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

I started off my review last week by talking about the show’s preference for shock and awe with respect to violence against and the sexualisation of women. Game of Thrones does not have a good track record of that at all, and this season has shown that the showrunners are definitely not going to shy away from that. In fact, they are going to double down. This is quite puzzling indeed and one of the reasons why I’m never able to enjoy an episode as much as I want. That was true for this week’s episode as well, and I’m afraid that I don’t see this improving in the near future.

This week’s episode “Oathkeeper” is basically the calm before the storm. It lacks any significant OMFG moments right up until the final seconds and even then it isn’t really enough. Basically many of the different stories are moving forward and we suffer them all in silence. There were some good bits such as the emotional scenes between Brienne and Jamie, and some not-so-good bits such as Daenarys once again basking in the adoration of slaves, playing into the whole “white savour of coloured people” trope. All I felt after the end of the episode was “meh, next”.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Poster 0002The new episode starts off on a very interesting note: Missandei teaching Grey Worm the common tongue and the two of them also talk about their respective time as slaves under their former masters. There’s also a very strong hint that there is some developing romance between them. It is interesting because Grey Worm has been someone enamoured of the woman who freed him all those weeks ago, and there is clearly a lot of adoration and fascination within him for Daenarys. And hopefully this new subplot is going to move him more towards someone else, someone that he has a much more equal connection with, someone he can bond with much more easily. Ser Jorah, Ser Barristan and Daario are quite enough to fawn over the pretender Queen to the Iron Throne of Westeros.

And once we see this opening moment is dealt with, we move on to Daenarys freeing Meereen in one of the most ruthless moments that the show has seen to date. She takes revenge on the masters of Meereen for all the dead girls nailed to the mileposts on the road from Yunkai to Meereen. While I liked that particular twist, even if it doesn’t really make Dany all that likable, what I didn’t like was that the episode made a reference to her crowd-surfing among the slaves of Yunkai (or is it Astapor? I forget) after she freed them. One white woman, the saviour of the city, being carried aloft by an army of slaves. That was one of the worst filmed moments of that particular episode, and the show references that this week by showing how she is fawned over by the slaves of Meereen. She is, basically, a goddess to them.

Once all that is past however, we move on to the good bits of the episode. We see Jaime training with Bronn and talking about Tyrion’s predicament. Despite any appearances to the contrary, Tyrion is fiercely loyal to his family and would never compromise on that front, no matter what he has to do. Reminding Jaime of that has to be a great moment, especially once Bronn tells him of the events that happened in The Eyrie back in season 1 when Tyrion was a prisoner of Lady Arryn.

It all spinballs from there and the episode starts to pick up some narrative speed. I was hoping that this episode would in some way address the rape scene in the High Sept from last week, but none of that happens. It is as if that rape happened and Cersei and Jaime have moved on as if everything was normal. That is almost disgusting. Jaime goes back to his usual dapper self, Cersei goes back to being catty and illogically suspicious of everything. How does that serve any of these characters. Is this the status quo for them? I goddamn hope it isn’t, because that’s just terrible. Some acknowledgement of that moment would have been preferred, because then at least we would know that it was actually a significant moment. But none of that unfortunately.

After everything that happened last season, when Jaime was built up as a hero, that scene was a huge step down. Thankfully, the episode made some progress in making up for that with the scene between Brienne and Cersei, which also involved his new Valyrian steel sword and a new set of knight’s armour. That entire sequence, from start to finish, was pretty amazing. It plays into their developing relationship, which is quite platonic after all it seems. For an episode titled “Oathkeeper“, this is pretty great a nod.

And finally, finally, we had Sansa being smart after all. She has pouted and been subservient way through the show up until now and it is great to see that she is finally making some progress towards being a more complete character in her own right. I won’t go into the details, but suffice to say that the mystery from the end of the second episode is resolved for sure. I loved that moment very much.

Other than all of that, the episode largely deals with Jon Snow handling things at Castle Black, trying to make a case for why the Night’s Watch should attack Craster’s Keep and kill all the traitor Crows there before the wildling leader Mance Ryder gets his hands on them and learns of the weakness of Castle Black. It is nice to see that Jon Snow is growing into a leadership role. I guess having his body perforated by Ygritte’s arrows last season finally knocked some sense into him. He is more decisive now, and that is something that the character has desperately needed for a good, long while, almost as long as Sansa has needed to display some sense.

This in turn ties in to what is going on with Bran and the Reed siblings beyond the Wall, because things are coming to a head in that respect, and we finally see what is happening at Craster’s Keep after the Crow Karl led others in a mutiny against Ser Jeor Mormont and killed the venerable commander of the Night’s Watch. Karl is quite a despicable character and these scenes also displayed another example of violence against women in the show because the mutineers have been raping and beating the dead Craster’s wives and daughters worse than he himself ever did. We see topless women, women with major bruises on their faces and bodies throughout these scenes. We see women being raped even as Karl pontificates about his legend as a swordsman back in King’s Landing. It was just too much I am afraid, and I’m mostly disgusted by these scenes.

I’m not naive enough to think along the extremes of this particular discussion, but there is a line that the show keeps on crossing, quite willfully at that. And the showrunners don’t even realise any of it. Things keep on going as they have been and there is no recourse to a saner moment.

Game of Thrones Season 4 Stills 0004

There’s a lot more that could be said for this episode, but as I tweeted a few minutes ago, each write-up I do for this show is a struggle between recapping the events that happened, and doing a review with thoughts and criticisms of what happened. The review for the first episode of the season was pretty much the first extreme there.

In the end, all I’ll say is that I keep watching the show because I’m invested in most of these characters and I want to know what is going to happen to them. I don’t watch out of any sense of particular excitement because the show disappoints more than it validates.

Thankfully, it is not all bad by the end because we finally get to see something that I’ve been dying to find out since the very first season: what happens to the baby boys that Craster leaves in the woods for the White Walkers. The show has been building up the threat of the wildlings and the White Walkers since the very first episode but not much has happened on that account for a long, long time yet. The White Walkers it seems are content to just continue raising their army indefinitely. Which isn’t all that bad, but it is hard to take them seriously at all. They are a fabled threat with little in the way of any seriousness to them. But after this epilogue, perhaps things can start to look up for them.

Oh and just a final thing. If there is one actor this week who deserves top mention, that is Aidan Gillen as Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger. He was amazingly brilliant this week, as he always has been. Why can’t we get more of him with Varys?

More Game of Thrones Season 4: Ep 1, Ep 2, Ep 3.

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Posted on April 28, 2014, in Game of Thrones, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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