It Is Known: “Oathbreaker”

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When Jon Snow hands his command over, both figuratively and literally, to Dolorous Edd Tollett, he’s taking his own life, identity, and destiny into his own hands for perhaps the first time since the very first episode, when he first chose to join the Night’s Watch. Yes, there have been times when his autonomy has flared up – like when he attempted to sneak off from Castle Black in order to avenge his lord father’s death (“Fire and Blood,” episode 110) – but it’s always been forced back down into submission, thanks to the worry of his comrades and the inertia of his career path, so to speak, with the crows. And, yes, Jon has attempted to channel his desire to forge his own path into a stronger leadership role for himself, like when he takes the initiative against the Night’s Watch deserters who slew Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (“Oathkeeper,” 404) – but it is nothing even remotely close to what he does here in “Oathbreaker.”

Such a development is a rarity in Game of Thrones; much like the medieval history that it is based off of, much of the narrative is wholly dependent upon individuals meeting the expectations or demands of their families, houses, and geographical regions, which oftentimes necessitates the almost near-subjugation (if not annihilation) of the self. In this way, Queen Regent Cersei Lannister is expected to marry Ser Loras Tyrell; King Robb Stark is expected to make marriage arrangements based upon political calculations as opposed to personal fulfillment; Sansa Stark is talked into trading her newfound freedom in for marriage to Ramsay Bolton; and even Arya Stark is asked to negate any sense of personal identity, and therefore agency, in her training to become a master assassin. (Man – that’s a lot of storylines devoted to or otherwise revolving around marriage. Talk about a thematic landmine!)

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In fact, if anything, it would seem this general trend is picking up intensity so far in this latest (and, possibly, the last full) season: Gilly and Little Sam are ordered to reside at Horn Hill, which will cap their five-year character arc with Samwell Tarly with isolation; Bran Stark is shown only snippets of visions from past events that have molded his family into what it is today, and when he demands to see more, he’s bodily (so to speak) yanked out of the flashbacks; Lord Varys forces Vala and her son, Dohm, to flee their home of Meereen (though he more than compensates them for their trouble – even after Vala helped to murder Unsullied the previous year); the small council refuses to treat with either Queen Cersei or Lord Commander Jaime Lannister, abandoning them in the midst of their efforts to try and govern the city in their own fashion; Smalljon Umber captures both Rickon Stark and Osha and decapitates Shaggydog; and, perhaps most egregiously of all, Daenerys Targaryen is literally stripped of her clothes as well as figuratively stripped of her agency, being rendered completely at the mercy of the various khalasars.

The intensification of such a thematic throughline only makes sense at this point in the game; with the series finale hovering ever more closely, the showrunners will want to make things worse for all of our various characters, specifically, and for the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, generally, before they can get any better, before our heroes can choose their fates for themselves (hello, Tyrion Lannister!), and some modicum of civility or, gods forbid, happiness can be installed in the various ruling families that cluster around the Iron Throne – if that is even possible in the world of Game of Thrones and in an ending that has (in)famously been described by author George R.R. Martin as being “bittersweet” in nature.

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This is precisely why we cheer so forcefully when Jon Snow shrugs off the shackles of a position that clearly is too constrictive and backwards for his forward-thinking approach to problem-solving – and why the final scene stands in such stark (no pun intended) contrast to everything that has come before, in the entire series but also in this season especially.

Now, if only there were some guarantees about how the rest of Lord Snow’s (second) life will turn out…

 

You can view all previous It Is Known posts here. Or you can peruse my older column, Anatomy of a Throne, here.

54 responses

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    1. Jon Snow McBroody

      I think once Jon gets some time to think, he will do the right thing and move forward to taking back Winterfell for the Starks. After that, no clue. The BIG fight to think on.

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    2. Great post/article!!! 🙂

      I think Jon needs time for to find his place in the world, but his sense of duty and justice will be imposed… He will be very busy this season (Ramsay Bolton, Sansa and co. , Davos, Mel, Tormund, The North, ToJ..And House Frey??)

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    3. Jack Bauer 24,

      Yeah I’d like to know if that is Castle Black where exactly are Sansa and co trying to enter? The way the door opens it makes it look like it’s beyond the wall and they’re entering through the tunnel which is obviously wrong and makes no sense. But the door Wun Wun broke does not open like that. So I’m a bit confused on what we’re seeing in the preview video.

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    4. Could it be that Sansa is not arriving at Castle Black, but at some other castle? Like, maybe Bear Island or, God forbid, Last Hearth.

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    5. orange:
      Jack Bauer 24,

      Yeah I’d like to know if that is Castle Black where exactly are Sansa and co trying to enter? The way the door opens it makes it look like it’s beyond the wall and they’re entering through the tunnel which is obviously wrong and makes no sense. But the door Wun Wun broke does not open like that. So I’m a bit confused on what we’re seeing in the preview video.

      I was wondering the same. It is winter in the North, so it stands to reason that Sansa and Brienne entered through South of the Wall but it looked like North because of snow. Still, I would have expected more vegetation on the southern gate (Kingsroad exit).

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    6. Wylie,

      Fair enough. I disagree that this looks like the same door from say, episode 10 of season 3 when Jon returns to Castle Black and we get the clearest shot yet of these doors Wun Wun broke. But I’m going to guess though that you’re right and it’s supposed to be the same and perhaps over the seasons and extensions of the budget they’ve made it look and feel and open different. It’s not really a big deal to me I was just curious.

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    7. Apparently, the Spaniard won’t be revealing anymore spoilers, so everyone who was avoiding them can rest easy. His source is spooked and laying low for the rest of the season.

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    8. orange,
      I don’t wanna be unnecessarily pedantic, but the shot you’re talking about is from the outside. It still does have the three transoms (is that the term?) and on the inside it has additionally some diagonal slats. The wood also seems to have the same texture, so personally I would be shocked if it wasn’t Castle Black. Good thing is, it’s only 3 more days till we find out ! 😀

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    9. Wylie:
      Bearded Onion,
      I’m quite happy about that, for selfish reasons, because when it comes to GoT I have absolutely no self control

      Amen. I really want to see the first Stark reunion on screen and not from some dude with butchered english typing it up on the internet.

      Also there’s new pictures of the ep, we see Davos, Tormund and Edd in the pics. Jon is 100% at CB still.

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    10. aabe,
      It should the same gate through which Stannis’s army left on the eastern side. No vegetation there. And I don’t know if there is even another gate on the south side in the showverse.

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    11. I don’t know if we’re seeing the same entrance Wun Wun destroyed either. Those gates opened outward when Jon tried to leave to find Robb in season 1. So it’s not true they always opened inward. But that might just be a change over the seasons and is less important anyway.

      More important, why would D&D bother to have these doors fixed in 2 episodes? What’s the point? The main thing is Sansa gets to Castle Black. Is it really essential to the scene that Sansa and Brienne knock on the door? They could have arrived to see the doors destroyed. Which may even work better for the scene since this would give them pause that something is amiss. The main point is Sansa gets there to communicate with Jon. I don’t see why they’d feel the need to write it so that these destroyed doors are fixed offscreen in 2 episodes and in the middle of all this chaos at Castle Black. These guys are good (no matter what people say) in eliminating useless plot points. Fixing the doors just so Sansa can knock on them would be an example of that. So I don’t know what to think.

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    12. di:
      Could it be that Sansa is not arriving at Castle Black, but at some other castle? Like, maybe Bear Island or, God forbid, Last Hearth.

      Hadn’t thought about Last Hearth! Let’s hope not!

      Bearded Onion:
      Apparently, the Spaniard won’t be revealing anymore spoilers, so everyone who was avoiding them can rest easy. His source is spooked and laying low for the rest of the season.

      Gotta admit, he sounded like a pretty cool dude.

        Quote  Reply

    13. Jon has constantly been evolving as a character, so I am curious to see how he will progress this season. I assume he will focus on finding a sense of purpose and maybe embrace his identity as a Stark.

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    14. For every single Triumph we get in GoT there are 3 tragedies. I do not feel good for Rickon and Oscha’s future with Ramsey.

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    15. Wylie,

      If Jonny gets new clothes this soon, I might scream with joy.

      It definitely looks like he saw something interesting. A dragon?

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    16. Flayed Potatoes,

      I believe he will. Taking off his Lord Commander cloak and giving it to Edd was symbolic of he not being a Night’s Watch man anymore, so I guess we will see him embrace his Stark identity on Sunday 😀

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    17. Do We know for sure Dany’s big set piece is coming up now
      Was the director confirmed to be there or something?

      Seems like “Blood of My Blood” might be where it is…

      D&D have always said Dany’s scenes move around episodes during editing more than anyone elses so we can never be sure

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    18. I think this is why I can’t help but kind of like Littlefinger. He’s the only major character that is truly in it for himself without having to worry about the legacy of his family or larger institutional demands. Everyone else is a slave to something while he just gets to say “f*ck you I do what I want.”

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    19. Flayed Potatoes,
      You know, I might just scream with you! 😀

      HelloThere,

      I don’t remember how it was confirmed, but people seemed really sure about it. I only remember that by episode 6 she’s already en route with her Khalasar(s) and Daario by her side.

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    20. Wylie,

      Then the big event is probably this episode, not to mention the trailer leaves her bits till the end.
      Plus it would make more sense considering the pacing of the season.

        Quote  Reply

    21. Could it be that Jon still has Stark armor laying around from before he took the black? If I recall, there was one part of Season 1 where he was wearing the traditional Stark armor, so maybe he kept it stored somewhere in Castle Black as a memento of his old life.

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    22. Xeno,

      It seems that way. Where else he could get it because it doesn’t appear he’ll be the one doing negotiation. We saw Davos and Sansa in seemingly same location at Bear Island. Sansa as a Stark should be doing it and Jon will be only oathbreaker to Northerners and horde of wildlings beside him.

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    23. HelloThere,

      Yeah, I think so too. Reviewers are already getting antsy because Daeny’s storyline drags, so I guess D&D probably have the episode end with a bang this week. And with the look on Khal Moro’s face…

        Quote  Reply

    24. Flayed Potatoes:
      Wylie,

      If Jonny gets new clothes this soon, I might scream with joy.

      It definitely looks like he saw something interesting. A dragon?

      This is probably the episode with the Drogon fly over from the trailer.

        Quote  Reply

    25. Jack Bauer 24:
      Why does the CB gate look untouched? Wun Wun smashed the right side completely off.

      There are different gates Ive noticed at the castle. It might be another one.

        Quote  Reply

    26. Oathbreaker
      pertains to Thorne Olly et al
      and possibly Jaimie in the future
      and Lord Umber…..
      JON DID NOT BREAK HIS OATH
      His nights watch vow would end with his death
      He died
      It is known
      His watch had ended
      The nights watch wouldn’t kill him again
      Wouldn’t do any good since he would just resurrect… But I bet Cersei will try
      Maybe then his eyes will turn blue … Since Dany saw the Iron throne room in the aftermath of dragon fire and white walkers … And can’t remember if it’s Melisandre or Dany saw a man with a flaming sword and ice blue eyes
      Jon is at last free to follow his path… About time

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    27. Does anyone remember the whole prophecy that Volantis witch told Dany? I only remember the part about going backwards which is obviously her return to the Dothraki.

        Quote  Reply

    28. Butchered speaker:
      Bearded Onion,

      I’m sure ýour spanish is far better than his english. That sounded racist, by the way.

      I don’t know anything in Spanish, doesn’t it change anything. I’m not saying whoever translated it to English was terrible in any way, just that his/her English was a bit dodgy. Facts are facts, it was pretty hard to read.

      Also how the hell can it be racism? I didn’t make a single comment towards that person’s race lol, all I did was point out his/her written English is kinda sloppy.

        Quote  Reply

    29. As always, a great analysis.
      Bit off topic here:

      The first shot inside Qyburn’s lab depicts a small astrolabe being picked up by a child/bird from a shelf.
      Is there some kind of hidden message there?
      Is it somehow connected to the one included most prominently in the opening titles sequence?
      Or just a red herring?
      It is shown quite prominently and the camera follows it for a couple of seconds.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fij0-43GJEQ

      Cross-reference this with every bit of (abundant) symbolism about the sun, stars and R’hllor in both the show and the books

        Quote  Reply

    30. [quote] and some modicum of civility or, gods forbid, happiness can be installed in the various ruling families that cluster around the Iron Throne – if that is even possible in the world of Game of Thrones and in an ending that has (in)famously been described by author George R.R. Martin as being “bittersweet” in nature.” [/quote]

      Lol, civilisation will be in a rubble and pretty much every character will have been killed, but they’ll have defeated the WW’s and there might be some chance of rebuilding etc

        Quote  Reply

    31. The Sybian:
      As always, a great analysis.
      Bit off topic here:

      The first shot inside Qyburn’s lab depicts a small astrolabe being picked up by a child/bird from a shelf.
      Is there some kind of hidden message there?
      Is it somehow connected to the one included most prominently in the opening titles sequence?
      Or just a red herring?
      It is shown quite prominently and the camera follows it for a couple of seconds.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fij0-43GJEQ

      Cross-reference this with every bit of (abundant) symbolism about the sun, stars and R’hllor in both the show and the books

      Very well spotted, I just figured it for a director tactic with kids playing with random ornaments but it seems Planetos has a star system lol

      Hopefully we see that Season 2 comet again, they seem to have done away with that aspect of the show, eg no Quaithe

      But there’s hope that Sam dropping Gilly off and then moving on comes to something

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    32. Nymeria the wolf:
      Does anyone remember the whole prophecy that Volantis witch told Dany? I only remember the part about going backwards which is obviously her return to the Dothraki.

      “To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.”
      Asshai, Dany thought. She would have me go to Asshai? “Will the Asshai give me an army?” she demanded. “Will there be gold for me in Asshai? Will there be ships? What is there in Asshai that I will not find in Qarth?”
      “Truth,” said the woman in the mask. And bowing, she faded back into the crowd.

      ACAK – chapter 40, Daenerys

        Quote  Reply

    33. Ghosts Lunch,

      Definitely Sam (“Keep reading, Samwell Tarly”) and Bran’s storylines (Quaithe’s too, if she is meant to return) will provide impressive insight to the show’s true reasons about why all this is happening.

      Furthermore, I believe that, when the show ends, we will be able to rewatch from the very beginning, noticing all those little details that initially might have seemed meaningless, especially after all the twists that are definitely coming; every shot of the sun, of fire, perhaps even every death that occured without any blood being spilled (still not able to detect a discernible pattern here, but I’m hopeful).

      If you’re into the show’s astronomy (Martin claimed in an interview that his world’s irregular seasons will be addressed somehow – maybe the comet will be included too), you may find this “essay” entertaining, if not extremely tiring:

      https://lucifermeanslightbringer.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/thebloodstoneemperorazorahai/

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