Sunday, April 27, 2014

Game of Thrones "Oathkeeper" Review

“Oathkeeper” is split into three distinct parts, with a few asides to continue stories happening elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms. Across Slavers’ Bay in Essos, the freedom of Meereen, which was interrupted by the end credits last week, completes with the freeing of the Meereen slaves. In King’s Landing, Jaime continues his progression to decency. North-of-the-Wall, and at The Wall, there are, uh, happenings. The structure of the episode isn’t that different from previous episodes in the show. Benioff and Weiss, and whomever is credited with the actual script, whether it’s the world-builder himself George R.R. Martin or Jane Espensen or Bryan Cogman, like to move from character to character (and story to story) with nary a theme present. Benioff or Weiss—I can’t remember whom—once told a critic that connecting everything with a theme was too similar to an 8th grade book report. One of the issues of adapting the books is the elimination of point-of-view storytelling. The audience can’t perceive the Game of Thrones story through any of the characters because of a need for an objective point-of-view, the demands imposed by the camera. Of course, TV shows and film can follow the mind of a character through a myriad of ways that don’t require the ballyhooed narrative device. A character needn’t tell the audience what’s what like in Veronica Mars or My So Called Life. Game of Thrones, though, maintains an objective point-of-view. There are small moments that penetrate a character: Arya’s reaction to her father’s beheading; all of Bran’s story; Brienne’s deliberate way of being; and etc. “Oathkeeper” adopts a style similar to the structure of the books. The story stays with Jaime when Jaime’s story begins. Cogman’s script finished the Meereen conquer in the opening ten minutes. In the final 20-25 minutes, the Night’s Watch, and the rebels of the Night’s Watch, set in motion a distracting but entertaining aside for the next episode or two.

The best of the bunch in “Oathkeeper” is the Jaime section. Some of the beats from “Two Swords” are repeated in “Oathkeeper.” Jaime actually says the line about writing his own story in the Kingsguard book, three weeks after “Two Swords” implied that through Joffrey’s condescending attitude about his uncle’s blank chapter. Jaime’s story begins with a sword-fighting session between he and Bronn. Bronn guilts Jaime out about not visiting Tyrion in his cell, his brother who thought Jaime would ride through wind and rain to fight for his life at the Eyrie. Jaime and Tyrion have an honest conversation about the truth and what may or may not happen. Jaime shows no desire to follow his sister’s pleas to take their brother’s life or, later, to hunt down Sansa Stark. Tyrion explains simply that his dislike of the child would not motivate him to murder the son of his brother and sister. Tyrion’s words are oddly touching. Cersei wants the head of Sansa and her brother and is so grief-stricken that she thinks not about what the Martells plan on doing. Jaime continues to act opposite of his mother’s wishes by arming Brienne with his Valyrian sword, his armor, and the task of keeping Sansa safe, thus keeping his oath with the dead Lady Stark. Jaime’s story doesn’t end; his transformation continues. “Oathkeeper” allows for the audience to follow Jaime from point A through Point E in the episode though. Benioff and Weiss and Cogman didn’t reduce his time to a scene.

Similarly, the writers committed to the Night’s Watch for the last chunk of the episode. The show runners have underserved Bran’s story, as well as the Night’s Watch story. Jon Snow’s story at The Wall and Beyond-the-Wall is at times a sweeping epic but other times, such as when he’s at Castle Black with an angry temporary Lord Commander, it can drag. Bran’s story involves long treks through the cold wilderness in the north. Bran wargs. He sees many sights and hears many sounds through Summer. Bran’s on a quest for something specific, but that specific goal is vague and elusive. “The Lion and the Rose” had a montage of Bran’s future, of important images that will mean more later but not now. Bran winds up near the mutineers at Craster’s Keep, sixty or so miles from Castle Black, right when Jon wants to take care of the mutineers while also hoping to find Bran. Locke shows up in the Night’s Watch from out of nowhere not too long after hearing about Bran’s faked murder, and he overhears Jon’s idea about Bran’s possible distance from the Keep. Bran’s taken by the mutineers, along with Jojen, Meera, and Hodor. Jon enlists volunteers to join him on the clean-up mission at Craster’s Keep. There’s now a reason to feel invested in this story. Jon needs to save Bran; Bran and Jon may finally see each other again; the mutineers act horribly towards women and babies. Jon’s story also shows the growing support he has in the Night’s Watch that adds more tension to him and Ser Allister Thorne.

“Oathkeeper” concludes with an unsettling glimpse at the white walkers. Craster’s final offspring is sacrificed to ‘the gods.’ The white walker takes the baby, places it on a sort of ice baptismal font, where then another white walker picks the baby up and touches the baby’s face with his index finger. The baby’s eyes turn ice blue. The purpose of the scene is two-fold: to provide a clearer idea of those supernatural beasts that seem more threatening than all the armies in the Seven Kingdoms, and to show the audience a commitment to the supernaturally strange in advance of things.

All in all, “Oathkeeper” is another successful Game of Thrones episode. The structure was a welcome change. Hopefully the structure will be used going forward as the story constrains and constricts.

Other Thoughts:

-Arya’s still my favorite, but Dany’s very close to topping her. My goodness how awesome the first ten minutes of this episode were.

-Tommen’s one of my favorite characters in the series. Margaery’s working her charm on him in a power play triggered by Olenna. I think it’s clear that she poisoned Joffrey. Littlefinger intimated it; Olenna confirmed it. Anyway, the best part of the Tommen/Margaery scene was not Tommen’s incredible stare at Margaery as she worked him, but the debut of Tommen’s cat, Ser Pounce. I thought Benioff and Weiss dropped Tommen’s love for cats. There are more, but Ser Pounce may be it. I think his love of cats is adorable and a wonderful departure from Joffrey’s everything.

-Bryan Cogman wrote the episode. Michelle MacClaren directed it.

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.