “Oathkeeper” didn’t even take liberties with the books; it completely made up whole new stories. Usually, I love the brand new scenes on HBO’s show and this hour was no exception. Unlike last week’s complete step backwards for Jaime, the new scenes in this episode felt true to the spirit of the books—and the show—and added some welcome surprises for book readers who thought they knew what was going to happen next.

I feel like Hodor lost in the woods without a Hodor. And I’m okay with that.

In all of the discussion about last week’s infuriating (so, so infuriating for so many reasons) rape scene, I think Dany’s show of force outside the gates of Meereen got overlooked as a cool moment. In the first of many new-to-book readers scenes, it was a pleasant surprise, after the bombast of last week’s ending, to open on a quiet moment between Grey Worm and Missandei, with the former learning the Common Tongue and the latter remembering her home before she was taken as a slave. I think I want to revise my first impression that these two were headed for a sweet courtship. As Missandei was trying to coax Grey Worm’s pre-Unsullied memories out, he touched her hand and she pulled hers away. Aw. Why? For those still maintaining that Missandei and Grey Worm are siblings, they both confirmed that they were born in completely different countries (Naath and the Summer Isles.) So, I’m still rooting for them. Because they are both more interesting to watch than Daario.

Grey Worm got a chance to go all Spartacus and lead Meereen’s slaves in revolt, while Dany became one scary queen, with her coronation music a choir of agonized screams from one hundred and sixty-three crucified Great Masters. “I will answer injustice with justice,” she insists. And yes, the slave masters of Meereen probably deserved their execution, but it also doesn’t sit quite right. Barristan Selmy’s not the only one with reservations. At this point in the story, Dany is more like the late King Robert Baratheon—great at the fighting (though not through brute force) but not really interested in being a ruler. It was a far grimmer victory than what we’ve seen in Yunkai and Astapor. What will she do from the top of that grand pyramid?

Game of Thrones Oathkeeper Dany

I’m not going to lie, it was hard to enjoy Jaime in this episode after last week. It’s difficult not to look at him and be kind of disgusted, whereas before, I would’ve enjoyed his banter with Bronn and his visit to Tyrion in his cell. The Kingslayer Brothers: coming soon to a Flea Bottom vaudeville stage this summer! Some fans want to ignore last week because it didn’t happen in the books, but we can’t. This is TVJaime. The rapist.

It was such an odd thing to change from the books, an example of the Butterfly Effect causing negative ripples that could be felt even in “Oathkeeper.” Was making Brienne name Ned Stark’s re-forged sword “Oathkeeper” an innocent change from the books? Or was it because the showrunners/director didn’t think Jaime, in his self-loathing for all of the vile things he’s done, could be the one to give the sword a name that promises honor?

Making Jaime an outright rapist and not having him speak aloud that promise to be a man with honor to Brienne changes his character, while the plot remains unchanged. I’m just not sure how we’re supposed to feel about Jaime anymore. I just know I care about him less on the show than I did in the books, where he was one of my favorites.

It didn’t help that before he gave his sword to Brienne, he did get a scene with a drunk, cold, formal Cersei who seemed more angry at Sansa’s disappearance than at Jaime himself, meaning not much beyond her usual disappointment with Jaime. I don’t think last week’s director thought he was directing a rape scene, so now these scenes between the Lannister twins that take place after come off… off in tone somehow.

One good thing that does come from Jaime’s encounter with Cersei is that it adds a level of urgency to Brienne’s mission. It’s not just enough to find Sansa (and Arya, who is pretty much presumed dead) because of Jaime’s promise to the late Lady Stark, but it’s to actively prevent Cersei from killing Sansa for a crime she didn’t commit.

While it’s not as huge a deal to have Brienne name that sword, events beyond the Wall were a giant question mark. Roose Bolton’s man Locke is a new recruit for the crows, lurking about and eavesdropping to try and find out where Bran and Rickon have gone. This becomes crucial when Sam tells Jon that he met Bran and let him continue north of the Wall, likely to Craster’s Keep.

Now the Craster’s Keep story makes a modicum of sense: it’s filler! And another reminder that Westeros is full of men who love to rape. Sigh. Die screaming, Karl Tanner (no relation to Danny) of Gin Alley, you evil young Willem Dafoe lookalike motherfucker, and all the rest of you. I really thought Meera was going to get raped. It just wouldn’t surprise me and that’s depressing.

I still think it’s ridiculous to worry about the mutineers telling Mance Rayder how small the Night’s Watch is. Wouldn’t he just find out when he got to the Wall anyway? Or does he really think Crow membership became mega popular after he defected? But, I thought it was a good move to introduce the upcoming elections for a new Lord Commander and how this ill-advised plan to send Jon to Craster’s could backfire on Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt. Crow drama!

Game of Thrones Oathkeeper Jon Snow

More intriguing still was Bran’s capture at Craster’s Keep. Holy cow. I couldn’t believe it when Bran and Jojen heard the baby crying in the woods. To have them actually held prisoner by the mutineers? That’s just the kind of change from the books I’m totally fine with because it holds so much promise. It’s the most interesting thing to happen to Bran since he got pushed out of that window.

Will he actually be rescued by Jon Snow? Will a Stark ever get to see another living Stark ever again? That’s HUGE!

And how about that final scene with the White Walker? That was so, so creepy and what a fine choice it was to show that scene from the eyes of the baby. I still feel disoriented by it. I mean, we kind of knew what the Others were doing with Craster’s sons, but to actually witness it for ourselves? Whoa. And who or what was that White Walker with a crown? I think it’s a smart move to introduce a sort of ruling class to the Others. It worked for Peter Jackson and his Uruk Hai and Orcs in Lord of the Rings. It gives audiences a baddie to focus their hate on.

Of course, ASoIaF readers might have some different theories on who that Walker King could be and this episode marks the first time the series has touched on what some could consider to be a spoiler for a book not yet written.

Personally, I tend to think people are hyper-sensitive to anything that could possibly be considered a spoiler, especially as it relates to Game of Thrones. I don’t think it’s an outrageous leap to show a Walker King. But it does bring into question how book readers will feel about the show if George R. R. Martin continues writing (or not writing) at his current pace. There will very likely come a time when the show outpaces the books and, yeah, that’s why keeping Bran in a holding pattern at Craster’s Keep at this time is wise.

I think it’s a little early to worry about future book spoilers until next season at least. But I suppose it’s never too early to wonder if die-hard fans will have to stop watching the show because they’re afraid of getting spoiled for future novels.

Game of Thrones Oathkeeper Hodor


Final Thoughts:

  • Tonight’s episode was directed by Michelle MacLaren, who directed the stellar “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” episode last season, so I’m glad she was behind the camera for another pivotal Jaime/Brienne moment. MacLaren was also the director of what was one of Breaking Bad’s most unbearably tense episodes, “To’hajiilee.” Damn, she is good with standoffs and creative camerawork.
  • “Oh Hodor!” Seriously, fuck you mutineers. You made Hodor cry.
  • In addition to Oathkeeper and sweet new armor, Brienne also got the gift of Pod. Huzzah! I kind of forgot he left King’s Landing with Brienne, so that was a nice surprise. I thought the show was going in a different direction with him.
  • Aboard the HMS 4chan, Littlefinger continues to ply innocent Sansa with creepy innuendos about wanting everything and basically repeating all he said last week, which is weird because only about five minutes have passed from where we left off with them.
  • For the slower viewers who didn’t see Olenna palm Sansa’s poisonous jewel at Joffrey’s wedding, the Queen of Thorns outright told Margaery that she was involved with Joffrey’s death because she doesn’t want her granddaughter married to a monster when the monster has a much nicer brother who’s ripe for suggestion.
  • Loved the scene between Margaery and Tommen. It could’ve been way more uncomfortable because of Tommen being aged up, but it still did what it was supposed to do, without making Margaery… Littlefinger.
  • Aw, Ser Pounce! If he was at NYC’s Cat Cafe, I bet lines would’ve been even longer.

Next week: “First of His Name.” A new king is crowned in an episode written by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm ET/PT on HBO.

Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to, covering True Blood, Game of Thrones, and gaming news. She’s also the resident Hannibal fannibal at Boing Boing. Follow her on Twitter @tdelucci


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