Looking back at the controversial “Breaker of Chains,” critics highlighted the themes of protection and dependence among characters of Westeros in the wake of the brutal death of King Joffrey, as well as lamented Jaime’s redemptive arc in this week’s roundup of written recaps.
It’s hard to think of another single hour of this series that’s more engorged with incidents and ideas, or rich enough to sustain entire Tumblrs’ worth of analysis.
You might have thought the question of Game of Thrones going too far would have been moot a long time ago. This is the show that gave us “sexposition” and Joffrey brutalizing sex workers, after all. But a lot of people seem to feel as though one moment in last night’s episode was, finally, too much. Is the show finally pursuing shock value for the sake of shock value?
How do you endure what is unendurable? How do you get up and keep moving when the alternative is not just death, but a death that breaks your sense of what is permissible and humane?
Game of Thrones functions in this strange space of clear structures mixed with completely vague ones. While the storyline at King’s Landing tends to function around major events—particularly this season, where Joffrey’s wedding is traded for Tyrion’s trial—other stories tend to meander.
A-; Throughout the episode, there are twin themes running alongside each other. In the first, we return again to the question of what makes one a good ruler…In the second theme, we consider the role of women in this world and how limited their options are in the face of male brutality.
Additionally from A.V. Club, Sonia Saraiya asks why the showrunners are rewriting the books into misogyny
After the king’s death last week, Westeros is full of passion. There’s Littlefinger perving on underage Sansa, Jaime forcing himself upon his sister, Prince Oberyn primed to screw everybody in King’s Landing, Sam obsessing about guarding Gilly’s ladyparts, lovelorn Ygritte slaughtering villagers and Daario making out with his dagger. But we start exactly where we left off: King’s Landing.
More book readers review and Unsullied react under the cut:
In “Breaker of Chains,” everyone is reassessing their relationships and trying to figure out who can be counted on. Am I the queen?, Margaery wonders. What about you, do you care for me?, Gilly asks Sam. Will you avenge our son?, Cersei implores Jaime.
One of the great strengths of Game of Thrones is that it isn’t afraid to change. Not only has it killed off some of its most popular characters, but over the last three seasons we’ve seen many—perhaps even most—of the cast evolve tremendously. And not just heroes like Daenerys, who started as a powerless victim and became a fearsome commander, but also several unpleasant villains who developed enough layers and dimensions that they suddenly didn’t seem quite as bad as they did before…This week’s episode is here to remind…us, of the truth: this is not a pleasant story.
Things were a little bit calmer this week, as King’s Landing dealt with the fallout from Joffrey’s death, the Night’s Watch finally understood the danger they’re in, and Arya’s faith in humanity was shattered by Sandor.
Game of Thrones has always had an interest in history, in no small part because of the vast universe and backstory that George R.R. Martin built into his A Song of Fire and Ice novels. But in the fourth season of the HBO show, that interest has become an obsession…history has become both a specter hanging above the Westerosi’s heads and the driving force behind their decisions.
More often than not, I like it when Game of Thrones changes on its way from the page to the screen. George R.R. Martin’s books are immersive and sprawling, and the TV series is admirably tighter and more narrative-driven. Both are totally successful in their distinct own ways….on the whole, the writers have done a stellar job streamlining and amending Martin’s story to fit the needs of a TV series. Until now. Sunday night’s “Breaker of Chains” makes an alteration so wrongheaded and baffling that it single-handedly threatens to derail the arcs of both Jaime and Cersei Lannister.
“Breaker of Chains” was a sturdy, lengthy episode filled with long scenes. We like it when the show spends longer amounts of time with certain people and situations than when it just pops in and out of their lives quickly…without a madman running things, what shall be the central conflict going forward? It will be interesting to find out.
“Breaker of Chains” character power rankings (Spoiler: Dany’s in the lead)
Additionally, ‘how the show is going wrong’
“Breaker of Chains” is the most consistent of the three episodes this season, and if it does not reach the highs of the prior two episodes, it also doesn’t reach the lows. It’s very encouraging to see such a solid performance from the start of the season, suggesting that the producers have found a path forward through the complicated morass of structural changes that they made last season, hammering out a cohesive narrative that should entertain. There’s many mysteries left, with certain plot lines unclear at the moment, the next couple of episodes should provide some clarity and, hopefully, cause to hope that this may well be the strongest season since the first.
A-; This week, the Game Of Thrones is a game of defense. “Protect” or “protection” or any number of other synonyms is uttered by several characters populating David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ script, and it’s a sign of the wide world fostered by the showrunners that “Breaker Of Chains” gives the word so many facets.
This was a transition episode that moved some plots forward incrementally but mostly served to set up the rest of the season. It’s impossible to check in with everyone in the realm in a single episode, but we zipped all over this week, maybe even a little too much.
Frankly, it was a kind of dull episode made up mostly of setups for future storylines. But that’s not to say there weren’t some standout moments. Benioff and Weiss gave us lots of bookkeeping, but they also offered blood, brutality, and butt cracks.
King Joffrey’s death brought no small amount of glee last week, his baroque villainy obscuring the moral ickiness of delighting in the murder of a child, even a malevolent fictional one. This week we paid for that satisfaction with an episode that was among the meanest in the show’s history…the creators of “Game of Thrones” methodically went subplot by subplot on Sunday, disabusing viewers of any cuddly feelings that threatened to form for quasi-sympathetic characters.
It’s stomach-churning in all the ways Game of Thrones is known for, and yet again twists our expectations for these characters in ways one might have thought unimaginable…You’ve got to hand it to the showrunners for including a great deal of shocking moments and breathless action sequences in what is essentially a cool-down period from last week’s major death.
After the show devoted half of last week’s episode to the wedding, “Breaker of Chains” has some catching up to do, and we return to guided tour mode, bouncing all around Westeros, then stopping over in Essos, to see what most of the characters are up to, and how those who know of Joffrey’s murder are reacting to it.
(SPOILER WARNING: potential spoiler as to who killed Joff, as it hasn’t been explicitly revealed in the show as of yet)
Holy smokes, so much happened in this episode. This is the problem with writing 800+ page books and turning those 800 page books into one season of TV. You have to cram loads into each episode…It is about to be on like Donkey Kong, folks. Game pieces are set and ready to strike. And I am ready to bear witness. (Great perspective on the sept scene)
As the scope and heft of Season 4 become apparent, the focus has gradually begun to shift from the powerful, established houses, with their swollen armies and multiplying debts, to a set of more nimble — and, it seems, more deadly — individuals. Unsentimental, dismissive of the old ways, and in thrall to no one but themselves, these are the figures best positioned to win because they’re playing a different game altogether.
[This] episode replaced the joy of a righteous death with the skin-crawling discomfort of Watching Characters I Like Do Things Which Are Valuable To The Narrative But Still I Do Not Approve.
It seems that I was a bit less taken by Joffrey’s prolonged farewell tour on last week’s Game of Thrones than some other viewers… in any case, this week’s lively episode was much more my speed.
Thanks to writers this week who posted disclaimers on their posts about spoilers and whether or not they’d read the books!
Do you agree with any particular critic this week? Out of curiosity, who are some of your favorites? As always, in the land of recaps, I am here to serve. Video fans can expect a post soon…