‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Justice is just another word for revenge


Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont, Ian McElhinney as Ser Barrister Selmy, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen. photo: Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO

Justice. The word can be defined in many ways, but in the latest “Game of Thrones” episode, “Oathkeeper,” it seems that justice correlates directly to a body count. Both Daenerys and Jon Snow claim to want justice but that might just be a more polite way of saying vengeance. Cersei doesn’t even pretend to take the high road; she just wants revenge. We also get reacquainted with yet another Worst Character candidate and get a first peek into the mysterious ways of the White Walkers.

[Note: At this point I will also direct you to the review written by my colleague, Alyssa Rosenberg on her Act Four blog. Alyssa is a book reader, and between the two of us, we more than have you covered. You'll find more of a play-by-play here, she'll do more of the analysis there. Here's her review: Oathkeeper and broken vows.]

The episode begins in Meereen where Grey Worm is getting a language lesson from Missandei, which eventually leads to the pair trading their depressing backstories. While Missandei remembers her village burning, Grey Worm insists that he is “Unsullied. Always Unsullied.” The slightly more optimistic Missandei suggests maybe Grey Worm will return to his native Summer Isles someday but he quickly knocks down that notion with a simple phrase: “Kill the masters.” (Which is also the name of the debut EP by his doom metal band.) Soon Grey Worm is leading a group through the sewers of Meereen and comes upon a group of slaves openly debating whether to take part in an uprising; one notes the size of Khaleesi’s great army while the another notes he’s been through two previous revolts and it just ends with lots of dead slaves and the masters consolidating their power. Grey Worm, who has learned a thing or two from following Dany around and watching her give inspiring speeches, tells the slaves, “No one can give you freedom, if you want it, you must take it.” And that proves inspiration enough. A slaver walking the streets literally sees the writing on the wall — it says “KILL THE MASTERS” — and he gets mauled by a mob of slaves. Viva la revolucion!

We’re spared the gory details, but soon Dany is bathed in golden sunlight and cheered as she is greeted as a liberator. She takes it all in from a scenic spot above the town but this is no time for celebration. She asks how many children were nailed to the posts on road leading to Meereen, the bodies she saw on her journey to the city. Ser Barristan Selmy reminds her that Meereen is hers, the battle is over and sometimes it’s better to answer justice with mercy. This is coming from someone who has won more battles than anyone, anywhere, so his opinion should be worth something. Dany is unmoved. “I will answer injustice with justice,” she says, and that translates to crucifying 163 Meereenian slavers, one for each body they passed on their journey. She peers out over her newly conquered city, screams of dying former-masters ringing in the air. All righteousness must be balanced with at least a hint of cruelty or sadism in this universe.


Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister. (Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO)

Jaime “Lefty” Lannister is training with Bronn and seems to be getting better with his new dominant hand. In a bit of slapstick that would make the Three Stooges proud, Bronn breaks a stalemate in their sparring by taking Jaime’s gold hand and smacking him in the face with it. The conversation inevitably leads to Joffrey’s murder, how Tyrion isn’t responsible (neither poison nor murder are his style) and then to the fact that Jaime hasn’t even visited his imprisoned brother yet. Bronn gives a bit of backstory, telling Jaime how he met Tyrion when he volunteered to fight for him at Tyrion’s trial-by-combat back the Eyrie, and laying the guilt trip on Jaime by saying that Tyrion’s first choice was his brother. His loving, loyal brother.

So Jaime finally pays his brother a visit and after trading lack-of-toilet war stories, we’re reminded that these two really do have a special bond. The brothers run down what Tyrion’s facing — an entire country that thinks he’s guilty, one judge who has wished him dead to his face many times (that being his own father) and the Queen Regent wanting his head on a stake. The pair agrees that the Kingslayer Brothers would be a very marketable gimmick but Tyrion confirms that he had nothing to do with Joffrey’s murder. No matter, Cersei won’t rest until she gets justice, which for her is simply revenge — both on Tyrion and Sansa, who also had no knowing involvement in Joffrey’s death. “Sansa is not a killer. Not yet anyway,” Tyrion says. Not yet?

The only person we know for sure who was involved in the murder (well, at least for a few minutes) is Littlefinger, who is sailing with Sansa to the Eyrie, where he’ll be marrying Sansa’s Aunt Lysa. Littlefinger refuses to divulge who helped him in his plot, but does reveal that the necklace Sansa wore to the wedding contained the poison that did Joffrey in. (So what would have happened if she didn’t wear the necklace? Was there a Plan B in place? I’d like to think Littlefinger left himself with some options.) Doe-eyed Sansa can’t understand why Littlefinger would want to kill Joffrey when it was the Lannisters who made him wealthy and Joffrey himself who appointed Littlefinger Lord of Harrenhal. “A man with no motive is a man no one expects,” he responds. “If they don’t know who you are or what you want they can’t know what you plan to do next.” Littlefinger is going to give a great TEDTalk on planning a murder some day. Basically, Littlefinger is addicted to the rush. He’d risk everything to get what he wants, which just happens to be everything. And Joffrey’s death was something his new friends — who are very predictable and reasonable people — wanted very badly.

Those new friends are the Tyrells, or at least Lady Olenna. She’s more than ready to exit King’s Landing and its many pretty gardens. Before she gets out of there, she has time to give Margaery a history lesson. Lady Olenna was once to be married to an undesirable Targaryen and didn’t want to go through with it. So she decided to take things into her own hands. Or other body parts. Her future-husband, Luther, was intended for her own sister but the day before he was to propose, the young Lady Olenna just happened upon Luther’s chambers. He was more to her liking than some fugly silver-haired Tagaryen, so she went to work. The next morning, Luther “never made it down the stairs because he couldn’t bloody walk,” she says. “I was good. I was very, very good,” she brags. The most sex-positive grandma in the Seven Kingdoms then tells her granddaughter the she’s even better but she needs to act quickly with Tommen before Cersei turns her only remaining son against her. Olenna then fully cops to being behind the murder. “You don’t think I’d let you marry that beast, do you?” she asks. Margaery seems legitimately confused but Olenna tells her not to worry and just do what needs to be done. Or maybe who needs to be done?

Because later Margaery sneaks into Tommen’s bedroom and accomplishes something that’s probably not too difficult — basically seducing a pubescent boy. “Before we spend our lives together we ought to get to know one another,” she purrs. Tommen stares blankly, swallows hard and sweats. Speaking of purring, his cat jumps up during this conversation, breaking the tension. Tommen tells how his deceased older brother threatened to skin alive fluffy Ser Pounce and mix his innards into his food so Tommen would eat him without knowing. (It took this long to realize Joffrey and Cartman were so similar?) Margaery doesn’t take it too far; the goal for this visit is to make Tommen promise to keep this rendezvous — and any future ones — their little secret. She kisses him on the forehead and shows herself the door. Tommen rolls onto his side, smiling, and suddenly being king seems even more awesome than ever.

The latest episode of Wine Time with Cersei brings us the anticipated follow-up encounter between her and Jaime. Things are definitely cold between them — Cersei orders Jaime around and sends him off referring to him as “Lord Commander.” But it’s pretty safe to say that her reaction to the encounter with Jaime last week did not match that of the Internet’s. (What ever does?) Cersei is predictably angry that Jaime went to visit Tyrion — “that creature murdered our son!” she tells him — but Jaime defends his brother. Cersei says that he’d kill them all if he could and also manages to call Brienne a “great cow,” because she’s just so charming.

Brienne is the one character whose idea of justice might actually be honorable. Jaime gives her some armor and his new Valyrian steel sword forged from Ned Stark’s old weapon — can’t wait to see Tywin’s reaction when he hears about this one — and tells her to use it to defend Ned’s daughter. Formerly in service to Catelyn Stark, she will certainly take this task seriously. Jaime also has another gift for Brienne — loyal squire Podrick Payne. We’ve got a new Best Couple alert. Before saying their goodbyes, Brienne tells Jaime that she will name her new sword Oathkeeper, because Brienne is a very literal and straightforward person. Jaime can’t even chime in with a sarcastic remark because he’s actually sad to see his true friend ride away. No hugs are exchanged, just some wistful glances.

The rest of the episode takes us to The Wall and beyond. It can often be tedious to trudge up to the North but there’s a little more payoff this time around. At The Wall, Jon Snow is training some fighters when his regular nemesis, acting Lord Commander Alliser Thorne, reminds him he’s merely a steward and that former Lord Commander Jeor Mormont is no longer there to protect him. He’s not there, of course, because he was murdered last season by a bunch of mutinous Night’s Watchmen at Craster’s Keep. Jon hasn’t forgotten this murderous uprising and he’s planning a trip to Craster’s to seek justice for his fallen leader and also to prevent Mance Rayder’s army from getting there and finding out that The Wall is basically unguarded and the joint wildling army could easily take Castle Black. Alliser allows Jon to ask for volunteers on his trip but will not force anyone to go. After Jon’s speech, his peers rise one-by-one to join him on his journey. One of those who stood up was the newest visitor to The Wall — Locke, Roose Bolton’s favorite hitman. He’s managed to go undercover as a new Knight’s Watch recruit; this doesn’t bode well for Jon Snow.


Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark. (photo: Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO)

Craster’s Keep was never a very pleasant place. Ol’ Craster made his daughters his wives, impregnated them regularly, psychologically tortured them and made them sacrifice their male babies to White Walkers. Not too many fond memories. Yet in its current state that may as well be Disney World. The mutinous former Night’s Watchmen who killed Jeor Mormont are now squatting in Craster’s Keep. The leader is Karl Tanner and in case you needed to know if he was a caricature of evil, he’s drinking wine from Jeor Mormont’s skull and seems to live by the slogan “[expletive] them until they’re dead” in reference to Craster’s wives/daughters, who are being raped for sport. What a guy. When a woman walks in with what she claims to be the last of Craster’s sons, the other wives/daughters start chanting “a gift to the gods” and Karl sends Rast to offer up the baby as a sacrifice. He does his duty, leaving the newborn in the woods and stopping on the way back to feed/taunt the caged direwolf, Ghost. While there he feels a deep chill that can only signal a nearby White Walker and books it back for the friendly confines of the Keep.

Nearby, Bran, Hodor and the Reed siblings are camped out and hear the cries of the sacrificial baby. Bran wants to investigate so he wargs himself into his direwolf, Summer. Summer finds the caged Ghost but gets caught in a trap, so the crew has to go investigate. Upon coming into view of Craster’s Keep, Bran is momentarily encouraged to see the people there are Night’s Watch. Meera Reed can tell they’ve long ditched their vows but before they can escape, they’re surrounded and captured. Poor Hodor gets stabbed in the leg. “My leg! The pain is immense and unbearable!” he cries out in pain. Actually he just whimpers, “Hodor!” As Karl Tanner interrogates his new prisoners, Jojen Reed begins to have a seizure and Bran admits he’s a Stark. And Karl thought this was going to be just another boring day of skull-wine drinking and sexual assault.

The reason the White Walkers storyline has never really resonated with me (and others, I presume) is that it’s the polar (no pun intended) opposite of the wonderful political machinations in King’s Landing and the rest of Westeros. The complicated battle for the Iron Throne, the characters that toggle between hero and villain on a sometimes-weekly basis — that’s absent with the White Walkers. It’s a very binary battle between them and the rest of the world and the Walkers are programmed to be as uncomplicated as possible. But this final scene is the most intriguing vision of them yet. In a blinding snowstorm, a lone White Walker carries the newborn into a mysterious White Walker dwelling. The place sort of looks like something from “Prometheus,” so let’s hope the eventual payoff to this storyline is more fulfilling than that movie. The baby is placed on the altar in front of some sort of Council of Walkers. One of them picks up the baby, puts his creepy White Walker fingernail just under the baby’s eye and that baby is now a White Walker. Or at least a White Crawler.

PREVIOUS RECAPS

Episode 3: The first piece in a murder mystery

Episode 2: Weddings … am I right?

Episode 1: “The Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts.”

Episode 3: Breaker of chains, breaker of will (Act Four review)

Episode 2: The lion, the rose and the cruelty of Westeros (Act Four review)

 Episode 1: Two Swords and even more dangerous stories (Act Four review)

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