In tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones, we welcome Jon Snow back to the land of living and watch Bran dip into the past, in the aptly named “Oathbreaker.” The episode catalogs an assortment of broken promises, cast-aside vows, and old lies that will shape the characters’ paths in season 6.
Spoiler Note: This post is for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section will contain spoilers from the novels! Because no, we are not all Unsullied now. If you haven’t read the books yet, please check out our non-book-reader recap. Thanks!
“Oathbreaker” starts off by bringing us right to where we want to be- with a shaken Jon Snow understanding quickly that he’s come back to life after being murdered by his own men. Wide-eyed Davos watches him rise and you know the Onion Knight has found a new god to serve. (Seven save the lot of us who were very distracted by someone’s nudity in this scene.) Melisandre pops in, looking healthier and happier than ever, and intriguingly refers to Jon as the Prince Who Was Promised. Luckily, Davos doesn’t give Jon time to dwell, pushing him back out into the world, and I have to say that if I’m ever brought back from the dead by a red priestess, I want someone as blunt and practical as Davos Seaworth supporting me. No wonder Stannis kept him around for so many years.
The people of Castle Black are in awe of Jon now (except for Tormund, who as usual bases his world view on cocks). “Are you sure that’s still you in there?” Dolorous Edd asks, and that is a damned good question. Though Jon is managing as well as one could expect, under the circumstances, no one can remain the same after that experience. He’s not a wight and he has his basic personality, but as another character has said, ‘only death can pay for life.’ What will the cost be for Jon Snow?
We finally catch up with Sam and Gilly for the first time in season 6, as the pair journey (with baby Sam) on a storm-tossed ship. In between upchuckings (surprising no one, he’s no sailor), Sam is forced to admit he isn’t bringing her to the Citadel in Oldtown with him. They don’t allow women to remain there, so he’s dropping her off at his family’s home in Horn Hill.
Gilly reminds Sam of the promise he made that wherever she went, he’d go too. Now, they’ll be parted despite his words.
It was rather low of Sam to take Gilly away from the Wall under false pretenses, actually. Though he had good intentions, making decisions about her future without considering her input and then lying to her is wrong, and he knows it. She was sheltered from the outside world a great deal, living with Craster, but as Gilly becomes more independent, you have to wonder if she’ll begin to resent Sam making decisions for her.
Whatever happens, I’m very much looking forward to seeing this duo take on the Tarlys in the near future.
I’m not even going to pretend to be cool about this, okay. It’s the Tower of Joy.
It’s the TOWER OF JOY.
Now, being a longtime reader of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, I made it a point to not re-read the sections dealing with this scene before this season, so I wouldn’t be inclined to nitpick. And I have to say, I’m glad I did that. I don’t care about Ser Arthur Dayne (played here by Luke Roberts) dual-wielding swords instead of having one legendary sword. I don’t care that there are two Kingsguard instead of three. And heading into this scene, I suspected they would cut out before Ned went upstairs into the Tower so that’s not a disappointment for me. I know some people were hoping Game of Thrones would confirm the R+L=J theory tonight but I think it’s too soon for that. I do think this scene even being included is one more major clue; we’re a step closer to confirming the theory a bit further down the road.
As for the scene itself, the show cleverly uses the framework of Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven witnessing the events at the Tower of Joy. Through their eyes, we see young Ned Stark (Robert Aramayo) ride in to save his kidnapped teenage sister Lyanna who is being held in the tower. Ned and his five friends take on the two knights guarding the tower in a spectacular swordfight.
Ser Arthur Dayne is a legend known throughout Westeros; Bran knows who he is instantly and has heard stories all his life of how Ned defeated Dayne during this fight. But as Bran sees, that’s not exactly how it played out. Toward the end of the battle, only two men are standing- Ned and Dayne, with the knight having killed many men on his own after his fellow Kingsguard was slain. Ned is clearly outclassed and Bran sees it, so how could his father have beaten him?
He didn’t, not really. With young Ned on the verge of defeat and death, injured Howland Reed rises to stab Dayne in the back. It’s only then that Ned is able to cut him down. Not an honorable kill, but it’s the choice Ned makes while his sister is waiting up in the tower, her cries carrying from the window.
Bran calls for his father and for a moment, Ned seems to hear Bran’s voice through the years, but then he turns away, and the Three-Eyed Raven pulls Bran from the vision.
And we all curse out that old man for again depriving us of the glory of these beautifully rendered flashbacks that leave us aching for more.
Bran does too, more or less, when he’s back in his body, but the Three-Eyed Raven is adamant that Bran must limit his time in the visions and he must continue to learn.
In Essos, the khalasar has arrived in Vaes Dothrak, delivering Daenerys to the Dosh Khaleen, the widows of many khals.
The khaleesi’s welcome isn’t quite as warm as she might hope since Dany didn’t turn up at Vaes Dothrak back she should have, right after Khal Drogo died. That’s the standard protocol for khals’ widows, but she violated it. As the head Dosh Khaleen lady explain, the khals are meeting soon and they’ll have to decide whether or not Daenerys will be staying with the Dosh Khaleen after all. So Dany’s Great Dothraki Road Trip may not be at an end after all.
In Meereen, Varys is getting closer to answering the question of who is behind the Sons of the Harpy attacks. He brings in for questioning the Meereenese woman we saw last season laying with White Rat of the Unsullied as he was murdered by the Sons. The woman (played by Meena Rayann) has a young son, and Varys seizes on this to manipulate and frighten her into informing on the Sons of the Harpy.
Varys bring the info to a meeting with Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei. Apparently, the masters of Astapor and Yunkai, with assistance from the slave city of Volantis, are responsible for funding the terrorists. After hashing it out, the council decides on Tyrion’s advice to send a message to the masters.
In King’s Landing, Qyburn is binding Varys’ little birds closer to him with sweets, but something tells me the little birds may still have loyalty to their old master.
As the children enjoy their candy, Cersei pays a visit with Jaime and Ser Gregor (as she plainly calls him now) in tow, asking for information, and stating she plans to use the Mountain in the trial by combat that’s to come.
Afterward, Cersei stops by the Small Council to find Kevan Lannister (the current Hand of the King) meeting with Olenna and Mace Tyrell and Grand Maester Pycelle. Pycelle puts his foot in his mouth royally when it comes to Ser Gregor, and I’m guessing the old maester is going to get the Gregor-SMASH headspecial before the season is out.
Kevan once again proves he is great at ditching meetings in style, and refuses to talk with Cersei present. He and his company depart, leaving Cersei and Jaime to stew in the slight.
Elsewhere in the city, Tommen is attempting to assert himself with the Faith and not doing the best job. He approaches the High Sparrow at the sept about his mother, but the High Sparrow stills insists Cersei needs more atonement.
Tommen is way out of his league when dealing with the High Sparrow, that much is certain. The old man dances around him with gentle and subtle manipulations, understanding the king is a confused young boy in over his head. He defers taking ownership of any of his actions, claiming it’s not what he wants, its what the gods want, and Tommen buys it.
Arya’s kung-fu-training movie-montage takes us through her return to the House of Black and White. The Waif is a harsh mentor, laying into Arya with the big stick as they fight, and the little stick for the Game of Faces. Though still blind, Arya is more adept at fighting, and is becoming No One more and more, it seems. It also looks like the Waif is becoming resentful of her presence.
It’s not clear to me why though. If her negativity were just a teaching technique, she’d be pleased when Arya succeeded in blocking her strike. But the Waif does not like Arya, and that story will undoubtedly come to a head.
Now that Arya has made progress, Jaqen checks in with her once more. She denies her name and he invites her to drink from the pool. After she finally she does so, she opens her eyes and sees clearly, no longer blind. She’s reached a new level of Facelessness, and losing more of herself every day.
At Winterfell, Ramsay has a visitor this week. The Umbers (last seen absolutely ages ago in season 1 since Greatjon Umber’s actor had a scheduling conflict for season 2 and never returned) are making a comeback in the form of Greatjon’s son Smalljon (Dean Jagger).
Smalljon is aware Ramsay killed his father, but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t even care about his own father, who the show has apparently decided to kill off-screen. (Unfortunate, since Clive Mantle was a wonderful Greatjon. Must’ve been one hell of a scheduling issue.) Either way, the formerly very loyal House Umber, the people who declared the Starks the King in the North, are now asking for the Boltons’ help in holding off the wildlings who are headed south thanks to Jon Snow.
Ramsay is wary, especially since Smalljon refuses to kneel, but as Umber astutely observes, Roose Bolton once knelt and called Robb Stark king. Those gestures don’t mean a thing. Smalljon has something better- he has a gift, and it’s exactly what people were afraid it would be, based on “Oathbreaker”‘s previews.
Lovely to see Osha and Rickon again! I just wish the circumstances were better.
And we know Rickon would never be taken easily, not with Shaggydog protecting him. His direwolf would never let this happen. Which is why it was almost not a surprise to see Umber produce the direwolf’s severed head as proof of Rickon Stark’s identity.
Be worried for Rickon and Osha. Be very worried.
At the Wall, with the resurrection of Jon Snow, the fate of his murderers is sealed.
Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck, Ser Alliser Thorne and the boy Olly are set to die by hanging.
Jon accepts their final words. Marsh and Yarwyck are frightened and insipid. True to his character, Thorne stands his ground; as far as he’s concerned he may have betrayed Jon but he didn’t betray the Night’s Watch, and he’d make that choice again. For all that Thorne is a murderer and a hard, unlikeable man, he tried to obey his vows in his way.
“You’ll be fighting their battles forever,” he tells Jon, and I have to wonder if that’s an accidental prophecy on Thorne’s part.
His eyes defiant, Olly doesn’t speak a word when Jon comes to him. Jon looks as though his heart breaks once more, the way it did when Olly stabbed him. Was he hoping for an excuse to cut the boy down from there, or at least an apology? He won’t get it.
Around the yard, it’s grim and silent. Melisandre watches from above- like always.
Jon Snow swings his sword, cutting the rope tied to the gallows. With his action, the men drop and dangle from their ropes, faces purpling, dead.
His last task accomplished, Jon sheathes his sword and tells Edd to burn the bodies. Passing his cloak to Edd, he also gives him Castle Black.
Jon is done. He did his best, and died for it. But with his murder, his obligations were fulfilled and finished and he’s no oathbreaker.
“My Watch is ended.”
After last week’s jam-packed “Home,” “Oathbreaker” was a slower episode with more breathing room to take in the enormity of what occurred. It’s hard to top a resurrection- you can’t, so this feels like more of a transitional episode, with characters journeying and quite a lot of setup for storylines across the board. Jon is shifting from the Night’s Watch to his after-death life, Sam and Gilly and Daenerys are looking for that right place to land, and Arya’s journey is inward, moving between her true self and No One. Nothing is certain, which means it will only get more exciting from here.
A few thoughts…
Tower of Joy: Don’t ask me how many times I’ve already rewatched that segment. It’s an embarrassing number. That was cool as hell and I want more.
Kit Harington: Jon has returned darker, angrier, and with a slightly trimmed haircut. Give it up for our Acting VIP of the week!
Olly the mute: Brenock O’Connor had no normally spoken lines of dialogue in three episodes. He had that line in the last episode when he was shouting as he attacked, but that’s it. So I’m guessing O’Connor’s voice got super low between seasons and the show is trying to hide it?
The KL is OK: The King’s Landing story isn’t drawing me in much this season, so far. Lena Headey and Jonathan Pryce in particular are wonderful but the story just isn’t cutting it, and I’m finding myself wishing we were back up north somewhere during some KL scenes.
RIP Night’s Watch dudes and Shaggydog:; I betcha people will be more incensed by GoT killing a dog than they will be by them graphically hanging a teenager. Seriously though, kudos to all the departed. I’ve been a fan of Owen Teale’s for about twenty years and seeing him get the attention he deserves on Thrones has been great. What a glorious jerk he can play.