Game of Thrones Season 4 Ep 3 (TV Show Review)

Shock and awe has been one of the core methods used by the writers of Game of Thrones since the show began. Of course, the books that the show is based on have plenty of that, but the show has never made an effort to step around them, best as I can tell talking with various people about it since I’ve hardly read any of the books. After all, in the show premiere we had an incest scene and later on in the season we had a character explaining his motives while training two female whores and hardly anything was left to the viewer imagination. Rape, violent murders and more have been a staple of the show and it looks like the new season is proudly continuing that tradition.

In the previous episode that aired last week, King Joffrey Baratheon was poisoned at the moment of his Wedding Feast, thus ending the brief reign of one of the worst Kings that Westeros has seen to date. The dust is still settling after all that and much of the new episode from yesterday hinges upon the fallout of that massive event. “Breaker of Chains” is all about how old traditions are being subverted at every turn and it reminds us as well that the armies of Daenerys Targaryen are continuing their march on Westeros, breaking the literal chains of slavery across the Narrow Sea.

Note: Some spoilers from this episode are mentioned in the review.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Poster 0002

As a product and sum of her grief at the death of her beloved son, and her biases, and Joffrey’s dying actions, Cersei has Tyrion arrested for the murder of the King and she calls for the arrest of Tyrion’s bride Sansa as well, although Sansa is able to escape thanks to Dontos the Fool. All of this sets in motion the rest of the events at King’s Landing and more, as news about the King’s death begins to spread beyond the borders of the capital. And in the midst of it all, it is clear that the shaky nature of the Lannister’s grasp on the ultimate power in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is shakier than anyone realises, as we learn through the conversations between several characters throughout the episode. There is now much more of a metaphorical “winter is coming” than there has been before.

First of all, there is one of the most troubling scenes of all in the show to date. As Joffrey’s body lies in state in the High Sept of Baelor in the capital, Tywin Lannister breaks the sanctity of both the Sept and the deceased to further his family’s shaky political power. Joffrey is succeeded by a brother, Tommen, who must now be king, and in a long sequence that I think does justice to the Lannister patriarch’s character, the would-be young king is tutored before his brother’s cold corpse on how to be a king. There are virtues that one needs to be a king and the boy is instructed in what they are and what they mean and what the greatest virtue of them all is.

But that’s not the troubling scene I am alluding to. No, this particular scene between Tywin and Tommen is excellent. The troubling bit comes when Jaimie walks in after his father and nephew leave. Cersei begins to break down in front of her brother-lover and then, out of nowhere, Jaimie basically rapes his sister on the floor next to their son’s cold corpse (Joffrey is the son of Jaimie and Cersei, and not Cersei and Robert Baratheon, as was revealed in season 1). There is no consent on Cersei’s part and that just makes their incestuous relationship all the more worse.

And the worst part is that this scene does several negative things. First of all it ruins the positive image of Jaimie that the show had built up in its third season, that of a man possibly repentant of all that he has done, whether that includes what he did to earn the title of Kingslayer, or anything else. In the last season, I really came to like Jaimie’s character and believed him to be a character I could very well root for. But not after this episode. All that positive development has gone out the window now.

Second, the episode undermines Cersei’s own character. She hated her husband and fell in love with her brother, going on to father several children by him, a secret known to none outside of the family. Cersei’s character has gone up and down in my esteem since her very first appearance and just as I was beginning to like her as well, the new episode goes on to show her off in a negative light. And that is because the way the scene is directed there is an incredible amount of confusion on my part whether or not Cersei was willing. She keeps saying no and tells Jaimie to stop, but there are a couple moments where she gives in to blasphemy of what is happening.

Then there is the fact that the entire scene is just not needed. It adds nothing to either of the two characters and from what I understand reading commentary elsewhere on the internet, the scene in the book itself is highly contentious. Hence why I refer to this entire sequence as one purely for shock and awe, something that the show’s writers have been quite adept since the start.

Later on in the episode, we touch base with a lot of different characters.

We see how Tyrion is doing in his cell and we see the incredible measure of his squire Podrick’s loyalty. Their parting in this episode is emotional and one of the best such scenes in the entire show. Plus both Peter Dinklage and Daniel Portman turn out some of their best performances. Dinklage’s Tyrion has always been one of the best elements of the show and this episode continues that legacy as well. Tyrion really seems to have gotten the short end of the stick and things are looking even grimmer for him since the date of his trial has been decided and also the judges, all of whom are very indisposed towards him, which doesn’t help his chances any.

The most significant scene story-wise however is the one between Margaery and her grand-mother Olenna as they discuss Joffrey’s death. The scene doesn’t give either Natalie Dormer or Diana Rigg much to work with in terms of their acting ability, but it serves to show how shaky the foundations of Lannister political power are, which eventually leads into another politically brutal scene as Tywin confronts Prince Oberyn Martell about the future of their relationship.

Elsewhere in Westeros, we see how the chains of political power and social structures and traditions are breaking. We get to see references to the Red Wedding from last season and what the fallout of that disastrous event has been in terms of how the common folk of Westeros view their betters. The whole concept of guest rights, a sacred social and religious law, was brutally and violently sundered last season and the effects of that are trickling down. We see how a man who fears for the life of someone he loves takes matters into his own hands because he can no longer trust his brothers-by-arms to hold to their vows of service. We see how Stannis Baratheon, the last remaining legitimate heir of House Baratheon, wants to break the chains of inaction that have dragged him down since the disastrous Battle of Blackwater and how his most trusted advisor and King’s Hand Ser Davos comes up with a plan to save his king.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Stills 0003Each of these scenes deals with the title of the episode in a metaphorical manner. In the midst of it all, what I loved best was Stephen Dillane’s performance as Stannis. Last review I remarked how the character seemed to be lacking a fire in him to do what he wanted to do: take back the Iron Throne from the usurpers of House Lannister, to becoming King. Some of that showed through in the new episode and it was most welcome. It comes at just the right time, and the same applies to Lian Cunningham’s Ser Davos as well, who finally takes a proactive approach to solving his king’s dilemma of how to raise an army to attack King’s Landing again.

The icing on the cake however comes at the end of the episode, when Daenerys arrives at the glittering pseudo-Egyptian city of Meereen. It is another city of slaves and masters, much as with Astapor and Yunkai, cities where Daenerys freed the former and ordered the deaths of the latter. This scene marked her most extravagant speech to date. And in the Valyrian tongue no less, if I’m not mistaken. There’s a bit of smarminess to Emilia Clarke’s performance early on when she is selecting her champion to fight the Meereenese champion who has been sent to challenge her, but that improves quickly as we get to the meat of her plans for the city. She is the literal breaker of chains in this episode, as her actions signify and this is what we end the episode with. It is a good enough scene and I look forward to the resultant implications as her army inevitably tears through Meereen to liberate it and bring it into her nascent grand empire.

In general, the new episode had a lot of great moments and it was mostly a good one. But the scenes in King’s Landing involving Cersei and Jaimie soured the whole thing. It is quite regrettable that the show continues to use violence against women as a means of furthering the plot, especially when such things are completely superfluous. To be honest, I wouldn’t have minded if the scene had involved only the two of them kissing. But to continue on and show the rape in as much detail as it was, that was quite abhorrent.

I can only hope that the writers make an effort to improve about this failing in the future, although I don’t hold out much hope for that.

More Game of Thrones Season 4: Ep 1, Ep 2.

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Posted on April 21, 2014, in Game of Thrones, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

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