Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 3: Breaker of Chains

Kings Landing where the king is dead and everyone (except the Lannisters) rejoices.

Cersei is convinced that Tyrion is behind the death of her son (if it were true he would need a medal) and she and Tywin have him arrested and look for Sansa – sealing the capital. Dontos leads Sansa through the back streets of the capital to a row boat – a mist shrouded ship on which is Littlefinger. In payment for bringing him Sansa, Littlefinger has Dontos shot. That’s what comes from trusting Littlefinger. Sansa is, of course horrified, because Dontos was good and loyal to her. Littlefinger exposes Dontos as a paid servant of his and even the touching necklace he gave Sansa is fake. He gives her another oh-so-appropriate reminder that everyone in the capital is a liar (himself included). But she’s totally safe with Littlefinger, honest.

Sansa, stop trusting people. It never ends well.

Margaery and Olenna consult on whether Margaery is actually queen or not – and decide to let the issue lie for a little bit. Olenna reflects on the death of husbands, Margaery thinks she’s cursed because both her husbands were murdered though Olenna thinks she came out of the whole thing rather well and watching Joffrey die was much better than being married to the nasty little boy. And, hey, the Lannisters still need them so it’s not like the marriage isn’t still on.

Cut to Cersei and Tommen looking at the body of Joffrey in state and Tywin arriving to tell Tommen he will be king next. As a bonus, Tommen, lacks his brother’s sadism. Tywin does a quick pop quiz over the body of his grandson over what makes a good king and argues down pious, just and strong and finally settling on wisdom as what makes a good king. Damn, I actually agree with Tywin on something. He follows that up with the fact the wisest thing a young king can do is shut up and do as he’s told (not bad advice – except for the people giving him said advice). Tywin also shows that wise or not, he’s also pretty cruel, talking up Joffrey’s flaws why Cersei holds back tears. Tywin leads Tommen away to explain the birds and the bees (at least having the courtesy not to have that discussion over his brother’s corpse).

Cersei is left alone with Jaime and she repeats why she thinks Tyrion killed her son. She wants Jaime to avenge their son – and yes, “their son” she says it. She doesn’t want a trial, Tyrion’s too clever for them. He hugs her as she holds him for comfort, then they kiss and Cersei pushes away. Because making out over the corpse of your son with his father-uncle is not classy. Jaime loses his temper, grabs Cersei and forces a kiss on her. He rams her against the slab his son is on and rapes her while she tells him to stop it.

Meanwhile, Oberyn and Ellaria are having a bisexual orgy with several prostitutes, though Oberyn makes it clear Ellaria will always be his first choice. And Tywin interrupts. Y’know, killing his sister he may one day forgive, but Lannisters interrupting Oberyn’s orgies all the time may be unforgiveable.

Tywin banters around the theory that maybe Oberyn, a poison expert, conspired with Tyrion to kill Joffrey, this leads into Oberyn accusing Tywin over the death of his sister (Tywin blames the Mountain – Ser Gregor Clegane, the Hound’s brother – and that he didn’t order it) and then we get to what Tywin really wants. He wants Oberyn to be a judge in Tyrion’s trial along with him and Mace Tyrell. Because he wants House Martel to be an ally – mainly because of the Tyrells.

But he lists the other threats - Wildlings in the North, the Iron Islands – and Daenerys and her dragons. Yes he knows about her dragons. Brief history exposition as well – when the first Targaryens conquered the 7 Kingdoms with their dragons the only country they couldn’t take was Dorne (because they saw the dragons, decided open combat was a bad idea and went guerrilla instead. Also why the Dornish leader is a Prince and not a Lord). Tywin needs Dorne – and he pretty much offers to sacrifice Gregor for it.

Tyrion is in prison and poor, enterprising Podrick smuggles him several luxuries. They confirm that Tyrion didn’t kill Joffrey (he is a little offended that everyone would think he would be so inept in assassinating the king), though the world is better off without him. Tyrion is surprised that Sansa is missing but is pretty sure she isn’t a killer. The only other person he is sure didn’t kill Joffrey is Cersei (“which makes it unique as far as Kings Landing murders go” hah!) and even Tywin might kill Joffrey to control the more biddable Tommen. Podrick also warns Tyrion someone approached him to make up lies against Tyrion – Pod, naturally, refused. Tyrion orders him to lie and testify against him – Pod will either be bribed or threatened into testifying against him and he doesn’t want to see Pod executed. Or, at very least, he needs to flee Kings Landing.

In the Countryside with Arya and the Hound

Arya plays a Westeros game of “are we there yet?” They talk about the Hound’s plans to cross the narrow sea after he’s dumped her off and some passing land owners question what they’re doing. The Hound is unpleasant and Arya shows herself to be a crafty liar and a quick thinker. Thanks to her lies, the farmer is willing to put them up for the night. Arya excellently keeps up the ruse while the Hound is just amusingly awful (but Westerosi grace to the 7 is hella long). Pious farmer laments on the many many bad things happening and raiders taking his crops. Despite the Hound being a very unpleasant houseguest, he even offers to let him stay since his farm could use the protection. He tells the Hound of silver he has that he’ll pay the Hound to work

And the next day the Hound steals it. Arya chases after him, furious that the Hound would abuse their hospitality like that. But the Hound says they’ll be dead by winter – because he’s weak, he can’t protect himself. He knows how things are and he asks Arya how many Starks need to be beheaded before she learns. Ouch… accurate, but ouch.

At the Wall – Jon, Sam and Gilly dredging up some relevance

Sam and Gilly are with the Night’s Watch and Sam is sad that no-one believes him about killing a White Walker. Shame, killing mythological creatures will do that for you. But he’s also worried about Gilly being the only woman among 100 men, though she seems pretty indifferent to the idea and is more concerned with whether Sam thinks about her. He thinks it’s safer for her to be elsewhere but Gilly thinks he’s rejecting her

Sam takes her south to the town near the Wall – to a brothel where he hopes she will get room and board for cooking, cleaning and looking after babies – adamantly refusing the suggestion Gilly be a prostitute. Gilly isn’t happy but Sam protests that he can’t protect her from his fellow crows

Elsewhere in the north, the Wildlings attack a hamlet full of peasants and slaughter them all except one child they send to Castle Black to warn the crows that they’re killing and eating everyone, nom nom nom.

The reaction at Castle Black is to die out and slaughter them, but Acting Grand Master Alliser Thorne points out that there’s a good chance the Wildlings are trying to draw them out from the castle where they’ll be easier pickings (which is surprisingly sensible). Maester Aemon speaks up to point out that, at 100 men, the Nightswatch is far too undermanned to take unnecessary casualties.

Jon Snow also speaks up (this is interesting – because Alliser insists he speaks. Is it to humiliate Jon, or is it an acknowledgement that there are a lot of men in the room who respect Jon, but not him?) and adds that if Mance Ryder breaches the Wall then half the North will likely fall. They’re then interrupted by Rangers returning from Craster’s keep – which is now overcome by mutineers. Jon realises they have to go kill the mutineers – not because of justice, but because Jon spread misinformation among the Wildlings, convinced them Castle Black had over 1,000 guards. The mutineers will not lie – and if Mance Ryder learns that only 100 men guard Castle Black… Well, it’ll be less Castle Black and more “brief speed bump Black”.

Dragonstone – gloom, doom and burning people

Stannis is happy with Joffrey dying (and thinks Mellisandre’s black magic achieved it) but is annoyed that Davos hasn’t found him an army to take advantage of Joffrey’s death. Davos wants to use mercenaries but Stannis, while quite happy with black magic, draws the line at mercenaries. Either way they can’t afford to pay them anyway.

As if poor Davos isn’t heckled enough, it’s off to his reading lesson with Shireen. And he explains the difference between a pirate and a smuggler (if a smuggler is famous, he’s not doing it right). They talk about a book about Braavos in which the famed Iron Bank of Braavos is brought up (the bank that Kings Landing owes a VAST sum of money to). Davos gets some inspiration from this and dictates a letter to the bank.

Exotic Eastern Lands and the army of the White Saviour Lady

Daenerys and her army arrive at Meereen. Who dispatch a champion outside the walls to piss on the ground and shout insults. Well, that’s one way to pursue warfare. She asks if she has a champion, of course everyone volunteers and she has to tell them how important they are. Except Daario, he’s totally expendable.

Personally I would have responded with “Drogon lunch time!”

Instead the champion charges Daario on horseback with a lance. Daario ignores it, looking all brave and cool, until the last minute when he throws a knife at the horse, killing it. It falls, the man is thrown and Daario cuts off his head. The Meeren fire arrows in response that don’t reach him and now it’s his turn to piss on the floor

Less pissing and posturing, more dragons and eating.

Time for Daenerys to make a big dramatic speech about how she frees slaves, speaking to the slaves of Meeren. After making lots of slaves thoughtful, she brings out the siege engines. They don’t throw rocks – but barrels full of broken chains and collars from the slaves of Astropor and Yunkai.

The Tyrells are ridiculously awesome – Olenna’s reaction to the whole drama was “well, next prince. This one should be better”.

Tywin’s “what makes a good king” could, in many ways, be an object lesson to all the houses – the just Starks, the ruthless Lannisters – where’s the wisdom (oh yeah, the Tyrells)? Speaking of, it seems Tywin has finally realised the Tyrells have too much power and he’s looking for more allies. The fact he turned to Martel kind of shows how few allies the Lannisters actually have

On to theme – I think this episode is trying to crush any sense of vindication from the last episode. Finally, the evil one got his comeuppance… yes, but don’t think this overall changes things. Joffrey may be too foolish to live, but too good to live is more common. The Hound makes the point to Arya who is still clinging to some sense of morality. Sansa has leaped out of the frying pan and into the fire and yet again had her illusions shattered as another person she trusted turned out to be playing her. Podrick has to flee King’s Landing because he’s too good and honest to play the game and Tyrion, the only half-decent Lannister, is imprisoned.

I like Oberyn, he’s fun and I hope will become a bigger character. His bisexuality does seem to be very troped as orgies and the whole promiscuous/swashbuckling bisexual trope. Also, I notice the women crawling all over each other, but the 2 men don’t even kiss (and if you think that was kissing we saw from the back of that man’s head, you’re a little naive) and get one arse slap before all hands keep to very neutral places (Olyver got it on more with Ellaria than Oberyn)

Now the biggy. The rape scene - one that is made even worse by some bizarre suggestion that Cersei only refused consent in the beginning. And he's not alone in thinking this! Jaime raped a “yes” out of her? No. Good gods no. No is no, no doesn’t become yes if you ignore said no and keep going. How anyone can look at this scene with her saying “stop it” while he rams her against the slab with her son’s body on it and see consent is not only mind boggling, but also makes me think he needs to be kept away from all women forever. This rape apologist bullshit should never leave anyone’s mouth – and I can’t imagine why, with all the amazing scenes on this show, this one would be anyone’s favourite. And why is this scene even here? What does it achieve other than being a big dollop of nasty for no damn good reason? Seriously, what in this story is advanced by Jaime raping his twin sister in a church while her son is laid out on the damn altar not 2 feet away? To show Jaime is bad? He pushed a child out a window! To show Cersei and Jaime’s relationship breaking down? We saw that last week! To build Jaime’s character? What, the character that we had seen seething in rage because Robert Baratheon disrespected his sister by flaunting his affairs and prostitutes around the castle? The man who was outraged that he couldn’t protect his sister from her husband’s brutality and callousness? Building THIS man’s character?

It’s also, like the rape of Daenerys, another scene where the book has had extra rape dumped on it. Don’t get me wrong, both the scene with Drogo and Daenerys AND the scene with Cersei and Jaime are far from scenes of unquestionable consent (in the latter Cersei objects because of the place and the timing) – but the TV show has gone all the way to make sure it screams violent rape.

The AV club has an excellent take down of the changes. Again, neither scenes were unproblematic in the book (Cersei did say no. Daenerys had just been married off against her will – and I do think there needs to be more stress that, certainly the scene with Cersei, WAS rape in the book. Because even though she wanted Jaime she didn’t want him then and there and she said no!) but the TV series has really hammered home 2 violent rapes